Sunday, December 20, 2009

Landing Your First Book Deal

I teach an online class on ghostwriting and without fail the No. 1 question students ask me is: how do I land my first book gig?

I wish I could tell you there is some secret portal for ghost jobs. There isn’t. However, there are several strategies that any working writer can execute to jump start a career in ghostwriting.

1. Network. The best way to get your first ghostwriting book job is to work with someone who already knows you. Tell the people you already work with that you’re interested in ghostwriting books. Approach interesting people you’ve interviewed, tell them you’d be interested in ghostwriting their book. Networking isn’t so much about asking for favors. It’s about spreading the word. Be sure that everyone who works with you knows your goals.
2. Respond to ads in reputable forums. Lots of people advertise for ghostwriters, but lots of those jobs can be problematic. They are posted by people who don’t really have a good handle on what the book business is like. So when you troll the want ads, be choosy. Try the job boards of professional organizations. Or forums for which the job poster has to pay a fee (that helps to screen out the truly clueless.)
3. Be prepared for your first book to pay poorly. The first book I ever wrote was a co-author project for a toy expert. I wrote the proposal on spec. I split the advance and the royalties 50-50. This was not a great deal for me financially. I had to revise the proposal twice. The advance covered about half of the time it took me to write the book. And like many books, there were never any royalties. That said, once I had my first book, I could market myself as an experienced collaborator and that allowed me to charge more favorable rates on my subsequent projects.

Readers, anything to add? What advice do you give to newbies on how to land your first ghost book gig?

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