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Red Flags for Editors and Ghost Writers

Published November 20, 2019 by Maryanne

Ghosts

I’ve been self-employed as an editor and ghost writer since 2009. It’s been a wonderful journey. I’ve worked with some amazing people, who I remain friends with to this day. The written word is such a beautiful thing. Editing a book is as relaxing as doing a puzzle. It just doesn’t feel like “work” to me!

But there is work involved. The three steps are: 1. Finding potential clients; 2. Convincing them to work with you; and 3. The third step, not many think about–but should! Interviewing the client and deciding, do you want to work with them? Back in 2013, I wrote an article, The Four Types of Clients You’ll Encounter (https://maryannemistretta.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/the-four-types-of-clients-youll-encounter/) and it still holds true today.

In the article, right off the bat I mention that bending over backward for each client is a big mistake. If you read the article you will understand why. In this blog, today, I’m sharing some of the red flags that will tell you, “DO NOT GET INVOLVED!”

When we’re working for ourselves, we may have a great run of clients. Things are going along so well, what could possible go happen? This is when they “get us.” When we least expect it. Someone comes along with little experience in the publishing world, thinks they know everything, and acts like they have you by the balls because they have money. WRONG!

1. The first red flag to say “no” is when someone is not respectful of your time. If you have an appointment to meet with someone and they don’t show up, it’s bad news. (Note, cancelling last minute is okay, because shit happens, and at least they had the decency to call. But if you have to chase someone down for a phone call or an email–BEWARE!)

Here’s an example of what happened to me just today…

I had an appointment at noon for a phone meeting, which was set up by an Assistant to the Writer. Prior to this phone meeting the Assistant said I was in the Top 3 for candidates. Looking good, right? The day before, I called the Assistant to confirm the phone meeting. All was well.

Today, 12:15, no call from Writer. … Which brings me to #2…

2. The second red flag to say “no” to a client is when they use patronizing speech towards you. Next, I called the Assistant, asking “What happened?” Like a child, he got defensive. He went off on me like a raving lunatic, defending the Writer. He was nasty towards me and said I was acting “desperate.”

WTF? Acting “desperate” because I wanted to know why the Writer didn’t keep his appointment? That’s not about desperation, that’s about respect. Was I supposed to wait by the phone all day long (and diss my other clients?!)  Who is the professional here? I believe it was me. I was waiting for a phone call that never happened.

I showed up. They screwed up. TWICE.

As soon as someone uses condescending words towards me, I call it a day. I simply said, “Never mind, I am not interested.” I hung up without giving him a chance to respond. If someone shows their true colors even before the first phone meeting, it’s only downhill from there. I never got a chance to talk to the writer. Which brings me to #3…

3. When assisting a person in writing a book, it’s best to work one-on-one. If there are more people involved, it gets sticky. There are too many personality conflicts. This happened to me very early in my ghost writing career. I was helping an elderly woman write a children’s book. She hired an illustrator that didn’t see eye-to-eye with me–and was downright nasty whenever I disagreed with her. (She couldn’t take constructive criticism and everything had to be her way).

I’m self-employed because I chose to leave the corporate world in order to avoid the stress of petty personality conflicts. Yet, here was this girl behaving like a child.

When accepting a job, be sure you know upfront who else is going to be involved–including assistants!

4. The final red flag is when a client is notorious for ripping people off. Boy, was I blind-sided by this one! A few weeks ago I was helping a girl write a book about coming to NYC, from another state, on a limited budget. While working with this woman, she shared many stories about hopping from loft to loft because she could never make rent. (The punchline is she felt she was entitled to skip rent because she was down on her luck and the tenants were being unfair!!) As a positive person, it never dawned on me that she was still doing the same thing years later. I was under the impression she was now a successful entrepreneur. Next thing I know, we have a phone session and then she stiffs me for money afterwards. She finally paid me and I told her it was best we part ways.

