It’s May, and that means the year 2019 is approaching its halfway point.
This was going to be the year where I start “rapid releasing” – which is releasing new books on a regular, fast schedule. Lots of content going out, building my audience, rewarding my readers, yadayadayada.
I haven’t released a new book yet.
In fact, I haven’t released a new book since August. NINE months ago.
Normally, this would send me into a shame spiral full of Impostor Syndrome and all those wonderful neuroses that writers usually struggle with. This time, though, it’s a little different.
I’ve been writing. Just not Hardwick.
The reason I’ve been away from the Hardwick series is because I’ve taken up ghostwriting. After a decidedly-less-than-stellar 2018 financially, I dove headfirst into ghostwriting and discovered a world where I could get paid very handsomely to write books for a living.
Some authors are cool with just relying on that for their income, and my hat is off to them. I’m thrilled to be able to build a sustainable income that cleans up the money mess of previous years and gets me and my family onto stable financial ground again.
But that’s not why I took up ghostwriting as heavily as I did.
I did it because I wanted to learn how to write books.
“Wait, haven’t you been writing books for like, 4 years?”
Well, yes and no.
I’ve been publishing books on the Kindle store, fiction and nonfiction, since 2015. But I’ve been learning on the job.
Despite the diploma on my wall telling the world that I have completed a bachelor’s degree in the area of creative writing, I have never really written long creative works before.
My books – readable though they might be – are in the ranks of amateur. My dream is to be a professional author. To support my family through my own stories full-time.
“Amateur” won’t cut it.
The good news is: ghostwriting is fixing that for me.
Getting a master class in storytelling – and getting paid to do it!
Every pro author worth their salt will tell you that the best investment they made in their writing was hiring a professional editor.
But here’s the thing about editors: they cost money.
And when you can’t pay your rent, you can’t afford an editor.
This is normally fine. My wife and I have a pretty good system down, and from a storytelling perspective, I’ve been getting better.
But from a professional point of view, it’s needed a little work.
When I got hired by one of my clients to write books, we wrote two or three together before she stepped back and said, “I’m going to stop ordering new books from you until you fix up this first one. And you’re going to work directly with our editor on it.”
It was a humbling experience, of course. But working hand-in-hand with an editor showed me a kerbillion things that I was doing wrong with my writing. Some of my setups were terrible. Long stretches of my writing was boring. Inconsistencies in character. The near-constant use of the word “So” for some reason.
Shining a light on these flaws in my writing wasn’t easy, but it forced me to start paying closer attention to how I was telling stories.
Then I hit the jackpot.
Learning to create characters with the big dogs…
After working with that editor, I subscribed to a service called Pro Writing Aid so that I could start nailing down a lot of these problems and catching them before they go to editing. It’s been really effective, and my writing is getting stronger.
But there was a new weakness in my work: flat characters.
Enter the “big dogs”.
Now, part of ghostwriting is keeping your mouth shut. I’m not allowed to publicly disclose who I’m working with because legally, they take all the credit and profits from the books that we create together. My name can’t be anywhere near them.
I can, however, cryptically say that I was honored with an opportunity to work with quite literally the top names in indie publishing today. Through a mutual connection, I am now a part of a massive operation, ghostwriting two different book series hand-in-hand with people who know how to make books that sell.
It’s a huge chance to further my career in a number of ways.
One thing that they’ve taught me is the importance of building characters that people relate to and connect with emotionally. And after writing my first 60,000 word book for them, they showed me that I had to go back, line by line, and change how I presented these characters to get the audience to connect with them.
Their advance reader team – who at first didn’t really like my characters – came back and said they really liked it, it was massively improved, and complimented me on a few little touches I made myself.
How does this affect my Hardwick series?
These lessons are not learned in a bubble.
Tightening up my writing is only going to help my own books. Creating believable characters that people care about? That’s only going to strengthen the bond my readers have with my books.
And that’s how professionals sell more books: good writing and great characters.
I’ve had to sacrifice some short-term gains on my career by moving the books to the back burner, but I’m learning that this had to happen for a reason. I had lessons to learn, and now I can go back and apply those lessons to my works.
What happens now?
I have a few steps in my relaunch process that I am working through:
- Writing a prequel. This is about half done, and I am slowly but surely going to finish it this week. This is a big deal, as some of the other steps on this list can be done concurrently while I release new books. But this one needs to be done first before I can do anything else.
- Re-release the first three books. I’d like to make some edits to the books, but at the very least, I need to re-release the books with new covers, positioning them the way I want to. Then I can start a new email funnel offering the prequel to new readers.
- Release Book 4. I have Book 4 in the pipeline and it’s done. I just have to get it out, but I want everything else in place first.
- Crank out new books. I plan to release a book a month, most likely. I have part of a Book 5 developed already, so this shouldn’t be too difficult. I also am awash in story ideas from taking this long break from publishing, so I’m anxious to get back into it.
- Promote, promote, promote. Thanks to my new ghostwriting career, I will have an advertising and marketing budget that I can use to put my books on the fast track. I’m SUPER excited about this, but I need to have every other duck in a row before I unleash my marketing campaign.
It’s been a whirlwind few months, but now that I’m settling into the workload, pruning my client list, and getting myself situated, I can move forward with my publishing career.
By the end of 2019, I expect to have a full-time income from my books as long as I have all these steps completed. Even if I get halfway there, I’ll be in really good shape moving forward.
I just want to make sure I get everything right before pulling the trigger. Ghostwriting has really accomplished a lot of that for me, and I can’t wait to pass on those benefits to you, my lovely readers.