Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question in the list below to review my musings on the topic.  Got a question you want covered here?  Email it to:
anika (at) montanacoauthor.com.

What is a book coach?
Is book coaching the best option for me?

What should I expect of an editor?  How much will you alter my manuscript?
How do I prepare for working with an editor?
My friends and coworkers say I’m a great writer; do I really need an editor?
Sometimes you spell “co-author” with a hyphen and sometimes without.  What kind of editor are you?

Ghostwriting & Coauthoring
What is the difference between a ghostwriter and co-author?  Which partnership do I need?
How do I prepare for working with a ghostwriter or co-author?  Are there any requirements I should be aware of?
What are ghostwriting/coauthoring interviews like?
How long does it take to ghostwrite/coauthor a book?

Budgeting & Funding
How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter or editor?  How can I afford that?
I’m overwhelmed by that cost.  Should I just write the book by myself?
How much does it cost to hire a coauthor?

Creative Process
This book project is overwhelming.  Where do I begin?
Am I emotionally ready to start my book?
What if “waiting 7-10 years after a crisis” is not possible?  My medical/personal crisis is not going to get better, but I still want to share my story.

What is a Book Coach?
Unlike ghostwriters and coauthors, who complete your book-writing for you, a Book Coach equips you to complete the writing yourself.   Book Coaches help you with the diverse challenges that you face during the book-writing journey: organizing your thoughts, creating a writing routine that works for you, developing your voice, learning about literary techniques that would benefit your manuscript, completing final revisions, and deciding on a publishing strategy. Book Coaches provide accountability, and this Book Coach provides manuscript review and editing services as well.  Basically, it’s like having your own personal writing instructor on call, helping only with the topics that matter most to you.
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Is Book Coaching the best option for me?
If you want private instruction customized to your project and writing level, Book Coaching is a great option.  If you prefer the synergy of a whole group of writers, workshops are a better choice.  Book Coaching is more expensive ($90-150 per session), but the instruction is more focused.  An hour of coaching is often more effective than a half-day workshop.  Coaching also offers more scheduling freedom–we meet as often as you wish at times that work well for you.   

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What should I expect of an editor?  How much will you alter my manuscript?
Editing encompasses everything from significant revision recommendations to the final light copyedits required before submitting to an agent or publisher.  To provide an estimate, I request final word count, 3 sample chapters of your manuscript, and possibly the full manuscript to provide accurate numbers.  My estimates are based on word count and my overall impression of the manuscript–will this book need copyediting for typos only, or will it need significant revision flags?  

With such a broad range of possible editing needs, the price range is wide as well, anywhere from $0.03 to $0.25 per word.  It can cost more than that if the manuscript requires significant rework, and you request that I provide ghostwritten solutions in the trouble areas.

If I believe a manuscript needs significant revision, I am up front with the writer about this and provide solid reasons grounded in publishing industry trends.  I provide multiple estimates  showing the cost of hiring me to act as ghostwriter in those trouble spots (providing word-for-word solutions for your revision areas), as well as the cost of marking those areas with comment flags only (allowing you to craft your own revisions).

Some writers do not plan to publish; they wish to share their work with loved ones only.  In such situations, I can “rein in” my editing, restricting it to serious typos only.  However, if you have publishing goals, I am a very aggressive editor.  I want your work to shine!
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How do I prepare for working with an editor?
All manuscripts require editing, and gone is the day when publishers provided this service.  Today, most publishers insist that the manuscript arrive in a polished state, requiring only minor pre-press typo edits.  Publishing houses simply don’t have the staff to provide comprehensive editing services anymore.

Hiring an editor is essential.  To save on cost, it’s best to “workshop” your manuscript through 3 to 5 revision rounds before hiring a professional editor.  I am available to review early drafts and flag areas that require intensive revision.  This is often referred to as “developmental editing.” I do not correct typos at that early draft stage. (It’s irrational to correct typos in a scene that may not even show up in the final book!) I am available for copyediting of final manuscript drafts, but realize that may be after several revision rounds.

