Proud to be a ghost

Most of my writing work these days is about helping other people to write their stories. Oh all right, I might as well admit it: I do a lot of ghostwriting. I don’t like the term, though, because most people think that what I do is deceitful.

It’s hard to get around that preconception, but fellow ghostwriter John Kador has written a great blog post that nails what ghostwriting is all about, the many forms it can take, and why it’s more prevalent than most people would think.

Ghostwriting comes with a load of baggage. I can predict the questions that come at me when people learn that I’m a professional ghostwriter.

Occasionally the questions come out of genuine curiosity, but more often than not I pick up a certain judgment, as if the practice was deceptive.

Most people have a very personal relationship with reading and the idea of a ghostwriter does not easily fit into the picture they have sometimes constructed. Most readers develop an idealized  relationship with the author, or the person they think is the author, so who am I, this interloper, and what am I doing in the middle of their fantasy?

I get it.  Writing is an intimate act. The craft of ghostwriting presents certain ethical difficulties.  But no more than any other profession. Here are some of the most common questions I get and my responses.

Read the rest of John’s excellent post here.

The Simple Things

I have to come clean — I am no domestic goddess. There are days when I get caught up in the consumer frenzy: I succumb to over-packaged frivolities in the supermarket aisles; I call for takeaway because I can’t bear cooking dinner; and I rack up a new pair of shoes on a credit card that is already steaming at the edges. Tragically, I also suffer from ‘Singerphobia’: an extreme aversion to sewing machines.

But I know that I am at my best on the days when I slow things down a notch, bake a batch of biscuits with the kids, plant out some herb seeds, or recycle an empty wine bottle to hold a trail of jasmine from the garden.

Simplicity solves a whole lot of things. It is the answer to your time-management problems: do less, learn to say no. Choose, select, cut back. It’s the solution to your financial crisis: spend less, try doing without or re-using. It solves your storage dilemmas: instead of stuffing your cupboards full of more stuff or buying new cupboards (or a new house), explore the option of simply having less stuff. Want to lose weight? Simplify your diet. Eat more fresh foods and less processed products. As Paul Arnott suggests in his book Live the Moment, ‘the only way to live simpler lives is to want less’.

If the idea of creating an organised home, a happy family and a life worth living appeals to you, please check out my new book with Antonia Kidman: The Simple Things. It’s out now and available from all good book retailers, both bricks and mortar and online.

Go to Booktopia

Go to Dymocks

Are book publishers looking at your blog?

We all blog for different reasons.

For some, it’s an outlet. For others, it’s about making an income. And for another group, it’s about catching the eye of a publisher. Hopefully.

But are book publishers looking at your blog?

We’ve all heard about the Blog To Book success stories. Gretchen RubinJulie Powell (Julie & Julia), and others. But how likely is it? Are publishers even reading your blog?

The lovely and clever Allison Tait invited me to join a panel of publishers for a Q&A session on that very subject, as a guest post for Styling You with Nikki Parkinson. Read the full story here.


How to have a career as a writer

This is a third extract from my new ebook, Get Published. This one is towards the end of the book, looking at the big picture of being a published author.

Are you winning the war?

Kelly Gottuso Mortimer from Mortimer Literary Agency has this advice for writers. ‘Don’t concentrate on winning the battle (getting published); concentrate on winning the war (staying published – having a career as a writer!).’ Publishers and readers love writers who keep on delivering, who follow up one fantastic book with another, then another. Foundry Literary + Media’s Molly Glick says, ‘we’re always in search of “the one” – the author we can break out big, and grow from book to book.’

If you truly feel you have only one book in you, I suggest you think hard about whether the traditional publishing path is for you. Maybe you should publish your one book independently and bask in the glow of having achieved that one thing under your own steam, rather than seeking a relationship with an agent and a publisher and a readership that will end with this one book.

Just click on one of the links below to get the full story by buying a copy of Get Published for only $4.99.

Amazon Kindle

Gumroad (both Kindle and EPUB versions)


What publishers really want

Today’s extract from Get Published is from around the middle of the book. This answers the question I get asked most often by aspiring authors: what do publishers really want from authors?

