Last month, I suggested that you at least hire a developmental editor when writing a non-fiction book. (You can read the actual post here.) But as the words “at least” imply, I believe in most cases there’s an even better option. That option is to hire a ghostwriter.
If you’re thinking about becoming an author, here are three reasons why a ghostwriter can be your best friend:
A ghostwriter will make your job easier and more enjoyable.
Developmental editors are great. They offer valuable guidance about how you should format your book, and they provide helpful editing services. But even if you use a developmental editor, you will still need to do the bulk of the writing yourself, and that can be very time consuming.
Most of my clients are thought leaders, and their time is precious. As a ghostwriter, one of my major goals is to leverage my clients’ time, so the writing process is enjoyable, not burdensome.
When collaborating with a ghostwriter, you simply need to tell your ghostwriter what you want to say. Working from recordings of your conversations and from relevant blog posts, white papers, magazine articles you may have previously produced, he’ll write drafts for your review. The process will be far easier and more efficient for you, because your ghostwriter will do the heavy lifting.
A ghostwriter will usually produce a better final product.
When I’m working as a developmental editor, I feel somewhat obligated to minimize the changes I make to the author’s draft manuscript. If I think the material needs major rewriting or restructuring, I will certainly say so. But the natural bias of an editor is to improve rather than to innovate.
As a ghostwriter, I’m under no such constraint. Because I work hand in hand with the author from the beginning of the project to the end, I am able to help shape the format and content of the book to achieve maximum readership impact. And because I spend less time trying to guess what the author wants, my fees for ghostwriting are about the same as for editing.
A ghostwriter provides valuable objectivity.
Most authors I work with are experts in their field, and that can be a problem. When writing a book, they usually know too much about their area of expertise to see it objectively. Without outside assistance, they will tend to err in one of two directions. Either they will assume their readers know more than they do and omit important details, or they will overwhelm their readers with too much detail.
With a ghostwriter by your side assisting you with the writing of your book, you will be better able to see your subject from your readers’ point of view. A professional ghostwriter will help ensure that your message is clear, concise, and properly pitched to your target audience.
How the Ghostwriting Process Works
The process itself is straightforward. Usually, I like to begin by writing the preface of the book. It tells readers what the book is about, why it’s worth reading, and why the author is qualified to write it. A well-written preface, when combined with a preliminary and flexible table of contents, serves as a good road map for writing the entire book.
Most of my ghostwriting clients prefer weekly or biweekly calls. I’ll record what we say, write drafts based on the content of our call, and email the drafts to the client for review. In subsequent calls, we’ll review these edits, make additional changes, and add new content.
Typically, we’ll start at the beginning and work though the book one chapter at a time. Regular telephone appointments with the client provide helpful accountability to keep the project moving. It usually takes about six to eight months to write a book, depending on its size, complexity, and the scheduling flexibility of the author.
An Evolutionary Process
As we work through the various chapters together, new ideas will come to the author’s mind. Some of my clients have developed whole new business concepts and branding approaches while writing their books.
That’s one reason why I object to the methodology used by firms that churn out non-fiction books based on a limited number of initial interviews with the client-author. It’s unreasonable to expect an author to know everything he or she wants to say up front. The writing process should be dynamic, creative, and evolutionary, allowing for new ideas to emerge along the way.
To Sum It Up
Developmental editors and ghostwriters both perform very valuable services, and it’s important to know how they differ. At the risk of over-simplifying, I like to say that a developmental editor can help you improve the book you write, while a professional ghostwriter can help you create the book you envision.
Michael J. Dowling is an award-winning ghostwriter and publisher of non-fiction books for business leaders, executive coaches, professional consultants, entrepreneurs, and other thought leaders. He offers turnkey services that make the writing and publishing process understandable, cost-effective, time-efficient, and enjoyable for his clients.
Mike earned an MBA degree from Columbia Business School, where he was a Harriman Scholar, and a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Florida. Prior to founding Wool Street Publishing in 1999, he served as president of an educational publishing company, president of a national gift company, and administrator of a 1000-member church. He is the ghostwriter, author, or editor of numerous books and articles.