Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy Holidays!

It's the most wonderful time...

The GG offices will be closed from December 24th through January 2nd. We will still be answering emails, though, so if there's anything pressing, feel free to write:

Wishing a warm and happy holiday to all, and a very, very happy new year. See you in 2013!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

GG Holiday Happy Hour 2012

This week we held our fourth annual GG Holiday Happy Hour! Dozens of writers gathered at our favorite ghost haunt, the Half King, to schmooze and swap tales of the trade.

Here's a rare glimpse of some of our ghosts—unmasked.

Happy holidays from all of us at Gotham!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Guest Post: For Writers—and Men—This Is What Collaboration Looks Like

by David Murray

This piece first ran in Huffington Post. Click here for the original.

I am the editor of Vital Speeches of the Day, a monthly magazine that collects the best speeches in the world. Many of its subscribers are speechwriters for CEOs and political leaders. Speechwriters usually complain about one of two things: clients who won't work on the speech, and clients who work the speech to death.
Truly collaborative writing? Until this year, it had eluded me so thoroughly that I nearly rejected the suggestion of a onetime Pentagon speechwriter that I read the journals of Lt. Col. Mark Weber, who needed help to write a memoir for his three young sons, who would soon be without a father.
Weber, in his early 40s like me, was dying of cancer.
"I probably ain't the guy to do this," I emailed Weber after reading the manuscript.
"I am not a ghostwriter," I lectured Weber (who hadn't asked for a ghostwriter). "I believe in the deep connection between thoughts and words. Your thoughts must start with your own words."
Furthermore, I told him the book contained clichés that an editor would have to cut out "like tumors, painfully" and familiar phrases that would have to be "lanced, like benign polyps."
Finally, I told him I doubted he had the energy or the time left to do the kind of rewrite I was demanding.
Now that, my friends, is how you treat a terminal cancer patient.
"I love it, David," Weber replied.
He continued: "I absolutely have the time and energy to rewrite. In fact, I insist on it. I've been holding off on doing so until I can get someone to provide the kind of candor I need to hear, and it's been killing me. You're absolutely right about the ghostwriting thing. I do not want that. I want someone to beat the shit out of me so I can rewrite what needs to be rewritten in the right way... Iron sharpens iron... and all I've got so far is bread (cheerleaders)."
What was I supposed to do at that point? We quickly came to financial terms and set to work. After we agreed on an eight-chapter thematic structure—I suggested stories from the manuscript that fit into each chapter's theme—Weber went to work.
Despite a sepsis attack that hospitalized him, an emotional retirement ceremony attended by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey and a dangerous surgery, he produced a chapter per week. Meaning, he wrote a chapter of several thousand words, sent it to me for feedback, rewrote, rearranged and cut parts based on my advice and sent it back to me for a line edit, which he then incorporated into a final version. He did all that every week. For eight straight weeks. Cheerfully.
Our correspondence was at once fun and sarcastic, candid and concise. And it wasn't only about the language or the story structure. Sometimes we differed on philosophy. I'd say, You don't want to say this. And Weber would say, But this is what I believe. And I would say, Well, then let's find a way to say it that's more convincing to someone who doesn't agree with you. Someone like me.
At one of those rare loggerheads, I told him, "It's your book." He replied by telling me I didn't need to tell him that; he was well aware.
This project was what I never thought a collaboration could ever quite be: two people, on equal footing, with a proper sense of urgency—whatever else it is, death is a useful deadline—trying to express a philosophy, and in the process, making each other think and feel. At one point Weber told me that getting my chapter critiques, however harsh, was "like getting a Christmas present." I showed that to my wife and she put her hand on my back and her eyes filled with tears. Which was like getting a Christmas present.
What made this collaboration perfect?
It helped that we were both the same age, both husbands and dads. It probably helped that we were both men, with a few communication norms in common. And we simply liked each other.
But it was equally crucial that I didn't know the first thing about being a military officer and found myself unimpressed by many of his proudest career accomplishments, up to and including his having been hand-picked for war zone assignment by Gen. David Petraeus. Conversely, my leisurely writer's life allowed me to sit sufficiently in awe of Weber's other exploits. (Frustrated by his inability to communicate with Iraq's top military officer, Weber casually learned Kurdish in three months.)
And it was probably also good that I was playing golf between rounds of edits, while he commuted between the hospital bed and the computer. Sympathy, in an editor, is more useful than empathy.
As Weber said, iron sharpens iron.
But I'm glad there were only eight chapters in our outline, because as we neared the Afterword, I felt my iron softening considerably. Weber had gone from my literary partner to my pen pal. I found myself in some denial that, as I told my wife, "God is going to take my new buddy."
When Mark asked me if I'd be interested in a U.S. Army backpack, I told him I'd wear it on every journey I took for the rest of my life.
But I doubt there'll be another journey quite like this.
Tell My Sons is available in hardcover, and it makes an excellent holiday present.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Around the Word

