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What is a ghostwriter and why may you need one?

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

What is a ghost writer and why may you need one? And when should you actually write your own book? I'm just going to unpack that a little bit in this video. A ghostwriter is usually a professional author (that most often come through journalistic training) and they will take your story, all your ideas that are in your head, and they will actually drive them down into what is a written format.

Many people who may want to write a book have a lots of thoughts. They have lots of ideas. They know what the book's about, but the challenge is ‘how do I get it out of my head and onto paper?’ There are many reasons you may want somebody to write your book on your behalf (or with you). The first may be a lack of time. You’re a busy person. Just no time. The second is a lack of ability. You're not a writer. You may be a specialist in your field. You may be a musician… but writing's not your thing. The third is just a lack of interest. You've been told a million times you've ‘got a great book’. You've got a great story. Everyone wants to hear what you have to say, but you just don't actually really enjoy the writing process - or you've tried and failed. Any of these are good reasons and perhaps time to look for somebody to support you in the journey and get the story out of the ideas space and into the book. The first thing to know about ghostwriting and engaging a professional ghostwriter is it's not an inexpensive exercise. In fact, it should be expensive. And the reason for this is that you are paying somebody for a huge amount of their time. It starts with devising the structure of your book and asking the big questions What is this book about? Who is the reader? Which shelf is it going to go on in the bookshop? What are the chapter headings going to look like? So once that structural work is done, that ghostwriter is then going to invest almost as a year of their life to get the story out of your head and then onto a page. I have about 10 to 20 ghostwriters at my agency (depending on the time and who's available and if they are specialists in their field). The next step is to sign an agreement between you (as the commissioning author) and the writer (who is your hands and your voice). The agreement sets down the terms of engagement, the fees, how the fees are paid, who owns copyright. What happens if there is plagiarism? Whose responsibility is it to fact check? The writing process begins once the agreement has been signed. I personally work on a conversation basis. I've first got to get your structure right. That'll take a few, weeks or months of us working together. And then it's time to sit and verbally unpack all the detail and your story. That takes a lot of time. The process is pulling out of your brain new information. Six months down the line we'll give you back what we call the first draft of your book. And the first draft is a rough assembly. It's really all those things you've spoken about. All your intellectual property is suddenly in one place. It's not the final version on any level, because what then begins is an engagement between you and the ghostwriter. You start to add your own voice, your own word, you take things out, you put things in, you say this doesn't work but that does work. Then for round two we're going to revisit the whole book, move stuff around. Over the next few months that process will unfold. That’s how the game is played. The beginning structure is put in the right place and then the finessing and the fine detailing comes later. Once you've got those words down, no matter how good or bad or in-between or boring or exciting, they look suddenly you start to see your story unfolding. It's a collaborative effort and over the period of eight months to a year you will get to a place where you are holding a book. That book can open doors, change your life, continue your career, and put you in the realm of published author. Please remember the name on the cover of the book will be yours. The agreement with the ghostwriter will spell that out. That’s why the contract is so important. I've done this for 10 years and ghostwritten 10 books and four of my own. I have writers on my books who are also technical or specialist writers and can bring together all your material into a book from 30,000 words up to 80,000 words. This is an established way of getting a book out there in your name.

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