What’s a Ghost Writer?

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

Occasionally, I receive a call from someone asking if I investigate ghosts. Or they want to know if I write stories about ghosts. When I go to parties and meet new people, they seem confused when I tell them what I do. The fact is, folks just don’t know much about ghostwriters. So, I thought I’d take a blog post to explain all about ghostwriters and how they work.

Let’s say you want to prepare a large turkey dinner but don’t want to spend the time or hassle to do it. You go to a store or restaurant where they have the expertise and equipment to make a delicious dinner. You pay them for the cooked food, then take it home and heat it up. Same with running your car through a car wash, or hiring a company to cut your lawn. You could do all of that yourself, but your time’s valuable and certainly limited by all you have to do every day.

That’s where a ghostwriter comes in. I write your book for you and put your name on it—books like memoirs, fiction novels, branding books, life stories, or any other book the client wants written. If the client wants a business book or expert book, I write those too. I’ve worked on children’s books, pet books (which I really love), and self-help books. I get a lot of Christian projects too, so when I’m writing a Christian book, I’m actually a Holy Ghost Writer (feel free to laugh out loud at this point). Some ghostwriters draft business memos and letters for executives as well as government grants. I don’t do any of that work because I love to work on books. Just books.

Another question I’m always asked is the difference between a Ghost Writer and a Ghostwriter. When I started ghostwriting, I thought the proper spelling was “Ghost Writer.” Yet I’ve seen it written “Ghostwriter” many times. In looking through various dictionaries, it appears what I do for a living can be spelled either way: ghost writer or ghostwriter. The spelling I prefer is “Ghost Writer,” but feel free to spell it however you like.

So, next time you see the term ghost writer or ghostwriter, now you know how it works. And, of course, if you ever need one, please give me a call at 214-377-1125.

Proofreading Tips

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

Proofreading is a strange concept—at least to me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written something (like this blog) and been completely sure there were no mistakes. That means every comma was in its proper spot, all words spelled correctly, and zero grammar issues. Happy it’s perfect, I’ve sent it off and leaned back in my chair, confident that I’ve written great content.

Later—weeks or months—I’ll read it again and find several errors. Or worse, someone else reads it and finds those errors. Man, that’s frustrating!

What happened here was my mind played tricks on me. Because I wrote the content and studied it several times, my mind knows what I’m supposed to be reading. It corrects any mistakes I encounter and fills in gaps. Trust me, we all do it.

Over time, I’ve learned I need to hire a professional proofreader to review final versions of my books. There’s simply no way around it. Each time I do, the manuscript comes back marked up. Not once has it come back with no corrections. Yet hiring a professional proofreader can be expensive every time I write something—which is every day! So, what to do?

Most of the stuff I write is rough and not ready to publish. Plus, my clients want to make changes. With plenty of changes being made, there’s no sense in making sure every version of a chapter is perfect and ready to publish. This means I send out a lot of content that’s not been professionally proofread. (Actually, 95% of my work is not reviewed by a professional proofreader.) The problem for me is that clients don’t like to see a ton of mistakes in a rough draft. After many years of ghostwriting, I’ve come up with various tricks to help me find those errors and get me to a final manuscript that can be professionally proofread.

The first trick I use is adjusting the font size on my screen. By making each word larger, my brain sees the content differently and can often find those frustrating errors.

After I’ve used that trick, and usually during the final edit, I’ll print out each page and use a metal ruler to review it line by line. As I find mistakes, I’ll mark them up with a red pen and correct them later. This “paper” perspective is more like reading a paperback. It works.

Finally, to really change things up, I’ll take the last page of the book and proofread it. Then I work backwards by reviewing the preceding page and so on until I reach the first page. This catches even more errors.

Make no mistake: There’s no substitute for having another set of eyes look over your work. However, by using these three techniques, you can catch 97% of errors—and thus, make yourself and your client very happy.

Memoir Chapter 37

Biography of Dorothy Kunzweiler  – Based on a True Story (Printed with permission)

by Michael Gray ©  2004  http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

June 31, 1941 – Richmond, California

Jack, Dorothy and son David were soon settled into a two bedroom, one bathroom tract home in Richmond.  One block away resided Hattie and George Carpenter.  The Grays, tentative at first, began to become acquainted with George Carpenter.  He was a tough manager, a taskmaster accustomed to dealing with rough longshoremen and ship-builders.  Jack discovered that while the pay was adequate, his hours were from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.  He tried to remain open-minded and make the best of it, but he despised his new work schedule and quickly grew to hate the entire situation.

Jack was much more suited to working in an office environment.  This job entailed his presence aboard the ship itself, overseeing and scheduling the ironworker’s tasks.  Jack was not a mechanical person, preferring instead to coax one of his close friends to help with the manual labors around the house.  Anything was preferable to smashing his own thumb with a hammer or risking some other injury.  Weighing his salary against his schedule and the type of work, he pushed back his contempt for the job and went to work each night, even though he dreaded it.