Stranger than #Fiction. Twitter's has become a serious tool for building author platforms and marketing books, but lately it's taking on new roles in the writing and publishing processes. A company called Chirpify is developing a Twitter-based program to sell books directly. And we've been seeing the rise of Twitter fiction, with several ventures, like Twitter Novel Project, attempting to write a full-length book tweet by tweet, as well as entire narratives built on 140 characters, à la this fun experiment from The Guardian. Montreal writer Arjun Basu has had his Twitter short stories (which he calls "Twisters") optioned for film, and he just landed a traditional book deal. An even stronger sign of Twit-fic legitimacy came in October, when Twitter announced that it would be holding the first official Twitter Fiction Festival. Want to start your own Twitter-based masterpiece? Get some tips here.

'Tis the Season. All the critics are making their lists of the year's best and worst books, and checking them twice. BookRiot, Goodreads, and Publisher's Weekly have all decided the best books of 2012. Amazon, of course, has your bestsellers (bet you can't guess who won! Hint: it starts with an "F" and ends with "-ifty Shades of Grey"). rounded up their "most disappointing" books of the year, and GalleyCat has made a "mix-tape tribute" to the most underrated. And because we're always thinking of the children, NYPL has a list of 100 must-read children's books published this year.

Give the Gift of Lit. Speaking of lists, here are some handy gift guides for book lovers of all sorts.
 What's on your list?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Intern at Gotham Ghostwriters!

Ever wonder what goes on at a ghostwriting firm? Here's your chance to find out! Gotham is looking for an ace intern, preferably a college student, who is interested in social media, publishing, and the business of freelance writing, to join our team for the spring semester.

Editorial & Social Media Intern
Gotham Ghostwriters is seeking a college student who is knowledgeable and passionate about the craft and business of content creation to support our company's expanding workload. The intern will be tasked with following the latest developments in the publishing and media industries, assisting with our social networking efforts, drafting blog posts, and performing general administrative tasks. Excellent writing skills are a must.

The intern will work 12–16 hours a week, days and times negotiable. The internship will start in January and run for a semester, with the possibility of continuing through the rest of the year.

Apply on BookJobs or by sending your resume & cover letter to

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Guest post: Why I'm Proud to Be a Ghostwriter

Today's guest post comes from prolific writer and ghostwriter John Kador, author of more than 20 books, whose tagline is: "I write faster than any writer who writes better, and I write better than any writer who writes faster." This piece originally ran on his blog.

Why I'm Proud to Be a Ghostwriter

Ghostwriting comes with a load of baggage. I can predict the questions that come at me when people learn that I’m a professional ghostwriter. Occasionally the questions come out of genuine curiosity, but more often than not I pick up a certain judgment, as if the practice were deceptive.

Most people have a very personal relationship with reading, and the idea of a ghostwriter does not easily fit into the picture they have sometimes constructed. Most readers develop an idealized relationship with the author, or the person they think is the author, so who am I, this interloper, and what am I doing in the middle of their fantasy?

I get it.  Writing is an intimate act. The craft of ghostwriting does present certain ethical difficulties, but no more than any other profession. Here are some of the most common questions I get and my responses.

So what does a ghostwriter do?
Think of me as a catalyst. A catalyst is an agent without which a reaction or a process is impossible. I help authors find their voice, identify the unified vision their subject requires, and, to varying degrees, help them with the editorial process. I encourage my clients to think of me as a writing partner. Every ghostwriting assignment is unique. Sometimes the author writes the first draft and I edit, and sometimes it’s the reverse: I write the first draft based on recorded transcripts and they edit. Sometimes we start at the beginning and sometimes we start at the end. Sometimes I start with an outline. In every case, the author has the last word.

Isn’t it deceptive for someone to put their name on a book they didn’t write?
But the author did write it, in every way that’s important. The subject was the author’s, the content came from the author, the stories flowed out of the author’s life, the author is responsible–morally and legally–for every word. The author gets to promote the book and reap the benefit of every sale, feel the sting of every criticism, and experience the pain of every book that bookstores return because readers don’t want them. In the all-important relationships–good and bad–between the author and readers, the ghostwriter is, rightly, irrelevant.

How can I trust what I'm reading if it wasn’t written by the credited author?
Ultimately, the content of the book has to merit your trust. Yes, the credibility of the author is important, but what do you really know about the author anyway?

