Friday, May 25, 2012

Business Wisdom from the Business Ghost

Earlier this week we were privileged to have premier ghostwriter Michael Levin (aka the Business Ghost) give a dynamite presentation at our offices on a topic that’s on the minds of nearly all writers-for-hire today: How do you market yourself in a way that will land you high-paying work from high-profile clients?

The key takeaway: Your mindset matters most. You are not just a writer, Levin told the packed room of writers from the GG network; you’re an entrepreneur who runs a business specializing in writing. Deal with your fear, and stop being halfhearted with your self-marketing. Value your skills properly, and ask for what you’re worth. It’s the only way you’re going to get it.

Once you’ve got the right attitudinal bearings, Levin said, there are a number of basic sales and marketing techniques that writers can leverage to generate more productive leads and land more rewarding deals. Here’s some of the top tips and tricks Levin shared:

Cold-calling works
Keep your pitch simple: “Hi, my name is Michael Levin of Business Ghost, and I specialize in writing books for people of your stature. I don’t know if you’ve ever considered writing a book, but if you’re interested, I’d love to talk to you about working together.” Pique their curiosity—no one uses the telephone anymore—and appeal to their ego. Many writers worry that cold-calling is bothersome, but you’re not bothering someone if you’re solving a problem for them.

Don’t be afraid of gatekeepers
Secretaries, assistants, and other gatekeepers are benign dictators—if you’re nice to them. They respond, like anyone, to respect and kindness. (Of course, you could also make a habit of calling at 8 am, before the gatekeeper gets to work.)

Get over your fear
Be confident! The more you push on “no,” the more the client will push on “yes.” You have to act like you’ve got a winning lottery ticket in your pocket, meaning you could take this job or leave it. Use a line like: “I’m very fortunate to be busy with other projects, but I can usually make room in my schedule when something exciting comes along.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re less experienced in the subject matter
Tell the client, “My credentials as a writer are more important than my knowledge of your industry.” The client is the one who knows his or her subject matter; you’re being hired on the strength of your writing skill.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never written a book before
There are many ways to get paid for your first book. You could write for a percentage of the back-end (with clearly defined metrics), for example, or you could get paid on a per-chapter basis. You’ll certainly charge less than market rate, so position it like this: “I’m buying market share in my future, and you’re lucky enough to be getting a great deal on a fantastic writer.” Michael suggests charging $15 to $20k for your first book, and increase your rates with each subsequent project.

It’s not a vanity project
Many clients get nervous about self-publishing a book, because they don’t want it to look like an ego-driven idea. Michael has a great essay on his website called “But Isn’t It a Vanity Book?” that answers this question. In short: a vanity project is all about stroking the ego, whereas a self-published book is about providing a service. Tell the client that it’s her duty to share her acquired knowledge with the world.

Don’t be so smart
To be smarter than the client is stupid. Channel seventies TV detective Columbo, and use what you don’t know to keep the client talking. In addition, don’t be tricked into giving away all your secrets for free in an initial interview. Clients will flatter you to inflate your ego and keep you talking—which is the same thing you should be doing to them.

Set up your next session
At the beginning of your first meeting with a client, explain that you’re going to give him a lot to think about, and that you’d like to schedule your next meeting or next step now. That prevents you from leaving with nothing but a weak promise of “I’ll be in touch.”

Want to hear more from Michael? Check out his Business Ghost website and follow him on Twitter at @Business_Ghost.

Michael, a New York Times–bestselling author, has built one of preeminent ghostwriting practices in the country. His company, Business Ghost, has produced more than 100 ghostwritten and co-written books, of which eight have been national bestsellers. He also appeared on ABC's hot reality show Shark Tank, and his episode will re-run tonight, May 25th, at 8pm.

1 comment:

Cynthia Starks said...

Excellent tips in this post on Michael Levin's talk. Wish I had been in NYC to hear it, but I can definitely put some of his advice to work right now -- especially on cold calling. Thanks! Cindy Starks