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Sunday, August 28, 2016


I've been asked to write a biography - what do I charge?

We received an email from a WOW subscriber asking for our advice on a writing project:

I am a linguist with a deep desire of writing my own biography. Recently, I was surprised when offered a job as a “writer” from this person who wants his wife’s biography to be written and published. Now, I don’t really know what I should be paid or how. I live in Australia; the couple lives in the US. All my trips will be fully paid, transport, accommodation, food. But I want to be sure I will not be working for nothing. What happens if finally he doesn’t want to publish the manuscript? Would you kindly advise me on this?  ~ Sarah

Sarah has just been offered a “ghostwriting” gig for a woman’s memoir/biography. From her email, it sounds like all her expenses will be paid by her client, which is great, but it also sounds like payment for her work will come from an advance and/or royalties of the published book, which is not so hot. While you can make an agreement to split an advance or be paid a percentage of royalties from book sales, your first priority should be getting paid as a freelance ghostwriter for the work you do.

Start with a Freelance Ghostwriting Agreement

Karen Cioffi, freelance ghostwriter and ghostwriting business instructor, suggests that writers start by preparing a freelance writing agreement: “List the details of the project, including who does what and when, the compensation, and the time frame.” She also offers the following checklist of what she includes in her freelance agreements:

  • The terms (what the client is requesting and what the writer will do)
  • The relationships of the parties and ownership (the writer is usually an independent contractor and client has unrestricted ownership)
  • Compensation (fee, with a breakdown of the payment schedule and expenses, if warranted)
  • Services provided by the writer (I include the time frame, whether editing is included, and that it will be original if I’m creating the story)
  • Termination (the process if either party decides to terminate the agreement)
  • Non-disclosure (protects the client)
  • Indemnity (protects the writer)

In the list above, Karen suggests including the relationships of the parties and ownership, which is basically the copyright of the words. Since the writer is always the owner of her own words, you will have to specify that your client will own the copyright on the work, including ancillary products, notes, etc. in perpetuity. If you have made an agreement to obtain a percentage of royalties from book sales, or if you receive a byline, you can include that here as well. And if you are worried that the client may be a deadbeat, you could write into the agreement that if the client doesn’t pay, you retain copyright.

You may also want to include the length of the project (by chapters, pages or words, but word count usually works best—for example, 60,000 – 65,000 words), and how you will work together (“a series of face-to-face meetings,” or “a series of recorded phone calls” or “drafts in Microsoft Word” etc).

If you will be doing the editing or contracting someone to do it, you should factor that in. For example, you might want to hire a freelance editor to edit the book at $4 a page, so you’d add that and maybe a little more for your administrative time spent working with the editor, emailing, etc. to the total fee of the project. Also, you should think about how much research needs to be done, looking up facts, places, and verifying information, and factor in how much time will be spent.

What to Charge for Freelance Ghostwriting

Karen recommends setting up a fee and invoicing schedule, where you break up payments by milestones—such as per chapter or sections of the book—so you get paid throughout the project. “There should be an initial fee to start,” she says. “The writer may also choose to divide the payments into three: to start, midway point, and upon completion. I do this often with my picture book clients.” Since picture books are short word count projects, dividing payments into three makes sense. For longer word count projects, like a memoir or biography, you may want to break it down even more because it could take a year to complete. “I’ve ghosted two memoirs and they can take quite a while, this is another consideration—how long will the writer be tied up with the project,” Karen says.

You can choose to be paid by the hour, by the word, or by the project. According to Writer’s Digest’s "How Much Should I Charge" chart (pdf):

Hourly: according to the chart, typical ghostwriting rates range anywhere from $30 an hour to $115 an hour, depending on your experience and the type of work. If it’s an “as told to” ghostwriting project you would charge lower on the scale, depending on other factors like if you get a byline, advance or percentage of royalties. But if you’re willing to skip the byline and royalties, you can act as a work-for-hire ghostwriter and charge more on the front end.

Per word: some writers prefer to charge per word, which could be anywhere from .50 a word to $3 a word.

Per project: rates range anywhere from $5,000 - $100,000 per project.