But is it fair that your client gets all the credit? Don’t you want some acknowledgement?
As to the first question, it’s perfectly fair; it’s his or her book. If there’s credit to be had, I’m totally okay with my client running with it to the bank. The more successful the book, the better for everyone, including me. As for acknowledgements, I don’t require anything more than my fee. The reality is that most authors are generous with credit in the book's acknowledgements, as well as with recommendations to other people who are looking for editorial or writing assistance. Finally, anytime I want a book credit, I can write my own book.

Why would you write a book for someone else when you can write a book under your own name?
Economics. It’s hard for an author to support a family on book royalties (the author’s share of book sales). I’m a writer of nonfiction books. I can think of only a couple of nonfiction authors who can do so. Jim Collins (Good to Great) may be one. Certainly there are wonderfully successful writers such as Tom Peters or Seth Godin who probably do okay, but they write their books as thought leadership ancillary to the businesses where they make their real income, typically consulting, speaking, or training. From a business standpoint, ghostwriting at my level pays very well, and furthermore it’s predictable. Some of my books go on to sell well, but others don’t, and there’s no way to know. The only thing for sure when I write my own books is that I get paid only when people buy them. That’s a hard way to support a family.

What percentage of nonfiction books involve ghostwriters?
A majority. Virtually 100 percent of celebrity books and business books written by CEOs involve ghostwriters. The former typically don’t have the discipline; the latter don’t have the time.

Have you ever turned down a ghostwriting assignment?
Plenty of times. These days I decline more opportunities than I accept. Sometimes the subject doesn’t interest me, or the chemistry between me and author isn’t right. While I think that every author deserves a chance to be published, I don’t necessarily have to be involved. If I can’t learn something new from the book or the author, I’ll generally pass.

Is there anything about ghostwriting you are skeptical about?
I’m not totally comfortable with fiction writers using ghostwriters. And yes, it’s more common than you might want to think about.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Around the Post-Sandy Word

It's been a "dark and stormy" couple of weeks, to say the least. We hope everyone on the East Coast made it through Sandy and the nor'easter safe and sound, and we're sending wishes of a speedy recovery to those who are still getting back on their feet.

The storm and its aftermath have been difficult for everyone affected, but figuring out the "What now?" can be particularly frustrating for freelancers. Here's a list of some links to storm-related resources for the self-employed from Freelancers Union, Monmouth Arts Council, and Greene County Council for Arts.

For many, the storm provided an opportunity for reflection. The site Freelancer Switch discusses the need for those who are self-employed to think ahead. The blog $200K Freelancer has some thoughts on coping and ways to plan for future (very) rainy days. And Freelance Life took stock of what Sandy taught us about our dependence on and the vulnerability of so many of the technologies we take for granted. 

While we're relieved that many of NYC's independent bookstores made it through the storms relatively unscathed, unfortunately powerHouse Books in Dumbo sustained serious damage. Luckily, the owners of fellow Brooklyn bookstore Greenlight Books, located in the in the almost untouched neighborhood of Ft. Greene, came to the rescue and are continuing to help powerHouse get back on track.

Similar acts of generosity have rippled throughout NY's literary communities since the storm. MediaBistro published a roundup of some of these (with links for those looking to lend a hand). Publishers like Scholastic, which has pledged millions to assist storm-damaged school libraries, are also pitching in.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dan Gerstien to Participate in Booktrix's Self-Publishing Workshop


Having trouble navigating the self-publishing jungle? Don't panic! Book marketing and consulting firm Booktrix has organized a workshop called "The Nuts and Bolts of Self Publishing" to help you find your way.

Participants will spend two hours in "intense, small-group discussion" with industry notables—including our own pres Dan Gerstein—who will answer all your burning questions on everything from production to distribution, from marketing to law.

Among the other experts:
Betty Kelly Sargentfreelance editor, former editor-in-chief of William Morrow
Cevin Bryerman — Publisher, Publishers Weekly 
Matt Cavnar — VP, Vook (ebook production and distribution)
Jason Ashlock — President of Movable Type Literary Management, agent and author business consultant

The workshop takes place next Tuesday, October 23rd from 6–8 pm.

For more details, and to RSVP, click here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Writer Profile: Erica Levy Klein

Here at Gotham, we know a lot of writers. In our writer profile series, we share some of them with you.

Erica Levy Klein is the country’s top-ranked thought-leadership writer and strategist. Erica works directly with CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, and other senior leaders and board members on both enterprise-wide and individual projects, such as key message platforms, white papers, senior executive speeches, articles, and Video White Papers®, for which she holds the trademark. 

In addition to being a Random House and Wiley author of six books, Erica has supported the thought leadership efforts of Goldman Sachs, JPMorganChase, AIG, Oppenheimer Funds, Legg Mason, and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) Technologies Division. She is also the founder of the LinkedIn group Thought Leadership Professionals Association and does one-on-one LinkedIn coaching with executives and companies across multiple industries.

