Hear it from a Pro
Karl Weber is a publisher-turned-freelancer who has worked on multiple bestselling books with authors such as former President Jimmy Carter and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Check out IP’s interview with Karl about the ins and outs of freelancing.
IP: Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in publishing/as a freelancer.
Karl: I left my in-house work in publishing and became a freelancer so that I could spend all of my time working with authors on books rather than managing a staff, developing budgets, dealing with corporate responsibilities, etc. It has worked out ideally for me! I am now able to focus almost entirely on the creative aspects of publishing, leaving the managerial details to others. What a racket!
IP: When working as a coauthor, ghostwriter, etc. how long does it usually take to complete a book? What types of projects tend to take more time?
Karl:This is tremendously varied. I've worked on books where the ms got done in just 4-5 months; others that took 2-3 years. It depends on the urgency attached to the topic and to the goals of the author and publisher. Having more time generally results in a better book! Although it is always good to have a hard deadline to work towards—it focuses the brain. Nine months to a year would be a fair estimate of the average time required from concept to manuscript.
IP: What are a few common misconceptions about ghostwriting?
Karl: I suppose one myth is that authors who work with ghostwriters are “too dumb” to write their own books, and that ghosts just “crank out” more or less generic contents for people like athletes and movie stars who are fundamentally shallow individuals. Actually many people who work with ghostwriters are brilliant, talented, and complex leaders in their own fields—business, politics, science, etc.—who just don't have the time or the unusual combination of personal traits required to create a book. They use a ghostwriter for the same reason they hire an architect when building a house—they need the help of someone with specialized talent and experience to realize their vision.
IP: What do you find to be the most rewarding freelance role?
Karl: I don't ghostwrite very often. More often I collaborate, which means that I share author credit (usually in the form of "with Karl Weber"). This is the most rewarding role, because it means I am expected to contribute significantly to the ideas, structure, style, and contents of the book (rather than merely serving as the author's "translator" or "mouthpiece"). In a number of cases I think I have influenced and enriched the thinking of the main author significantly and so become a true partner in helping him/her develop ideas, insights, and wisdom about their field--which as you can imagine is very gratifying.
You can learn more about Karl Weber here.
The Freelancer Cheat Sheet
Everything You Need to Know About Freelance Writers and Editors
You’ve probably heard of most of these professions: ghostwriter, book doctor, coauthor, editor. But what do they all mean and how do you know who is right for your project? This month, I did some digging with the help of Karl Weber, freelance writer and editor to the stars, and am proud to present the Freelancer Cheat Sheet. Read on to see who, what, where, when and why, for the four main freelance jobs.
Who: Book Doctor
What: A book doctor is a writer/editor that is approached by a publisher or author with a troubled manuscript. These people are usually seasoned professionals with excellent reputations and connections in their field and in the world of publishing.
Where: It can be tricky to find a good book doctor. Your publishing house will often be the one to approach an industry professional for help. However, you can look around online to see if there are doctors for hire. Be sure to do your research thoroughly, as some people like to bandy the term about.
When: In many cases, a book doctor is used when a manuscript needs major reworking, not just editing. Book doctoring can happen with promising or famous authors who just haven’t turned in the manuscript an editor hoped for, though individuals can also seek the advice of a book doctor.
Why: Book doctors are aptly named: they fix up, clean up, and set a book to rights. This can be a difficult process, and will require a lot more work on the part of the author, but the results are worth it.
What: A contributing or collaborating writer who shares authorship credit and does a significant portion of the work/writing.
Where: Your coauthor can be a friend, colleague, or hired professional. Many freelancers work as coauthors, and you can use a publishing services firm, the Internet, or other publishing resources to find a good match.
When: A coauthor comes in handy when you need help sharing the writing workload, or when you want a professional to help with the book from start to finish. Coauthors and co-writers are extremely popular with professionals and executives, as well as folks in the business and medical communities.
Why: Working with a coauthor can help you if you are A) too busy to write the whole book; B) not completely confident in your own writing abilities; and C) lend another perspective to the project. Freelancers who tend to work as coauthors are likely to have worked on several books and will bring to the table solid writing and a whole lot of experience.
What: Freelance editors come in all shapes and sizes. You can work with a proofreader, a copyeditor, or a development/consultant editor. The latter will look at your book the way an acquisitions editor would, evaluating on the bigger picture and not the nitty-gritty of comma splices.
Where: The best editors can be found through publishing contacts’ recommendations, though you can also find some online. As with book doctors, be diligent in your research of editors and look for people that are honest and have clear experience in your field.
When: You may want to work with a freelance editor when you have completed your manuscript but aren’t sure if it’s ready for the world. Authors who are looking to self-publishing should seriously consider working with a copyeditor or proofreader to ensure accuracy in the manuscript. If there are bigger issues to address, look for an editor who specializing in coaching, advising, and consulting on projects.
Why: Editors can provide a fresh, experienced pair of eyes for your writing and help you make it the best possible book. Copyeditors and proofreaders are standard for nearly all publishing houses, as are acquisitions editors. If you are not working with a publishing house, you can still get all of these great (and necessary services) from freelancers.
What: A ghostwriter is a professional writer who writes and shapes a book based on the stipulations of a client. They are usually uncredited on the cover but do the majority of the writing and researching for the book.
Where: You can find a ghostwriter online or through a publishing services firm. Some publishing houses will also set up big name authors with ghostwriters if the author is not a natural writer or does not have time to write the book themselves.
When: It is great to work with a ghostwriter if you are a busy professional, or if you have a great story but lack a certain turn of phrase. A ghostwriter is also helpful if you want professional help in writing but still want your name to be on the project.
Why: Ghostwriters are invaluable for aspiring authors who can’t create a book on their own. When you work with a ghostwriter, you still get to maintain sole authorship and rights to a book (which may not be the case with a coauthor). Also, good ghostwriters can write in the style that you want for your book, and they can help you edit your material as you go.
To get all the answers to your ghostwriting questions, visit Jenkins Group’s new Book Ghostwriting Blog.
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Jillian Bergsma is a writer and contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English. She welcomes any questions or comments on her articles at jbergsma (at) bookpublishing.com.