Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Spotlight: The Indie Writer's Survival Guide by James O'Brien

We're pleased to spotlight a new book today: The Indie Writer's Survival Guide: Dos and Don'ts of Full-Time Freelancing, Year One by James O'Brien, just out from SlimBooks. It's a terrific overview of the freelance writing world, and a guide to transitioning from full-time writing to independent writing as a full-time career.

GG talked to James about cultivating clients, building networks, and anecdotal puffery.

What prompted you to write this book?
I found the publisher before the book was even an idea. SlimBooks is on to something when it comes to how business books work best, and how they don't work to the reader's benefit a lot of the time. They were looking for authors who could strip out the fluff and leave aside the repetitive anecdotal puffery that all too often pads business writing. I mean, anecdotes can be illustrative, and they can contextualize, but business-book readers have told me that they're annoyed by endless iterations of "Here's what Bob experienced one Monday in a meeting!" I like to think that we read business books to take away practical information, to receive a template or strategy that we can apply to what we're doing (or what we want to do). 

What do you think is the biggest challenge to being an independent writer?
After cash flow, it's cultivating the client list: building and maintaining one that will sustain you week after week, one that can survive, and allow you to survive, for months and years at the job. Getting clients is often a giant problem when you're starting out, but even after you've earned your way into outlets that will take your work, it's equally nerve-wracking to be in this reactive space all the time. Editors change, publishers' business models shift, networks bloom and then dry up . . . you're never not in entrepreneurial mode, really. And that can wear a writer down if the projects aren't fine-tuned to emphasize elements that keep you engaged—passions, interests, challenges. You have to stay in love with the stories, or the vicissitudes of the environment are going to burn you out. 

What do you find most rewarding about being an independent writer?
Freedom. And I don't mean the freedom to go sit in a coffee shop with your laptop all day; I mean the freedom to take on projects that you wouldn't be able to tackle if you were woking in a traditional full-time writing job. As an independent, you can write your way to a financial place that creates whole weeks without a deadline, and then you can start to explore. This kind of exploration, as a writer, takes you to places, literally, that you might never otherwise go. One morning you're answering an e-mail or pitching a piece to an editor, and then two weeks later you're on a plane, following a source or an idea that keeps you at the edge of your own skills and knowledge. This is the deeper kind of payoff that I think the happiest independent writers end up realizing and pursuing. 

The publishing landscape is changing dramatically. How do you see this affecting independent writers?
Mostly I see it as beneficial. There are so many outlets and so many developing spaces online that an entrepreneurial mind can find its way into multiple revenue streams. I know that this is often not the ideal scenario for traditional full-timers—there's a lot to be said for security and benefits and the comfort of a team that you grow to know and trust. But once I made the transition to independence, a whole world opened up. There's a real frontier in the digital publishing milieu. Don't listen to the voices that only say "No pay! No pay!" They're wrong: there is a lot of money on the table, but you have to be aggressively open to the way mastheads and editorial work now, and it's not what J-school taught back in 1985, 1995, or even 2005. What we mean when we say "news" or "article" or even "journalism" is subject to a number of new and interesting pressures that just weren't there ten years ago. This is not all bad, or even mostly bad, but it takes some flexibility and time and effort to sort out what works about this for the individual writer, and what does not.  

What other resources would you recommend for those who are transitioning into an independent writing career?
Avail yourselves of well-connected high-end networks such as Contently and Gotham Ghostwriters. That may sound like an advertisement, and I'm aware of where this interview is being published, but it's authentic advice, on my part, coming from what I know to be effective. Networks, especially online networks with well-funded projects, are more powerful than individuals, or at least they can save the individual a ton of time in the search for good work. There are lots of smart, young, successful people—writers, publishers, and network builders—who know this already. Be like them, and work with them, and with time and some humility, they'll change the way you work.

James O’Brien writes about business, technology, social media, film, wine, and travel. The Nieman Journalism Lab has called his work in the custom-content space "sponsored content done right." From 2008 to 2012 he reported and wrote extensively as a news correspondent for The Boston Globe. In 2012, he joined the caption-research team for photo-essayist Rick Smolan's The Human Face of Big Data. His fiction and poetry appear most recently in The Newer York and in Commas and Colons. New fiction is forthcoming in Space and Time and Footnote. O'Brien holds a PhD from the Editorial Institute at Boston University, where he researched Bob Dylan's other-than-song writings. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Around the Word: Spooks and Savvy Marketing

Ghost in the machine. In a clever twist on conventional uses of social media, ad agency Keiler has started a Twitter account for the ghost haunting its building. That's right—it's a literal ghostwriter.

Tweeting under the handle @KeilerGhost, the ghost shares snarky comments about advertising trends and daily office operations. Some of our favorite ghost-tweets:
  • I've seen a lot of advertising trends come and go in 200 years. But this stock photography thing has got to stop.
  • Agencies are like Ghosts: Clients expect transparency.
  • I’ve been dead for over 200 years and I’m still humming that darn Coca-Cola jingle.

She's got the look. In another example of marketing genius, author Emily Liebert partnered with a designer, a nail polish company, and a jewelry line to create looks inspired by the characters in her first novel. We think this was a great way to increase the visibility of her book in a flooded market. Read the Huffington Post article on Liebert's strategy here.

A club a day. If fashion isn't exactly your forte, take inspiration from author Jennifer Miller, who aims to visit 365 book clubs in one year to promote her novel, The Year of the Gadfly. Read about her strategy on GalleyCat here. Let us know your clever publicity/marketing strategies!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

GG's Dan Gerstein Interviewed by Author Learning Center

Gotham Ghostwriters President Dan Gerstein was interviewed recently by the Author Learning Center, a company that helps first-time authors reach their writing, publishing, and marketing goals.

The interview covered how Dan creates successful collaborative writing relationships, as well as how to promote writing skills and services.

A lot of people struggle with writing.
Here Dan talks about the rewards of working with a ghostwriter:

Setting Expectations
And here he discusses ways for writers to successfully collaborate with clients:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Intern at Gotham Ghostwriters

Our team is seeking an administrative and social media intern interested in gaining exposure to the publishing, content creation, and freelance writing industries.

We are looking for an intern who is knowledgeable and passionate about social media to support our company's growing workload and help expand our online presence. The intern will be tasked with following the latest developments in the publishing and media world, drafting blog posts, and curating our Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, as well as performing general administrative tasks as needed. Excellent writing skills and attention to detail are a must.

This is an unpaid internship with a commitment of 12 to 16 hours a week at our office in Manhattan, days and times negotiable, for 4 to 6 months.

If interested, send your resume and cover letter to!