How did your thought leadership writing background evolve?
My career in thought leadership took shape after I became a copywriter for several large advertising agencies, then launched and taught Washington University’s first advertising copywriting course, subsequently writing a book on the subject that was published by Wiley. Eventually, with the publication of several other books, I began specializing in the healthcare, technology, and financial services industries on the client side and realized these companies needed a systematic approach to leveraging their unique ideas, insights, and experiences in a way that differentiated them and generated significant new revenue. That’s my personal definition of thought leadership: “ideas made actionable.”

Why did you decide to leave corporate life and become a thought leadership writer and strategy consultant?

There was a clear need for a long-term approach to thought leadership in the marketplace, rather than engaging in one-off projects here and there, which is the approach that most companies were taking. So I created a Thought Leadership Blueprint™ that gives clients a six-month to one-year master plan for drawing together all the thought leadership and marketing initiatives throughout their organizations. That includes key messaging, conference and special event initiatives, social media, as well as any book projects they might want to develop as a thought leadership platform for a senior leader or the entire company.

What is the most gratifying aspect of thought leadership work?

Without a doubt, it’s helping a company’s senior leadership team elevate their discussions by integrating the insights they may not have even known about and weaving them together into a cohesive set of business development tools. It’s been wonderful interacting with as many CEOs, CMOs and CTOs as I’ve been privileged to work with—these are all smart, committed people who understand the long-term value of thought leadership, but who also need a proven strategic and tactical resource to help them achieve their bottom-line goals. I view myself as a partner and not just a consultant, and people seem to appreciate that distinction.

For more from Erica, check out her website, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

GG Featured on

We're excited to announce that Gotham Ghostwriters has written the book entry on ghostwriting!

The Q&A-style article—"About Ghostwriting and Hiring a Ghostwriter"—will answer all your burning ghostwriting questions, from pricing to timeline to how to find the best ghost. So the next time someone asks you, "What exactly is ghostwriting?" you'll know just where to send them.

Many thanks to GG writer and section editor Valerie Peterson for this great opportunity.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pitchapalooza this Wednesday in Greenpoint

Ready, set, pitch! This Wednesday, September 26th, come to WORD bookstore in Greenpoint for Pitchapalooza, the literary equivalent of The Voice or American Idol.

Pitchapalooza pits twenty authors against each other, with each getting one minute to pitch their book idea to a panel of judges. Each pitch is critiqued, and the winner will be introduced to an appropriate agent or publisher.

The event was founded by GG pals Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published and founders of The Book Doctors. Every author who signs up to pitch will receive a copy of Eckstut and Sterry's book, as well as a 20-minute one-on-two consultation with the pair of publishing pros.

Pitchapalooza is a nationwide tour, and after Brooklyn will be heading to San Francisco (October 7th), Ohio (November 3rd), and Illinois (January 19th/20th). Check the Book Doctors' calendar for registration information for this and future events.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

GG's Guide to the Brooklyn Book Festival

Are you ready to get nerdy and wordy? The 2012 Brooklyn Book Festival is this Sunday, Sept. 23rd!

This year's fest features a record 208+ authors and 104 panels—including Tony Danza and Mary Markowitz discussing education and writing; a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness literary greats Paul Auster, Pete Hamill, and Edwidge Danticat in conversation; and straight talk about everything from sex and violence to cyborgs in contemporary lit. Not to mention hundreds of vendors, including publishers large and small, literary magazines, bookstores, literacy organizations, nonprofit groups, writers unions, universities, and on and on. And there are "bookend events" all over the city all week long.

Seem a little overwhelming? Never fear! Gotham's intrepid Director of Operations and resident ambassador to the Brooklyn literary scene has you covered. Here's Oriana's list of "must see" author events to check out throughout the day. And you can find the full roster of offerings (along with a festival map) here.

See you in Downtown Brooklyn!

Literary Lions. 
2:00 pm, St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church (157 Montague Street)
Readings by award winning authors Pete Hamill (Tabloid City), Edwidge Danticat (Create Dangerously) and Paul Auster (Winter Journal). Whether their point of view is a palimpsest of Brooklyn fiction or set in other places, they have each lived in Brooklyn and been influenced by it. Followed by Q & A. Introduced by Johnny Temple, Publisher, Akashic Books and Chair of the Brooklyn Literary Council.
Oriana says: If there's a more potent Brooklyn literary pairing than luminary Paul Auster and king of the indie presses Johnny Temple, I'd like to hear about it.

Ice or Salt: The Personal in Fiction. 
11:00 am, Brooklyn Borough Hall Courtroom (209 Joralemon Street)
W.B. Yeats wrote, “All that is personal soon rots; it must be packed in ice or salt.” Authors Siri Hustvedt (Living, Thinking, Looking), Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård (My Struggle)and Sheila Heti (How Should a Person Be?) will consider how writing technique—“ice or salt”—transforms the personal into art that connects to a broad audience. Moderated by Phillip Lopate.
Oriana says: Sheila Heti is a small-press darling-of-the-moment. I heard her read at Powerhouse recently and she was terrific.