Yes, that’s a wide range! I’ve heard higher and lower as well, depending on the experience of the ghostwriter, how much research needs to be done, the length of the project, and what the client is willing to pay. Whatever you do, don’t undercharge! Ghostwriting is not an easy task, but if you have the ability to write in the voice of your client and you’re willing to be “invisible,” it can be a fascinating way to make a living.

Here are a few sample ghostwriting agreements to help you get started:

Do you have any ghostwriting advice for Sarah and our readers? Please comment below!

Angela Mackintosh is publisher of WOW! Women On Writing and often mans (or womans) the WOW mailbox. If you have a question you'd like answered, email your letter to mailbox[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com and you may see it here!

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Saturday, August 27, 2016


Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing vs Hybrid Publishing

As you gain writing experience and move toward publication, you have some decisions to make. Chief among them – should you self-publish, traditionally publish, or do a little of both?

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing some self-publishing since I started hearing about authors who are “hybrid authors.” Some of their work is traditionally published. Some of it is self-published. The key to doing this successfully is in understanding what types of writing benefit from each approach.

Liz Schulte started my education when I sat next to her at a conference luncheon. Liz, the author of approximately 27 self-published novels, asked me what I write. When I told her that my work is educational nonfiction for tweens and teens, she nodded. Then she said something I’d never heard before from a self-published author. “You’re work wouldn’t sell if you self-published it.”

My books sell to school and library markets that buy books from educational publishers based on the reputations of those publishers and book write-ups in School Library Journal. Self-published books don’t have access to these markets at the national level I currently enjoy.

Another benefit of traditional publishing is the access to international markets. Since my conversation with Liz, I've been doing some reading. I just read a post about whether self-published authors need agents. The author pointed out that no self-published book has become an international success. Sure enough, I’ve been keeping my eyes open as various writers announce the international editions of their books. Not a single one of these books was self-published. I don’t know if these rights were sold via an agent or the publisher, but traditional publishing seems to be the key.

Obviously self-publishing isn't all bad. It is a good choice if you have a readily defined market that you can reach without the help of a publisher. For me, that would be my fellow writers. As I speak at conferences and workshops, it would be amazing if I had a book of my how-tos to sell. The market probably isn’t big enough to interest a traditional publisher but that’s okay. I have the material. I have access to the market. And I wouldn’t have to share the money.  The market might not be huge, but that's not as great a problem when you don't have to split the profits. This wouldn't be the right choice for everything I write, but for some of my work it makes sense.

Traditional publishing, self-publishing, or hybrid publishing. Which road to publication would you chose?


Sue Bradford Edwards is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next section of this class begins on October 3rd.

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Friday, August 26, 2016


Friday Speak Out!: You will do anything to save your kids or your partner, but what about your writing?

by Karen Wojcik Berner

I ran out of the house as my timer blared Sencha signaling the beef burgundy in the crock pot was done. Not boeuf bourguignon mind you, just plain, old Americanized beef burgundy over egg noodles. It was Wednesday, after all. I had twenty minutes to pick up my son from football practice and shove some beef burgundy in my mouth before I retraced the same route back to the high school for Open House Night.

My husband drove while I scanned my son’s schedule, noting every other class was on the second floor. I anticipated a night of running from class to class, covering a school large enough for over 3,000 students, when he uttered words guaranteed to strike fear in my writerly heart.

“I need to work from home more.”


I had just started a new freelance assignment the day before. It was going to be perfect. My son would be gone all day at school. My recent college graduate would be working. My husband would be at the office. The house would be mine again. Mine to structure the schedule. Mine to control the noise level, the vibe, the pace.

“The commute is killing me. I can’t afford to lose two hours a day in the car.”

Over the past sixteen years, literally every time I have begun a new project or a new novel, one (or both) of the kids would get sick, my father would call me every day right as I sat down to write, or my husband would start working from home again, which meant conference calls for the entire day, his voice booming throughout the house, and rendering me incapable of a solid thought without IT terminology creeping into my head.

Every. Single. Time.

My stomach sank. As the most flexible and only female of the group, I usually ended up putting their needs first, and my writing would be pushed aside until it swelled up and I exploded.

