I’m starting to think I should put this over on the ‘static’ half of my website in 24-point letters: hiring a ghostwriter is not less work than writing a book yourself. It’s just less writing.
Let me qualify that statement. If you just want articles, or even a book, written on a certain topic, and you hire someone with good research skills or appropriate expertise to write it, then the only work you really have to do is devise a scope of work. But that kind of writing isn’t really ghostwriting. It’s contract writing. Publishers of series like Wiley’s “For Dummies” do this all the time: they perceive a demand for a simple how-to book on a subject, and they go find someone to write it. Not all contract writers get bylines the way Wiley’s do, but the principle is pretty much the same.
Most of the people you find on sites like Elance are contract writers. You can hire them to write two dozen short articles on any subject you want for you to submit to article banks or post on your website.
But when you want to publish something that conveys who you are, you need a ghostwriter. Ghostwriters are the people who immerse themselves in your personality like an actor into a role, who get to know your habits of speech and thought so well that your own friends would never know you hadn’t written that book yourself.
And in order to do that, we have to spend a lot of time talking to you and working with you. We need to ask you questions and to see you at work and in social situations. We need you to provide raw materials like recordings and notes. We need to read what you’ve written and to understand not just your subject but your own insight into it. We need you to go over drafts we send you and tell us where something doesn’t sound like you and where something isn’t quite right.
And that means you have to put in some serious time and effort.
On the other hand, it also means that you have to articulate your thoughts and your values much more clearly than you might otherwise bother to do. That means a more readable, more focused book. What’s more, doing all that work makes it your book in a way nothing you’ve assigned someone to work on without you could be.
The obvious next question is, “If I have to do so much work anyway, why hire a ghostwriter?”
The obvious next answer is, “Because you need someone who writes better than you do.”
But there are some non-obvious answers, too:
- Working with someone else creates a sense of accountability. This can make it easier to meet deadlines.
- A ghostwriter may also know the publishing industry and the genre better than you do.
- A ghostwriter can help you refine your thoughts and choose the most marketable angle on your idea.
- In between those revisions and interviews, you can still run your business, so you don’t have to drop everything for a year to produce the book.
- A ghostwriter can bring your unconscious assumptions to light and ask the questions you’ve never thought to ask yourself.
But don’t kid yourself. If you want a book that really represents you, you’re going to have to work for it.