Let’s Talk About Sex: Grappling with Gender in the 21st Century.
2:00 pm, Main Stage (Borough Hall Plaza)

Is biology destiny? What does it mean today to be a man, a woman, or to feel somewhere in between? Naomi Wolf (Vagina: A New Biography), Carlos Andres Gomez (Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood) and Kate Bornstein (A Queer and Pleasant Danger) consider the role of sex and gender in culture today, how it makes us, and how we react to the trappings of gender put upon us by society at large. Moderated by Hanna Rosin (The End of Men).
Oriana says: I've been a huge fan of Bornstein since I read Gender Outlaw in college, and of course Naomi Wolf is always fascinating and smart.

Worlds Built over Time.
2:00 pm, Saint Francis Auditorium (180 Remsen Street)
This all-star panel brings together the narrative geniuses of Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), Adrian Tomine (New York Stories) and Gabrielle Bell (The Voyeurs) to discuss how they’ve developed characters, stories, and imagined worlds over serial publications. Moderated by Bill Kartalopoulos, co-organizer, Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. Featuring screen projection.
Oriana says: The Hernandez brothers are some of the godfathers of the modern comics scene, and Adrian Tomine's Summer Blonde was the book that brought me back to graphic novels almost a decade ago.

The PEN Translation Committee Presents North African Writing in the Wake of the Arab Spring.
5:00pm, Brooklyn Borough Hall Community Room (209 Joralemon Street)
Noted translators, editors and poets Pierre Joris (Exile Is My Trade: a Habib Tengour Reader), Deborah Kapchan (Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition) and Peter Thompson (A Passenger from the West by Nabile Farès) explore the effects of the Arab uprisings in North Africa on poetry and narratives and discuss their recent works in translation. Moderated by Nathalie Handal (Language of a New Century: Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond).
Oriana says: One of the best parts of the Book Fest is exposure to different cultures and styles, and PEN always presents amazing authors.

I’d Like To Apologize To Every Teacher I Ever Had. Tony Danza in Conversation with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.
1:00 pm, Main Stage (Borough Hall Plaza) 

As an actor, Danza conquered nearly every entertainment realm—TV, the movies, even Broadway—and he wanted to give something back. Inspired by a documentary made by Teach for America, he decided to take time out to teach! Markowitz converses with Brooklyn born Danza about his career and his book about teaching high school.
Oriana says: What could I even say about this pairing? I can't wait to hear what they'll have to say.

The Politics of Identity—Do They Still Matter?
12:00 pm, St. Francis McArdle (180 Remsen Street) 
As America grows more diverse, “minorities” will soon be the majority and this shift in demographics affects our culture and the ways we think about it. Can—and should—we move beyond the idea of race in America? Baratunde Thurston (How to Be Black), Rebecca Walker (Black Cool) and Wesley Yang (author of the New York magazine “Paper Tigers” and a forthcoming book on Asians in America) will interrogate the stereotypes we still have of each other, both positive and negative, and examine the ways we run from and cling to various aspects of identity, race, and heritage. Moderated by Amitava Kumar.
Oriana says: Did you see Baratunde reporting from the RNC? Fantastic.

Artisanal Everything.
11:00 am Main Stage (Borough Hall Plaza)
David Rees (How to Sharpen Pencils), the world's only artisanal pencil sharpener, in conversation with Sam Anderson, critic at large for the New York Times Magazine. They discuss the artisanal culture of the Hudson Valley, Rees' pencil business (he hand-sharpens pencils for mail order customers), and the artisanalization of everything in Brooklyn, from mayonnaise to soda.
Oriana says: David Rees' blend of hilariously earnest and earnestly hilarious is unbeatable, plus let's please keep beating that dead artisanal-mayonnaise horse.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Around the Word

Reviewola. There's been a lot of talk recently about the rise pay-for-play, and the general lack of transparency and accountability in the book review business, especially when it comes to self-publishing. Getting those stars on Amazon can make or break a book's success, so it's unfortunately unsurprising that there are those who will write a positive review—for a price. Data mining expert Bing Liu estimates that "about one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake. And it's not just paid reviews that are problematic: "puppet" reviews by authors themselves (or their spouses) are also a serious issue. Bestselling UK author ER Ellory came under fire recently for using several pseudonyms to flood his Amazon page with positive feedback. It is all but impossible to tell when reviews have been written by marketers, retailers, authors themselves, or by customers who can get a deal from a merchant for giving a good score. So what's a book lover to do? The Society of Authors has issued a call to arms of sorts, suggest that readers should take to Amazon and reclaim the reviews from the puppeteers. In the meantime, GalleyCat has put out this handy guide to decoding Amazon's star system.

