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What Kind of ROI Can You Expect from Writing Non-Fiction Books?

How writing non-fiction books can generate more money through your business.

This question is often put to me by aspiring authors. If you’re thinking about writing and publishing non-fiction books, you’re probably wondering the same thing. I’ll offer some guidance in this post.

First of all, here’s what NOT to expect: Don’t expect to get rich from sales of non-fiction books. Getting your book in a chain like Barnes and Nobel is great, but it doesn’t guarantee sales. With so many choices on bookstore shelves, not many customers will even see your book, unless they’re already looking for it. It’s safer to assume that revenues from sales of your book will simply help offset the costs of producing it.

 

Proof on What Kind of ROI You Can Expect Writing Non-Fiction Books

Your real ROI will come from the boost non-fiction books will give to your business and your career. For example, when one of my clients, Lee Ellis, wrote Leading with Honor, it enormously enhanced his brand as a leadership consultant. Since the publication of his book, he has appeared on CNN, FOX News, and other national media outlets. His speaking invitations have dramatically increased, which naturally have increased his consulting revenues.

Here, in his own words, is what another of my clients, Marty Harshberger, author of Bottom Line Focus, told me just this week:

Here's how this author benefited after he started writing non-fiction books. Recently, I was curious to know how much consulting business my book had generated for me since it was published. I went back and tallied all the revenues that were directly attributable to it. They totaled $870,000, and they’re still coming in! That figure didn’t include other business that might have indirectly resulted from the book.

 

I’ll tell you one story to illustrate how my book has benefited me. Not long ago, I gave a copy of Bottom Line Focus to the CEO of a bank. He liked it so much that he ordered copies for his twelve branch managers, and he invited me to put on a one-day seminar for them. This went over so well that this CEO bought copies for ten of the bank’s best customers. He then asked me to put on monthly seminars for these customers for one year. I’m in the process of presenting these seminars now. Of course, they are generating some nice consulting income, and it will be exciting to see what additional opportunities they open up.”

 

I love to hear these kinds of stories! And I’m pleased to say that I hear them quite often.

 

My Answer to What Kind of ROI You Can Expect Writing Non-Fiction Books

Have you thought about writing non-fiction books? A professionally produced book is one of the most powerful tools for opening doors to new opportunities and establishing your brand as a thought leader. When you become an author, others will see you as an authority in your field. You will become a sought-after speaker. Prospects who read non-fiction books will come to you predisposed to buy.

What kind of ROI can you expect from non-fiction books? Answer: It can take your business and your career to a whole new level!

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Here are some writing tips to help you finish that book you always wanted to write.

Writing Tips for People Having Trouble Starting or Finishing that Book

Here are some writing tips to help you finish that book you always wanted to write.

Not a few would-be authors know what they want to say, but somehow they never get around to putting it on paper. As months and even years go by, the book remains simply a dream. If that describes you, here are a few writing tips to get you going:

  • Clarify your goals. Why do you want to write your book? What do you stand to gain? What do you want to say in your book? Why would someone else want to read it? Clarity provides motivation.
  • If you’re considering self-publishing your book, I recommend reading The Well-Fed Self-Publisher by Peter Bowerman. It’s an excellent overview of the writing and self-publishing process, with a helpful emphasis on book marketing. If you’re planning to use your book to promote your business, I also recommend reading How to Position Yourself as the Obvious Expert by Eldridge and Eldridge or Get Slightly Famous by Steven Van Yoder.
  • Make a phone call to a ghostwriter or editor. This simple step will probably do more than anything else to get you out of the starting blocks. Even if you’re undecided about hiring a ghostwriter or editor, making the call will give you momentum.

 

Writing Tips for The Weak-Finisher Syndrome

Other people may jump right into a book-writing project, but they have trouble finishing it. More urgent projects or other reasons cause them to put their book project on the back burner. It starts to get downright embarrassing when people keep asking them, “How are you coming on that book?”

If you have trouble finishing projects, my advice is to get help from a professional ghostwriter or editor. Even if writing is one of your major interests and you have lots of spare time, writing a book can be a difficult project to undertake alone. That’s because there’s more to writing a book than writing. You have to understand quite a bit about book publishing and marketing if you’re going to make your investment of time and money pay off.