After Open House, I vowed this would not happen again. My job was every bit as important as theirs. I would fight for my writing space. I’m sure many of you have been in the same situation. But, how do we do this without World War III breaking out at the dinner table?

Our negotiation is a work-in-progress. Most of the time, he takes the upstairs office to contain the conference call volume, while I work at the kitchen or dining room tables. When I have interviews to do, we switch. Other days, he might go to a local coffeehouse for a few hours, like I did when I was writing my first novel, or he works outside when the weather is good.

The key is negotiation. Remember, your writing is important. Period.

What strategies are in place when you and your partner work from home? How do you deal with managing your time to write?

* * *
Karen Wojcik Berner writes contemporary women’s fiction. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, and Fresh Fiction. She is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. When not writing, she can be found on the sidelines of her youngest’s football or lacrosse games, discussing the Celts with the oldest, or snuggling into a favorite reading chair with a good book and some tea. For more info, please visit
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, August 25, 2016


Back to School

It's that time -- the mass exodus of communities as the college students head back to campus. Listening to friends' tales of the traditional stuffing of the car with bedding, snacks, computers, microwaves and all the miscellaneous things that create life on campus I felt a little twinge for that time that feels like yesterday when I was the one heading back to campus. That feeling of jumping into the unknown with each new class. Wondering what the professor would be like, what we would learn, if it would be worth that 8 a.m. starting time (my major seemed to have a high percentage of professors who enjoyed early morning classes).

I've been toying with the idea of taking a class at my local college but not only is the cost prohibitive but the idea of fitting it into my already jam-packed schedule seemed like an impossibility. That's when I recalled hearing something about MOOCs (massive open online courses). Universities all over the world are placing some of their courses online. Online courses come in many forms. There are the truly free ones where you download videos of the class lectures to watch. This is a great way to dip your toe into MOOC learning. But there are also options that include payment for things like grading assignments or receiving a certificate of completion.

I began my search for online courses at Coursera and found a few great options in creative writing but, by its very nature, creative writing demands feedback so you might end up paying something for these classes. However MOOCs are a great way to do a little research into Medieval England, The Rolling Stones, epidemics or another topic that plays a part in your WIP. So if you want to do your research with the help of PhDs then MOOCs may be the place for you.

Although I did learn a lot from the two classes I checked out, I found that there was a second advantage to MOOC learning beyond the skills and knowledge. It gave me a jump start. Taking a class made me want to write more simply because I was devoting so much time to thinking about writing and World War II. So if you need a little inspiration and don't have a writing group or writer friends to turn to you might want to try a MOOC class to help you get your focus back.

Of course, for improving your actual writing skills I would chooses an interactive class such as the ones at the WOW classroom. Not all these instructors have a PhD but they have two things that count for a lot in our business -- experience and writing credits. Lots of classes are starting September 5 but the schedule has classes listed for through the spring. Why not find a class that can help you with your writing career?

Jodi M. Webb is writer living in Pennsylvania who also is a WOW blog tour manager. Her next tour will be Sugarland by Martha Conway, a novel that involves murder, Chicago and 1920s jazz clubs. Contact her at if you're interested. You can find her blogging about books at Building Bookshelves

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016


You Do Need a Writing Retreat

Retreat house
You need a writing retreat. Yes, you do. I didn't know this year when my writing group planned a retreat at the lake, if I would be able to attend. Sometimes, things like this seem overwhelming as a single parent, and I often question, "Is it worth the planning and trouble before I even get there?"

Yes. A thousand times yes.

So why?

I went with four women writers who are a complete and total inspiration to me because all of them are actively working on their novels. And let me tell you, these novels are good! I read the first 40 to 70 pages of all of them this past weekend, and I felt like I was reading published books. My group can write, and that inspires me to get back in the seat and create something they can read!

So that's one reason why it is worth it--I am feeling the stirrings of getting back to fiction.