Writers are from Mars, Editors are from Venus. Here at the GG office we frequently refer to ourselves as matchmakers or couples therapists for writing relationships, and this piece in the Columbia Journalism Review, "Five Types of Problem Writers," and its accompanying entry on the author's blog (complete with gifs!) caught our eye. Some represented types: the "newbie" writer who has yet to grow the emotional calluses to deal with the sometimes harsh reality of critism, or the power-drunk sadistic editor who eviscerates just to eviscerate, leaving a manuscript littered with backhanded comments. Do you recognize yourself in the list, or maybe someone you've worked with? How do you deal with a less-than-easy collaborator?

The Best of the Worst. Every year The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, the literary world's version of film's Razzie Awards, "celebrates" the worst passages written in the past year. (The contest was named for the author who penned what is arguably the best-worst line in literary history: "it was a dark and stormy night.") This year's top prize went to Cathy Bryant of Manchester for this gem:
As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting.
She was congratualated by last year's winner, Suzanne Fondrie: “I take pleasure in passing the guttering torch of Bad Writing to this year’s winner. May you write long and badly, Cathy!”

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Labor Day: Writing Like Your Own Boss

In honor of Labor Day, we've been pondering the nature of freelancing and its rise as the "new normal" in our current economy. Here's a roundup of news specific to the freelance writer's life.

In a run-up to International Freelancers Day (September 21st), the International Freelancers Academy has released their 2012 Freelance Industry Report. You can read the report, or check out the breakdown in illustration form here.

We recently  took a pole of GG writers that echoed the high level of job satisfaction many freelancers seem to enjoy. But as we all know, being your own boss isn't always wine and roses. As the Freelancers Union points out, many independents experience issues getting deserved compensation (as demonstrated by their World's Longest Invoice project), and some report suffering from the loneliness of a life outside the office. But for many, the cost-benefit analysis is solidly in positive territory.

The "7 Days in June" project, which spent a week filming freelancers in the UK (using freelance filmmakers, natch), will release their finished project for the country's National Freelancer's Day in November.

Finally, check out GalleyCat's guide to union and guild resources for independent authors. And happy writing!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Uppercase of the Mondays: Now on the BloGG!

We recently started a weekly series on our Facebook and Twitter called "Uppercase of the Mondays": humorous comics and images relating to publishing, grammar, and the like to brighten up the beginning of your work week. And now, Uppercase is coming to the BloGG!

Here's a roundup of all the posts so far. Have a funny writing-related comic of your own? Send it our way!

Happy Uppercase : )

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Around the Word

Crisis of Creativity or Just History Repeating? With the Jonah Lehrer scandal in full swing, a summer during which the box office has been almost nothing but remakes and sequels, knock-off ebooks, and a unparalleled literary phenom that could be flirting with copyright infringement, it's hard not to ask whether there are any original ideas left to be had. Animator and filmmaker Drew Christie explores this conundrum in a recent NY Times op-doc, "Allergy to Originality." Through a very creative use of various Wikipedia entries (solidly in the Creative Commons), the animated video explores the age-old question of whether a idea can ever be truly unique, or if everything is just an appropriation or amalgamation of previous cultural memes and icons. Is it really Hollywood's fault that we seem to find comfort in reworkings and extensions of the familiar (reflected in booming box office sales)? What do you think? Are there any original thoughts left to be thought?

Before They Were Stars. Ever wondered what your favorite celebrity New York Times columnists were up to before they were granted tenure and guaranteed precious column inches to fritter away? Most of them were actually out chasing down leads and risking their jobs in pursuit of the story. In this great article from The Awl, we learn that before Nicholas Kristoff got a little "White Man's Burden," he gave us stories about the people in crisis instead of preaching to them. Tom Friedman was on the ground in Beirut, and Maureen Dowd, now best known for her politics-lite repartee, authored one of the first long-form pieces to shed light on those in the shadows of the AIDS epidemic. While not heralded far and wide, Dowd's profile of Gay Men's Health Crisis challenged some of the more traditional views held by Times editorial staff, and almost cost her the job. 

The Book Critic's Burden. It happens to all heavy readers at one time or another: you start a book and then realize you're just not feeling it. Most of us ditch it in favor of something more enticing, but what if your job depends on powering through? Getting paid to read and review books may seem like a charmed life, but a reviewer has to read them all—the good, mediocre, and the painfully bad. What's a critic to do? In a recent column, "I Hate This Book So Much: A Mediation," Times book critic Lev Grossman discusses the anxiety and inner conflict he faces when he has to review a book he dislikes. Should he dig in and write that negative review? What if he's missing a point that's obvious to everyone else? How does he face someone whose novel he's dissed? It's a a heavy cross to bear. How do you, dear editors and writers, deal with a despised project?