A professional editor or ghostwriter will lighten your load considerably. And because you’re so close to your material, it’s difficult for you to see it objectively. He will be better able to see your message from the readers’ point of view.

A good professional ghostwriter or editor will guide you through the process and help you avoid costly mistakes. Having someone else on your team also provides a degree of accountability. You’ll be more likely to do your homework when you have an appointment to discuss it.

 

More Writing Tips to Help You Do It!

For more writing tips, read my white paper, “7 Common Roadblocks to Writing a Book and How to Overcome Them.” No matter what your temperament, if you get the necessary support, you – yes, even YOU – can become an author!

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Arnold Schwarzenegger battles cyborgs and other creatures for writing and editing lovers.

This Writing and Editing Advice Could Help Your Career Advancement

Arnold Schwarzenegger battles cyborgs and other creatures for writing and editing lovers.

Remember the movie The Terminator, in which a soldier played by Arnold Schwarzenegger battled against a seemingly indestructible humanoid cyborg from the year 2029? Well, The Terminator is a milquetoast compared to America’s newest action hero, The Punctuator. This action hero is destined to excite writing and editing fans nationwide.

Get your tickets now to the cinema event of the year! This action-packed movie, starring Woody Allen as the musclebound combatant whose been sent to save humanity from it’s punctuation errors, will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. It will be debuting in theaters across the land on September 24, which just happens to be National Punctuation Day.

 

Why Writing and Editing Mistakes Can Hamper Your Success

Of course, I’m just kidding about the movie. But I’m not kidding about National Punctuation Day (it’s a real, albeit rather underappreciated, holiday), nor am I kidding about the importance of good punctuation. Punctuation errors will make you appear careless at best, and possibly even stupid. They can hamper your professional effectiveness and ultimately your career advancement.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a test for writing and editing enthusiasts. Did you happen to notice the two punctuation errors in the second sentence of the third paragraph above? The parenthetical clause should have read, “starring Woody Allen as the musclebound combatant who’s been sent to save humanity from its punctuation errors.”

If you did notice these two writing and editing errors, what did you think? Did you start to wonder if this article was worth reading? At least subconsciously, you probably thought, “If I can’t trust this guy to punctuate well, how can I trust him to give me good advice about writing and editing?”

Even though you may not be a professional writer who offers advice about grammar, people will judge you in a similar way. Poor punctuation and other grammatical mistakes will cause you to lose credibility in their eyes.

 

How to Improve Your Writing and Editing Skills

Don’t undermine your success when it comes to writing and editing. Pay attention to punctuation and other aspects of grammar. Keep a dictionary handy and refer to it regularly. Read good books on grammar, such as The Elements of Style by Strunk and White and Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss.

Self-edit your writing, including your emails. Ask another person to look over your more important written communication pieces before you distribute them. If you want to learn how to avoid three of the most common punctuation errors, I invite you to revisit one of my previous posts on the subject.

Oh, one last bit of advice for writing and editing lovers. Remember to celebrate National Punctuation Day on September 24!

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The Total Solar Eclipse is Fake News!

The total solar eclipse is a rare event that happens within our vast universe.

In the next few days, more than one million people will be flooding into South Carolina to witness the total solar eclipse, which is scheduled to occur just after 2:40 p.m. on Monday, August 21. Approximately 30,000 to 100,000 of those folks will be coming right here to my home city of Charleston, because we’re smack dab on the path for ideal viewing.

But is this total solar eclipse really going to happen, or is it simply fake news? Maybe it’s something the tourist industry dreamed up to boost the state’s economy. These days, one can’t be too skeptical.

Of course, I’m just kidding. The total solar eclipse will happen right on schedule, because that’s the way the universe operates. If it isn’t cloudy, it should be a spectacular sight.

My wife, Sarah, and I have our special eclipse glasses, and we plan to view the event from the Intercoastal Waterway, which is just a 7-minute paddle by Kayak up the river that runs behind our house.