Completing draft 1 feels fantastic.  Keep in mind that draft 1 is only about 20% of your book-writing effort.  Hire a coach, take online classes, and go to writer’s conferences.  Take the next year or two to work on crafting your book’s structure, honing the theme and voice, and re-reading each revision out loud to catch awkward sentence structure.

Build a circle of friends and family who will act as your “test readers”–people who will read your revisions and give you honest feedback on areas where they felt lost or uninterested.  Sometimes that’s due to personal preference quirks; a specific test reader might not be a good fit for your genre.  But, more often then not, critical test reader feedback ought to be heeded.

The more you polish the manuscript before it goes to an editor, the better.   When you’re ready to hire an editor, you will need to provide:

  • Final word count
  • One-page synopsis of the book
  • Three sample chapters

I review these materials, then let you know if I’m the right editor for you based on genre and writing quality.  If we’re a good fit, I’ll ask for the full manuscript:

  • Saved as a Word Document (no other software formats)
  • With chapters numbered
  • Full header on every page (page numbers, author name, book title)
  • Set in a Times-style font (size 12)
  • Line-spaced at 1.5 to 2.0 (double-spaced)

In most cases, I request hard copy (double-sided, 3-hole punched print) in addition to a digital Word document version.  Then I provide an estimate of final editing costs and timeline based on writing quality.  It typically takes 3-5 business days to supply an estimate.  The editing itself can take several weeks, or months.  We’ll discuss timelines after I’ve reviewed your work.
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My friends and coworkers say I’m a great writer; do I really need an editor?
Yup.  I have worked as a writer and as an editor, and I know it is impossible to catch all copyedits in my own writing.  All writers need editors.

All writing involves the writer’s ego.  Yes, you’ve got one; you wouldn’t decide to write a book without it!  But, healthy edit rounds and critique require decisive ego-management.  You need that sturdy ego to begin your first draft, but you may need to muzzle it when it’s time to receive and metabolize needed critique.

In 2015, more than 625,000 self-published books were registered on the market.  Most of them sold poorly, because they were crafted poorly.

That’s what happens when books are fueled by ego only.  A solid editor helps ensure your book is not one of those unread thousands.
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Sometimes you spell “co-author” with a hyphen and sometimes without.  What kind of editor are you?
Ha–I love that question!  Glad you caught it.  At the time this site was designed, there was some SEO (search engine optimization) benefit to including both treatments of that word.  I don’t question my tech gurus on issues like that, so the two variations remain.  If you know with any certainty that the algorithms have changed on this issue, please let me know.  I’d gladly fix the inconsistency.  I personally prefer “coauthor” in lieu of the hyphenated form.
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What is the difference between a Ghostwriter and Co-author?  Which partnership do I need?
In a Ghostwriting partnership, you (the Client) hire a professional writer (the Ghostwriter) to write your book for you.  You may supply a rough outline, some draft text, or verbal interviews only.  The Ghostwriter does the heavy lifting.  In exchange, you supply a significant deposit (30-50% up front) and pay monthly invoices based on percent of project complete for the duration of the project.  It’s expensive, anywhere from $0.80 to $1.25 per word.  With the average paperback coming to about 60,000 words, that easily translates into a $60K project.  But you own full rights to the content and have full control over the verbiage in the final manuscript.  Typically the Ghostwriter receives no byline and no royalties after you publish.

Ghostwriting is a great way to get your book completed with minimal effort on your part, if…

  • you have a large budget already set aside for your project,
  • a plan for Kickstarter funding,
  • or a major corporation is sponsoring your work.

In Coauthoring, you (the Author), work with a professional writer (the Coauthor) in a partnership that, functionally, looks a lot like Ghostwriting.  The professional Coauthor reviews the Author’s existing outline and draft content (if any exists) and interviews the Author to obtain the material needed to craft the book.  The Coauthor does the heavy lifting in the writing process, just like a Ghostwriter.  The differences are in the financial and intellectual property arrangements.  The Author does not pay the Coauthor up front.  Instead there is a contract to split royalties and share byline (both Author and Coauthor appear on the book cover).

Coauthoring is high risk for the Coauthor–she may never get compensated if the book sells poorly or the Author pulls out of the contract halfway through.  That understood, Coauthors are very choosy about such partnerships, selecting only Authors who are a great fit interpersonally–and book ideas that have incredible selling potential.