The view

The second thing is that it gave me time to myself to work on that new blog and catch up on some editing. When I'm at home, I want to write, and my daughter is great--she really is. But I also want to spend time with her and she is only 5 years old, so. . .I am distracted and don't get a lot done. At the retreat, we had meals planned out. We all had goals to accomplish, and we all respected each other's time. I mean, it was perfect. And I am almost done with my blog!

One thing we do every year that I think is super important is create a vision board. If you haven't done one of these before, just GOOGLE vision board, and you will come up with all sorts of blog posts on how to make these and why they are important. There's even a vision board app if you would prefer to do this the electronic way. My vision board is currently hanging by my desk, and it is full of what I want my life to look like during the 2016-2017 school year. It's not just writing--although that is part of it. It is also love, parenting, self-esteem, friends and family, hobbies, travel, self-conduct and more. Of course, it also has my word of the year on it-ORGANIZATION.

Anyway, if you have the chance to go on a retreat, go. Make the effort, organize your family, take a day off of work--and go. You will not regret it. If you don't know of any retreats, you can create your own. You don't need to know anyone with a lakehouse--you can have a retreat in a hotel or at someone's house if her family can clear out for a couple days.

You love your friends and your family. But there is NOTHING like spending quality time with other writers to get you inspired and working toward your goals.

Here's to retreating! Cheers!

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. Check out her new blog on parenting and writing here or her editing site here

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Interview with Winter 2016 Flash Fiction Runner-Up, Pam Maddin-Baker

Pam received her Bachelor of Education in Theatre Arts and English and was lucky enough to share both of these passions with her students for 28 years. She has recently retired from teaching, but still cultivates a lifelong love of learning. Her reading and writing these days are for personal enjoyment. She is currently working on a historical fiction novel set during the Zapatista uprising in Mexico. She also enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction. She is particularly interested in issues of social justice and women’s issues. Pam’s other passions are spending time with family and friends, caring for animals, and riding her bike around the many trails of her home city, Ottawa, Canada.

If you haven’t read Pam’s story, “Snow Boy,” and read this story about family and love, loss and moving forward.

WOW: As a teacher, you shared your love of theatre and English with your students. How does this background impact your writing?

Pam: As a writer, I am very lucky to have a background in theatre and English literature. I have a lot of training in acting, and that means I have experience imagining and creating back story and motivation for a character. When I am creating characters for a story, I am constantly imagining their history, the way they would feel, and what that makes them do or say in the narrative.

My love of literature, everything from Shakespeare to Game of Thrones, has allowed me to explore a wide of variety of writing styles and learn to have confidence in my own style and voice. My students have also taught me a valuable lesson: Every reader responds uniquely to a piece of writing. Not everyone is going to like a piece of writing, and that is okay.

WOW: You seem to write for many different readers – you’re working on everything from a historical fiction novel to short stories and flash fiction. What motivates you to write such a variety of pieces?

Pam: Ideas for stories are always popping into my head. Some of those ideas are best told in a short piece of writing. But others keep coming back and developing in my imagination. I feel the need to continue exploring them.

That is how my novel began to take form. It actually began as a flash fiction piece about a Canadian woman on vacation in Mexico. She meets an impoverished Mayan woman the same age as herself and is amazed by her strength. The story would not leave my thoughts and now it has grown into a full novel centered round the Zapatista revolution in 1994.

I just keep following my characters and let them lead me through a story until the end!

I am always working on the craft of writing. Learning through doing is an ongoing and important goal for me. My novel is research and on the job learning. Flash fiction helps me explore telling a story when every word is important…and counted.

WOW: What inspired this particular piece, Snow Boy?

Pam: I was moved by the recent understanding that a child who is born after the loss of another child is sometimes called a rainbow baby. In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better. The rainbow is more appreciated having just experienced the storm in comparison.

Snow Boy developed from the complicated mix of joy and guilt that a mother would feel after losing a child and then finding out she was pregnant again. She would want to be excited about this new life, but also respectful toward the life that is no longer here. I wanted to explore how the lost child would have been happy for the mom.

WOW: How did Snow Boy change between the initial idea and the finished story?

Pam: I actually submitted this story to WOW twice! The first time I asked for a critique and received some excellent advice. I developed the character of Sherry more and explained more of her past. I tried to make her relatable to the reader, rather than "she could be anyone".

