“The thing about ghosts is that they’re hard to pin down. They’re also somewhat reticent and don’t go around drawing attention to themselves unless there’s a good reason to find them.”
~ Elizabeth Goudge
Clearing up Misconceptions & Defining the Role
Like any professional specialty there are ghostwriters and ghostwriters. This is very important to understand when you’re deciding whether to hire a ghostwriter and then selecting the most suitable person for your project.
I discovered this quite early on when I added the label ‘ghostwriter’ to my profile. People would contact me and a few questions would elicit the fact that they were looking for:-
- Structural or line copy editing
- $.02 per word blog posts, articles, and social media posts
- Academic essays or papers for classes
- Co-authored Books
None of which are technically ghostwriting and the closest I get to any of these is manuscript evaluation for authors who want an expert second opinion of their draft.
So here’s my definition of ghostwriting just to clear the air:
A ghostwriter makes themselves the invisible, magical presence that takes the ideas that are swirling in your head and are confidently expressed in your presentations, coaching, or other activities and puts them into a book that reflects your knowledge, expertise, and personality.
Although the primary use of a ghostwriter is for books, they can also be used to create blogs, and articles to establish your authority, but should never be used for deceitful gain as in graded essays or academic papers and theses (an ideate may be helpful for the latter).
From my perspective, this is an important distinction. If you’re looking for someone to share the credit (a co-author) or purchasing license rights to an existing book which you can customise, it’s not really important for the book to reflect your knowledge, expertise, and personality. However, if you want to build your reputation and establish authority, then it is essential. That’s when you need a ghostwriter who will stand behind the curtain, so to speak, and shine the spotlight on you!
So… if that’s what a Ghostwriter IS, what should you expect?
Every ghostwriter has their own process, so let’s focus on the outcomes you can expect…
- A completed manuscript which looks, and feels, and sounds like you and accurately reflects your thinking and approach at the time of writing. (People’s views change over time which is one reason why that manuscript you’ve been working on sporadically for the past 5 years is never finished. You’re not writing the definitive guide that will stand for all eternity, so accept that reality, finish this book and then you can work on the next one.)
- The manuscript should be well-written, well-structured, and appropriately illustrated ready to be delivered for layout & publication. The structure, style, and nature of the illustrations will depend on the subject and style of your book and your ghost should guide you in this.
- The ghostwriter’s presence should be undetectable. His role is to present your ideas to the world in your voice so that the book has your unmistakeable stamp on it. There really is nothing new under the sun and it’s OK to accept that your ideas are derivative to a certain extent. What is unique is the particular approach and combination of ideas that give your service, coaching, or product it’s own flavour.
A good ghostwriter will guide your through the entire process from ideas to manuscript or take your draft manuscript and turn it into a polished jewel. Throughout the process they will keep the reality that this is a showcase for your expertise at the front of both of your minds and, while, freely offering their professional advice on matters of dispute or discussion, will allow you the final decision even if they have pointed out the implications of this path.
For more information, download my report: “How to Choose the Right Writing Process for Your Book & 10 Questions to Ask Your Prospective Co-Author or Ghostwriter”