Of Books and Booze. Writers are notorious drinkers, perhaps none more so than Earnest Hemingway. Did you know that one of Hemingway's favorite drinks was the daiquiri? That may seem a little incongruous with his "man's man" image, but apparently he developed a taste for them during the twenty years he spent in Cuba. So to commemorate his 113th birthday, Havana watering hole El Floridita decided to mix up the world's largest daiquiri in honor of the author's love for the drink and his ties to the island. If you want to pay homage to your favorite author through drink, or make your next cocktail hour a little more literate, here are a few sites that offer authors' favorite cocktails, drinks inspired by books and authors, and drinks from classic literature. If going out is more your style, check out the The Dead Poet on Manhattan's Upper West Side, which is owned by a former English teacher and features an actual lending library.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Q&A with Aziz Isham of

reKiosk is not like any other online marketplace you’ve seen. With this new site, now in beta with a launch planned for August, you act as your own distributor for your favorite books and music, and instead of the marketplace eating up a big chunk of the payment, most of the profit goes to the creator, with a small slice for you. 
So say you buy your friend's ebook from their reKiosk page and share it on your own kiosk. If someone then buys the book through you, your friend gets 70 percent and you get 25 percent of the profit. It’s kind of like owning your own private store that only sells things you like, and it’s certainly a great venue for promoting self-publishing.

Aziz Isham
We talked to founder and CEO Aziz Isham to get the full scoop.

How is reKiosk different from other online marketplaces?
We were built with two things in mind: 1) How do we make an alternative marketplace that puts creatives in control and remunerates them for their work; and 2) How do we empower curators (bloggers, publishers, or aspiring digital storeowners) to become an active (and paid) part of the process. We found that if we keep things simple and take as small a portion of each sale as possible, we could do both of these things and still create a beautiful, engaging e-commerce experience.

What inspired the idea for the site?
You could say that I've been working on this project for the last decade, in various forms. Three of my four grandparents are artists, and I've always been attracted to business models that try to make creativity a more economically sustainable occupation for as many people as possible. We all have enough toaster ovens, but I've never met anyone who's got enough poetry.

Who would you say is the “average” reKiosk user?
Either a content provider (a musician, record label, publisher, or writer, for example) or a curator. One person or company could be both, of course. The average customer is probably someone who's already interested in independent media, as that's the lion's share of what's on the site right now, though we hope that might change in the not-too-distant future.

How do you think reKiosk will benefit writers?
Any easy-to-use marketplace that encourages smaller, curated marketplaces will benefit writers. Right now we have a huge market for front-list titles and lots of strong, small niche markets, but we're in danger of loosing the mid-list, and that’s really scary. Some of the best authors of the twentieth century were firmly mid-list—James Salter, Phillip Dick, and Mike Davis, to name a few personal favorites. Would any of these writers have viable careers in today's publishing landscape?

Where do you see reKiosk heading in the future?
Hard to say. We've had some great advance praise so far and a lot of interest from all sectors, but we're really hoping to become a way to usher in a new form of the independent, digital bookstore or record shop, the internet version of the great spaces you could once find in any mid-size town or city, but which have since been replaced by Walmarts and e-retailers.

Request an invite at to get a head-start before the site is fully open. The possibilities seem almost endless, and we definitely agree about not needing another toaster!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Writing Life Rocks

Our friends at Ragan recently published the results of a poll, in which they ask freelance writers and editors what they enjoy about the writing life. We thought this was a great question, and we were curious to know what keeps our Gotham Ghostwriters (and editors) going. So we asked, "What's the best part of having a job as a writer or editor?" We got a lot of creative and informative answers.  
The basic breakdown:
  • I get to be creative every day: 5
  • I get to write for a variety of platforms: 2
  • I help others sound better: 5
  • I produce a tangible finished product: 3
  • Other (please elaborate!)
    • I get to be alone
    • I get to meet interesting (and famous) people
    • I like seeing my name in print

And here are some of our favorite answers :
"Permit me to offer a quote from English writer W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), from his novel, 'Cakes and Ale': 'Whenever he has anything on his mind, whether it be a harassing reflection, grief at the death of a friend, unrequited love, wounded pride, anger at the treachery of someone to whom he has shown kindness, in short any emotion or perplexing thought, he has only to put it down in black and white, using it as the theme of a story or the decoration of an essay, to forget all about it. He is the only free man.'" - Harold Gordon
"...when people ask me what I do for a living, it's a kick to say, 'I'm a writer.' Always the same thing follows. 'Do I know your work? Have you written any books?' That I can say 'yes and 'yes' is rewarding. Books are not all I write or edit or direct. At this point in my career I write, edit and direct it all, and I've learned more about such an array of businesses, industries and topics that this in and of itself is very rewarding. I can even talk about hernia repair and medical conditions. Now that's something!" - Sandra Rea-McGinty
"The money, the travel, the danger, and the women." - Peter Roff

