thinking of hiring a professional writer to help me put it down in good English
I don't want to invalidate the premise of your question, but your English is great already imho.
I don't know what your motive is, e.g.:
- Spend less of your own time on the job
- Get someone other than you to review what's written
- Find a different writing style, or voice (e.g. IMO my own writing isn't very personable)
- Help with marketing (before it's written and afterwards)
Does anyone have a clue where I can find a professional writer for hire that would be interested in exploring some Buddhist ideas?
I suppose a lot of people do. My brother's career has been editor and journalist; one of my nephews has at least a passing interest in Buddhism and (while an undergraduate) worked successfully as a contract author.
There's a semi-famous wildlife photographer, publishing coffee-table books. The publisher of his books of photos wanted to hire an author to write a one-page bit about animal species, one per page, to accompany each full-page photograph on the facing pages. They tried a professional writer: but they didn't know animals so their output wasn't interesting. They tried a professional zoologist: but they didn't know writing, or the public, so that wasn't interesting either. They hired my nephew, he researched each species and found something interesting to write about each one, and the result was accepted. He's about to graduate now, I don't know what if anything he'll do next.
I get the impression (from my brother) that there are a lot of freelance writers; that a career as a writer is often one short-term contract after another, rather than e.g. full-time permanent employment.
Part of my brother's job as a commissioning editor (of e.g. a newspaper, not of Buddhist books) is to know dozens of authors he can call on when he wants something written about whatever subject.
I gather too that journalists are often experienced at interviewing people and then writing about that, sometimes at great length: and that journalism is sometimes full-time employment and sometimes not, so "journalists" might have the kind of experience that scribewriting.com are employing in their "scribes".
Unrelatedly I know a novelist who runs a bookshop. She writes "young adult" (e.g. young teen) fantasy, if that's a style (a reading level) you'd find suitable. She's a daughter of a colleague of my dad's, lives in The Maritimes and so I guess might have spare time she'd swap for money.
Unrelatedly again I know another colleague of my dad's, one of whose sons is (or was) a lawyer in Boston, and who I think has (at least temporarily) quit his practice in order to help install a Tibetan Buddhist teacher (monk) nearby -- helping to establish a teaching centre or something, I don't know. Not that I have any claim on his time, but he's another example: able to write, presumably; already knows about and values Buddhism; and knows other people too, presumably (so he might say, "I wouldn't do it but I know someone who might be interested").
I was a "professional writer" too, for a while, but writing technical manuals for software products.
I guess any academic (professor or graduate student) might know of semi-professional writers too. I only don't know whether your project could interest them, and/or whether you're looking for anything specific in a writer or publisher beyond just "a professional".
In summary I bet there are a lot of people who know of some professional writers -- and I guess that that any of those (professional writers) are likely to know many more.
If you're looking for professional companies, like scribewriting.com with a process or end-to-end service, I don't know of any/others, but I'm not in that industry. There is a Writing.SE where questions about "publishing" are on-topic -- I guess that asking people to recommend specific publishers might be a "shopping question" and forbidden, but (apart from that) that might be a good place to ask questions about professional writing and publishing in general (perhaps not specific to Buddhism, although who knows perhaps someone knows something about that too).
How much should this cost? scribewriting.com folks charge $36k end-to-end, is this normal?
I've no idea.
I imagine the cost is subject to the "iron triangle" of any project:
- Quality: cheaper to do a slap-dash job featuring bugs using less-competent and less-careful staff
- Scope: the bigger the more expensive
- Schedule: may be cheaper if it's slower, finding the right people, finding cost saving or less-expensive components, doing it in spare time
I don't know that (writing) industry at all. I looked at scribewriting.com --
- Their process sounds plausible
- It's a multi-person effort (Publisher, Outliner, Scribe, Marketing)
- It might (or might not) be cheaper if you found one author (more a jack-of-all-trades)
- I don't know what the component breakdown is for that (who gets how much, how much you could save by doing part of it yourself, how much is their corporate profit, whether they give good value for money)
One of the things I notice on their front page is,
We’ve created a process that turns your idea into a book, and only requires about 50 hours on the phone over 7 months.
That ("50 hours" of your time) seems to me very little time in which to write a book, i.e. it represents your offloading a lot of work (a lot of time) from you onto them.
That may be what you want (if you don't have much time to put into the project yourself).
But that might be a reason why the cost is what it is (i.e. substantial): less of your time implies more work for them, so more expensive than e.g. your writing it and someone else's editing and reviewing it.
That might also result in decreased quality? I wonder whether you find the Dalai Lama's books satisfactory, for example -- IMO they're an example of books co-written or ghost-written, perhaps they're a bit superficial.
Your putting only 50 hours into it might imply someone more like a ghostwriter than a co-author, though kudos to you if you're efficient enough to do it. The process is also reminiscent of dhamma talks (i.e. publishing what someone said on a subject).
I was thinking it might be a difficult topic for a random scribe: perhaps you want it to be technical, enlightening, and a good length (sufficient but not excessive). But maybe that responsibility would still be yours, not the scribe's -- 50 hours of (your) speech might be book length. But writing a book yourself takes months, doesn't it? For research and editing etc. If you let them do that then the "good English" might be there, but it might be missing something quality-wise or content-wise, I don't know.
What are the best ways to raise funds for this? Does anyone know a philanthropist that would consider sponsoring a project like this?
If I launched a Kickstarter campaign, would any of you guys consider pre-ordering a book before it was written?
I don't know. No. Yes.
This is a polling question which this Q+A site doesn't support properly. I created a chat room for this question, in case people want to ask question, or post "Me too!" and so, rather than trying to write answers.
Anyone (a potential investor, potential co-author, potential reader) might want to know more about the book you're proposing -- perhaps an outline or table content, maybe the back cover too -- and I think they (e.g. agents and publishers) usually like to see a sample chapter as well (though maybe that's less applicable if you don't intend to write the book yourself).
I presume you have something in mind already. Anyway that's a different topic, a topic on which you're seeking suggestions here.
Anything else I need to know but forgot to ask?
Yes, ask if there's anything to know about Buddhist publishing, rather than writing and publishing in general.
- Buddhist resources (e.g. writers)
- Buddhist publishers (books, magazines, web sites, conferences)
In the past there have been some authors posting on this site (perhaps including Ronald still). Maybe one of them can offer any advice from their experience, and/or you might contact (perhaps you have already) any Buddhist authors or publishers (to ask for advice), via whatever contact details they may publish.
A chat site for Buddhists (e.g. perhaps the "water cooler" on sutta central) might be a place to ask this question too.
Sorry this is all just general advice, not something I'm an expert in.