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Collaboration is more than a skillset; it's a mindset. A qualified collaborator has all the creative energy and technical skills of an excellent novelist, journalist, blogger, or editor, but there’s more to the craft than technical skills. Collaboration also requires the ability to manage complex projects involving intense schedules, creative personalities, and the agendas of multiple concerned parties. Collaboration at its best is done in a spirit of service. In addition to high-level craft skills—grammar, syntax, linguistics, research, and storytelling—collaborators also need to bring generosity, empathy, intuitive listening, and a healthy ability to set ego aside. 

A QUALIFIED COLLABORATOR

CAN
  • Help you create a professional quality manuscript.

  • Help you understand your publishing options.

  • Encourage and support you through the process.

A QUALIFIED COLLABORATOR

CAN'T

  • Guarantee that your book will be a bestseller.

  • Connect you with celebrities they work with. 

  • Write a chapter or proposal “on spec” or “for exposure.”

The best collaborators are
  • talented
  • craft proficient
  • industry savvy
  • deadline conscious
  • empathetic
  • trustworthy

Q: What if I want to do most or all of the writing myself?

A: A developmental editor, writing coach, or book doula helps you define structure and guides you through the process. 

Here are some key elements with which a qualified collaborator may be helpful:

  • Idea Development: Helping authors brainstorm and refine their book ideas, ensuring they have a clear and compelling concept.

  • Planning and Structure: Assisting with the creation of outlines, chapter plans, and overall book structure to provide a roadmap for the writing process.

  • Goal Setting and Accountability: Setting realistic writing goals and deadlines, and holding the author accountable to keep them on track.

  • Skill Building: Providing guidance on writing techniques, style, and best practices to help authors improve their craft.

  • Feedback and Revision: Offering ongoing feedback on drafts, suggesting revisions.

Every collaborator brings unique talent to the table. It's all about finding the right person for your project. 

If you want your collaborator to do all or most of the writing, you need a ghostwriter. 

Q: What is a ghostwriter?

A: A literary artist who transforms your ideas and stories into publishable text. 

When an aspiring author has a great book idea but lacks the time, skills, or desire to write the manuscript, a qualified ghostwriter steps in with essential craft skills and deep knowledge of the book industry. Together they create the best possible manuscript suited to the aspiring author's chosen publishing path. 

Many of the biggest blockbuster books on the shelf are written by ghostwriters. Source material may be the client's life story, field of expertise, or personal quest. Whether the book is published by a mainstream corporate publisher or DTC (direct to consumer) on the author's own imprint, the goal is a professionally written manuscript that entertains and uplifts the reader. 

Q: How do I go about hiring a collaborator?

A: CAREFULLY. 

There are many excellent, experienced collaborators with terrific credentials, but there are also hundreds of people with questionable qualifications calling themselves ghostwriters, developmental editors, or book coaches. Fees vary widely, and so does the quality of work.

 

Ways to avoid getting ripped off:

1) Refine your search with the help of a literary matchmaker at a talent agency that specializes in vetting qualified writers for viable book projects. All my collaboration projects are booked via my agent Cindi Davis-Andress at Pastorini-Bosby Talent. In keeping with the talent agency business model, her focus is matching artists with opportunities. The PBT literary wing doesn’t place books with publishers or supply writers for short-form content. Instead, they’ve curated a small pool of stellar ghostwriters with proven book-writing chops in a variety of genres.

2) Spend some time at a local bookstore or library, browsing the section where you hope to see your book someday. If a collaborator isn't listed on the cover or title page, check the acknowledgements to see if someone is thanked for "helping me find my voice" or "holding my hand through the process" or something else that indicates extra editorial support. 

3) Check out this list of talented collaborators with proven skills and publishing credentials. 

Questions to ask when vetting potential book collaborators:

  • How many books have you written/ghostwritten?

  • What other publishing experience do you have?

  • What publishers/publications have you worked with?

  • What is your genre/area of expertise? 

  • How many other clients will you be working with while you're working with me?

  • What's your process as you approach/execute projects like mine?

  • What is a realistic deadline for completing my project?

  • What's the fee including a realistic estimate of expenses?

  • What are you reading?

THE COLLABORATION AGREEMENT

Before work can begin, you'll need a collaboration agreement that mutually respects your financial investment and the ghostwriter's investment of time and energy. The collaboration agreement between author and ghostwriter is separate from the contract between author and publisher, and you should have a lawyer look it over. 

 

The typical author/ghostwriter collaboration agreement covers:

  • Fee for book proposal, full manuscript, or both

  • Ballpark word count of finished work

  • Schedule for the completion of work

  • How/where/if the collaborator will be credited (cover, title page, and/or acknowledgments) and the collaborator's permission to list your project on their resume and promotional materials

  • Responsibility for expenses including transcription, travel, etc.

