Category Archives: Professional Behavior

My Brief Career as a Ghostwriter

Getting to where I am today has been a long and winding road… and it definitely wended through some unexpected territory. I started writing at the ripe-old age of six, in 1989. My first-ever story—titled The Magic Christmas Tree—won a CBC radio contest here in my Canadian homeland and the complete text was read live on the air during the morning drive to about a million people. Hilariously, that probably represents my greatest marketing reach so far. It’s been all downhill from there, folks!

But I kid.

Writing, not surprisingly, does not (yet) pay the bills, which brings me to my day job as a book editor. I got my start when a friend of a friend, who operated a small press, was looking for a contract proof-reader. I thought I was eminently qualified, and it would make for a great book-related part-time gig. A decade later, that gig is now extremely full-time. And not only do I edit books, but I now also edit a newspaper—the perfect encapsulation of how freelance careers constantly evolve and change over time.

For a brief moment in time from 2007–2008, however, I added another line to my résumé: ghostwriter. The combination of my journalism degree, editing, and writing skills made this seem like a perfect fit. In that single experimental year, I wrote a total of three books on contract—one of which was published traditionally, another which was self-published by the author, and a third whose fate remains a frustrating mystery.

The first book I worked on is actually the mysterious one. I was contracted by a publisher to conduct extensive interviews with the author, then fashion that raw material into a 75,000-word memoir—or at least, the first draft. I was hired for nothing beyond that. The project lasted two months, from start to finish, and indeed I wrote a first draft just shy of 75,000 words. That’s the fastest I had ever written, but I was driven to meet the tight deadline. I haven’t read this manuscript since I proofed it, and frankly I’m a bit scared to. The publisher was very pleased with the result, and so was I at the time, but nothing came of the project. While I continued working extensively with that publisher for another year, I never heard back from the author, despite many attempts to reach out—which has always puzzled and frustrated me. I would sure love some closure, but I think it’s unlikely at this point. My strong suspicion is that the author’s relationship with the publisher deteriorated significantly, and the radio silence had nothing to do with me. Anyway, like I said, I haven’t reviewed the manuscript since, but the author’s story was a very dramatic one. It’s too bad nothing came of this. With some additional collaboration and polish, I feel this could have been a phenomenal book.

The second ghostwriting project came along about six months later, through that same publisher. In this case, I was working with two authors—a brother and a sister—on a memoir with dual narratives. Just like the last one, it was a hugely dramatic story and I was excited to be a part of it. This book proceeded similarly, and in a comparable timeframe, but the manuscript was only half as long. It was a very challenging memoir full of child neglect and intense abuse—physical, sexual, and emotional. This was a rollercoaster. The final, edited manuscript ended up just shy of 40,000 words and was duly published. This one I have read since, and I remain proud of it. I also have a great relationship to this day with one of the two authors, and it has since led to a number of great professional opportunities—one of which, in a really roundabout way, was attending the first Superstars Writing Seminar in Pasadena. Overall, a challenging but satisfying experience.

I performed many other editing projects for that publisher, but no further ghostwriting opportunities came up in the months that followed. We amicably parted ways a short time later.

Around this time, a close friend of mine hired me to help him write a book, and this is the one that ended up being self-published. I worked closely for several months with him and his wife, producing a great, short manuscript of about 30,000 words that carried a lot of punch. It was based on the author’s messy divorce and subsequent relationship woes. Instead of being a full ghostwrite, this was more of a collaboration, with the author and his wife contributing about half of the material. I then edited all that and grafted it into the larger manuscript I’d been working on. In fact, I believe this book ended up winning an award or two. I still have copies of this book kicking around my house, and I’m quite fond of it. The authors continue to be among my most cherished friends.

Even though I ended up not pursuing a ghostwriting career, my experiences were largely positive. The only reason I didn’t continue is because I decided not to market myself; starting in 2008, I took on a huge glut of very profitable editing work that took priority, and I haven’t had occasion to look back. I don’t regret leaving ghostwriting behind, but I also can’t say with any certainty that I won’t try it again someday. I can honestly say that it was intensely challenging and enjoyable. I grew by leaps and bounds that year, producing my best writing output before or since.