Now, money is not a big deal for me. When I work with clients, I give them freebies all the time. Free hours for their birthdays and Christmas. I give a $50 referral fee to anyone who brings me business. I direct my clients to publishers, places to do book signings, and help them promote their books. When someone hires me, they have a winner! In fact, 90 percent of the people I work with tell me they “love” me!

When you have a great ghost writer/editor and client relationship, the results are pure magic! A book that looks beautiful because you hired someone who has 20+ years experience. A book that is edited and proofread with no mistakes on the main pages (the cover, the back cover, the special thanks section, the dedication). And a book that is up on Amazon, so you can make money (royalty checks) while you sleep!

Is this something you want? Hire a professional today!

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing. She is also available for book signings and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Extra-Ordinary-Ways-Become/dp/1733546227

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

 

Author Versus Journalist

Published December 27, 2017 by Maryanne

sam_3971 - book signing2014, at my very first book signing

If you are reading this, chances are you do not know me as a writer. I’m not a famous writer and probably will never be. Nor will I ever win a Pulitzer Prize. I know my limitations. But I can say, for most of my adult life, writing has been my “day job” and I make a comfortable living as a writer and editor. Yeah, I beat the odds. I get to work in my pajamas.

As I wrote in my first book, “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” it took a long time to earn my bragging rights. Coming from a single parent family, I never had the opportunity to go to college. But I know many people with degrees that don’t follow their dreams as I did! I always wrote here and there — and finally got published. It was sweet extra income while I worked in offices for publishing companies or music businesses. I never took a job I didn’t have extreme passion for.

When I first started writing full time as a journalist, it was because I made my way into the door. I was first hired as a typist at a NYC publication. While there, I told a few editors that I like to write. Then bam! Eventually I was writing about everything — food, theatre, advertorials, features, business, and even sports. I was officially a journalist — in New York City!

I’ll never forget how long it would take me when I first began writing articles. I’d be up until 4 a.m. Then, the more I learned, the faster I got. I take pride in the fact that I could write a 500+ word article, that needs minimal or no editing, in less that an hour.

Back then, seeing an article I wrote hanging up in a restaurant in Chelsea, NYC, was a thrill. Having actresses and rock stars write me letters thanking me for my articles was euphoric. I ate at restaurants for free; got guest-listed more times than I can remember; and received hundreds of gifts and freebies just for acknowledging someone in an article. And this went on for years — now decades.

Writing an article is instant satisfaction. You write. You get published. You get praise. Writing an article is fresh and current. But when you’ve been a journalist for as long as I have, it’s natural to go the next step. No, not author — editor.

As an editor, I started my own home based business and helped dozens of people pen their memoirs and fiction books prior to publication. During this period it dawned on me that I should write a book. I gathered my thoughts together and in three years wrote three books — two self-published and the final was picked up by a traditional publisher.

What came with published books was equally as satisfying as journalism. Anyone who has had a successful book signing knows what it’s like to feel like a star. Anyone who has received a substantial royalty check has that feeling of arrival. Anyone who has had someone they admired endorse their books knows what it’s like to have butterflies in their stomach. And it’s the most surreal thing in the world to wake up in the morning and say to yourself, “I’m an author” and you know your life will never be the same from that moment onward.

But the thing is, writing a book is harder than writing an article. That’s why I didn’t want to write a book to begin with. Work shouldn’t feel like work. There’s a saying, “If you do what you love, you never worked a day in your life.” Writing articles isn’t work for me. It’s a need; a desire. I must write articles, like I must have food and sex and music and love and all the good things life has to offer. Writing a book is like having a slice of pizza. I enjoy it, but it’s not necessary to my being. I’d much rather edit someone else’s book.

Currently I am in the process of writing two more books and will use any excuse not to work on them. Last they’ve been touched was over the summer. And the only time I feel a bit of guilt is when a fan of my books approaches me at a signing and asks when my next book is coming out. It breaks my heart to tell someone, “Probably 2019,” but that is the truth. If that! It could be 2020. Or never.

