I’ve been a ghostwriter and author since 2000 and I’ve written over 70 non-fiction books. I’ve ghostwritten books on leadership, self-help, executive coaching, sports psychology, investing, property development, Big Data, KPIs, politics, food and parenting. They include international bestsellers, an award winner and books that probably struggled to sell a few thousand copies. I’ve ghostwritten for busy CEOs and business leaders, property tycoons, international speakers, entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, millionaires and even a billionaire.
Don’t Ask A Ghostwriter These Questions…
- Will you write the book for a share of the royalty? Unless you are Sir David Attenborough or have half a million Twitter followers, then the answer is probably “No”. This may sound harsh but it takes hundreds of hours to write a great book. If you asked a newspaper to run a free full-page advert and split the resulting sales 50/50, they would say, ‘No’. It’s unlikely you would hear anything different from the marketing agency if you asked them to create a campaign for free and instead share the revenue 50/50. Writing a great book is tough but even with a great book sales are too unpredictable for this approach to be viable. It’s also very difficult to manage logistically. Most professional ghostwriters, myself included, charge a flat fee. It’s usually based on size, additional research and author clarity.
- Could you read these books and write my version? Some ghostwriters will take this type of work but I don’t because the author in this situation is not adding anything new to the topic area. It is essentially plagiarism. I enjoy working with experts who are seeking to present a new way of looking at something, new idea or insight while also properly acknowledging and referencing the people who have influenced their thinking.
- Will I get a publishing deal? See answer 1. Unless you are famous or have a significant platform then probably not. Publishers, more than ever, are looking for people who can sell their own books. So, do you speak at events? Perhaps you have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media platforms. Do you present a regular TV or radio show? Maybe you have a large email newsletter list. If you have reach, you will find it easier to get a publishing deal but if you have those connections already why would you want a publishing deal? You could ‘Indie Publish’ and make more money from your own sales. That said, traditional publishing does still have merit, especially for those authors who are already busy. Depending on the genre I can sometimes get manuscripts I’ve worked on read by the appropriate commissioning editor but there are no guarantees.
- Will I get on Oprah’s couch or into a book club? No. For a start, Oprah doesn’t have her TV couch anymore. The point is, these types of bookselling mega opportunities are incredibly rare and very unlikely – unless you have an existing connection. Amazing things are possible with smart online advertising such as Facebook or Amazon Ads, but it can get expensive. I worked with one author who sold 50,000 copies of her book using Facebook advertising.
- Will the book make money? Probably not – especially if you hire an experienced ghostwriter. That can be tough to hear but it’s better to know this before you start. The only commercially viable reason to hire a ghostwriter is if the book can deliver benefits outside royalty income. If the book can cement your position as a thought leader in your industry, if you offer professional services, if you are a speaker, consultant or business owner then a well-written book is a smart and shrewd investment. I’ve worked with authors who sold less than 1000 copies but where the book has brought in millions in new business. The truth is you may not even breakeven if you hire a ghostwriter, but you will get a product that will deliver countless business building and brand development advantages that should pay for the book many times over.
The key is to be realistic and clear about your objectives. If the only reason you want a book is because you like the idea of being an author, then it may be better to turn the project into a hobby and try to write the book yourself. I’ve written a book called How to Write a Book in 33 Days that walks you through the process for non-fiction books. Make it an adventure. If you are committed to being an author and recognise the value it can deliver then consider hiring a proven ghostwriter. Either way, go in to the process with your eyes wide open. Good luck.