Dorothy, on the other hand, had a different perspective.  She awoke every morning, just in time to see Jack drag his exhausted body in from work and head straight for bed.  He would scarcely acknowledge her presence, mumbling good morning or some such words to her, disrobe and fall into bed, sound asleep as soon as his head struck the pillow.  Dorothy covered him quietly, then did her best to keep David quiet throughout the morning.  Jack typically slept until around 4:00 p.m., at which time he dragged himself out of bed to join his small family for supper.  It was rough getting used to.

One morning, Dorothy stopped by the bank to withdraw some cash in order to stock up on groceries.  She noticed a sign posted outside the bank: “Help Wanted.”  Wanting to earn some extra money for the family, she impulsively filled out an application.  No sooner had she arrived home from shopping than the telephone ring.  It was the bank.  They wanted to hire her immediately.  In fact, they wanted her to start the very next day!  When Jack awoke at 4:00 p.m., she excitedly related the good news but he was still far too groggy to be aware of precisely what he was agreeing to.  Dorothy accepted the position and reported for work the next day.  She even arrived a half hour early so as to make a favorable first impression.

She discovered that with most of the men away preparing for war or working in the factories, the bank was staffed predominantly with female employees, providing her with more opportunities to make friends.  But there was the matter of providing for David’s care.  She could not count on Jack to watch over him because Jack slept during the day.  It was her mother who came up with the best solution.  Dorothy fed and dressed David in the morning prior to departing for the bank, then dropped him off for Hattie to watch.  On her way home, she retrieved him and brought him home.  Though this was a manageable plan, neither Dorothy nor Jack calculated the toll it would take on their marriage.

In actual practice, the plan was tougher.  When Jack awoke at 4:00 p.m., Dorothy was not yet home; it would be another few hours before she arrived.  Jack would read the now stale morning paper, awaiting Dorothy and David’s return.  Eventually he came to walk the one block and retrieve David himself from his mother-in-law.  Jack would then finish reading the paper and play with his son while both waited for Dorothy to come home.  Then, she and Jack visited while she prepared their supper.  A few short hours later Jack was off for work.  It was a difficult, trying time on all involved, but times were equally tough on all Americans.  This arrangement may explain in part why the young Catholic couple did not get pregnant with their second child for several years, during which time they drifted along in the uncomfortable lifestyle of shipbuilders in San Francisco.

Peanuts Cartoon Licensing

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

I just completed a book that used a Peanuts cartoon. This meant I needed to obtain permission to reprint the cartoon from the license holder. But first, I had to locate the license holder. And boy, it wasn’t easy.

After performing a Google search, my first stop led me to the Charles Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa, California. After spending a few days sending them emails, I received a response that pointed me to several email addresses at Peanuts.com. I sent an email and received nothing back. Man, I just wanted someone to take my client’s money—please!

I sent several more emails and either received a wrong email address notice or no response. It was time to get tough.

Searching deeper, I discovered a company had recently purchased the rights to the Peanuts inventory. I sent them an email and hit pay dirt! They kindly informed me it would be $275, which my client paid. A day later, I received a hi-res version of the cartoon for the book along with the required permission disclaimers to be included on the copyright page. With that in hand, I asked for permission to write this blog and direct other writers to them. They wisely agreed.

So, here it is: Andrews McMeel Syndication, 816-581-7500. www.Amureprints.com

Good luck!

Pushing Up Tulips – By Harry Hollander

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

Here’s a new book I worked on that just came out. It’s a true story! I wanted to tell you about it (With my client’s permission!) Pushing Up Tulips by Harry Hollander. See the trailer:     https://youtu.be/9pc8OqPAsLg

Here’s the back cover:

The life of a simple flower bulb salesman from Holland—really, how exciting could it be? See for yourself as Harry Hollander takes you on an exhilarating, laugh-out-loud rollercoaster ride through the flower bulb industry—the shenanigans, the backstabbing, the police chases, and, of course, the money! It all starts at the incredibly beautiful tulip fields of Holland and the fascinating flower auctions at Aalsmeer. Then, fly with Harry to the States, the Middle East and Far East, Central and South America, Europe, and finally, the caladium fields in central Florida. Ride along with our hero as he desperately tries to outsmart his boss, fight off competitors, and run from the law, all while making a fortune!

So go on, grab Pushing up Tulips and get your hands dirty! You’ll never look at a flower bulb the same.

Why Do I Need an ISBN?