What publishers really want (apart from a proposal)

Believe me, I WANT to love every submission I read. But the bitter truth is that I despair. I read the submissions and I see novelists who could turn out to be great but who will be rejected by me – and probably everyone else – because they were impatient. I read other submissions that are truly awful. I read a lot that are just tepid.

So what do publishers really want?

•          More: More humour, more tears, more emotion, more sensuality, MORE OF EVERYTHING!

•          A professional submission: Don’t send it in until it’s ready to be sent. Check the spelling. No, the editor will not fix it for you. If your manuscript isn’t ‘clean’, you won’t get that far.

•          Something that’s great to read: By the same token, quit worrying about your font and your margin spacing. Is your manuscript compelling and remarkable to read? Is there magic on the page?

•          No follow-up calls a week after posting: Sometimes mail doesn’t get opened right away. Most publishers and literary agents get 2 metres of mail a week. It might take 3-6 months for them to get round to you. After that, you might politely ask if they’ve received it and how far your manuscript is from the top of the pile.

•          Courtesy: It is really attractive when writers are polite in their communication with my company. This is perhaps particularly true in the case of literary agents. Agents are like talent scouts: they are auditioning writers to find the right match for a role/publisher. Publishing culture doesn’t readily embrace prima donnas. If you are hostile with an agent or publisher from the get-go, alarm bells will ring for them. They will think that this is going to be hard work and they have to decide whether it’s worth it. You have to be an awfully good writer for them to decide it is. Writers who are pleasant to deal with, efficient and professional can often go further simply because agents and publishers like working with them, and they know they will deliver the goods.


Just click on one of the links below to get the full story by buying a copy of Get Published for only $4.99.

Amazon Kindle

Gumroad (both Kindle and EPUB versions)


Sneak peek inside Get Published

In the spirit of ‘try before you buy’, I’m going to be posting some snippets from my new ebook, Get Published, here over the next few days.

Decision-making isn’t my strong suit, so it was hard to choose the best extracts. So I’ve picked one from the beginning, one from the middle, and one from the end. That seemed fair.

Today’s snippet comes from the beginning of chapter 1, so you can see where I’m heading.

The baboon principle: why you need to write a book proposal

The publishing world is a lot like a tribe of baboons. We’re all looking for attention, to get a mate, to ensure our future, our immortality. So we’re all flashing our bums at each other, and the baboon with the biggest, brightest bottom wins the prize.

That’s what book proposals are all about: an industry-wide bum-flashing competition. The authors are looking to catch a publisher’s attention, and the world-weary publishers have seen too many bums in their lives but they’re hoping that a real standout one will come their way.

Every baboon has to follow the rules, though. Rule number one is to check a publisher’s (or literary agent’s) submission guidelines before you send anything to them. That information is readily available on most publishers’ and agents’ websites, and they really like it if you do your homework and stick to their guidelines. Which is to say that they really dislike it if you don’t bother doing your homework and sticking to their guidelines.

Just click on one of the links below to get the full story by buying a copy of Get Published for only $4.99.

 Amazon Kindle

Gumroad (both Kindle and EPUB versions)


Introducing my new book, Get Published!

I’d like to introduce you to my new book: Get Published.

The idea behind Get Published is this: drawing on my twenty-something (don’t want to say exactly) years in book publishing plus picking the brains of lots of other publishers and literary agents, to make a punchy, fun-to-use guide that explains what publishers really want.

If you want to get your book published and you:

  1. didn’t know you needed to write a proposal
  2. don’t know how to start writing one
  3. have written one but got rejected umpteen times

– then this book is for you.

Even if you are planning to self-publish your book, you need to read Get Published: it will teach you how to think like a publisher, and that’s going to improve how you write your book and how you talk about it to the media, potential readers and other important people.

Get Published is short, sharp and to the point. It shows you what it takes to get your book published in today’s competitive and ever-changing market.

Because I am soooo cutting-edge, Get Published is available exclusively through Amazon and Gumroad(a groovy new site that makes it easy to sell and buy stuff online), in EPUB and Kindle editions. Hop onto Gumroad and if you’ve got a Kindle go for that edition; for everything else, EPUB is for you.

Just click on one of the links to check it out and buy a copy for only $4.99.