GHOSTWRITING LEADS TO REBRANDING
For the last few years, I’ve been trying to rebrand myself. When the downturn in the economy hit, my publisher went out of business (Dorchester) and I found myself out in that cold, miserable world. I was an orphan with several major roadblocks:
- My books were part of two different series which made it difficult to sell elsewhere.
- Historicals were not doing well. Westerns were worse. And of course, I wrote Native American/Westerns
- Publishers were not buying much. They had their current authors. Those of us out on our own faced tough times.
My career had come to a grinding halt. My agent managed to sell my backlist. I’d been fortunate enough to see the handwriting on the wall and had my agent get my rights back a good year before Dorchester bit the dust.
When I sold those books to Carina Press, I thought I was back. But they didn’t want any more White series books or the SpiritWalker series. So I wrote two more books in my two series for my fans/readers and started a new contemporary series. But while doing this, I needed income but an outside job wasn’t feasible as I’m a full-time caretaker for my mother. I started checking online to see what might be available. I found a blog by a writer on extra ways writers could make money.
One of the sites he recommended was Elance. I signed up thinking I might find some freelance jobs like office work or data entry. There was so many jobs, it was overwhelming, and I didn’t really find anything to fit my skills. I searched on writing and again, found tons but most of what I found, I either wasn’t comfortable doing or I didn’t have the skills or knowledge to take it on. Lots of blog writing, articles needed, website work, etc. Then I saw a job posting for ghostwriting. I searched the site on ghostwriting romance and wow! I was once again overwhelmed with tons of postings, and again, a lot weren’t good matches like a poster wanting a 65k word novel with pay well under $500.00. Really? I don’t think so! I wasn’t about to hire myself out for peanuts so I kept searching and hit the jackpot when I found postings seeking erotica writers.
One stood out. It was for a job of approx. 25-26k words and the poster’s guidelines stated that the proposal had to be under $300.00. We’ll I proposed just under that amount (taking into account the percentage Elance takes from her). I wrote up a formal proposal with review quotes, my awards/kudos, a sample of several of my books, love scenes of course and included an unsold erotica short story written sometime in the 90’s.
To my surprise, my proposal was accepted! Now, I’m multi-published with 14 full-length novels in the Historical Romance genre (http://susanedwards.com) but I had never sold anything less than a full-length novel (85-95K words). The change in genres didn’t worry me as my historicals tend to be very sensual and for me, writing love scenes/sex scenes is just a matter of how much, how you describe it, etc. The woman who hired me sent a story sample and some tip sheets. I read the story she sent then went out to Amazon for research (and even found the story she sent).
I found a lot of erotica authors offered book one for free then if the reader liked what they read, they could then buy the entire book. I downloaded tons of free “first books” and got a feel for the genre and the requirements of light BDSM. I wrote the novella and turned it in. The woman who hired me loved it. She sent over a transfer of copyright and within hours of sending it back signed, I had my money in the Elance escrow account! (Elance does take a small fee) Wow, I thought. For the next contract, I decided I wanted to make a bit more. I proposed a new amount and she agreed. The third contract we had, she moved me into a more elite line. Slightly longer books and she agreed to increase the pay accordingly. For me, this was a great bit of validation.
Not only did she like what I produced, but she was willing to pay more and move me up. How does this figure out pay wise? I’m getting a bit more than a penny a word and I’m trying to get my time spent writing these stories for her down to where I’ll at least make minimum wage per hour spent. It’s not great money but it’s regular. I can plan and schedule and count on what I earn. But there are pros and cons to freelance work, especially writing for hire. PROS
- Money—you know how much you’ll get and when you’ll get it. Elance uses an escrow account so I make sure it is funded before I start the job.
- Branch out. Learn new abilities. Great way to experiment and push your boundaries and stretch your abilities.
- Validation. Nothing like having someone want to hire you to prove you are not washed up!
- Seeing your book out on the market for sale even without your name on it. (yes, I’ve seen one of my stories out for sale)
- Contract. You agreed to do the job. Now you have to write it.
- What you agreed to be paid is all you’ll be paid. No royalties.
- Falling in love with the story and the characters and knowing they won’t remain yours.
- Signing the transfer of copyright ownership. Knowing the book you loved and those characters who’ve become your friends now belong to someone else. Worse than sending off your child to that first day of school. At least they come back home.
- Seeing your book for sale with someone else’s name on the cover.
- You do have to take time out of your own writing to write for someone else. You have to think of this as a day job and schedule it in with your regular writing.
My experience doing ghostwriting or work for hire, was a real eye opener on many levels.
- I learned a lot about my writing and myself.
- I discovered and proved that I could write shorter novels.
- I kept a time sheet just like a regular job. I wanted to see what the cost to my time was and discovered I could write fairly quickly (I use Power Writing which really focuses my writing time. See previous post)
- It was taking me approx. 40-50 hours to write a novella of approx. 30-33k words. Of course, my life doesn’t allow me to just take 40 hours in one week and crank out a book!
Aside from discovering I could write novellas and erotica, I learned how to write a lot faster as one of my goals was to cut my hours down to under 40 hours per novella. That means I need to be more efficient and treat this like a job. I know, sad that my goal is to earn minimum wage or a bit more. But the point of this endeavor for me was bringing in additional income. But ghostwriting did so much more. I discovered I had the talent and ability to write erotica. I squeezed in time to write my own erotica novella (Cinderella & Her Dom, sold to Wild Rose Press).
Even better, I created a six book series (Once Upon a Dom, a fairytale series). This is when I realized that I’d rebranded myself. I thought I was writing erotica to earn money until I sold a contemporary. Instead, I fell into a career change.
Often, we find what we need when we’re not even looking. I had no idea when I sent off that first free-lance proposal that I was embarking on a new career or that Sydney St. Claire would be born. Because I was open to, and willing to, learn and try something new, I have a six-book contract for a new series with a new publisher.
Will I continue to ghost write? For a while. At some point, I’ll be way too busy but for right now, its money in the bank, proof that I’m not washed up and speaks to the old adage that an old dog can learn new tricks. A writer can rebrand him/herself. In the meantime, life is busy and exciting, exactly as I like it!
How about you? Have you ever had an experience lead you into something new and wonderful? If you are an author who had to rebrand yourself, how did you do it? What did you learn from it? Would love to hear from you!