How to help a client complete a manuscript

27 Apr

Part One:

Part Two:


Want to know how to help someone complete their manuscript? You CAN’T.  It’s THEIR manuscript. What you can do instead is let them hire you to create content about their content, and help them create a brand around it.  This will get them a following and help them stay focused on the manuscript while they complete it.

I’m part of a small team of writers from Boston. We created the brands called FreelancerChurch and BossContent. I’m sharing this insight I gained after 10 years as a freelance writer-for-hire. There are two types of people interested in getting a writer to help with a manuscript:  1.) People who don’t care about the manuscript and just want the money and prestige that can come from it (YES, it’s okay to let this person hire you to complete a manuscript), and 2.) People with a story or idea they want to share, and they feel passionate about sharing it (NO, do not let this person hire you to write).

I don’t usually like to be hired by someone who is the author of a manuscripts/story idea they feel passionate about: Trying to ghostwrite or co-author someone’s story is a terrible gig, run away, it’s not safe here.  They are the author, not you.  No matter how un-talented they are as writers, this is their story to share.  They might think they want you to write it for them, but they don’t.  You will end up staying available for them, keeping room in your schedule, and then you just go back-and-forth with them discussing the project forever, locked in a go-nowhere exchange of ideas.  You are part of the author’s procrastination! You’re part of their circuitous creative process!  Run away.

You get hired to try to read the client’s mind and inevitably write something based on your own idea rather than his malformed, incomplete idea, and then have him hold you hostage listening to him try to explain so you can get it right this time.  My income depends on whether he decides that he and I have adequateness discussed his idea, and I can’t make any money until he decides to let the project go forward!  I would only accept this kind of gig from a high profile or corporate client who would pay a huge amount of money.

In this case, the way to help the client is to teach them how to succeed.  And let them hire you to help them build web presence for themselves and accumulate a following while they finish their own manuscript.

What they really want to do is have you as a “muse”, so let them hire you as such!  You can promote them on social media and let them consult with you every week, or every month, about making incremental progress to build their brand and move their thinking along until the pending manuscript and even additional manuscripts – are complete.

I was discussing this stuff with the owner of, Kerry Walters, and she observed, many people believe success with a manuscript is this complicated crazy thing you have to know only people in Hollywood to pull it off.   I think those people are correct, to some extent.  Not that you need to know someone in Hollywood, but that you need to build your own brand FIRST instead of waiting for it to take off magically due to how brilliant your manuscript will be when it’s complete.  We can help the client become a mini-celebrity by creating excellent content online.  Encourage the author to become a mini-celebrity by blogging about the thing they want to write about.

My suggestion to any client with an unfinished manuscript is to start creating social media pages and some kind of blog or website.  Start telling the story for free, because if it’s as good as we hope it is, people will be willing to convert to some kind of sale even after reading just some small part of it.  Lots of people will follow you if it’s a good story, or good content. We can release one little chapter each week, and each week there’s an opportunity for readers to convert to some kind of purchase.

Kerry also observed that people sometimes want to keep their story or idea a secret because they don’t want anyone to use it before they finish their manuscript.  Instead, I tell me clients to give it away for free.  But leave plenty of opportunities for readers to convert to sales.  Lets say for example you turn your story into a series to which people can subscribe.  Like a newsletter.  But rather than an email newsletter you could do something to interact with them via social media.

It’s even possible to “blog a book” in the form of a FB Group!  So this is what I mean when I talk about letting new technology tools replace the traditional formats for books and other media. I could start a fb Group and change the settings so I’m the only one who is allowed to post, and then I would just blog my story.  People would see one little section come up in their feed each week. No one is allowed to even comment. It’s like a book, or series, that they receive only one installment at a time.

But of course it’s only fun to blog a book if you have people who will read it. So that is why I think the best thing to do is build a brand.  The reason I build brands is because I believe brand building is the correct way for modern people to be writers.

If you have an idea that is actually good, you’ll be able to express it in an inspired way.

If you do express a good idea in an inspired way, you can accumulate a following on social media.

When you have a following, you can blog a book and give plenty of conversion mechanisms to let readers buy something or subscribe to something, etc. A conversion mechanism is anything that gives the reader an opportunity to spend some money.  Buy another book, buy a companion audio file, make a donation, subscribe to your community for a fee, etc.

Each week you improve your content, and more people follow you, and you make your book perfect but it’s in the form of a blog.

All the while, you’re also having spells of creativity for another little ebook you’re writing.  It’ll be short and full of useful information. And people who are reading your story for free will see lots of opportunities to buy your other book that you’re selling.  So that’s what I mean by a conversion mechanism.  You think you have a manuscript that really is interesting, start publishing it one-piece-at-a-time for free and if it’s as good as you think it is, people will follow it when it’s available free.  And when you start to blog a book for free, all of a sudden you think of lots of places where you could show readers a PAY NOW button.

The artist can’t hire another person to finish having the idea and express it.  And the artist definitely must not fall into the trap of trying to keep the idea hidden.  That’s why it’s so important to give it away for free.

