Saturday, February 4, 2017
Ghostwriting Defended (Carter, 2015)
Mine may be a minority view, especially among writers, so I asked my British writer friend, Ginny Carter, if I could quote her recent letter sent to those on her mailing list, concerning how and why she ghostwrites. It follows:
Working with a book ghostwriter – the how and why
I’m sure you’ve heard about ghostwriters. They’re those slightly mysterious creatures who pen other peoples’ books for them, writing their content in their voice. They don’t have their name on the book (that accolade belongs to the author), but they do get to talk to a lot of interesting people. Maybe you’ve thought of hiring one yourself, or possibly you feel a bit suspicious about the whole thing and wonder why someone wouldn’t write their own book.
I’ll admit, when I first started my ghostwriting and book coaching
business, I wondered too. Would people would be ok with the idea of
asking a professional to write in their voice? It turns out, they would!
That’s because there are some serious advantages to this particular way of creating your book.
As an aside, many of our most well-known and most loved business books contain acknowledgements for ghostwriter assistance. Examples are: Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People/, Donald Trump in The Art of The Deal, and Richard Branson in Losing My Virginity.
Why use a ghostwriter to write your business book?
For a start, it saves the author time. Time they can spend more
productively on the business tasks only they can do. They don’t have to get up at 5am every morning to fit in a thousand words before breakfast – they can simply hand the heavy lifting to someone else to do it for them. This means they can focus on preparing the marketing for their book launch, and planning how they’re going to make the most of their book to build their expert reputation once it’s published.
In other words, hiring a ghostwriter might be the difference between a
book being written, and it staying in the author’s head (where it’s not
a lot of use to anyone).
Secondly, for many business people writing isn’t their main strength –
and why should it be? Worrying whether your sentences are flowing and your ideas are coming across clearly and persuasively can feel like a chore. I’m a big believer in outsourcing whatever you can. For instance, I’m terrible with numbers so I’ve always had an accountant; she saves me hours of time and makes sure my figures add up correctly, so I can sleep at night knowing they’re being taken care of.
Most folks are comfortable with the above, but sometimes it leads to the next question …
Isn’t using a ghostwriter a bit like cheating?
Here’s the thing. As a ghostwriter, I can (and will) only write my
author’s own thoughts, ideas and opinions. I’ll also write them in the
way they’d most like them expressed. Sure, I’ll add my own creativity
and writing skills into the mix, making sure their train of thought is
expressed in the best possible way. And I’ll speak up when I see things going off track. But the book comes from the author, not me.
In fact, the very process of working with a business book ghostwriter
means my clients have to get crystal clear on their core message and why it matters (something I help them with as we plan the book).
Are there any disadvantages to using a ghostwriter?
For some business owners, writing their book themselves is really
important to them; they want the personal satisfaction that comes from being both author and writer. The DIY approach can be a great learning experience and very rewarding, and also entails a lower financial investment.
So how does using a business book ghostwriter work?
I can’t speak for all of us ghostwriters, but this is my process:
1)I sit down and work out the book’s strategy with my client: what the
book’s big idea is, who it’s for, how these two factors fit together,
whether there’s a market for the book, and most importantly how it’s
going to help their business.
2) We work out an outline, using their content as a starting point.
3) I interview them via Skype. In these interviews, I draw out the story
from my client that’s bigger and better than the one they would have
found within them. Having a warm and trusting relationship is key for
this, and it can be an enjoyable part of the process for the author.
4) The calls are recorded and transcribed. These transcriptions, together with any written or audio material my client already has, form
the raw material for the book. The recordings and transcriptions
also help me to capture the tone and language used, so I can write in
5) I write each chapter, sending them for feedback as we go along.
6) We both review, creating around 3 drafts in total.
7) The manuscript is proof read and handed to my client. If he/she
wants, I help them publish and market it as well.
And that’s it, really. It seems pretty simple now, doesn’t it? Have you
ever thought of working with a ghostwriter to create your book? How
would you feel about it?
“The Author Maker”
Having read Ginny’s explanation of what she does, I must admit that, as she has written to me, I am “closer to being a ghostwriter than [I] think.” Since the famous authors she cited seem to have mentioned their writers in their acknowledgments, my biggest objection was met: they publicly did give some credit. Getting one’s name on the cover and title page is more valuable still, but now we are talking about degrees of recognition. Thank you, Ginny.
From my book, Write Your Book with Me, published in 2016 by Outskirts Press and available from OP as well as from online booksellers like amazon.com and bn.com.