Write a book

Want to get your book written? Put down your phone.

Want to get your book written? Put down your phone.

As I sit on the tram heading into central Melbourne, I lift my head from my phone and look around me. Sure enough, everyone else is staring at their phone as well. It's what we do in 2017. Hard to believe that just 10 years ago we didn't have these things to stare at isn't it? What did we do with ourselves in the pre-iPhone era?

Our phones give us 'something to do' from the moment we wake until the moment we turn out the light – and even beyond that. We can fill every spare minute of our day, whether waiting in line, waiting for a coffee or waiting for a partner outside the change room. Even walking the dog has become time to be filled by checking email, social media and news updates.

Does this matter? Isn't it just the modern way? 

Well, yes, it does, according to psychologists. Especially if you're trying to do something creative such as write a book.

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The art of sorting information for your book

The art of sorting information for your book

I'm currently working on the early stages of two separate ghostwriting projects. In both cases I'm starting with good quantities of raw material. In one case I have transcripts from interviews amounting to about 80,000 words, about three times the target length of the final book. In the other case I have an early draft to work with plus some new material – and a few gaps to fill.

My job now, in both cases, is to sort out the existing raw material and start to give it some shape. From there I'll be able to create initial rough outlines, which will help with refining the material (in the first case) and identifying gaps (in the second).

The sorting step is a point where many inexperienced book writers can get bogged down. The task often seems insurmountable, especially when you have a lot of material, some of which is written down and some of which is still in your head.

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The economics of self-publishing a book

The economics of self-publishing a book

In my last blog post I explored the myth that writing and publishing a book is guaranteed to make you rich. A couple of posts before that I wrote about how self-publishing a paper book is easier, and less expensive than ever.

This time I thought it might be worthwhile bringing these two posts together and doing some number crunching. What do the economics of self-publishing look like in Australia in 2017? A warning: what follows may be a bit dry (unless you're an accountant and into such things).

To make these numbers real, I'm going to focus on a typical example. We're going to publish a 200-page non-fiction paperback book of about 30,000 words.

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Is your book already written ... you just don't realise it?

Is your book already written ... you just don't realise it?

Raise the topic of writing a book and most people will look at you aghast. The very idea of writing a book conjures visions of a gargantuan task, the literary equivalent of climbing Mt Everest (albeit without the need for supplementary oxygen). You may even be thinking along the same lines. Writers write books, and I'm not a writer.

A blog, on the other hand? No big deal. Tell people you're writing a blog and some will be impressed while others will secretly be wondering if you'll manage to get out more than three posts. 

Nevertheless, a blog seems more manageable than a book. A post once a fortnight, say. About 600 words. You don't need to be a writer to do that – just capable of writing a few coherent sentences.

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Self publishing a real book has never been easier

Self publishing a real book has never been easier

Last week I attended the launch of a book by one of my clients, only a month after we had tied up the manuscript. In the interim the material was prepared for publication (i.e. editing and design) then, after final adjustments to the typesetting and a good proofread, the files were sent to the printer. Three days later the books were delivered to her office on a Monday, ready for the Thursday launch. 

A couple of days after that, the print book was available for order literally all over the world, via several major online stores including Amazon US and UKBook Depository and Booktopia. The ebook version will soon be available from all the major vendors as well. 

This is the way of modern independent publishing. Very quick and remarkably inexpensive. To a large extent the future that was originally promised by print-on-demand has arrived.

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Hiring a ghostwriter? Here's what you're paying for.

Hiring a ghostwriter? Here's what you're paying for.

One of the first questions I get when someone enquires about my book writing services is, understandably, 'How much will it cost?' To which I respond, 'How long is a piece of string?' Well, not really. At least not in those words, though the sentiment is the same.

While I completely understand that a potential buyer needs to have some idea of cost, the challenge for a ghostwriter is that we can't afford to lock in a price that is unrealistic, and there are *a lot* of variables that determine how much work will be needed to write a book.

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Starting a new book writing project: embracing the unknown

Starting a new book writing project: embracing the unknown

I've recently started working on a new company history project. I've conducted interviews with about 20 people and had those interviews transcribed. I've also been provided with a number of newspaper articles and other items from the archives. All up I have about 200,000 words of raw material that needs to be condensed down to about one tenth of that for the final book.

At the moment I don't have a clear idea of what the finished product is going to look like structurally. I have some major headings in mind, but what order they will be presented in is unknown. And those topics may change too. There might be a few 'ins' and 'outs' along the way.

But that's okay. What I've learnt over the years is that uncertainty at this stage of a book project, or any large creative project for that matter, is quite normal.

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If you want to convince me, show me the evidence

If you want to convince me, show me the evidence

One of the great things about writing a business book is having the time and space to explore an issue properly. You have something you want to say, or an experience you want to share, and a book allows you to do this in a way that feels 'complete'. It allows you to present a well-rounded argument.

If you're being honest with your readers, your case will be built on a solid foundation of evidence. You won't present an ideological view that you then back up with evidence that supports your case, no matter how tenuous, while conveniently ignoring anything to the contrary. That is the domain of neoliberalsclimate change deniers and anti-vaxxers

Rather, you will use real evidence. But what is 'real' evidence?

In the context of a business book, as opposed to an academic dissertation, there are two main forms of evidence.

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How to ghostwrite a memoir in 7 steps (and 7 years)

How to ghostwrite a memoir in 7 steps (and 7 years)

Regular readers of this blog will have known that Scattered Pearls, a memoir of Sohila Zanjani, co-written with myself was due to hit the bookshelves in Australasia in early April this year. And indeed it did – on April 1, no less. It's incredibly satisfying to have the book out there, especially as it's taken a long time to get to this point.

So how did we get to this point? It's a question I've been asked a few times, and I think it's a good tale that I hope provides some insight into the writing and publication process. (Please forgive the longer than normal post.)

1. Find your subject

Sohila and I had known each other a few years before we started on this project. I had done some work for her as a consultant, and kept in touch via an occasional (paper) newsletter. As I moved the focus of my work to writing, I added the word 'Ghostwriting' to my list of services on said newsletter. Sohila noticed that and gave me a call.

2. Take a punt; make a commitment

We met.

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Stay on the path and reap the reward ... whenever that may be

Stay on the path and reap the reward ... whenever that may be

Yesterday I received from our publisher a 'uncorrected proof' of a book I've been working on ... working on for the last seven years. Scattered Pearls is a memoir of Iranian-born Sohila Zanjani that I have co-written with her; it will be released in mid-April. The proof is effectively the final book – fully laid out and bound with the final cover. The final version for bookstores will have a glossier cover and include a handful of last-minute corrections.

To hold this book in my hands and flick through its pages is a surreal experience.

It's not the idea of a finished book that is so outlandish – I've worked on many of those now, many in the intervening seven years. It's just that this book has been such a large undertaking, so it's hard to believe that it's DONE.

My point in relaying this is not to suggest that Sohila and I are legends in our own time for having finished this project. Nor is it to create the impression that writing your book will be a herculean effort.

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