Evan BraunEvan Braun is an author and editor who has been writing books for more than ten years. He is the author of The Watchers Chronicle, whose third volume, The Law of Radiance, was released earlier this year. In addition to specializing in both hard and soft science fiction, he is the managing editor of The Niverville Citizen. He lives in Niverville, Manitoba.

Ad Astra and Can Con

As a Canadian, travelling out of the country to attend cons involves a big trip with advance saving and planning, and most years it’s just not affordable for me to travel internationally.  Fortunately, there’s some great cons in Ontario that have offered me some opportunities closer to home.

adastraAd Astra is held in April each year in Toronto.  Can-Con is an autumn convention that’s taking place this year in Ottawa from October 30 – November 1.  It’s my pleasure to be a panelist at Can-Con 2016 and for anyone reading who’s going to be with us in Ottawa this fall, I look forward to seeing you then!

Ad Astra is Toronto’s sci fi and fantasy convention with a focus on authors and other creative professionals.  Can Con, the Conference for Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature, invites writers, editors, and academic professionals in fields that range from physics and astronomy to Renaissance Studies to speak in their areas of expertise.

Both of these conventions are different from the typical Comic-Con in that they put a special focus on writers and creators.  While these cons are still fandom-friendly, their focus isn’t on TV actors, cult film or licensed merchandise.  Both conventions offer a good variety of panels that include how-tos for hopeful authors, advice for new authors, discussion of issues of interest to or affecting the speculative fiction community, book launches, and more.

Since the focus of these conventions isn’t on commerce, I find the dealer’s rooms to be significantly smaller than at conventions such as Ottawa Comic-Con, GAnime, or HalCon.  However, the people who do go to those dealer’s rooms are going to be specifically interested in buying books (as opposed to licensed merchandise).  Getting a table is something I’ll be looking at doing in future when I have full-length novels to sell (right now, my stock consists of anthologies in which I am one of many contributors).


The last time I was at Ad Astra, I volunteered to sit at the Dragon Moon Press table with copies of When the Hero Comes Home 2, the anthology that published my first professionally-sold story.  Helping out was important to me for several reasons.  Because the publisher had paid for the table, there was no financial cost for me to meet people and help sell books.  I was able to watch and learn from my fellow contributors who’d worked at con tables before.  While I was sitting there, I got to form friendships with my fellow authors.  And as a matter of professionalism, in the future, I know the editors and publishers would rather work with someone who’s ready and willing to lend a hand, rather than someone who prefers to avoid work and responsibility.  It was easy to approach and talk to fans with a shared interest in speculative literature.

The down side of this arrangement was that since it was a specific publisher’s table, we couldn’t use the table to sell books or anthologies by other publishers.  Trying to sneak other books onto a table someone else had paid for would have been extremely disrespectful; we didn’t, and I don’t recommend it to anyone.  One of my fellow authors got around this restriction by volunteering to cover another author’s table while he was at lunch, panels, etc.; in exchange, the other author agreed to host her books at his table.  Another author held a book launch event at a restaurant off-site.  For my part, I talked about the different things I’d written and had a few interested buyers asking to purchase my other anthologies, which I was able to direct them to online.

Ad Astra was a valuable experience for me because I was able to meet my first publisher and editors face-to-face, and also network with my fellow authors.  The writing community is a relatively small one, which can be both to your advantage and your disadvantage.  Advantage, in that this little bit of networking has already opened up some excellent opportunities (more on those later, when I’m at liberty to discuss them!)  Disadvantage, in that news of poor manners and bad behaviour will circulate quickly.  Make sure the reputation that precedes you is a good one.

After only two years people are already beginning to recognize who I am and what I write.  How often do you get to build your professional career and have fun doing it?

The Savviest Thing I Could Have Done


I’ve been negligent. I like to blame it on the fact that I’m a recluse at heart. But that’s not an excuse—or at least, not a very good one. In the writing game, we authors are frequently called upon to step outside our comfort zones.

Well, for me, attending a convention is about as far outside my comfort zone as it’s possible to get. It’s not that I’m afraid of people—or strangers—but I’m not a good socializer, and an even worse self-promoter. As this month’s posts are so far making pretty clear, conventions are largely about socializing and self-promotion!

Three years ago, I stepped out for the first time and bought my ticket to attend the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto. I didn’t know what to expect… and I was intimidated. It helped that a few of my good writing friends were also going to be there.