The only way to find out if Coauthoring is right for you is to ask.  To start, I request a brief (1-page, size 12, Times font) synopsis of your book idea and your current Author platform (how your personal expertise/interests support the book’s topic and how you would help market the book).  Please respect that it takes years to slate Coauthoring projects.  My next opening is in 2018.
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How do I prepare for working with a ghostwriter or co-author?  Are there any requirements I should be aware of?
There are several levels on which you’ll need to prepare.  The logistical preparations include some basic file handling and computer skills.  If you are co-ooperatively writing the book and providing a large amount of content on your own, make sure it’s in a digitally shareable format and uses industry standard page layout:

  • Microsoft Word document
  • Times based fonts, size 12 (no funky fonts ever!)
  • 1.5 or double-spaced preferred
  • Page numbers and your last name on every page

These requests are crucial.  If you’re not able to meet these requirements, please re-think whether you’re ready to work on a book project in today’s publishing industry.  Along with those basic formatting requests, you’ll also need:

  • A working computer, printer, and internet access
  • An email account and phone voicemail that you check daily
  • Capability to send and receive large emailed attachments
  • Intermediate to advanced skill level in utilizing all of the above
  • Basic ability to use “Track Changes” mode in Microsoft Word

If you are not able to meet these requirements, please take a computer class and make the needed equipment purchases.  Yes, it is possible to work on a book with me as a ghostwriter in a “tech-free” fashion: we do all interviews in person, and I provide hard copy prints of draft material for your review.  However, the fees associated with that process are steep.  At this time, I will not accept any co-authoring projects with individuals who are not able to meet the basic computer requirements above.   Thanks for understanding!

Along with all those logistical requirements, I ask that you prepare yourself emotionally and spiritually for your book project.  This will be about a 5-year journey for you, and you will grow tremendously during the process.  That growth can hurt and feel confusing, especially right before you hit a major breakthrough.  As your ghostwriter or co-author, I am ready to help with every aspect of the writing process, but I’m not a licensed therapist.  With that understanding, I ask that all my writers intentionally build a support network before partnering with me:

  • A licensed counselor or therapist whom you meet with regularly
  • Close friends and family members who know you are working on this project and understand you may need both extra space and extra encouragement
  • At least three loved ones who are comfortable reading your draft work before you share it with a greater readership
  • About a dozen acquaintances who would be willing to read semi-final drafts and provide truly useful critique

Books are a team effort.  If you wish to publish, your book needs to communicate, to connect with the reader.  There is a big difference between that and keeping a journal or writing to vent off steam.  Writing to communicate means years of draft-writing and intense revision work.  When you hear your story critiqued, it’s hard not to take it as personal criticism!    You’ll need to lean on a solid support network at those times.

Consider these folks your crew and personal trainers during one long marathon.  At the end, your book is a collaboration–not only between you and your ghostwriter/coauthor, but also between you and all the members of your support team.   Done right, it’s an incredible and powerful experience for all involved.

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What are ghostwriting/coauthoring interviews like?
Intense!  Even if we’re working on a non-fiction instructional book, you will be interviewed repeatedly for over-arching concepts and fact-checking minuscule details.  If we’re working on a memoir, you may be asked incredibly uncomfortable questions regarding your most beloved, embarrassing, and traumatizing experiences.

Good literature does not summarize such events, it resurrects the entire scene–including fine details of what you saw, felt, smelled, heard, and tasted.  To write like that, means I will need to ask many questions about the same moment over the course of several interviews.

Good memoir balances enlivened scenes with internal reflection.  To achieve spiritual and emotional depth in your memoir, I will need to ask hard questions about your emotional state at the time of an event and how you feel now.  This is not for faint of heart.  Many writers who partner with a co-author need to schedule, not only time for the interview, but also time for de-compressing afterward–often up to an hour before you feel ready to interact with loved ones or co-workers.

At this time, any writer who partners with me as a ghost or coauthor is required to set up regular counseling appointments during the book-writing process.  Memoir writing especially can be healing when done in partnership with professional therapy.  Without this component, the writing process can become re-traumatizing.  I don’t want that struggle to occur for you or your loved ones.

