It’s the scenario every writer dreams of: #1 New York Times Bestsellers. Movie deals. Book deals for 10 novels, one after the next.
Who could ask for more? Yet in the crazy world of publishing, even this stellar trajectory does not necessarily translate into the professional or financial stability most people need.
That’s why Nicola Kraus, whose novels, co-authored with Emma McLaughlin, include blockbusters such as The Nanny Diaries, So Close, The Real Real and Nanny Returns, turned a page in her own career a few years back to add professional ghostwriting and editing into the mix. Ever fascinated by how writers leverage their unique creative skills into satisfying, sustainable careers, I caught up with Nicola recently to hear about her path. Her work has been a great source of inspiration to me, so I’m all the more honored to speak with her here today. Let’s dive in.
Q: You’ve written and co-authored 10 wildly successful novels, including the New York Times bestseller The Nanny Diaries — which was made into a movie starring none other than Scarlett Johansson. How did you make the jump from crafting fiction to editing and ghostwriting nonfiction?
NK: Well, it wasn’t so much a jump as an evolution with so many factors :) When my co-author Emma McLaughlin and I started publishing fiction in 2002 it was easier to sell enough primary and foreign rights that two people could split the revenue from one book and live in New York City. But after 2008 foreign sales became increasingly rare. Magazines stopped serializing fiction, and six-figure film sales were phased out in favor of four-figure film options.
If we had been one person living outside the city we would have been in great shape, but after we had children we were forced to make some tough decisions about what we wanted to be getting out of our time away from them. At that point our responses diverged. She decided to go back to corporate life and I decided to immerse myself in what I loved about writing in the first place: not just the craft, but the art and magic of it. I did that by starting to teach, or ‘coach,’ aspiring authors, giving myself the financial freedom to go back to making art for the creative pleasure of it.
Q: There are all sorts of misconceptions about what “ghostwriting” really means, and there seems to be a stereotypical notion that it involves sitting down and writing somebody else’s book from scratch. But I’ve seen all sorts of permutations, from helping authors get their first drafts into final shape to polishing already-solid manuscripts. Tell us how you work.
NK: Lol! No, I don’t put words in anyone’s mouths! I have manifold ways of working with clients. And they all stem from one fact: as publishers merged and were bought out in the oughts, houses started employing fewer and fewer editors, but published more and more titles. Meaning authors now need people like me to help them do what they could once have found within an in-house author/editor relationship. In an ideal world editors make significant changes, improvements and overhauls to manuscripts. Now I do so instead. For fiction clients seeking an, agent I line-edit and make plot suggestions. What separates me from most freelance editors, who are former editors, not authors, is that I don’t just identify what’s not working, I give viable options for how to solve the problem. Nothing makes me happier than editing a manuscript, then watching it get picked up by a major house. [Read more…]