  • Payment schedule and/or payment triggers such as "on signing" or "delivery and acceptance"

  • Indemnities and other legal parameters

  • A clear explanation of each party's obligations

  • Confidentiality/nondisclosure commitment

NOTE: Again: I'm not giving legal advice, but IMHO, the client should retain 100% ownership of all rights to the work. If a collaborator insists on copyright ownership, that's a red flag you should discuss with your lawyer before signing the collaboration agreement. 

Yikes. This sounds expensive...

Collaborator pricing varies widely based on the complexity of the project, the collaborator’s experience and reputation, the length of the work, and the required turnaround time. There's definitely a "get what you pay for" element. Think of it as the difference between a Nissan Sentra and a Lamborghini Huracan. 

Common Pricing Structures:

  • Per Word (more common for projects under 15K words)

    • Typical Range: $1 to $3 per word

    • Example: A 50,000-word book might cost between $50,000 and $150,000.

  • Per Project (most common for memoirs, novels, and other full-length books)

    • Typical Range: $50,000 to $350,000+ per project

    • Example: For a ghostwriter working for a flat fee agreed upon for the entire project, regardless of word count or page number, a short "how to" book might be $50,000 while a memoir might be $150,000 or more.

  • Hourly Rate (more common for coaching or developmental editing)

    • Typical Range: $50 to $300 per hour

    • Example: If a project takes 400 hours to complete, the cost could be between $20,000 and $120,000.

 

Factors Affecting Pricing

  • Experience and Reputation: Established ghostwriters with a strong portfolio and notable clients typically charge more.

  • Project Complexity: Highly technical or specialized subjects, complex storylines, or extensive research requirements can increase costs.

  • Length of Work: Longer books or articles naturally cost more due to the increased amount of work involved.

  • Turnaround Time: Projects requiring a quick turnaround often come with a premium price due to the intense time commitment.

  • Client's Specific Needs: Additional services such as multiple rounds of revisions, assistance with publishing, or marketing support can increase the overall cost.

 

Additional Considerations

  • Payment Terms: Most qualified collaborators require an upfront deposit, with the remaining balance paid in installments based on time or project milestones.

  • Contracts and Agreements: Ensure clear agreements are in place covering scope, timelines, payment terms, confidentiality, and intellectual property rights.

 

The cost of hiring a collaborator should reflect their credentials, the complexity of the project, and the amount of writing and research done by the client.

Okay, but how does it work?

Every book project is different. There's no "one formula fits all" way to approach writing and publishing a book, so it's up to you and your collaborator to figure out what works for your project. That said...

 

Here's the book process in a nutshell:

1. Development and Research

  • Idea Development:

    • Brainstorm and refine your book idea.

    • Identify the genre and target audience.

  • Research:

    • Gather information and resources.

    • Conduct interviews, if necessary.

  • Outline:

    • Create a detailed outline or a chapter-by-chapter summary.

    • Develop character profiles (for fiction) or key topics (for non-fiction).

2. Writing

  • First Draft:

    • Write consistently, following your outline.

    • Focus on getting your ideas down without worrying too much about perfection.

  • Writing Routine:

    • Set a writing schedule and stick to it.

    • Set daily or weekly word count goals.

3. Revision and Editing

  • Self-Editing:

    • Review and revise your first draft for structure, clarity, and flow.

    • Check for consistency in plot, character development, and pacing.

  • Beta Readers:

    • Selectively share your manuscript with beta readers for feedback.

    • Consider their suggestions and make necessary revisions.

  • Professional Editing:

    • Hire a developmental editor to help with the big-picture elements.

    • After developmental edits, hire a copy editor to focus on grammar, punctuation, and style.

    • Finally, a proofreader can catch any remaining errors.

4. Fine Tune the Manuscript

  • Final Revisions:

    • Implement the feedback from editors.

    • Make final adjustments to improve readability and coherence.

  • Formatting:

    • Format your manuscript for submission to agents or publishers, or for self-publishing platforms.

    • Ensure proper formatting for print and eBook versions.

5. Publishing

  • Traditional Publishing:

    • Write a query letter and a book proposal.

    • Submit to literary agents or directly to publishers.

    • Negotiate a publishing contract if accepted.

  • Self-Publishing:

    • Choose a self-publishing platform (e.g., Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, IngramSpark).

    • Hire professional help for editing, book cover design, and interior layout.

    • Upload your manuscript and cover, and set pricing.

    • Launch and market.

Remember, there's no *one fits all* way to write or publish a book. It's all about what works for you and your unique project. Trust your gut, take your time, and try to find joy in the process.

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