Written by Ken Walker
Last year was the third highest for income during my freelance career. But when I recall highlights for 2022, there is none bigger than the awareness that I can’t do it all. Nor should I even try.
I recognized this after accepting two ghostwriting jobs last August. I was on the cusp of starting Book A when a freelance editor I had known for nearly twenty years offered me the chance to work on Book B.
I never should have agreed to handle the second book, but it was supposed to be a relatively short project that would pay well. Perhaps lured by the additional income or my own perceived invincibility, I accepted.
I thought I could work on Book B while not working on Book A. Two words for that idea: big mistake. Both required enormous amounts of time and emotional energy. I finished many days feeling overwhelmed.
To make life more interesting, at the same time I also had to shoehorn work on a memoir I had been editing since the previous December.
While the author of Book A wanted the book done in six months, when I drafted a letter of agreement, I made it seven months. I explained that I thought we should allow a month for final revisions.
The seven-month term turned out to be an incredible safety valve. I started on both projects in September, but wound up devoting most of my time to Book B. Besides initial interviews, I had to sandwich writing two chapters around a one-week vacation. It took the entire month to eke out the first chapter of Book A.
In early October, Book B went on an unexpected hiatus. The project editor decided the author needed some one-on-one coaching and said to expect a 10-day delay. I didn’t care. I was too busy ghostwriting Book A.
Ultimately, the delay on Book B turned into six weeks. When the project editor and I chatted on Zoom in mid-November, he talked about thoroughly revamping the book’s outline and condensing the two chapters I had written into one.
As we talked, my brain turned to mush. About thirty minutes into the call when he said—for the second time in two months—“If this is getting to be too much, let me know,” I saw my escape hatch.
“It is,” I said.
After further discussion, we agreed that the down payment I had received would be sufficient compensation.
Aside from enormous relief that Book B was gone, I learned my lesson. Soon after this, I was offered some developmental editing work that would require a lot of coaching. I could foresee needing big picture skills that aren’t my strength.
Instead of trying to forge ahead, I turned the work down. While I know freelancers always say we need the work, we don’t need it at the risk of our sanity.
Ken Walker is an experienced ghostwriter, coauthor, and book editor who has written, edited, or contributed to more than 90 books. They include a number of professionally published books in the fields of health, personal experience, and teaching, and self-published memoirs—the latter a growing niche in the publishing world. Ken is also an experienced freelance writer, having written for a variety of national publications. He is still a regular contributor to websites of two denominations. Ken enjoys using his writing and editing skills to help others relate what God has done in their lives. Samples of his work are available on his website, www.KenWalkerWriter.com, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.