Friday, July 26, 2013

Around the Word: New Books, New Places

With the heat wave we went through in NYC last week, there’s no denying that the dog days of summer are emphatically here. The bad news is that you could fry an egg on the sidewalks, but the good news is that it's probably time for a writing vacation!

If you’re planning to traveling to new and exotic locations, you'll surely want to keep a travel journal. Writer inspiration blog "One Wild Word" shares some great travel writing tips to make sure your vacation memories stay remembered, and even gives suggestions for waterproof notebooks—in case you're too close to the surf when inspiration strikes.

Then again, if you want to spend your vacation actually vacationing, know that you’re in good company. “I loafe and invite my soul,” wrote Whitman in his "Song of Myself." “I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.” Melville House’s Emma Aylor shares the expertise of several other famous authors who weren’t afraid to kick their feet up.

Or maybe you think the whole “vacation” concept is over-hyped. Who needs to swelter in the Fiji sun when you could be sitting in the comfortable cool of your air-conditioned office? If that's more your speed, stay home and leave the traveling to the books with Mailbooks For Good. The clever company partnered with Random House Australia to make books whose dust jackets transform into pre-addressed, pre-stamped boxes, so you can to donate the books you've finished to literacy charities.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Guest Post: Building Books as a Ghostwriter

by Alice Lesch Kelly

One of the authors I ghostwrite for checked in recently from the road. She was out promoting the book I’d written with her, and she was having one of those “I forget which city I’m in” moments.

While she rattled off her frantic schedule—a long list of readings, interviews, TV appearances, and speaking engagements—I sat back and appreciated the situation. After months of work on her book, we were both just where we wanted to be. She was out promoting her bestseller, and I was writing my next book.

As a ghostwriter, I get to do what I consider to be the most interesting parts of creating a book. I brainstorm topics, develop content, define strategies, package ideas, delve into research, and conduct interviews. And then, best of all, I write—expressing ideas, choosing words, crafting sentences, guiding narratives. I draft, revise, and polish.

Then, when I’m finished, I hand it all over to someone else.

I often think of myself as a surrogate mother. My books’ genetic material comes from another person, but I form it. I carry it for months, molding it, cultivating it, giving it voice. Under my care it develops and grows from the seed of an idea to a completed book that’s all ready for delivery.

The process works for everyone: The author has her baby, and I have the satisfaction of having written it to life.

When I started ghostwriting, I thought I’d feel disappointed when my authors received praise and attention for books I had written, or that I might be envious when Good Morning America called them rather than me. As it turns out, though, I prefer it this way. I get to have all the fun of writing—but when my books are ready to step out into the spotlight, I’m happy to let them go.

That’s why I love ghostwriting. Authors build platforms and marketing strategies, but I get to build books.

Alice Lesch Kelly is a book collaborator and ghostwriter specializing in health and self-improvement. Two of her recent books are Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby (HarperOne) and The Omni Diet (St. Martin’s Press). Her website is

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Published Posthumously

The New York Times had a particularly interesting book review last Sunday covering autobiographical books written about the authors’ own deaths.

The clever title, “Deadlines,” draws the reader in, and Meghan O’Rourke doesn’t disappoint, bringing up the insightful questions throughout the article. The piece touched on books such as John Updike’s Endpoint and Roger Ebert’s Life Itself: A Memoir, asking why there has been such an explosion of “death lit” recently.

Interestingly, the New York Times published another article on the very same day highlighting David Rakoff’s final novel, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, which he wrote on his deathbed. The book is written in iambic pentameter, something Rakoff had never done before. Joel Lovell paints a touching and inspirational picture of Rakoff’s struggle to finish his novel before his final deadline.

Does literature about death inspire or depress you? Why the sudden influx of books about dying? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

3 Benefits of Being a Blog Ghostwriter

by Kelsey Jones

Many writers get into blogging because they want to have their work published online. However, if you have started blogging for a living, you will quickly learn that the benefits of not having your name on something can often far outweigh the name recognition you’ll get on a piece of content written under your name.

Writing content that isn’t going to be published under your name (and is instead published under someone else’s name) is called ghostwriting. Published authors have been using ghostwriters for years on their books, and now the market for digital ghostwriters is stronger than ever. Higher rates, more work, and better guidelines are all things you can look forward to as a ghostwriter.

Better Pay
Most bloggers charge higher rates for ghostwritten pieces over those published under their name. This is understood by most clients, as not having your work recognized as your own carries a higher cost (as you can’t usually use it in your portfolio). For ghostwriting assignments, I usually charge 15 to 30 percent more per word or per piece. This rate usually varies wildly per industry and takes some experimentation before settling into a steady ghostwriting rate.

More Opportunities
Many clients are specifically looking for ghostwriters for their own marketing/blog content or to for their clients. Because the quality of content has a significant impact on a website’s traffic and search rank, companies are looking for great bloggers who can craft unique and engaging content. As many companies begin to realize how important blogging can be a website’s ROI and engagement, they will begin to hire more writers as well. What does this mean for bloggers? There will be more ghostwriting assignments available to go around. If you are okay with ghostwriting, this can allow for more clients than you might have received had you been adamant about your name being attached to any work you produce.