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How long does it take to ghostwrite/coauthor a book?
Book writing takes time!  Sure, you’ve heard of write-your-book-in-a-month programs, but that results in truly rough draft content that requires significant revision.

Team-written instructional non-fiction books can be written in a matter of months when deadlines are tight and a publisher is funding the labor.  But typical co-authored or ghostwritten books are usually years in the making.

Depending on the material and your time availability, plan to work with your ghost/coauthor for anywhere from 3 to 7 years to complete the manuscript.  Finding a publisher often takes another 18 to 24 months.  Truly, this is a labor of love!  You need to have an incredible sense of purpose to fuel this journey.
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How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter or editor?  How can I afford that?
For ghostwriting: Fees range from $0.80 to $1.00+ per word.
For editing: Fees range from $0.03 to $0.25 per word depending on the quality of the manuscript upon submission.

Editing and ghostwriting are expensive services.  Here’s a round-number example:  A short paperback is about 50,000 words; that means a fully ghostwritten work can cost 50K or more.  I strongly recommend reputable funding resources like Kickstarter to cultivate both funding and demand for your book.  “Long-tail” benefactor strategies (hundreds of small donations) are an incredible way to generate buzz about your project.  Everyone who donates is a potential fan who will tell others about your book.  With that in mind, it’s actually far more advantageous to pursue benefactor funding than to pay for it out of your own pocket.
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I’m overwhelmed by that cost.  Should I just write the book by myself?
It’s wise to write a first draft by yourself.  Even if you consider yourself a “non-writer”, you may supply first draft material for me if we pursue a ghostwriting partnership.  This can cut back extensively on interviewing time, which results in a much lower per-word cost.

During this draft writing process, you may work with me as a coach or come to my regional writing workshops.  This is a low-cost approach to honing your writing skills and committing even more material to paper.  The more you can polish that draft yourself, the lower the ghostwriting fees.

Regardless, there are online resources for funding projects like this.  The most reputable one is Kickstarter.  I strongly encourage all my coaching and ghostwriting clients to look into this approach toward funding—whether they need a final copy-edit only or they want full ghostwriting services.

“Long-tail” benefactor strategies (hundreds of small donations) are an incredible way to generate buzz about your book.

Everyone who donates is a potential fan who will tell others about your book.  With that in mind, it’s actually far more advantageous to pursue benefactor funding than to pay for it out of your own pocket.
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How much does it cost to hire a coauthor?
Typically coauthors charge nothing up front.  You agree to split royalties according to your contract’s specifications after the book is published.  Expenses associated with writing the book (i.e. – travel associated with fact-checking and interviews, reference book and comparative literature purchases, etc) are typically tracked and approved by both author and coauthor to ensure they are eventually reimbursed once royalty income begins.

The main expense is time.  With ghostwriting, you purchase a portion of my time; the project can move forward at a faster pace.  With coauthoring, I have to book several other ghostwriting projects to fund yours.  So coauthoring projects are wedged into an already busy ghostwriting schedule.  Plan on at least 4-6 years of interviewing and draft-writing before you get to pitch your manuscript to an agent or publisher.

Both author (you) and coauthor go into such a venture with a great deal of risk.  We’re both compensated for our efforts only if the book sells well.  Because of this, I am very picky about co-authoring pitches; your story has to be incredibly compelling to qualify.
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This book project is overwhelming.  Where do I begin?
The best place to start is with what I call Snippet Lists.  Far too often, we are overwhelmed because we sit down and think we need to write the whole darn book all the way through from start to finish.  For a majority of professional writers, books don’t come to them in that fashion at all.  Whether fiction or memoir or informational, there are snippets of scenes and ideas that come to us throughout the day.  Start by simply listing those ideas.  These are 5 to 10 word phrases and fragments, sometimes just a single word.  Some snippets refer to a specific scene, some to an over-arching theme.

