I’ve been a professional ghostwriter since 2000. I did a business degree and worked in marketing for about 10 years first in the UK and then in Australia. The marketing was initially for a bank (that was dull), then a charity (that was more meaningful) then in Sydney I was a senior project manager for a marketing agency. I loved the copywriting but not much else so in 2000 I quit being an employee for good and became a professional ghostwriter.
Goethe once said, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!” I found that to be true and a quirk of fate brought me my first book – SalesDogs by Blair Singer. Blair had written the book but wasn’t happy with it so I offered to rework it for him and if he liked it, he would pay and if he didn’t like it, he didn’t need to pay. He liked it and that book became an international bestseller.
It’s been an adventure and I’ve certainly learnt a few lessons along the way.
The 3 biggest lessons I’ve learned as a Professional Ghostwriter
Really involve the author.
Looking back this seems obvious now but when I first started, I wrongly believed that the author just wanted the book. Some do, but the majority of author’s really want to be involved. I remember being commissioned by John Wiley & Sons to write a TV-tie for an Australian TV show in the early 2000s called Auction Squad. The show involved a home being valued, then a team of celebrity make-over experts who come in and renovate the home in a day, then it would be auctioned – usually for considerably more than the original valuation. The book was the companion guide on how they did the renovations.
I met the celebrity team, watched a show being made as well as loads of past shows. From that, I worked out a structure and wrote the book. What I didn’t do was check in with the team and make sure they felt involved and connected to the book. I felt a little intimidated and didn’t want to ‘bother them’ but it was a mistake. The book came out and it was all their material but because they didn’t feel connected to it, no one pushed it or mentioned it on the TV show.
It sold OK but I’m sure if I had just kept everyone more involved and asked more questions, they would have felt that it was their book. For most authors, this is their life’s work. Sure, they may want help but they don’t want to feel left out of the process. I’ve never made the same mistake again.
If the author can’t explain to me exactly what the book is about then there is trouble ahead. Author and journalist Bill Wheeler once said, “Good writing is clear thinking made visible.” There is another quote that suggests that if you want to really work out what you know about your subject – write a book. Almost without exception, authors underestimate just how many words 80,000 words is. That’s the typical size of a nonfiction book and it’s not for the faint-hearted. It requires deep thinking and a strong narrative arc. A couple of natty diagrams on the back of a napkin won’t cut it!
If it’s about the royalty – run.
When I started, I never knew what to say when authors got excited about their book and how many it was going to sell. There were enthusiastic musings about getting onto Oprah’s couch back when she had her TV show. Now, I’m much more forthright. There is no money in books. It may sound harsh but I’m a great believer in reality. The ONLY commercially sound reason to hire a professional ghostwriter is if the book cements the authors’ position as a thought leader in their field.
Being an author still has power and kudos and a well written, content-rich book can be an awesome business card, it can open doors, increase business and brand awareness. The chances of it breaking even on royalty alone are minuscule but the business upside is massive. One of my first clients, how great friend self-published the first book we wrote together. Honestly – it looked horrendous. It didn’t even have copy on the back cover. Nothing like the beautiful books self-publishing can produce now. And yet by his own conservative estimation, the book has made him more than $1 million in business. No wonder we wrote two more!
Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions about ghostwriting or the service that I provide.