Ghostwriting: An Art Form All Its Own
One of the chief activities of my new company will be to ghostwrite books for first rate authors who haven’t the time, patience, or inclination to write entire books on their own. As an editor/publisher of nearly three decades, I can honestly say that I have ghost written scores of books; however, in most instances we didn’t call it ghostwriting.
Sometimes there is a fine line between thoroughly editing a book and ghostwriting one, and sometimes the difference is so great you can drive a truck through it. It all depends on the starting point. Are you starting out with a manuscript that is in decent shape but may require some organizing and rewriting? That’s probably an edit. Or, are you starting with a manuscript that needs help from the table of contents to the last page? Or something in between? The truth is, it doesn’t matter what you call it. I have always had a passion for helping authors to get their books just right. In doing so, I have identified a few rules which should be observed if you are going to get the [ghostwriting] job done—and done well:
* Always remember that it is not your book—it is the author’s—and you’re not him. That means you must abandon your writing style in order to get the author’s voice down just right. Remember, this is not your book so your voice doesn’t matter.
* Spend enough time—on the phone or in person—with the author to understand her needs and her goals. Once again, you must put your personal goals aside in favor of the author’s. Find out from the start what the author is trying to accomplish with the book, his or her key goals, priorities, etc.
* Experiment with different techniques to get the content and the tone just right. For example, I found that interviewing the author by speaker phone with a good tape recorder at hand is a great way to ensure that you are getting the right content and prioritizing the right topics, etc.
* Treat each project as if it was your last, because it just might be. Publishing is a relatively small industry. Everyone knows everyone and your reputation will likely precede you. So give each project your all. It is absolutely critical that you please both of your clients—the author and the editor/publisher. Leave nothing on the court or in the locker room.