With some creativity, it’s possible to have many conversions mechanisms along the way.  For example: Rather than try to publish my book and get a few dollars for everyone who buys it, I can blog my book every week for 6 months!  And every week my readers will see a new call to action, directing them to a page where they can convert to some kind of sale.  It can be to order a service, or buy one of my other books, or even buy an affiliate’s book, or anything like that.  Any kind of conversion mechanism.

  • Publishing a manuscript in some traditional format, like through a book publishing company, gets you a few bucks per reader, and it gets you the glory of sharing your story.
  • Blogging your story also gets you the glory, maybe even more glory.  And it makes it possible to get a few bucks many, many times + you build so much valuable content online.

Ever heard the advertising wisdom that says people need to see an advertisement 7 times before they’ll open their wallets? And that’s for stuff they actually like and want.  Even though it’s something they want, they still don’t do anything until you show it to them 7 times!  So that is another reason it’s great to give away your best stuff for free, a little each week.  Each reader will spend some money, sooner or later. Maybe some won’t, but others will spend money more than once.

It’s hard for a reader to know they want to buy a book. On the other hand, it’s easy to follow a free video blog, or a free audio blog, and then if they really like it you might want to spend some money just to show some support.

Even if it’s an excellent story that will catch on — it can’t catch on if no one reads about it in the first place.  I’ll even go a step further and say no one will ever read a BOOK even if you give it away for free, because people are busy and overloaded with content already.  They know they don’t have time to read a whole book.  If we ever want them to read it, we need to stab them in the face with just one small part of it, maybe just one chapter or an excerpt.

If someone has a story to tell, they need to do it strategically.  They should keep in mind the way a person’s attention works.  The reader will receive one idea, and if that idea is compelling enough she will decide to look a little further.  We must NOT try to get a human to commit to reading a whole book unless we compel her or him with a small little bite-sized blurb.

I think it’s good if we can express the idea of our story in the fewest possible words.  No unnecessary words.  Sometimes someone will extend something over the course of a 100+page manuscript for no reason other than because s/he had the idea to turn it into a “book.” But for any story, or nonfiction, or a true story — a blog is excellent.  And even better than a blog is some kind of unconventional alternative to a blog.

Seems like at this moment the big thing is live events.  You can go on FB and schedule a Live Event easily.  I could imagine a creative person having a lot of success by hosting a live event each week and having the event become the content for the product they sell.

Imagine this: You work on your manuscript a little each week and then at the end of the week do a live event on FB where your followers can see the progress you made.  And the theme can be about getting them to finish their manuscripts.

If you give away your story for free a little each week, maybe even including some live events, and some video content and some audio content, and if you actively promote it — then maybe it will accumulate a big following.  Maybe one particular weekly installment will go viral and get to the front page of Reddit, and that will cause people to want to read/see/hear the rest of the story.

Did you know that when you try to get a book published the publishing company wants to know if there is an established audience for the book and whether there seems to be a niche in the market?  So even if you want to publish a book the old fashioned way with a publisher, you still have to try to establish some kind of following in order to get them to accept it.

Here’s what I tell me clients:

Publish the story to the internet a little each week.  This will give you the motivation to actually bring it to completion and start sharing it with people.  Sharing a little each week will also make it possible for people to consume it, because modern people don’t often stop to read a whole book all at once.  You can monetize it more this way than you could by getting it published and getting royalties.

Instead of selling a book by getting an agent and getting picked up by a publishing company (that’s so 1990!), I think someone with a great story to tell can tell it in a clever way using awesome new social media tools. Or even a website based on the story. Tell the story in a clever way that might get people’s attention and really go a little viral.  Direct all that readership traffic to a page where they can join you FB group, or follow you, or buy your other products, etc., and build a big following.

For example, if you’re willing to share your story you can share it for free, or share a big part of it for free and really promote that part of it.  Get people to spread the content around like COVID-19 at a trump rally, spread it all around for free.  But within the content there are exciting calls-to-action for them to spend some money.

It’s possible to share stories in dynamic, unconventional new ways.

Get your clients to hire you for content marketing, social media promotion, web design, logo design, etc. to help them build their brand based on the story or ideas they want to share. But don’t steal their opportunity to struggle and develop themselves as artists.  Don’t let them hire you to complete their idea, even though they think that’s what they want to do.

When I have a client who wants to complete a manuscript, I invite them to join FreelancerChurch, so they can get some free stuff + they can get started promoting themselves.  They’ll end up blogging, and a blog can become a book.

If the story becomes popular, it will become its own brand automatically, anyway.  So make it into a brand right now.

It turns out that her manuscript was never the thing she needed to promote.  Instead, it was herself, her own personal brand, that she needed to promote. It’s backwards to think the client needs to work hard and promote her manuscript. Instead, the manuscript is what catches people’s attention and sends traffic to her page. She thought she was promoting a manuscript, but soon she realizes the manuscript is promoting her!

If the client’s idea really is interesting enough to become popular, I can help the client make that happen through social media. When the client has a big following, she’ll be like a mini-celebrity, a rising star with a big enough following that the publishing companies will actually take interest in her!  But by that time, she won’t even need them anymore.  Her online brand is all the publicity she needs, and it’s continuing to grow.