Musings

dear-reader3

Every so often, I look up the books that I’ve ghostwritten. It’s a very strange experience, but sometimes it’s just really nice to see that I do, in fact, have something published out there. Maybe it’s only half mine, or maybe it’s completely mine, and maybe legally it isn’t mine at all, but at least I can look at it and think, “I accomplished something.” Even if no one will ever know it.

It really can be an awesome experience – but it’s also sort of sad. It makes me feel bad, because I can’t share with anyone what I’ve done. There is no excitement with my friends over book covers and release dates or anything else for that matter. All of which is only a small, small portion of writing. But sometimes, it’s an important one.

Yes, it’s awesome that I have finished something.

Yes, it is awesome to see it floating out there in the world.

Yes, it is awesome that I can honestly say that I’ve done, more or less, what I’ve set out to do.

But it’s also heartbreaking to know that I can’t claim it as mine. And it makes me want to ask, “Why do you guys need a GHOSTWRITER? Why can’t you just  hire me and I can be your author?”

Wouldn’t that make more sense? Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Ah, but there are logistic issues with that. I’m a ghostwriter – not a writer-writer – because I need the money up front. You (meaning: client) are hiring a ghostwriter so that you do not have to pay royalties and can set up a fast write and release scheme that will (hopefully) earn you more money and your author more followers.

So are we saying that in the end my life’s dream is all tied up in money?

Yeah, pretty much.

It’s a sad, pathetic thing, but if you’re hoping to be an author and make money, you’re probably dreaming. You can be an editor and make money. You can be a publisher and make money. But you can’t be an *author* and make money.

If you’re looking to do that, you’re probably going to do it my way. Ghostwriting. Yes, there are those out there who have made it big. Cassandra Clare, J.K. Rowling, Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins, etc. etc. But they are the exceptions, not the rule. And do you know how many times Rowling was turned down before she was picked up by a publisher? Some ridiculous number. I think it was around 10 or so times. And do you know what she was doing while they were turning her down? Probably starving, or close to it. Because you make money for working and if writing is your work, then you’re probably not making a lot of money.

It’s the sad truth, folks, but few and far between are wealthy – or even breaking even – as authors.

My recommendation? Make sure that your significant other can and is willing to support you as you endeavor to reach your dreams of writing. Because you’re probably not going to make it without a little help.

Sorry guys. I really didn’t mean to be so bleak about all of this, but I can’t help feeling sometimes that I’m just being drug through the mud so that someone else looks spotless holding my trophy. (Exaggerated, but feelings so often are.)

All of this started because I went and looked at my most recent project to see if it had been published yet. (It has this month.) I saw how pretty the cover was and I felt utterly depressed to see the name of the author on it.

I’ll have to remember for next time that I cannot be trusted to look up my own work.

Ultimately, I’d like to say that I understand this is part of my job. I know what I’m getting into and I signed up for it, but sometimes it’s hard to remember why I do this. (Then I’m broke like I am this month and I TOTALLY remember again. It’s nice to have money.)

What do you guys think? Do you think ghostwriting is maybe a little unethical – or totally valid and okay so long as the client pays the ghostwriter accordingly? Do you have any personal experience with ghostwriting or these feelings? Am I just being moody (probably; sometimes my hormones just like to have a little party)?

Let me know in the comments below!

sincerely3

E.C. Orr

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Life as a Writer

Dear Reader

I did a post not so long ago about my job: Freelance Ghostwriting. I explained about what it was, some of the downsides and some of the upsides. I talked about how it’s cool in some ways to actually *be* a paid writer – and how it kind of sucks, too. The reason I’m talking about it again is that I’m stressing out about life right now. Here’s why.

Steady work is hard to find.

I have two clients whom I work with regularly (and a third who is starting to lean towards being a regular, but she’s kind of difficult and wants a lot for very little pay, so I can’t say how long our working relationship will be). One gives me one project a month that includes three 25k parts in a series (so 75k total every month). I get paid a flat rate for these projects (I charge by the 10k) and up to this point, I’ve had pretty consistent projects from him.

They’re all romance. Mostly bad boy, motorcycle romances. And they always come with a fairly detailed outline.

All of which is pretty great. He’s flexible with deadlines, so when I end up in a bind, I can extend by a couple of days with no major problems. I turn them in by the parts – so each 25k has just one “final draft” submission – and the payments are released almost immediately. (Give or take a day.) And I know that I’ll get paid, because the submission dates are funded through escrow.

All of this is awesome, right?

Yes, it was. Until, upon the submission of my last project, he told me that we needed to talk about some tweaks he was making to the process. Tweaks that he felt would “smooth out” the writing process for me. I knew before he even told me what they were that this wouldn’t be good.

I was right.

