This past week I was lucky enough to be approached or referred to by four people, all of whom are interested in writing their life story. Another three were interested in editing. This is slightly above average for a week, and I can expect for a variety of reasons that about half will hire me. Those are actually considered very favorable odds. I think if there was one thing I do well, is I help people feel comfortable when I talk to them. In fact, that was a compliment I received just yesterday. The best kind of compliment.
So, I think that one of the biggest things I hear when I initially speak with someone is that they don’t know the process, “I know nothing.” At that point I understand that guidance will be important. I don’t mean hand holding, but rather mentoring someone through a process. It will be important for me to provide all available options, make suggestions, and have my client make the decisions. If my client isn’t sure, I can provide my thoughts. But, the process as a whole, many people just want comfort in knowing, “How are we going to do this and is your effort worth the time?”
Over the years I have spent a lot of time researching other writers and how they work. I read blog posts, magazine articles, books, and talk with other writers. Ultimately, my goal is to learn and provide a good experience for my clients. If another writer is doing something I never thought of, I may want to try out their process, tips, or tools. One thing I have found is that with minor differences, most writers have similar processes. So, if you hire me, or another writer, there is a good chance that my process laid out below will be helpful to you.
There are eleven steps below, and while I may get too involved in what I’m writing, I will try to keep things as simple as possible. After all, the process is simple, though, it may come with some tears (happy and sad) as you recall your past.
While I call these steps and they are in a general order, it is common that we are doing many of these at the same time. For example, interview and transcription are done about the same time, writing and collaborating, book design and editing, and so on.
I always offer a free, no obligation meeting to discuss your project and what I can offer. What I find is that many people have a story in their mind, but really just need that extra boost of confidence to go forward. This meeting helps me to answer your questions, provide suggestions, and let you know a little more about myself. Kind of a meet and greet, if you will. We will discuss your project, thoughts, and ideas. I will tell you about me and answer any questions you have. In the end we will discuss an approximate timeline and cost.
This shouldn’t be considered a working meeting. Rather, this is a meeting for you to ask questions to make an informed decision on whether or not you hire me, and for me to learn about your book. This is also a step I complete when it comes to editing and blog writing.
Secondly, comfort is important. We need to feel comfortable working together and a thirty minute or hour-long discussion is one way to do that.
Do you hire me at this point? Well, sometimes. Here are the scenarios I come across most:
- The person is excited and hires me right away. This is almost always the case with a referral, but is also common with someone who is excited about their book and comfortable from our conversation.
- The person is leaning toward me, but is in the beginning of their search and doesn’t want to make an impulsive decision. I’ll often work with this person later.
- The person is looking for bottom dollar prices and wondering why I don’t charge the same as people on content mills. I try to avoid saying anything negative about other writers and on content mills you can find good writers. However, I talked to literally hundreds of people who have been scammed on content mills by going after bottom dollar prices. And, many have gone through several bottom dollar writers to get the same result which costs thousands of dollars. One thing I recommend is asking yourself, would you work 200 hours for $500? if you won’t work for the price your paying, then it may not be a good deal.
- Person is working with another writer, but not satisfied so they are testing the waters. Occasionally, this person will contact me later, but often they stick it out with their current writer.
- Th person from number three contacts me because they finally realize they need to get their book done.
- The person is hesitant, has a lot of questions, and we end up having one or more follow up discussions.
- The person has a vague idea for a book, but has been thinking about it for years and doesn’t know how to go forward.
- The person has sought me out or is a repeat client and is just ready to go.
The reason I mention these scenarios is to point out that the people who contact me are in different mindsets when we talk. In any of these scenarios that person may or may not hire me on the spot. Some are ready, some need time to think, some don’t have the budget, and others decide to work with someone else. The important thing in this step is to help you figure out what you want to do.
In the initial meeting we will discuss budget and cost. This too has a lot of variables involved regarding each person’s personal budget. Some have money put aside or money isn’t a problem, others will budget from their current earnings, and I’ve known people to get a part-time job just for the book. Whatever your situation the payment plan really has three phases:
- Deposit: Book writers often charge a deposit to begin a project. The deposit for me does a few things. First, it shows me that you are invested in going forward. Second, I use your deposit to schedule time. Third, the deposit will cover some of my overhead and expenses leading into our first interviews. Deposits are generally made when you have decided to hire me, rather than the first day of interviews. This is because if our first interview is a couple weeks away, I may not be able to bring on any new clients because I will be working on your project, and the deposit is partial income for that time.