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

An ISBN—or International Standard Book Number—has been used on books for years and years. Most of my clients ask me three questions: (1) Why do I need one? (2) What does it do? and, (3) Where do I get one? There’s a lot information I could give you about ISBNs—their history and changes—but really, it’s irrelevant to you. So let’s just answer your questions and move on.

(1) Why do I need an ISBN? Because every publishing company demands one. If you want to publish your book, you’re going to need one. If you want your book on bookshelves, you’re going to need one. And if you want to receive all the royalties you’re entitled to, you’re going to need one.

(2) What does an ISBN do? The 13-digit number on the back of every book—the black and white bar code—tracks each edition for sales, marketing, bestseller lists, shipping, and so on. It’s like a social security number for your book.

(3) Where do I get an ISBN? You have several options for getting your own ISBN. If your book is being published by a large New York publisher, they will assign one of their own to your book. If you’re going with an independent book publisher or self-publishing, there are two ways you can go. First, most publishers will sell you an ISBN for a low cost, some as low as $10. If not, you can buy them from over-the-counter companies that sell ISBNs. They will charge more than $10 and some will make you purchase multiple ISBNs even though you don’t need them. So, shop around.

 More stuff you need to know. Bookstores will not sell your book without an ISBN. eBooks don’t require an ISBN if you are selling it through your own website. But trust me, you want an ISBN for your eBook. Why? If you sell it through Kindle Direct Publishing, they don’t require it. But they can sell it through other channels and those channels require an ISBN. Without an ISBN, you can’t sell through these resellers. Since Kindle/Amazon charges $10 for one, don’t chintz. Just spend the money for an ISBN for your eBook. You want to eliminate all barriers to your book being sold. Having an ISBN for both your eBook and paperback is the smart thing to do.

Next, you cannot reuse your paperback’s ISBN for your eBook’s ISBN. Forget it!

Finally, if you have a hardback and a paperback, you will need to two ISBNs—three, if you have an eBook. So, buck up and get all the ISBNs you need and start selling your books everywhere. (And don’t worry about the technical stuff for ISBNs. You don’t need to know anymore than this!)

Happy publishing!

How Publishing Your Book Really Works – Part Five

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

Years ago, when I first started distributing some of my clients’ books through Amazon, they had computer programs which kicked in when a book sold so many units in a week or month (they never disclosed what this formula was). Then they would display your book all their ad placement services. Why? Because they understand that they are your partner in the book selling business. And guess what? They want the 20%, 30% or 40% royalty they have coming their way. When your book sells, they make money too. If they see your book selling well, they want to throw some lighter fluid on and make the fire burn!

Another thing I love about distributing books through Amazon is that for eBooks, they force the writer to give away for free the first fifteen to twenty pages, enough to get the reader hooked. The Kindle user can order a sample which ends at that fifteen- to twenty-page cutoff. Then, the Kindle prompts them to buy the book. Let’s face it, if you can’t get someone interested in your book by then, you don’t deserve to sell it! Thus, readers no longer have to buy your book and hope for the best. They can sample it first, then buy it. Brilliant!!

There is still a lot more to talk about. Stay tuned for the next installments.

How Publishing Your Book Really Works – Part Four

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

With Amazon single-handedly killing the publishing industry as we writers knew it, the bloodshed wasn’t done. Believe me, these folks at Amazon are real serial killers. The two largest weapons were incentive-based. First, they turned the royalty structure on its head. Instead of a writer receiving a 2-5% royalty per book (if that!), Amazon offered 60% on paperbacks and 70% on eBooks. In some cases, I can show my clients how to get an 80% royalty. When writers realized they had struck the mother lode, they switched their books to Amazon’s distribution channels. At first the mid-level and top authors didn’t, but over time, the mid-level folks came on board and a small sliver of top authors joined them too. Once the remaining large publishers go under, then they will all be there. Yet Amazon wasn’t satisfied with this haul of authors. They had another trick up their sleeve.

The publishing consultant assigned to me began explaining how many authors were making a small fortune with a unique pricing structure. These authors sold their paperbacks at $10.99 to $12.99, which was fairly normal. The twist had to do with eBooks. Remember, from previous segments, I told you how an eBook can only be read on one Kindle. You can’t pass it around like a paperback. To capitalize on this feature, these smart authors were selling their eBooks not at $10.99 to $12.99 price structure, but at $3.99 to $5.99. Over time, this has been lowered to $1.99 to $3.99. My Amazon consultant said their clients were selling ten eBooks for every paperback. When I tried it, I discovered he was right. Some of my clients sell 40 to 50-1, depending on the genre and target audience. If they sold 200 eBooks a week at a $2.99 price, they pocketed $400 just on eBooks. For first time authors, that was fantastic, not to mention the exposure they received. After all, someone who’s read your first book is likely to buy your second book.

Still, Amazon had other tricks up their sleeve. See the next installments for more information!