A memoir or fiction Snippets List might start with:

  • The time Shelly got stuck in the outhouse
  • Finding the dead deer
  • Transformation and restoration
  • The smell of Dad’s aftershave

A Snippets List for an informational nonfiction book might include:

  • Finding herbal supplements that actually work
  • When natural health starts to feel unnatural
  • Decoding FDA label claims
  • Who to talk to when doctors are too rushed

You get the picture.  You could spend weeks or months writing your Snippets List.  It may be a page long or 20 pages long.  At some point, themes take shape.  You see scenes that are connected thematically or in a linear fashion.  When the list begins to gel, that’s a great moment to start writing a single scene (or informational section).

Most professional writers create their books scene by scene and usually not in the order in which they appear in the final manuscript.  Pick a single snippet a day.  Write everything you can think of regarding that snippet.  Don’t edit; that task will come later.  Some individual snippets require a few minutes to write through, some will require days.  That’s normal.  Just keep that pen going!
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Am I emotionally ready to start my book?
Answering this question requires some self-reflection.  If you’re writing about a traumatic experience, it’s vital to ask yourself whether you are still “living your story”.  In some sense, as long as you are alive, you are still living your story.  But it is possible to look at a trauma and say it is truly over; it may be an influence with a far-reaching shadow, but it no longer dominates every choice and thought.

For instance, if you want to write about your experience with a certain medical crisis, it might not be wise to start writing your book a few months after your diagnosis.  Book-writing is a demanding commitment, and it can compound your stress load when you’re still living through a difficult event.  The revision and editing process requires that you are emotionally strong enough to disengage from your story and receive constructive critique.  If still too raw from the initial trauma, it will feel like you, as a person, are being criticized.  Wow, that’s tricky!

Whenever possible, it’s best to wait 7-10 years before crafting a manuscript about a traumatic experience.

That said, it IS a great idea to keep a journal during a traumatic time.  Let yourself freewrite with no need to edit or correct yourself.  Don’t worry about the quality of the writing.  Chances are it will be rough.  Regard your journal entries as interviews with yourself.  A few years down the road, you’ll put on your journalist hat and analyze the entries in the same way that a reporter goes through interview notes–finding the best quotes and determining the real story line.  The journal is NOT your book.  It becomes material for the book manuscript—which is a completely different form of writing.

For more great info on how to heal through the writing process, take a look at these articles:

3 Elements Required to Ensure Your Writing Helps You Heal
7 Tips for Writing About Trauma
Harvard Study on Writing About Trauma

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What if “waiting 7-10 years after a crisis” is not possible?  My medical/personal crisis is not going to get better, but I still want to share my story.

In some ways all serious crises and griefs stay with us forever.  But there is something entirely unique about being diagnosed with a terminal or chronic condition–or walking with a loved one who has been diagnosed with such a condition.  Yes, it’s good to write about it!

It is even possible to write publishable work during such an ongoing journey.  Possible, but not easy.  The quality of your writing will depend largely on the height and breadth of your own inner healing regarding this new unasked-for journey.  How well have you metabolized the reality of this ongoing crisis?  How much have you transcended it and grown a capacity for looking at it as an observer?  How much does it command you?

Those are tough living questions, and your answers will likely change from day to day.  Those answers will depend on the quality of your support network.

Yes, write.  Every day if you can.  No matter what, crisis journaling can be highly therapeutic.  However, if you wish to write publishable work from within the eye of the hurricane, consider the following recommendations:

  • Meet with a professional counselor or therapist weekly or monthly during your writing and revision process
  • Confirm that your loved ones are okay with your writing project, or agree to fictionalize to protect privacy where needed – You don’t need extra drama right now!
  • Make sure you have at least 3 loved ones who can provide beta reading and educated feedback on your initial drafts
  • Assign one trusted loved one to take over your writing project upon your demise – Include this person in your draft-writing process so they get to know your voice
  • Test-drive editing services or draft critique on a shorter essay before diving into a book-length project – You need to know whether you can mentally handle professional criticism right now

Handle these steps early in your process.  It’s terrible to handle such issues in “reactive mode” during an emergency situation.  Come into your editor or manuscript coaching relationships with a sense of professionalism.  Some of your meetings may become emotional, and that’s okay.  Powerful writing comes from a place of deep emotion.  But at some point, if your editor or coach feels that a meeting is turning heavily therapeutic, she will need to let you know she’s working outside her field of expertise.

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