The Entrepreneur’s Complete Guide to Ghostwriting
You have a book in your head that you need to write. You know it will help you and your business, but you haven’t done it, and you probably aren’t ever going to do it yourself. So, what now?
One common solution that a lot of entrepreneurs use is to hire a ghostwriter. A ghostwriter is someone hired to author a book that someone else will be credited for. Quite simply, you’re paying someone to write your book for you.
Shockingly, there is no comprehensive resource that answers all the common questions about ghostwriting and explains the different options to give authors a framework for making a decision. So, I will attempt to give you that here — a complete examination of all aspects of ghostwriting: the positives, the negatives, the alternatives, where to find writers and how to hire them, so you can decide if you want to use a ghostwriter — and if you do, how to do it right.
When to Use Their Voice
1. Main Ideas
The argument of the piece should be determined by your subject, no matter what your personal take on it is. Bear in mind that it’s going to be published under their byline. Your opinion is moot, and therefore should be mute.
Thesis aside, I also steer clear of adding or subtracting ideas. If a subject bothers to bring up an argument that means it’s important to them, and should be featured in the finished product in some way. Conversely, if the subject does not mention a topic, don’t bring it in, no matter how much you think it would bring the point home, clarify the argument, or sound awesome.
2. Signature Words or Phrases
“Bam!” is a fairly innocuous example, but I bet you can think of some favorite turns of phrase that are senseless, silly sounding, or unnecessary. But if this is how the subject talks, then this is how the subject would presumably write. Including signature words makes the article seem more genuine, especially to readers familiar with the person.
The only time I would strike or edit a favorite phrase is if it’s unintentionally grammatically incorrect. All other instances of “BAM!” “fuggetaboutit,” “survey says,” and “that’s all folks!” stay in.
3. Data Points
The problem is there are plenty of statistics out there that aren’t perfect. Sometimes, a subject offers up great data to support their points, and other times … less great. But I try to keep in mind that I’m not the expert here — there’s a reason why the subject used this specific piece of data, and it’s not up to you to judge whether it’s up to par.
I aim to use the majority of data points that subjects give me, but I always inquire after the source. That way, if I really feel shaky about the numbers, I can go back and check into their accuracy on my own. If I find a problem, I bring it to my subject’s attention and let them determine if it should still be published.
How Do You Ghostwrite a Book?
1. What is the Book About?
The first step, then, is to collaborate with the author to create an outline of his or her book. You should also ask the author to recommend several similar titles which you can read as research. (And if they say there are no books like the one they want to write, they probably aren’t reading enough. In this case, find similar titles on your own.)
2. Collect Written and Recorded Materials
Many authors will already have recordings of speeches, lectures, sermons, or other talks. Collect as many of these recordings as you can, especially recordings that apply to your topic.
3. Record Interviews
Interviewing your author is a ghostwriter’s most important task. An hourlong interview can make up an entire chapter in a non-fiction book. The better your questions and the more you can draw out of your client about the content of their book during the interview process, the easier the actual writing will be.
Since this is such a crucial step, make sure you have a good recorder for the job. And don’t forget to have a backup recorder as well. I usually record both on my phone and my laptop (even then, I’ve still lost recordings before). If you’re interviewing your client over phone, you can call them using Skype and record it using Call Recorder.
4. Transcribe Your Interviews
5. Write Your First Draft
The transcriptions of your interviews will become the backbone of your book’s first draft, which is why it’s so important to get a good interview. You will likely have to do a lot of re-writing and editing to make it fit into a full-length book.
6. Write a Second Draft
I never share first drafts with my ghostwriting clients. I’ve found that they’re just too rough. They make the client feel bad about the process. And so I do a heavy edit on the first draft, getting it as close to publishable quality before I send it to them for their review.
7. Author Review
8. Copyediting, Proofreading, and Beta Reading