Once you’ve selected the writer you consider most suitable to handle your book or software project, it’s important you set out very clearly exactly what you expect — always keeping in mind what the writer wants from the experience. Ideally, you should both come away from the project having enjoyed a win-win situation you would cheerfully repeat.

This makes particularly good sense from your point of view, because, once you establish a sound working relationship with a good writer, you eliminate all that ground work in the future.

Here are the points you should cover in your detailed brief for the writer.

The sales letter: This should be as complete as possible, before the book is written. It should include every bullet point, referring to specific aspects of the book, so these can be incorporated in the outline of the book.

Writing style: As a general rule, e-books tend to be written in an informal manner, much as we speak. This will vary slightly with the subject. However, it’s true to say, any writer worth their salt will be aware of their “voice” and adjust it accordingly.

The working arrangements: I recommend you see every chapter, as it is finished, so you can check the book is shaping up in the direction you want. It’s important to set some sort of time frame for these to come to you. Bear in mind there should be an initial period, whilst research is carried out, when nothing will appear. However, much will be going on behind the scenes. Once the chapters do start appearing, you can expect them to appear more and more frequently as the muse begins to flow.

Revisions: If you carefully lay the groundwork, the need for revisions will be minimal. Do bear in mind a book is never finished and a writer, like any artist, will never be quite satisfied with their work. The more dedicated the writer, the truer this will be. Try to remember you’re paying for it all.

The first part of the book needing your approval is the Table of Contents. This should be more than just a bald list of chapter headings and outline the contents of each chapter in some detail.

Once created, and approved by you, the Table of Contents will form the outline of the book. The author should then start the first chapter, which should be sent to you for approval. You should then return this quickly with the agreed level of revisions clearly marked. If you’ve taken the trouble to have the author write a few articles beforehand, you should have few problems with either their style or content.

Despite laying the groundwork and selecting the author, your work is still not finished. You have to be:

Available: Always make sure the writer can contact you at short notice — even if it’s only a cell phone text message. If you go away, make sure they have your location and number. Make sure nothing you do hampers the work flow.

Prompt: Always deal promptly with any material sent to you for comment or revision. After all, if you don’t appear fully committed to the project, you can hardly expect the writer to maintain their enthusiasm.

Nothing sours a relationship faster than being a tardy payer, once the project is complete. So, once you’re happy with the finished book get the writer their payment without delay. Most ghost-writing sites, like Elance, have a system whereby they act as stakeholders and pay half the fee, once everything is agreed and the writer starts the project and the balance, when you signal your satisfaction with the completed material.

Flexible: If your writer comes up with an idea to improve the book, approach this with an open mind — even if it prolongs the production time or increases costs.

New students often tell me finding the time to write that first e-book, whilst they’re still on the job treadmill, is the biggest obstacle in getting their internet business off the ground. But, thanks to the global reach of the internet and the ghost writers of Elance, and other sites, it’s not a problem.

© Copyright 2005 Paul Hooper-Kelly