The Total Solar Eclipse is a Small Fraction of Life’s Wonders

As we look up at the sky on Monday, I think I’ll be extraordinarily aware that we’re merely tiny visitors on a little spec of dirt that’s hurtling though a vast universe. How vast? According to astronomers, our galaxy has at least 100 billion stars, and there are at least 200 billion galaxies in the universe, each with hundreds of billions of stars!

But that’s not all! In 2016, Hubble telescope observations prompted scientists to raise their estimate for the number of galaxies by a factor of 10. In other words, the probable number of galaxies is not 200 billion, but two trillion!

How about those numbers for putting us in our place! If we have an inflated sense of self-significance, they will certainly puncture it.

But the truth is that we are significant to the only One who ultimately matters. So, as I look up at the sky on Monday, I’ll be thinking of the following words of King David as recorded in Psalm 8:

The total solar eclipse is just a small portion of life's wonders. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
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Check out how hybrid publishing companies can hurt authors of business books.

How Not to Write Business Books: Another Pitfall of Hybrid Publishing

Check out how hybrid publishing companies can hurt authors of business books.

“The hybrid publishing business is so good that the market is becoming flooded with forgettable business books created by companies for hire.”

An article in the April 2017 issue of Entrepreneur magazine titled “The (Booming, Misunderstood, Game-Changing, Potentially Manipulative) Business of Business Books” raises some valid concerns about the hybrid publishing industry. As defined in the article, hybrid publishing is “a loose, gray area between self-publishing and traditional get-a-deal-with-Random-House-style publishing—in which authors pay to have their business books written, designed, and sold.” According to the author of the article, the hybrid publishing business is so good that the market is becoming “flooded with forgettable business books created by companies for hire.”

I commented on these concerns in my May 29, 2017, blog post. The primary one is that hybrid publishers too often operate like book mills. In their rush to make money, they produce business books of inferior quality. More than a few of these books should never have been written. I agree with the author of the article when he says, “As hybrid publishing grows, many of its leading figures are starting to debate its downsides—and how to make books that are genuinely worth reading,”

Hybrid publishers can partially remedy this quality issue by selling their services less aggressively and resisting the urge to accept every business book project that comes their way. But becoming more selective won’t entirely solve the problem. In my opinion, hybrid publishers also need to change the way they business write books. The writing and publishing process used by many of them is a recipe for inferior quality.

For example, here’s how the article describes the process of one hybrid publisher, which happens to be located right here in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina:

First, a ghostwriter (which the author of the article calls an “editor”) spends about 10 to 12 hours interviewing the author (the subject-matter expert). Then, working from transcripts of the recorded interviews, the ghostwriter drafts the book’s chapters and works with the author to refine them. When the author is satisfied (typically, the number of allowed revisions is spelled out in advance), the publisher gets the business book designed and printed.

According to the article, the entire writing process takes about 30 hours and costs the author roughly $25,000. In addition to this fee, the hybrid publisher also earns money over the life of the book by selling copies back to the author at prices well above the printing cost.

What’s wrong with this model? The major problem, in my opinion, is that it’s not possible for a ghostwriter to write a good 150- to 200-page business book based on only 12 hours of interviews and 30 hours of work. Furthermore, it’s unrealistic to think an aspiring author in that brief time can think of and communicate to the ghostwriter everything that should be included the book.

A much better model is for the ghostwriter to conduct a series of weekly or bi-weekly interviews with the author over a period of five to seven months. This extended period gives the author time to refine the content and think of new things to include. It allows the book to evolve, so the end result will be much better than and perhaps quite different from the author’s initial vision.
Clarification of the author’s vision, creation of new ideas, and refinement of marketing approach are valuable byproducts of the writing process. Writing business books based on a 12-hour “brain dump” from the author truncates this process, doing a disservice to that author and to the readers the book is intended to serve. Don’t skimp on the writing process!

As I said in my May 29 blog post, I’m not a fan of hybrid publishing. I believe authors will get a better return on their investment from either traditional publishing or true self-publishing. But hybrid publishing is here to stay, so it’s important to understand the pitfalls.