He said that he would now be putting me in a “work room” with an editor (or editors) who would “help” me in my work. I would be required to submit the projects in 5k increments, allow the editor to look over my work, provide feedback, I would have to use said feedback (potentially making edits on the 5k), then proceed to the next 5k where I would do all of that again.

Maybe this doesn’t sound so bad to you, but from my viewpoint, this is awful. Here’s why.

Why I don’t work for free.

I mentioned that I get paid a flat rate for each 10k I do, right? Okay, so that makes sense. That means when I turn in my 25k, I am paid for that whole submission, then escrow is funded for the next milestone. Great, tracking fine.

So what changes with this new process? Not the money.

I know this sounds kind of greedy, but I’m not getting paid more for doing this stuff with the editors in the “work room”. Which means I’m doing more work for the same pay. Now, maybe you don’t think this will be more work. Or maybe you think that this really will be more helpful for me – after all, editors mean that my writing will be better, right?

Maybe. Probably. I’m a strong believer in editing and what it does for writers as a whole. But here’s the thing: I’m a ghostwriter. Which means I don’t get the credit for any of my writing. It goes out there under someone else’s name and if it’s brilliant, if it becomes the next Hunger Games, if it gets a movie deal and a big house publisher picks it up, I don’t get any of that. Not the glory, not the money, not even the ability to say, “Hey, I’ve got a book in a big publishing house!”

And that’s okay. Really. I knew that when I signed on to do this. But I’m also not doing this for free, and I’m not really doing this for me. I’m doing it for the money. That’s what a job is. Doing it for the money – so I can pay the bills and put food on the table.

Really.

So now that we’ve talked about that, let me explain to you how this is more work. An editor is going to tell me what I’m doing right – and what I’m doing wrong. And then they’re going to ask me to fix what I’ve done wrong.

Which means *I’m* making the edits, not the editors. Understandable in your own novel. Less so with someone else’s.

So right there, I’ve got more work.

Now let’s look at the set up. 5k increment submissions. Why is this problematic? Well, partially it goes back to micromanaging. I don’t like my client getting their fingers into *everything* as it’s coming out of my keyboard. I’ve done this before and in my experience, this leaves them with a lot more instances of “why did you do this?” and “can you change that?” or “why don’t we have them do this instead?” all of which means I have to make changes.

Changes mean more writing.

Except I’m still only getting paid for the 25k. But it’s not just that. It’s also that now I’ve got to spend all of this extra time talking to the editors. And the client. And doing the edits. And then presenting the new edits. That’s time I’m not getting paid for – and it’s time that I can’t put towards a) my own writing and b) other paying jobs. Which means I can’t even compensate for the fact that I’m doing more and making less.

Not good.

And finally, how long do I have to do these 5k increments? I write 75k in a month! (For one project. I actually average between 110k and 125k a month, so it’s already a fairly heavy load.) How am I going to squeeze editing in, as well as revisions, AND all of this extra “needy time” with my client?

Simple. I won’t. I can’t. Which means that 75k will be spread over a longer period of time – meaning I’m making even *less* with no time to fill in with other forms of making money.

Why I have to say goodbye.

Finally, what this all comes down to is this: I won’t be able to work for him anymore.

I’ve explained my position on this to him (in nowhere near this much detail), explaining that I would prefer not to use this new system/set up. I’m still waiting to hear back from him. I hope that he will reconsider this new system, but I doubt that he will. I’m fairly certain that he’ll insist I convert – which means I will insist he find a new writer.

Which means I’m out a job.

Yes, I still have a second project going on with another client – one who even pays more. But they can be difficult and after this project, there’s no guarantee of more work.

It means that in two months (by the end of October), I may be jobless. Again. And since my significant other has already been laid off (and been denied unemployment thanks to his vindictive boss), I’m worried that I won’t make enough to pay the bills.

That’s a problem.

So I may have to say goodbye to freelancing, unless I can find some new clients who are stable and will provide steady work. Things not easily found.

I understand that clients are on a budget and that they want the most bang for their buck, but it sucks because I’m trying to survive out here – and I’m not going to back myself into a corner where I’m running myself into the ground for pennies. It’s not right and I won’t do it. Not because I’m high and mighty or anything like that, but because I can’t afford to. Not when I can go out and find a job that pays regularly, taxes already taken care of, and that I will absolutely hate with every minute that I’m there.

It’s not fair, but it’s life.

I really hope it doesn’t go down this way, but I’m starting to think that it’s going to.

If anyone knows of some work out there or has helpful suggestions, please feel free to comment below!

Sincerely

E.C. Orr

The Fine Art of Freelance

dear-reader3

I wanted to take a moment to talk about my job which is a little unusual and often takes a little explaining when I first meet someone. (It’s hard not to get exasperated talking about the same thing and dealing with the same questions, but people honestly don’t know a lot of the time, so I work hard to keep that in mind.) I work from home as a freelance ghostwriter. Kind of crazy, I know, but you’d be surprised how many of us are out there!