Monday, July 30, 2012

Our Latest Workshop: Making the Most of Your Online Profile

For our latest brown bag writer lunch last week, we were treated to a tip-tastic presentation on how to make the most of your online presence by two digital marketing gurus from Sonnet Media and Your Expert Nation: Sean Concannon and Rich Kelley.
Rich Kelley (left) and Sean Concannon (right)
We videotaped* the session for those of you who want to take a deep dive—watch below.

But if you’re pressed for time and just want to browse the highlights, here’s a quick summary of Sean and Rich’s top tips.

Have all your information lead to one place
  • The best way for potential clients to find you is to have one central online hub. That primary site, whether it’s a personal web page or your LinkedIn profile, should include:
  • Your brief biography
  • A photo of yourself
  • Your areas of expertise
  • All the places you’ve worked
  • All the places you’ve been published
  • Links to pieces you’ve written
  • A link to your blog (not essential, but very beneficial)
  • No pictures of cats (That one is from Dan, but we think it’s a very good rule.)
  • A way to contact you
All your other online profiles should link back to that hub. Use a tool like Sitemeter or Google Analytics to analyze and track the incoming traffic.

A personal website is the gold standard for your hub
If you make your own website, you’ll have full control over the content, the layout, the links, and the aesthetics. Plus, technically all the content you post on sites like Facebook and Twitter belongs to them; having your own site means you retain all rights to the things you post.

Getting your own site is simple—even for those who aren’t particularly tech-savvy. Buy a URL (something like, and then choose from the wide range of templates offered by WordPress, Tumblr, and similar sites to build yours. Of course, if you want something fancier, you can always hire a web developer. No matter what, make sure that all your information is clear and easy to find.

What other online profiles should you have?
Twitter: Twitter is great for conversations, promotions, and building your brand. Get followers by following people with similar interests, and interact with them by replying, retweeting, and thanking them if they do the same for you. See which users influential people follow and do the same, especially the first few people on their follow list. Tweet as much or as little as you want, but the gurus recommend at least 2–3 times per day. If you only have five minutes for social media, find two tweets to “favorite,” two to retweet, and two to respond to.

Sean and Rich also highlighted a handful of tools to help you manage your account:
  • HootSuite—A popular application that can integrate your Facebook and Twitter posts
  • Twellow—Lets you search for people to follow by category, complete with rankings.
  • Twit Cleaner—Identifies which of the people you follow you should consider unfollowing because they are inactive, uninteresting, or engage in dodgy behavior
  • Tweriod—Analyzes the behavior of your followers and recommends what time would be best for you to tweet
  • Friend or Follow—Shows which of the people you follow are following you (friends), and who is following you that you aren’t following back (fans)
LinkedIn: LinkedIn is terrific for connecting with people and expanding your professional network. Join groups in your areas of expertise to further broaden your reach and increase your credibility, or start your own group and moderate the conversations. New apps allow you to link to your blog and creative portfolio.

Facebook: Everyone and their dog is now on Facebook, but business pages are more discoverable than personal ones, so make yourself an author page. Facebook can also be used as your blogging platform.

Google+: Studies are beginning to show that Google+ users are much happier than Facebook users. Of course, far fewer people can be found on Google+, but having a presence there can improve your search results and your Google Knowledge Graph.

Amazon and Goodreads: These are for authors with published books. If that’s you, both sites offer great ways to be found by clients and to engage with readers. Published authors can set up a content-rich profile. These sites also allow you to syndicate your blog directly to your profile.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial
One of the most important things to remember is to optimize your profiles for search engines. Make sure to put keywords on your site that prospective clients would use to search for writers in your areas of expertise—for instance, if you specialize in writing cookbooks, optimal keywords would be “food writing,” “cookbook writer,” “writing about cooking,” etc. Remember: search engines read the title of pages and articles first, so jam-pack them full of keywords!

Keep content fresh and update your profiles often
Search engines “reward” you when your pages have frequently updated content, so blast away. Share your thoughts, engage your audience, and if you’ve written something new, don’t be afraid to tweet or post about it more than once—just make sure you post about other things between mentions. And don’t forget to interact with others as much as you can, so your profile doesn’t just read “me me me.”

Want more from Sean and Rich? Hop on over to Your Expert Nation or Sonnet Media, or check them out on Twitter at @seanconcannon and @rpmkel.

*Our apologies, we had some technical difficulties so there are a couple places where the video skips.