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Has the Hybrid Publishing Industry Morphed into Vanity Publishing?

Is hybrid publishing the new vanity publishing? The April issue of Entrepreneur magazine featured an article titled “The (Booming, Misunderstood, Game-Changing, Potentially Manipulative) Business of Business Books.” Underneath the title in bold type was the following first paragraph: “Every entrepreneur today seems to have written a book. But here’s what they might not tell you: The book wasn’t really written to be read. And they didn’t always do the writing.”

Since my firm, Wool Street Writers, is in the business of helping business professionals and other thought leaders write and publish non-fiction books, I was naturally interested in what the author of the article had to say.

The article began by offering some interesting statistics, namely that according to the research firm Pro Quest, the number of self- and hybrid-published business books has more than doubled in the past four years, from 9,839 in 2012 to 20,499 in 2016, while the number of traditionally published business books has plummeted, from a high of 66,508 in 2013 to 35,233 last year.

In my view, that’s good news! Self-publishing gives authors more choices and more control, and it allows them to bring their books to market faster. Plus, it is often the only practical way to target a niche market.

Due largely to advances in printing technology and the advent of the Internet, self-publishing (or independent publishing, as some prefer to call it) has gone mainstream. It has largely shed the questionable reputation it had in the days of “vanity publishing.” Today, most decisions about whether to traditionally publish or self-publish are based on economics rather than image.

hybrid publishingBut the Entrepreneur article did highlight some valid concerns about hybrid publishing. Hybrid publishers appear on the surface to be traditional publishers. They review book proposals from authors and produce and distribute the books they accept. But unlike traditional publishers, which aim to make money by selling the author’s book to the public, hybrid publishers make a large percentage of their money by selling the author’s book back to the author. In some cases, the author must commit to purchasing thousands of copies of the book before the publisher will accept the book for publication.

Some hybrid publishers are overly aggressive about selling their services. A few (fortunately, it’s very few) use the gimmick of “collective co-authorship.” For a fee, an individual who wants to become known as an “author” can sign up to write one short chapter of a book. The publisher chooses the title of the book and recruits several other people to be co-authors. When the book is published, the publisher gives each co-author several copies with his or her name featured on the cover. The books produced in this way are seldom worth reading. This deceptive practice hurts the whole industry and can even end up tarnishing the reputation of these “authors.”

In some corners of the hybrid publishing world, acceptance of a book proposal depends more on the financial resources of the author than on the quality of the author’s work. The Entrepreneur magazine article was correct in pointing out this problem. This is vanity publishing under a new name.

I favor true self-publishing over hybrid publishing. One model is for the author to set up his or her own publishing company. This is easy to do, and it gives the author complete control over the writing and publishing process. The author owns the ISBN (International Standard Book Number), so there are no conflicts over rights.

With this model, the author can have a direct financial relationship with the printer. This allows the author to order additional copies of the book from the printer at any time at the printer’s cost.

Hybrid publishers may cover all or part of the initial production costs, but they more than offset these costs by selling copies of the author’s book back to the author at an inflated price. For example, authors who use a hybrid publisher might have to pay around $5 or more for each copy of their book, when the actual cost from the printer might be less than $2. Over time, hybrid publishing can cost the author considerably more than true self-publishing.

The author of the Entrepreneur article also criticized hybrid publishers who make it appear as if their authors write their books on their own. I agree with this criticism, and I don’t see any reason for this type of secrecy. Most people don’t expect busy professionals to have enough time to write their books alone. Furthermore, when an author acknowledges a ghostwriter, it tells the world the book is professionally written. I advise all aspiring authors to get professional help. An unprofessionally produced book is worse than no book at all.

To learn more about self-publishing, feel free to contact us today!

Photos courtesy of YouTube and Buzzfeed.com

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Projecting Your ROI When Writing a Book

Writing a book can be a great investmentRecently, I corresponded with the CEO of a rapidly growing company that offers high-tech, state-of-the-art services to other businesses. To help him understand whether writing a book would be a good investment, I asked him if any of the following statements described his situation:

  • Your potential clients have difficulty understanding what you offer and how it will benefit them
  • Explaining your services consumes a lot of your sales reps’ valuable time
  • Each new sale you close can bring in substantial additional revenues
  • Relating stories (case studies) about how others have profitably used your services helps to close sales
  • You and your company would benefit if you received more invitations to speak at conferences, etc.

