Do you plan on writing a non-fiction book? If so, perhaps you’re thinking about hiring a ghostwriter. You may also be wondering what a ghostwriter does. In this post, I explain.

All kinds of people write non-fiction books: celebrities, politicians and business people are some examples.

Why do they bother? Well, it makes good business sense.

And some make big money selling books in stores or online. However, the benefits go far beyond sales.

Building a brand

If you’re a business person, your brand represents who you are and what you stand for. In a competitive world, it cuts through the ‘noise’ and differentiates you from competitors. Perhaps most importantly, a good brand engenders trust.

A book can be integral to building a brand.

Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Donal Trump’s The Art of the Deal are fine examples — these books shot their authors into the stratosphere.

On a smaller scale, ex-Bachelor Art Green bolstered his reputation as a health guru with Eat Clean, Live Lean: Art Green's Healthy Action Plan and Martin Hawes has penned several books, which cement his reputation as a financial adviser who knows his stuff.

Exposure from writing a book can lead to:

  1. Speaking engagements
  2. Media coverage
  3. More business.

I once ghost wrote a coffee table book for an aviation company. Its purpose was to mark 30 successful years in business. The book wasn't sold in shops. Instead, it was handed to employees, customers and suppliers. It was a wonderful PR tool; employees felt included, and customers and suppliers felt appreciated.

Why books work

In recent times, content marketing has become de rigeur. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, defines it as

“The marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

The content Joe Pulizzi refers to can be in the form of blogs, case studies, white papers and, of course, books.

Content marketing is 'non-salesy.' Instead, it works by educating consumers about products or services during the buying process. As a result, by the time these self-educated consumers approach a supplier, they have often already decided to purchase.

There is a catch

So, we all agree: Writing a non-book is often a good idea. There’s one problem, though: It isn’t easy. Everyone would be doing it if it was, right?

In reality, writing a book takes expertise and time — lots of it. Consequently, many budding authors give up, which is a shame.

If you have valuable expertise to share, a lack of writing skills needn’t get in the way.

The solution, of course, is to work with a ghostwriter.

What is a ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter translates your knowledge and ideas into words. Remember, it’s your story, not theirs. So, they must capture your personality — turns of phrase — so your book feels like it’s written by you.

A ghostwriter will do as much as is required. For example, perhaps you have written a book but feel it needs more work by way of editing, restructuring or additional content. On the other hand, you may have nothing but a fabulous idea.

Either way, a ghostwriter can help.

How does a ghostwriter work?

Here is a typical process for ghostwriting a book from scratch:

First conversation

It’s important that you and your ‘ghost’ are a good fit. So, the first order of business is to sound each other out.

These are some of the questions I ask clients:

  1. What kind of book do you want to write?
  2. Why do you want to write it?
  3. Who is your book for, and why will they read it?
  4. How do you envisage working with a ghostwriter?
  5. What material do you already have?
  6. How do you plan to publish?
  7. What is your budget?

I’ve bolded the last point: What is your budget? Writing a book takes a lot of work. To get an idea about what a ghostwriter costs, read this post.

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Making a plan

Once you and your ‘ghost’ have agreed to work together, it’s time to make a plan. This involves working through existing content (articles, audio of presentations you’ve done, parts of the book you have already written, etc.) and mapping out the chapters and scheduling interviews.

Telling your story

Your ghostwriter will gather most of the content for your book by talking to you — via Skype, phone or in person. They will probably have questions prepared; however, it’s amazing what ‘gems’ of information can be uncovered by veering off topic.

Conversations are recorded to ensure important points aren’t missed. This also enables your ghost writer to capture how you talk, which will influence how they write.

Transcribing

Most writers use professional typists to transcribe interviews — it’s more efficient that way. As a general rule, transcription of an hour-long interview takes three to four hours.

Writing

Now, the ‘rubber hits the road.’ In my case, to ensure we’re on the ‘same page’ (pardon the pun), I usually email chapters to my client as I complete them. This gives them the opportunity to make suggestions and edits as I go. Microsoft Word Tracker makes this easy.

Proofreading

No writer proofreads his/her own writing. It’s too easy to become oblivious to mistakes — even if blatantly obvious. For this reason, your manuscript will be sent to a proofreader.

Ready to publish

The last step is to give your book one final review before it goes to a graphic designer to be professionally formatted for print.

So, that’s what a ghostwriter does. Of course, there are other things to consider such as design, printing and promotion. Perhaps I’ll cover these in another post.

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  1. Good post Andrew. I don’t think most people realise the sheer amount of work that goes into writing a first draft, never mind the rewrits, revisions, corrections that take place.

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