“Your Secret Weapon: The ghostwriter you use when you don’t want anyone to know you didn’t write that book yourself.”
~ Debra Hilton
The above quotation is my tagline for my highest tier of authors… the people who for one reason or another do not want anyone to know or suspect they didn’t write their book themselves. Some of these authors already have contracts with traditional publishers when they come to me, others want to get such a contract so they can launch their book with the hope that it will reach New York Times or similar best seller lists, rather than just ranking in an Amazon category.
Not all my authors need or want that level of secrecy, so let’s talk about the different approaches to writing your manuscript for which you might want to hire a ‘ghost’. N.B. Manuscript evaluation and copy-editing is not the same as ghost-writing although many ghostwriters also provide these services.
As you can probably imagine, determining the structure of your book is one of the hardest and most essential parts of creating a non-fiction book that reads well and also focuses your reader on your knowledge and expertise.
Lack of structure is one of the greatest weaknesses in all the manuscripts I evaluate. It’s probably the primary reason why authors enrol in a course to help them write their authority book and then follow the template provided. Unfortunately, this can be a trap that leaves your book sounding either unconvincing or simply like a ‘me too’ reflection of other books in their field. If I were giving one piece of advice to an aspiring author it would be: make sure you carefully consider your goals and the intellectual property you are sharing so you can create an appropriate structure before you write a word. It’s much easier to fill those pages when the direction in which you are heading fits your thoughts. Sometimes working with a ghostwriter to create an appropriate personalised structure is all it takes to create the momentum for a business owner to finally get the book written.
The truth is, most people can write a convincing book if they have the time, energy, and motivation and they have an appropriate structure for their message. It’s really important to get this part right and to match the structure of your book to your business goals and thought process, just as you match the structure of your business with your lifestyle and financial goals.
Ghostwriting to Pull Together a Coherent Manuscript in Your Own Voice
You are unique. You have a unique voice, a unique perspective, and unique aspects of your process that are reflected in how you do business so you don’t want your book to sound like ‘anyone’, you want it to sound like ‘you’.
That’s why another approach to ghostwriting which some of my clients use is to offer me their manuscript and then ask me to turn the material into a book. I don’t love this approach, but it works as long as I spend enough time with my author to get to know their thinking and develop their voice. The reason this approach so often ends up delivering a generic-sounding manuscript is that most people lose 70-90% of their personality when they write so the manuscript they deliver is bland and lacks personality. Dictation and transcripts rarely solve this problem.
Different ghostwriters have different approaches to this. My goal when ghostwriting is to deliver a unique book that sets you and your business apart so I don’t cut corners during the interview and writing process if they’re going to jeopardise that outcome. That puts me in the more expensive bracket of ghostwriters and means that if price is your primary driver I won’t be the right ghostwriter for you.
A Unique Ghostwritten Manuscript
Some of my ghostwriting clients know that from the idea to the finished book is a long journey… and it takes longer if they insist on doing everything themselves. An additional benefit that I bring is the ability to reflect and augment their personality and style in the manuscript so that it highlights their unique differences as well as their thought leadership.
These people are comfortable with getting help from other people and acknowledging that assistance publicly. As in any manuscript the Intellectual Property and voice is theirs (I love learning new things and showcasing other people’s knowledge), yet the structure and presentation is collaborative (I create it, they approve or discuss modifications).
The big thing here is that I am free to talk about the project and also share results etc., but you have a book that sounds exactly as though you were talking directly and personally to your reader.
100% Anonymous – The Invisible Ghost
These are special projects. The process is similar to that involved in delivering a unique ghostwritten manuscript, but I sign a contract prohibiting me from mentioning or sharing my part in the process. Often no-one knows your book has been ghostwritten including your agent and publisher because I send it back to the author and they take charge of the final proofreading and editing themselves. It’s essential that this sounds exactly like the book you would have written yourself.
Why do people want this kind of project?
Often there is a time-constraint (eg. Trying to get their idea into the world before a competitor steals it), but the ‘real’ author can’t afford to have any one else’s name on the project. Sometimes it’s ego-driven, or it might be a matter of perception – the author feels that if they weren’t personally seen to have written the book it might be detrimental to their plans for growth.
The truth is that no one writes a book in isolation and most authors have some form of external input into their final manuscript. I like to think that when I work with an author, their final manuscript sounds like their best self presenting their ideas in the most polished form they have reached so far.