Let’s break this down.

Freelancer is just a free agent. You don’t work for a company, but don’t exactly work for yourself. Like an independent contractor, a company or an individual hires you on a job by job basis, paying you either hourly or by the project (a bid negotiated prior to accepting to do the job). This means that you can flit around without being held down by a 9 to 5 or worrying about things like your boss firing you for asking for time off or taking too many sick days. However, this also means that you have to find your own work. You put in bids against other freelancers for the best job and usually it’s a game of the Best Price Wins. Meaning you can get stuck doing a lot of work for a relatively low price. It can also mean that, with experience, you can make a lot more than minimum wage once people trust your knowledge base.

But what about that other part? Ghostwriter. I know that’s the one that got your attention. Some have heard of this, some have not, and there are those that have heard the term and are a little confused about what it actually means.

Well, basically, it’s complicated, but not really.

A ghostwriter is someone who writes – I know, shocker – but what about that ghost part? Well, that’s where it gets a little weird. An author is the owner of a book. Generally, this means they penned the book you hold in your hands, the one with their name on it, but not always. Sometimes, being an author means that you only own the rights to a book – the copyright – but maybe you didn’t have anything to do with the actual creation of the book! How? You hired a ghostwriter.

A ghostwriter is someone that writes the novel itself. In the terms of a regular writer, the writer is both creator and author, but for a ghostwriter you are creator only. All of the rights to the novel – including the right to tell anyone that you wrote it in the first place – belongs to the person who hired you to write it.

That’s me, the writer, not the author.

Right now, I work mostly through an online company which connects clients with freelancers. The clients post a job including their price range and a quick description of the work. If I meet the qualifications, I post a a bid on the job with my experience, credentials, and usually a couple of different samples of my work, along with my price to do the job. If they like it, they’ll message me, we talk, and then I get hired.

Now, some of you have probably been thinking it over and decided: Hey, wait a second! How can *you* be the writer while some other person gets the credit? Isn’t that plagiarism or stealing or something?

Well, no, it’s actually not. Why? Because I get paid. Up front for my work versus the time it would take the author to get paid via the proceeds of the book. Most clients will require what’s called an NDA. Nondisclosure Agreement. Meaning I can’t talk about the specifics of what I’ve written, because the rights to claim that work don’t belong to me, but the client who paid me. On average, I write 115,000 words a month. (Just for reference, 50,000 words is considered a full length novel and anything below that is a novella.)

Kind of crazy, right?

And before you ask, let me just tell you: They aren’t all “famous actor turned author” instances or non-fiction either. Ghostwriters write in *all* genres from autobiographies (just think about that for a minute; *auto*biography) to science fiction to that best seller you’ve been following religiously for the last five years. Kid you not, there are ghostwriters in all of them. Sure, *I* probably haven’t written a famous best seller, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t read something of mine. If you’ve read a bunch of those romance novels published on Amazon for super cheap, you’ve probably read one of mine. It’s not my preferred genre, but that’s part of why it works.

Think about it, if you love to write YA Dystopia (which I do) and you get hired to do so, how can you give your client your best work? You know that you are now your own competition (assuming you ever want to publish on your own) and you’ve just given away one of your dystopian ideas for someone else. It’s a conflict of interest. So I’m grateful that the current hot topic for self-publishers who are hiring ghostwriters happens to be romance. I have no interest in writing adult romance myself, so there are no worries as far as using my skills to give the client my best work.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me “You’re a writer? Oh, how cool!” And it is. It can also be an awful job sometimes. I get editors butting in and telling me to fix my work – even though the client’s only given me enough time (and enough money) for a first draft. I have clients whose expectations are through the roof – but they’re pay is ground floor. And I have to hustle. All the time. No one’s going to say, “Oh, just come in and I’ll have a list of cleaning/phone answering/customer service/computer work/etc. for you.” If I want to get paid, I have to find my own job and then make myself do it. I’m my own boss and that is both good and bad. And don’t even get my started on the taxes…

But if you’re honestly interested in getting into something like this (quick cash, honing your skills, and looks good on a resume), then you might check out the site I use. Upwork.com (formerly Elance). The fees for the site just got bumped up, but they come as a percentage out of your earnings, but it’s a great way to get connected to the right kind of people.

Mostly, I just wanted to talk about my job and why I’m such a party-pooper about writers and self-publishing and everything of the like. I know that I’m putting stuff out there for other authors to take credit. I know I’m not getting paid very much, but I’m doing all the leg work. And I know that if *I* can manage to keep my first draft manuscripts mostly error free, then other self-publishers can do it, too.

If you guys have questions – or want some work done (I do editing, proofreading, outlining, and am just getting into cover art creation as well) – feel free to comment below! I do *fabulous* work.

sincerely3

E.C. Orr