While I’m writing a book, and really getting into it, I can’t stop talking about it. When you’re in a groove, you’re in a groove. I’ve completed books quickly during afternoons of drinking a few glasses of organic wine. Then comes the hard part. Shopping it around to publishers. Or negotiating with self-publishing companies who prefer you use their packages rather than hire your own copy editors and book designers.

Honestly, the best part is the rejection letters. They do not accept your material, but are encouraging that they are sure you will find the publisher who is a perfect fit.

Then once you find that publisher, who is supposed to be a perfect fit, it’s anything but. Whether you self-publish or are published traditionally, beware of several months of headaches before, during and after the process. Be prepared to be persecuted by clueless betas, to re-do work that editors have fucked up, all the cover “do overs,” marketers who fall short, and those dreaded bad reviews.

Let me pause here for a second to say that a bad review for a journalist is a good thing. It means people are reading your work, which is good for advertising. It’s also humorous when you can share with your co-writers a letter to the editor bitching about you. My biggest laugh was when I wrote an article about tattoo parlors and an irritated reader pondered if I had a tattoo myself. (I have three). Or the times when I wrote about a band and you’d get a member who felt he didn’t get as much coverage as the others and go on an egomaniac rant via email — or even a phone call. (This has happened more than once).

As an author, it’s more personal. It’s your work, not the property of a magazine or a newspaper. You are no longer the reporter. It’s your baby. Like poetry. While a bad review is expected, doesn’t make it easy on you. You have to be able to take it.

I once gave a refund to a client who wanted me to help her write a book. She said, “I don’t want people to judge me.”

I told her, “Then you’re not ready to write a book. Because people will judge you.”

Not only will they judge you on the content of your work — but on the fact that you are an author. Other authors are competitive. Non authors will say things to downplay you. I’ve had an ignorant person ask me, “Do you actually make money off of those books?”

Uh, yes, I do. Especially at book signings or literary clubs. I make a killing.

I also make a killing by touching people’s lives with my books. One of the best compliments I ever received was from a woman who read “On the Guest List.” She liked that when I spoke about being part of the stage show for The Nuns that I had to work and diet to get my body in shape. She wrote me, “You didn’t make it sound like it was easy because it isn’t.”

Sometimes I’ll Google myself and see a glowing review for one of my books and it brings a smile to my face. I just want to hug the stranger who got me!

However, with all the pluses and satisfaction a book brings to my life, I’ll forever be a journalist in my heart. And here’s why:

  • I get to meet more people, especially children. (Nothing is cuter than a little kid jumping up and down screaming, “I’m going to be in the newspaper!” after you interview him/her.
  • The quickness of the truth. It takes about six months to write a book. You are focused on researching, reading it over and over to make sure you’re accurate. In writing an article, the truth is right there for you. You simply write the facts — who, what, where, why, and how.
  • The instant glory. You write, you get published, people are reading!
  • Getting out of the house. While it’s everyone’s dream to work at home in their pajamas — and writing a book will give you that luxury — life is short and it feels good to get out and meet people. As I wrote earlier, there’s free concerts and free meals; but there’s also tree lightings, winter walks, fashion shows … around every corner there is something to write about. And that’s a beautiful thing!
  • Sometimes people do your work for you. No, that doesn’t mean someone is ghost writing my stuff. It means if you get a kick ass interview with someone, the story practically writes itself.

But then again, a book is forever; and years down the road I’ll still be collecting royalty checks and doing book signings for a book that was written years ago. And someone on Amazon or Ebay will be selling my book for much more. Well, that’s book business.

RIP Helen Gurley Brown — Feb. 18, 1922 to Aug. 13, 2012

Published August 14, 2012 by Maryanne

Author of “Sex and the Single Girl” and Cosmopolitan editor for over 30 years

Burt Reynolds, famous Cosmo layout, during the Gurley-Brown reign in ’70s

Model Paulina, 1980s cover

I remember the first time I saw Cosmopolitan magazine.

