Baton Blog Hop for Writers
When the esteemed Jennifer Lawler asks if you want to be in a blog hop with her, you, of course, say yes immediately. Lawler is the author of Dojo Wisdom for Writers, whom I had the pleasure of hearing speak years ago at Writers and Editors One-on-One in Chicago. The format of the blog hop is that I talk about my work process and then pass the baton on to three more authors. Here is what I have to share:
1) What am I working on?
I am typically working on between two and four ghostwritten books at a time, but at this particular moment, I am basking in the glow of having hit Send on page proofs for a client’s business book last week. At the same time, I also finished polishing the draft of a book proposal that another client is now reviewing before we forward it to our agent. So right now, the only items on my to-do list are drafting three short magazine articles (for which I’ve already done the interviewing), finishing the draft of a press release for a corporate client, and taking a client’s materials and completely restructuring them. I’m enjoying the chance to catch my breath, I must admit.
If you had asked me this question five years ago, my response would have been very different, however. Back then I probably would have reported that I had 6-8 magazine assignments for various business and trade magazines on my desk, a book I was ghostwriting for a client, and my own book project in the works. But that has changed fairly dramatically in the last couple of years. Now 80% of my work is ghostwriting, mainly books but also blog posts and articles.
In my free time (which until this week I haven’t had much of), I’m working on a series of information products for ghostwriters. I’m convinced that information products are what’s coming next in the publishing industry.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I specialize in business books, especially how-to and entrepreneurial success stories. I don’t think that distinguishes me in any particular way since many of my friends work in the same niche.
Perhaps what differentiates me is my ability to sift through massive amounts of data or background information and pull out that one nugget, or the central theme, that helps shape the project. I love being given pages and pages of potentially related information (I know, I’m weird that way) and having to figure out how everything can fit together. It’s kind of like a puzzle, and I enjoy it.
Another way that my work may differ from others is that I push my clients to include case studies or success stories in their books. I remember reading Jay Conrad Levinson’s books on guerrilla marketing years ago and loving how he wove practical advice together with stories of companies that had successfully applied those same principles. I try and emulate that approach whenever I can.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I’ve always been fascinated with business. I’m one of those kids who sold lemonade on a street corner to cars passing by, followed by vegetables from our backyard garden and then baked goods as I got older. I went to a liberal arts college (Wellesley) and then immediate to the University of Michigan to earn my MBA, where I studied corporate strategy and marketing, two subjects that intrigue me.
Writing business books gives me the opportunity to continue to learn about business strategies and marketing while telling a company’s story. I really enjoy it.
4) How does your writing process work?
I start by making sure I understand what the task at-hand is. If it’s a proposal, I ask to see a couple of samples from the agent I’m working with, to be sure they get what they want. If it’s a book, I like to hear what other books the client liked, or wants to model his or her book after. Picturing the end helps me then determine what needs to be included. I work back from that in terms of a desired deliverable.
After squaring away what I need to do, I start reviewing any information the client has given me, as well as researching additional facts on my own. If I’m ghostwriting a book, I’ll schedule a phone input session with the client to talk through the first chapter of their book. Once that has happened, I start piecing together all the disparate facts, figures, observations, messages, stories, and opinions into what I hope is a cogent chapter. When I’m confident what I’ve drafted is close to what the client asked for, I send it along for their review and start preparing to discuss the next chapter.
When writing magazine articles, my process is somewhat similar. I review the assignment sheet, figure out which type of sources I need, which leads me to research specific people who would be a good fit, and then reach out to try and schedule a phone interview to talk about my topic. After all my interviews are done, I determine if I need other data to underscore a point or make a connection between the information I’ve gathered. If so, I start digging.
As the various sections of the story come together, I start writing. I edit as I go, once I get the all-important lede settled; I have a hard time continuing if I don’t have my lede. I find that I can write fairly quickly once that’s determined.
And now that you’ve read about me, I’m passing the baton to:
Sandra Beckwith – a fellow freelancer, author, and ghostwriter who specializes in helping authors learn how to promote their books effectively. She and I have also partnered to help writers figure out this whole information products industry.
Ann Logue – another fellow freelancer and author who is one of the first people who comes to mind when I hear terms like derivatives and EBITDA. Yes, Annie writes about finance and she’s very, very good at it.
Jeff Wuorio – a fellow freelancer, business writer, and ghostwriter who is one of the best-connected people I know. I am very fortunate to be able to say I have co-authored a book with Jeff (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Selling Your Own Home) because he always sets the bar high for quality.