More Structure
More rules and guidelines might be viewed as a negative aspect of ghostwriting, but many bloggers see it as a benefit. For writers who are given free rein on assignments they attach their name to, it can be difficult at times to continuously come up with new blogging topics, due to that pesky writer’s block. However, many ghostwriting assignments have specific guidelines for content length, topic, and frequency, which can help the creative process when it comes to composing posts. We all need a break from idea generation, and more structure can often help.

This article originally appeared on the Blog Herald.

Visit Kelsey Jones' website: The Social Robot.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

We're On Tumblr!

Hello ghostwriters, writers in general, and tumblr-ers as a whole: We’ve joined the tumblrsphere!

We’ve got a folder full of gifs and we’re ready to party. We love hearing about the adventure of ghostwriters, freelance writers, editors, interns, and basically anyone in the writing and publishing businesses.

Follow or like our tumblr if you post about any of these topics!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Guest Post: Amazon's White Glove Publishing Service

by Andrew Crofts

There are any number of ways that a book can stumble on its journey from your brain to your readers’. One of the most common blockages is with the literary agent. Your agent loves your book and is confident she can sell it—but six months later she has failed to get a publisher on board.

But what if an agent who is keen on a book were in a position to “publish” it herself? Amazon has spotted this niche, and is now offering a service called White Glove. In this arrangement, the agent does all the liaising with Amazon and helps with the publishing process, and then she gets her standard 15 percent of anything the author earns from the deal.

Why partner with an agent when it’s not hard to do the self-publishing thing yourself? For one thing, it is so much better to have someone else who believes in your book, agrees to put time and effort into its publication, and generally shares the ride. In addition, a book’s chances of success are vastly improved if someone other than the author is behind it. If an agent does this for you, you have already gotten your first endorsement.

Last year I wrote a novel called Secrets of the Italian Gardener, set inside the palace of a dictator about to be overthrown in the Arab Spring. The narrator is a ghostwriter who, while writing a book for the dictator, meets a wise, elderly Italian gardener who gradually unravels the story of who really holds the power and wealth in this world. As the rebels draw closer to breaching the palace walls, the ghostwriter is also struggling with his own breaking heart.

I sent the manuscript to someone at United Agents, one of the biggest agencies in London, whom I have known for many years, and he came back brimming with enthusiasm. He wanted no rewrites, and he was sure he could sell the project.

Six months later, he had failed to convince any publishers. In the old days, that would have been the end of the story. But we turned instead to Amazon’s White Glove service.

Highly skilled Amazon staff did all the heavy lifting to get the book up onto the site, ready for print-on-demand as well electronic publication. It became a team effort rather than a lone author’s voice in the crowd, and should the book start to gain traction in the marketplace, the agency is already fully engaged and ready to handle the business side of taking it to the next level.

The book is now available on Amazon, and it has been a terrific experience all around. I am keen to see where things will go from here.

Andrew Crofts is a ghostwriter and author who has published more than eighty books, many of which were Sunday Times bestsellers, and has guided a number of international clients through the minefield of independent publishing. He has spent much of his career among dictators, politicians, arms dealers, and billionaires, passing time in their lavish palaces and heavily guarded compounds in the wildest parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, as well as in tax havens like Monaco, Bermuda and the Caribbean. He lectures about making a living from writing at Kingston University and frequently guests at writing workshops, literary festivals, and in the media. He blogs regularly on matters pertaining to publishing, self-publishing and writing. Find him at

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

In honor of the Independence Day holiday, Gotham's offices will be closed from July 4th through the 7th.

We are always reachable by email at, and we will respond when we get back next week.

Have a relaxing and enjoyable holiday!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Around the Word

Merger Mania
The long-awaited Penguin / Random House merger is complete. Penguin issued a statement, saying, "Today, Penguin Random House becomes the first truly global trade book publisher." They didn't use any of the quirky new names many were hoping they would (Penguin House! Random Penguin!), but they do have a spiffy new websitePublishers Weekly released an article with information about which employees will be moving where, and what the structure of the new company will look like. Publishing Perspectives' Dennis Abrams interviewed industry insiders on the merger and what it will mean for all of us.

The Kids are All Right
Lots of great new YA books have been appearing on the shelves in time for summer. Check out Book Riot’s Ultimate Guide to YA Summer Reading for a list of books that stand out from the crowd. Publishing Perspectives takes a look at an interesting new trend in in books for young adults: the "home-grown series." Simon & Schuster's children's division pioneered this movement, which involves "editors creating story arcs and characters in-house and then finding authors and illustrators to put the ideas into books." If even a YA novel is too heavy for your poolside reading, try the digital comic Lil’ Gotham, which is great for older readers as well. Kelly Thompson talks about the merits of the comic on Lit Reactor.

Book Art / Art Books
Comic books like Lil’ Gotham aren’t the only example of what great things can happen when art and literature combine. In a series of stunning photographs, photojournalist Steve McCurry captures readers and their books all around the world. Russian-born artist Ekaterina Panikanova takes a different tack, painting directly onto the pages of old books to create beautiful, textured paintings. Some authors combine the spheres of painting and reading in a less literal way, as seen in this Lit Reactor piece on five painters who are also authors.