It was in the 1970s and Burt Reynolds was the “centerfold.”

I was only a kid, but my mom and aunt, who were only in their 20s, were giggling and showing the picture to me, my younger sister and younger cousin.

My grandfather got pissed at them for showing us such “filth.”

I was intrigued.

From that day on, every month when my mother’s Cosmopolitan issue came I had to look at it. I was too young to even know how to pronounce “Cosmopolitan” and as a little girl, referred to the magazine as “Cosmo-Politician.”

I guess in some ways beauty could be politics. But even in my young age, I figured out how to work it.

I asked my mother what she learned from the magazine.

“How ugly I am,” she said.

But on the contrary …

Each month they had a feature where they did make-overs for women. Cosmopolitan made plain Janes (“mouse burgers” as Gurley Brown would call them!) into goddesses via make-up and hairstyling.

So as the skinny kid with pimples and glasses — before glasses were fashionable — Cosmopolitan was my ray of hope. And once I got my hands into make-up, I transformed myself into a beautiful 15-year-old who looked 18 (the thing all 15-year-olds wanted to hear!)

Throughout the 1980s I tried to emulate the looks of the models on the cover — big hair and a ton of make-up! Fuschia on the cheeks and eyes was a key element to “the look.” And don’t forget, Aqua Net Extra Super Hold — otherwise known as “glue in a can.” Every photo I posed for, I pouted — whether it was at a nightclub, for work or for family. I wanted to be Cosmo 24/7.

And if anyone doubted my look (because growing up in suburbia meant being surrounded by a lot of conservatives) I’d tell them they don’t know what they are talking about because they obviously don’t read Cosmopolitan!

I was never jealous of Cosmopolitan models. My attitude was was more of a “Yay, I can do this too!” kinda thing. Because all it took back then was the art of make-up and a good tease with a comb. Unlike today where women are brainwashed into thinking they need Botox, veneers, Japanese straight perms and plastic surgery to be acceptable. And then they still don’t think they look good enough.

Looking back, my favorite Helen Gurley Brown quotes include:

“Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”

“Never fail to know that if you are doing all the talking, you are boring somebody.”

“What you have to do is work with the raw material you have, namely you, and never let up.”

After Helen Gurley Brown’s book, “Sex and the Single Girl” was published in the 1960s, she was the editor-in-chief Cosmopolitan and stayed with the magazine until 1997, when she was replaced by Bonnie Fuller.

And it was during that time that I lost interest in the magazine. I was now in my 30s and living a very cool, edgy life, writing for a NYC newspaper, making my own social circles. I was no longer intrigued with the styles of models because I started creating my own.

Plus, when you read a magazine for over a decade, articles start to recycle. How many times can you read about how to please a man in bed? By the time you’re in your 30s, you should know.

With the dismiss of Brown’s reign, I turned to women’s magazines more suited to me, personally, like “Sassy” (later “Jane”), “Bust” and “Bitch.” These magazines were better for me because they embraced the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and were more anti-fashion than fashion. Since the young audience of these magazines were free-spirits they made their own art, not necessarily emulating models. Bad asses like Courtney Love and Drew Barrymore were on the covers. Models had braces and pink hair. And you could read articles about the Prozac Nation and young rockers you’d like to date.

While Gurley Brown was famous for being feminist, “Jane” “Bust” and “Bitch” were feminist-supreme. Helen Gurley Brown’s Cosmopolitan paved the way to magazine greatness for the next generation!

And let’s not forget all the television shows she inspired! Shows about the modern, independent woman: “Sex in the City.” “Mary Tyler Moore”; and “That Girl” to name a few!

Mind you, I don’t agree with all of Gurley Brown’s philosophies, some of them being very depressing (like being as thin as possible without getting sick or getting breast implants at age 73 or her views on money). But I do think she contributed more than her share to society for being a cutting edge trend-setter and a person who stood up for what she believed in.

RIP Helen Gurley Brown –yet  another original bites the dust.