I turned out to be woefully unprepared. I didn’t have any elevator pitches worked out, nor had I familiarized myself with the list of attendees. I hadn’t scouted out any editors or agents to approach either. This sort of homework is second nature to seasoned convention goers.

Fortunately, I got some much-needed assists from my friends and fellow Fictorians, particularly Ace Jordyn and Nancy DiMauro. Upon arrival, I went out for lunch with Ace, and she quickly set me at ease. As a WFC newbie, it was helpful to have someone to tag along with and make introductions on my behalf.

On the second night of the conference, I found myself wandering the Tor Books party in a suite on the top floor of the hotel. The room was packed to the gills. This is precisely the kind of scene that usually makes me uncomfortable, but Nancy pulled me through the crowd like an expert.

At some point, I found myself at the bar—an awkward place to be, seeing as I barely drink. The bartender made eye contact with me and said hello. Before I had a chance to reply, I glanced at his nametag—and instantly recognized the name. This was no regular bartender, but one of those big-time editors I knew I was supposed to be watching out for.

All things being equal, my most likely impulse would have been to clam up and back away slowly.

I surprised myself. “Hey there, it’s good to meet you. I’m a huge fan of the line of Star Trek books you edited.”

Caught flat-footed? Certainly. But this had the virtue of being honest. I knew this editor had worked on Pocketbook’s line of Star Trek novels for many years. While in high school, I had collected hundreds of those books.

As it turned out, we didn’t get the chance to talk about my own books—or even the fact that I was a writer. He was a big Star Trek fan, I was a big Star Trek fan, and we found all sorts of things to talk about between poured drinks.

Before I knew it, I’d said goodbye and wandered off, pleased with myself and happy to have made a connection.

Nancy intercepted me a short time later and asked all the practical questions I had neglected. Had I given him my pitch? Had I gotten his card? Had I given him mine? Had I asked for an opportunity to submit my completed novel for him to take a look at? No, no, no, and no. Good grief, I hadn’t even thought to bring business cards. As I’ve said, I didn’t know what I was doing.

It turns out that using this fleeting connection to talk about Star Trek was absolutely the savviest thing I could have done. The convention was packed with writers clamoring to get the editors’ attention. Instead I treated the editor like a person and got the chance to casually talk about our shared interests. And I think I made an impression.

Nancy insisted that I go back later in the evening. I did, and I walked away having given my pitch, gotten his card, and been rewarded with the opportunity to submit my completed novel. Not bad for a newbie!

Evan BraunEvan Braun is an author and editor who has been writing books for more than ten years. He is the author of The Watchers Chronicle, whose third volume, The Law of Radiance, was released earlier this year. In addition to specializing in both hard and soft science fiction, he is the managing editor of The Niverville Citizen. He lives in Niverville, Manitoba.

Not All Cons are Created Equal

For fans, conventions are all about having fun, meeting people who share your interests, and having a weekend of unbridled and unapologetic geekiness. We gather at convention halls to meet our favorite authors or film stars, to attend panels, and to shop for art, books, collectables, costumes, and gadgets. Conventions are inherently a celebration of all that is nerdy, and so it only makes sense that they be as varied as the fans who attend them.

However, as authors, conventions are also a business trip. At a convention, we can sell our books – both to industry professionals and directly to fans. By observing what is popular, we can keep our fingers on the pulse of fandom and learn the tastes of our target audiences. The convention hotel bar is a great place to meet people, network, and make friends who understand the struggles of being an aspiring author.

Even though conventions are an invaluable experience, I know of very few people who have an unlimited budget and the freedom to travel as they please. The rest of us need to choose carefully how best to use our vacation time and financial resources. Even if you don’t consider all of the seminars and workshops offered, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of conventions worldwide. The task of narrowing down your choices may seem overwhelming, but if you approach selecting conventions with your goals in mind, you can make the process much more manageable.

Though all conventions are unique experiences, I’ve noticed that most seem to fall somewhere along a series of five continuums. By properly placing the perspective convention, I have found it easy to evaluate the convention’s personality and utility to an aspiring professional.