I also decided to let the reader imagine what happened to her child rather than impose a story. The loss was the important aspect of the story, the “how” was not as necessary.

WOW: What advice do you have for writers who are new to flash fiction but are thinking about entering one of the WOW contests?

Pam: Trust your reader. Your reader doesn't need to know everything, it is fun for them to figure out the back story of even put their own experience into the story. But you need to give enough information so it is clear why the story is happening. Ask yourself, What does the reader need to be told? What can be implied through words or actions? A reader loves to be surprised as well, so have an interesting ending.

Also, don't be discouraged. Remember that writing is subjective. Everyone has a different opinion about what is good. Tell your story as best you can and be proud of it!

WOW: Thank you for giving our readers a look into how you create your characters as well as the surprising link between WOW and Snow Boy.  I know I speak for the whole community when I say that I hope we see more of your writing out there in the world!

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Monday, August 22, 2016


5 Freelance Writing Mistakes to Avoid

A photo posted by rlroberson (@rlroberson) on

One of the biggest pieces of advice freelance writers hear is to keep pitching, no matter how much work you have. The reason for that is because you will most likely reach a few months where you’ll have a dip in income. When you have specific expenses and bills to cover each month, that dip can result in a cash flow problem. I’m just as guilty as the next person in not sending out article queries as much as I should. I was fortunate to do a lot of traveling this summer, and much of it resulted in some great story ideas. But with juggling the travel and trying to keep up with my regular clients, I haven’t sent out any queries all summer. With school starting back last week, I’m starting to feel the strain of not knowing how much income I’ll have coming in through the end of December. So that you don’t fall into the same trap I have, I’ve put together five freelance writing mistakes to avoid.

Don’t get behind on updating your portfolio. Occasionally I post updates on my blogs with links to articles I’ve published, but I’m not as consistent with updating my website or LinkedIn profile, where they would be the most beneficial. This is an important step because a writer’s website is her resume. If an editor is thinking about hiring me, I don’t want them to look me up and see that the last published article on my portfolio is from two years ago.

If you’ve taken an interesting trip somewhere, don’t delay in sending out queries as soon as possible. I recently went to places such as Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas, (the retail brainchild of HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines), Washington, D.C., and a lowcountry island in South Carolina where no cars are allowed and only 400 or so residents live. I also have plenty of photos of each place, which I should include in my queries. Which I will begin sending out this week. Seriously.

Don’t get behind on your invoices. Most freelance writers I know send out invoices for their work immediately upon completion. This can help avoid having a gap each month where you are waiting for payments. Please don’t be like me and get behind on doing this, because you’ll end up spending too much time looking through your spreadsheets trying to figure out what you still need to send out, and this messes up the rhythm of any pay cycle you have in place.

Don’t be afraid to turn down work. This may seem contradictory to my advice on not lining up work properly, but you need to be mindful of your time. I accepted an article assignment with a quick turnaround right before going on vacation a few weeks ago, which I probably shouldn’t have done. I had several sources I had to contact, and I didn’t do as much research on the topic because, well, I was having too much fun on vacation. I had to get an extension on the article, which wasn’t a huge deal, but I do feel guilty because I know I’ve held up production on three different magazines that this will be running in, as it’s a shared article. And it could also make an editor less likely to hire you in the future if you can’t deliver what you promised on time.

Don’t be disorganized. I mentioned above I have a spreadsheet to keep track of my assignments. Unfortunately, that’s about as organized as I get these days. My desk is a mess, I can’t find my to-do list, I haven’t filed my e-mails all summer, and last week I had a panic attack in the middle of the night that I had missed a deadline. I hadn’t, but it was a stressful few hours before I hunted through my e-mails for the due date.

I hope these tips have been helpful, and that they don’t dissuade anyone from hiring me! I promise I put a lot of thought into my assignments and work hard, even if I can be a hot mess at times. Do you have any do’s and don’ts for other freelance writers you’d like to share?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who is spending a Sunday afternoon catching up on work, because, that’s just how she rolls these days. Visit her website at

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