 

“If most of the above apply,” I explained, “writing a book would probably be a very profitable investment for your business. It would serve as a valuable tool for selling your services in a professional, persuasive, understandable, and time-efficient manner, and it would allow you to support your promotional claims with actual success stories. As an author, you will automatically be viewed as an authority in your field. More speaking invitations will come to you, and clients will come to you predisposed to buy.”

He replied to my email, “Yep, we’re 5 for 5.”

Valuable Byproducts When Writing a Book

This CEO and I have an appointment to talk about his book project and my ghostwriting and publishing services when I come to New York City in April. If he does decide to move ahead, he will be delighted to see how the book-writing process can produce other benefits, in addition to the ones mentioned above.

For example, he has been struggling for some time to come up with a brief, easily understood description of the services he offers. Because writing a book forces one to see things with fresh eyes, we should be able to develop this one- or two-sentence description as a byproduct of the process. And if he wishes, we should be able to produce one or more white papers and possibly even a magazine article or two while writing the book, all of which could be very helpful marketing tools.

It sounds like this company could reap a very high ROI from writing a book. Before I work with any client, that’s what I like to see!

Writing a Book has big rewards

For additional information on the subject of writing a book, you might like to download these two free white papers:

7 Reasons Why You Should Write a Book

7 Common Roadblocks to Writing a Book, and How to Overcome Them

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A Key to Writing a Successful Book

The Titanic before the tragedy

A scene from the award-winning movie Titanic

On the way to see the movie Titanic several years ago, I mentally prepared myself for a heavy experience. Everyone knows how the story ends. How were the screen writers going to keep this movie from being depressing?

If you’ve seen the movie, you know the answer. Titanic opened and closed with the return of a survivor to the scene of the sinking. The entire story of the ship’s final voyage was told as a flashback. The movie was not depressing at all. In fact, it won 11 Academy Awards, including best picture.

In books, as in movies, conceptualization is key to good storytelling. Writing engaging prose is only part of the challenge. If the book’s structure isn’t right, the best writing in the world will fall flat. That’s why I devote considerable effort at the beginning of every book project conceptualizing the book’s approach.

For example, when retired U. S. Air Force officer Lee Ellis, the author of Leading with Honor, first approached me to be his ghostwriter, he had written a great deal about his experiences as a POW in Vietnam. He also had fleshed out ten or so leadership principles he wanted to highlight in his book. The challenge was how to integrate the story with the principles.

Establishing the Structure

Lee Ellis, author of Leading with Honor

Captain Lee Ellis prior to takeoff

Lee had lived the story, so it was difficult for him to step back and conceptualize how best to present it. One initial idea was to tell the story of his captivity chronologically, with the leadership principles at the end of the book. But that would make the leadership principles seem like an afterthought.

The same thing would happen if we put a single leadership principle at the end of each chapter, with no connection between that chapter’s story and the principle. His story was so compelling that it would overwhelm the leadership teaching. It would like saying, “Oh, and by the way, here’s another leadership principle.”

After much discussion, Lee agreed to my idea for restructuring his book. In the first two chapters, we told the story of his shoot down and capture chronologically. The leadership principles in these two chapters were about knowing yourself and guarding your character, respectively.

The rest of the chapters were structured topically. For example, in a chapter on communication, the story told how POWs communicated using various codes, such as by sending Morse code messages with broom strokes while sweeping floors. That chapter’s leadership principle was about the importance of clear communications in organizations.

Another chapter described some ingenious escape attempts. That segment of the story segued into a discussion of the principle of creativity.

The Result

This structure allowed us to balance an engaging story with related leadership principles. It worked so well that the book won several awards.

When writing a book, make sure your ghostwriter understands the importance of conceptualization. Much more is involved in writing a book than writing.

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What It Takes to Write a Book

Is 2017 Your Year to Write a Book?