- Regular payments: After the deposit is made we will discuss when payments begin. Often they are a few weeks to a month from the date of your deposit, but that may depend on how much your deposit was and how much work we’ve done so far. These payments are usually made weekly or biweekly. Sometimes they are prepaid for a chapter.
- Final payment: Final payment is made when we’ve completed your book. This payment is adjusted more or less depending on the time spent on the book, or if you’ve requested me to do something more.
Create Shared File
I use Google Drive for most projects. If you have not used Google Drive before I will give you a short tutorial. This is a shared folder that will allow you to see current progress as well as add new documents.
I will create the shared folder and other sub-folders we will use throughout the process. If we are working on an hourly project I will also save .pdf time tracking documents in here.
I can and will write another blog just on interviews. However, I will give you a little homework assignment before our first interview and we will use that information to begin the interviews. The interviews are used to gather your thoughts which will later be transcribed.
A couple things to know about interviews:
- All interviews are recorded
- I often have my phone on mute so you won’t be distracted by background noise such as me taking notes or typing notes.
- I take notes on questions and statements you’ve said while you’re talking so I can ask later.
- You are the primary person talking in the interview and I encourage you to word-vomit all over the place. I will only ask questions or make comments to move the interview forward.
- Don’t hesitate to say anything that comes to your mind and may or may not be relevant. You are the one who decides what goes into the book in the end.
- We usually interview for two hours at a time, though more or less is fine depending on your schedule.
Transcription of interviews
I will transcribe our interviews which can take 4-6 times as long to complete than the interview. These transcriptions will be used to gather information, details, and quotes for the book. Often portions of these interviews are used verbatim for as told to books.
When I am done with a transcription I may have more questions which we will discuss in further interviews.
Transcriptions will be available on a shared Google Drive when ready. They will also be yours to keep when done.
You can probably guess what happens in this step. With writing I also include assembling an outline based on your interviews. Writing is a collaborative process where we work chapter by chapter to complete the book.
There are several ways to complete this step, though I suggest discussion of the chapter before I begin writing, then I write the rough draft, and then we can discuss or make changes after.
When we finish a chapter, we are really just finishing a rough draft of that chapter. I tend to think it is more important to have the bulk of the book written as a rough draft and then go back in the end to make additional changes.
Read through and edits of complete draft
Once the book has been written it is in a rough draft. The final read through is reading the book in its entirety and going back to make changes, rewrites, and edits where needed.
Designing a book cover
I don’t design book covers, but I have a lot of illustrators who I work with. I can either put you in touch with an illustrator or be the middle man. Typically if I am the middle man, I will charge a fee to do so in addition to your current cost. Also, the illustrator determines their cost and I rarely know your agreement.
Your book cover will just be a front cover for eBooks and a full (front, spine, and back cover) for a full cover. Any illustrator you work with should know the different requirements for self-publishers.
*If you are sending your book to agents we will skip this step.
Traditional publishing or self publishing. After our initial meeting you’ll probably know which route you’re going to take. I can offer advice and guidance for traditional and full services for self publishing.
For self publishing you will need to make decisions on book dimensions, page color (cream or white) and glossy or matte finish. If you decide to put a lot of money into publishing there will be substantially more decisions to make regarding interior layout and cover, as well as about a dozen different interior paper choices and hard or soft cover.
The final edit is a second full read through, but this time with a book that should be in its final written form. This edit can also be considered a proofread as this is the final step before publication.
Format for publishing
I will take your publishing decisions and the final edited book to format your book for either agents, publishers, or self-publishing.
If you are sending out to agents and publishers we won’t go through this step. However, if you are self publishing I will help set you up on Amazon’s KDP, give you a tutorial and upload your book for publishing. We will review how to track sales, change your book price, and make other changes.
This is pretty much it. It’s not a difficult process, but can take time to complete. If you have any questions I would love to hear from you.