CONTINUUM 1: Big Cons vs Small Cons
Much of a convention’s personality is a function of its size. Cons with larger numbers of attendees have more leverage with local hotels, businesses, and governments as they represent a massive and predictable influx of tourism. As such, they will be able to secure special rates with the nearby businesses, and convince local municipalities to shut down roads and parks. They will attract the attention of higher profile guests and be able to pay for their appearance fees, travel, and lodging.

No matter how much good the influx of a hundred thousand people does for the local economy, there is a draw back. Larger cons are inherently more chaotic, have longer lines for events, and tend to react more slowly to change. They can easily become overwhelming for someone who is unused to or uncomfortable in those sorts of crowds. It’s also very hard to get noticed in such a large group. If you are looking to shop a book, for example, I’d recommend somewhere a bit more intimate, where you can take the time to get to know agents and editors rather than have 2.5 seconds of their attention as you pass in the mass of humanity.

CONTINUUM 2: Party Cons vs Business Cons
Some conventions, like World Con or World Fantasy, are largely focused on getting business done. Sure, there’s still partying, but most of that is geared towards networking. Editors and agents go to these sorts of conventions to acquire new talent and catch up with old friends in the industry.

On the other hand, conventions like Dragon*Con or Salt Lake City Comic Con lean more heavily towards celebration than business. Though it’s possible to seal a deal at these sort of conventions, the odds of getting the attention of an industry professional are not in your favor. They are, however, a fantastic place to meet and interact with fans, as well as sell lots of books in the dealer’s room.

CONTINUUM 3: Narrowly Focused Cons vs Multi-Track Cons
When you are in charge of organizing a con’s content, how do you choose? Some cons focus on a single vein, such as steam punk, horror, anime, or even the works of a particular author. For example, JordanCon is a convention held each spring in Atlanta. Its founders chose to focus on the works of Robert Jordan and all things tied to the Wheel of Time. On the other end of the spectrum, Dragon*Con, also in Atlanta, is a sprawling agglomeration of every possible fan interest. You get a lot more depth at a convention like JordanCon and a greater variety at a gathering like Dragon*Con. Both approaches have their advantages.

CONTINUUM 4: Content Cons vs Dealer’s Cons
Though every convention is going to have some sort of dealer’s room, some conventions, such as World Fantasy, focus mostly on the panels, parties, and other social interactions between fans and guests. On the other hand, conventions like San Diego Comic Con have massive dealer’s rooms and much of their attendees’ focus is on acquiring merchandise and collectibles. If you are looking to learn something, go to a content con. If you are looking to buy from vendors or sell to consumers, go to a dealer’s con.

CONTINUUM 5: Static Cons vs Traveling Cons
Some conventions, like Bubonicon or Space City Comic Con, are held in the same city, even some times on the same weekend, year after year. They are inherently easier to plan for, and tend to have better relationships with local business and governments. Additionally, local celebrities and authors tend to adopt a “home convention” that they attend year after year.

Other conventions, such as any con with the word “World” in the title, travel to new destinations each year. What they lack in stability, they gain in variety of experience and often leverage with the locals. After all, Spokane, Washington likely bent over backwards to win their 2015 bid for World Con. Albuquerque, New Mexico on the other hand probably won’t go to the same extreme for Bubonicon, which is held there year after year.

Want to see the world? Follow a traveling convention, but you’re travel costs will likely be proportionally more expensive. It’s often best to catch such events as they cycle through a city near you.

So, how do you know what sort of convention you’re in for? It’s simply a matter of research. Your social network will go a long ways to help you with this. Find friends who have been to the convention in question and ask them their opinions and experiences. Another good option is to peruse the convention website. What sort of guests are they expecting? Cons with guest lists heavy in celebrities and authors often are content cons while those who have tons of artists lean more towards the dealer’s floor. Additionally, you can search through public media, blogs, and social media sources for coverage of the previous year’s event. Those sorts of articles will often report attendance numbers and focus on the perceived high points of the convention’s programming.

Ultimately, only you can know what sort of convention will best fit your needs and interests. Are you actively trying to sell a book to traditional publishers? You might focus on finding a small, business focused con. Or, are you trying to meet your favorite author or celebrity? In which case, you should look for a large, narrowly focused, static con. Do you want to be entertained at a party, content focused convention, or are you trying to find a rare printing of a comic book at a dealer’s convention? There’s a buffet of experiences ready for you to sample. All you have to do is pick up a plate and make a decision as to where to start.