Michael J Dowling shows you what it takes to write a book.  Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land

On New Year’s Eve, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the movie La La Land. But why am I talking about a movie in a blog about business book writing and publishing? Because a  major theme of La La Land is having the courage to step out of your comfort zone and pursue your creative vision with passion. That’s exactly what it takes to write a book.

It’s also what it takes to achieve extraordinary success. For example, consider the traits that high achievers like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg have in common. Certainly, one of the qualities is their ability to envision possibilities beyond their known abilities and pursue them with single-minded dedication. They are not afraid to step out of their comfort zones and take risks.

These are the types of highly successful people who write books. I can testify to this from my personal experience as a ghostwriter.

Bill Rossiter utilized our ghostwriting services to write a book

Bill Rossiter

This past year, I was privileged to provide ghostwriting and publishing assistance to Bill Rossiter, the CEO of the highly successful marketing firm Interrupt. In his well-received new book, Diverge: Break Away from Business as Usual, Bill maintains that if you’re going to be extraordinarily successful, you must think differently from your competitors.

Bill advises readers to set aside time each week for thinking creatively without distractions about vision. He personally does this by making an appointment with himself, which he actually puts on his calendar.

When Bill settles on a particular vision, he pursues it with passion and perseverance. He doesn’t sit around and hope it happens; he makes it happen. His favorite quote is, “Never grow a wishbone where your backbone should be.”

Lots of people say they want to write a book, but they never get around to it.

“I’m too busy,” is a common excuse. But the truth is that virtually all books are written by busy people, because successful people are always busy. With the aid of a ghostwriter (please excuse the self-serving plug), you can get it done with surprisingly little disruption from your normal schedule. And once it’s written, it could save you lots of time that you would normally spend explaining what you do and why people should do business with you.

What about you? Have you got a book inside you? Do you have what it takes to write it? Is 2017 going to be your year?

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How To Write a Financially Successful Book

leadville-in-winter-ii

What they do in Leadville in the winter.

walker-and-katrina-thumbnail

Katrina and Walker

My daughter, Katrina, and her husband, Walker, live in Leadville, Colorado. At an elevation of 10,578 feet, it’s the highest city in the United States (about 5,000 feet higher than Denver), and it once was second only to Denver in size. That was in the 1860s, when gold was discovered there. I guess that’s why they named it Leadville.

Today, Leadville has a population of 2,700, and as you can see from the photo above, they have to be pretty creative to keep occupied through the long winters. I check the Leadville temperature quite often on my Android. Right now, as I write this from my home in Charleston, SC. (temperature 64 degrees), I notice that it’s 16 degrees in Leadville, which The Weather Channel says feels like 2 degrees.

I’m telling you this fascinating information to set up the following question: Is is possible to write a financially successful book if your market is restricted to Leadville? 

You may be thinking, why bother? But the answer is yes. If you go about it the right way, you could write a book that would sell hundreds of copies strictly  to people who physically live in or around the city of Leadville. All you would have to do is come up with a topic that appeals to that niche market. I can even suggest a few possible titles:

  • How to Find the Gold in Your Backyard Before Somebody Else Does
  • How to Sell Lead Online at a Huge Profit
  • How to Improve Your TV Reception in a Snowstorm
  • 1,000 Ideas for Getting through February

 

Those are just books you could sell to natives. If you want to catch some of the thousands of tourists who patronize Leadville restaurants and bars on their way to Breckenridge or Aspen or wherever, you might try some titles like Is There Lead in the Leadville Water? or Are Leadvillians Dangerous Villians?

You get the picture. The key to writing books that sell is to identify your niche market and write on a topic that appeals to those readers. Too many people think their book has to interest everyone. It doesn’t. It should interest more than your mother, of course, but it doesn’t have to be a national bestseller to be financially successful.

To write a successful book, know your target market and write with those readers in mind. To learn how to make lots of money writing a book, read my white paper, “Seven Profitable Reasons for Writing a Book.” It’s available free on my website, and it’s targeted to readers in my niche market.

leadville-in-winter

The other view of Leadville

 

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