Do You Think He Needs A Ghostwriter?

Michael Phelps is writing a book.

I'm guessing, just a wild stab, that somewhere near Baltimore a ghostwriter hit the jackpot and will spend the next month hanging on every word Phelps says.  They are getting this baby out in time for Christmas, so its obvious Phelps is not going to write it himself. 

The book is going to be called Built to Succeed, and it'll outline his philosophy of training as well as his life being raised by a single mother.

By the way, that single mother is to blame for a wee little shopping spree I took yesterday.  Women of a certain age, such as myself, are greatly enamored of shopping at Chico's for a variety of reasons.  Chico's clothes have a certain, highly recognizable look to them.  Every time I saw Debbie Phelps sitting in the stands, I'd think, she's wearing Chico's.

Well, I was right.  And the company figured this out, too, and immediately put together the Debbie Phelps Collection on their website.

Pretty brilliant marketing, don't you think?

I was reading about that yesterday and thought, hmm, Chico's, its been awhile.  And I have coupons, too!  Maybe I could just take one tiny little look at the website….

And thus a shopping spree was born. 

I justified it by telling myself I need clothes for the upcoming orientation weekend at the Loft in Nashville, and its true.   And by the way, while I'm speaking of the Loft, our next semester kicks off on September 12th in Nashville.   There's no better way to learn to write than to study one on one with a mentor.

And I'll be stylin', too.

Wish I Had This Ghostwriting Gig

In my travels through the world of blogs about celebrities, one of the rags I’ve come to know and love is The Daily Mail out of the UK.  Don’t ask me why I adore this rag, when clearly one cannot believe a word they print.  Perhaps it is for the bizarre photos they print (Amy Winehouse wandering the streets at 3 AM are always favs) or the strange English celebrities they follow (Peaches Geldorf) or the stupid photo-essays (today they featured one on the trash that Brangelina left behind after giving birth to twins).

Time and time again I get dragged onto this site by enticing headlines and today was no different.  How could I resist this lure:  Katie Price Reveals: I Don’t Write My Best-Selling Novels! 

Now, I have no idea who Katie Price is.  Apparently she also goes by the name Jordan.  What she is famous for eludes me. Oh wait, the article says she was once a lad’s mag favorite.  Don’t know precisely what that is, but I can guess.  At any rate, she has apparently “written” three novels, the first of which, called Angel, sold more than 300,000 copies in the first two weeks it was out.

And now comes the shocking news that she didn’t write these stellar tomes.  As the Daily Mail notes, “But just when it seemed there was no end to the model’s extraordinary talents, she has admitted enlisting more than a little help.”   Ms. Price, or Jordan, or Katie, or whatever you want to call her, says she simply doesn’t have time to write these books that have her name on them.

That’s a ghostwriting job I’d like to have–and I’m hoping that whoever the ghostwriter is, he or she got a healthy paycheck to begin with and an either healthier bonus when the novels hit the bestseller list.

A Day in the Life

6:30.  Rise, stumble to the coffeepot, take coffee with me to the journal, sit and write for an hour.  Best part of the day.

7:30.  Check email; try not to get too engrossed in letters from friends or the latest celebrity gossip news.

8:00.  Walk with my friend Sharon.  We’ve been walking together, three times a week for over 20 years.  Damn, even I’m impressed by that.

9:00.  Eat breakfast, laboriously work on the Sudoku puzzle, pat myself on the back for being brilliantly close to solving it and then realize I’ve screwed up.

9:30.  Back to work.  I know, total grossness–no shower.  Lately I’m lucky if I get in the shower by noon.  Such is the life of a writer.   Spend the next couple hours working on marketing, which always takes tons of time and is a pain in the you-know-what.

12:00.  Sneak in a little more work on my new project, which mostly exists in the journal and is way too raw to talk about.  Suffice it to say I’m excited.  There’s a shower in here somewhere, too.

12:30.  Lunch.  Oh yeah, that. 

1:00-ish.  Realize I’ve missed a call from a client, call her back and we talk about a ghostwriting project for quite awhile.  I’ve just finished one book for them and we’re in the process of shaping the next one.

2:00. Return a call from a new client.  She’s got a book she wants me to write.  I like the sound of it.  We’ll see what happens but I hope we move forward.

2:30.  Panic.  Two big jobs and another couple I’ve got to follow up on.  When will I have time to work on my own things? 

2:45.  Breathe deeply; feel better.

3:00.  Work on a  critique for students who live in Las Vegas.  I love these two–they are a husband and wife who write children’s books together.

4:00.  Email critique off, head out to bank, PO and Fred Meyer for food.  Buy shrimp for dinner and a whole salmon on sale at the unheard of price of $2.49 per pound,  plus a cedar plank to cook it on.

5:00.  Read a little of a manuscript, swear I’m not going to have a glass of wine so that I can stay sharp and work tonight.

6:30.  Pour myself a glass of wine and take it and manuscript and journal outside.  Talk to Lewis instead of doing any work.

7:00.  Realize I never called Candace back and call her while I fix dinner.  Steve is going to be home late, working on a project for the Abu Dhabi folks, anyway.  He’s going back there in two weeks and I’m heading to LA around the same time to meet all those new clients.

8:00.  Release delusion that I’ll get more done tonight and go fart around on the internet.  Burning question: how does Twitter make money?  Answer:  A. they don’t, yet, because they don’t have to, and B. they don’t know how they are going to, when they finally do have to.  Not sure why this fascinates me so.

9:45.  Panic, redux: realize I’ve not written a blog post in several days.  Sit down and have at it.

10:00.  Time to crawl into bed with the wonderful book I’m reading, The Tenth Gift.  Its about pirates.  Did you realize that millions of Europeans were stolen by pirates and sold into slavery?

The Ghostwriter’s Booksigning

I went to a book signing for a book I wrote the other night–only another person, a kind doctor, signed the books.  The cover of the book features his smiling face and this same image graces the posters that were propped all around the store.

But it would be impossible for you to find even the merest mention of my name anywhere near the book.  Why? Because I ghostwrote it.

Allow me to define ghostwriting for those of you who may still be confused about it (in my travels I find many who are).  A ghostwriter (moi) writes a book for someone else and that other person’s name appears on the book.  If I’m very lucky, the “author” might thank me in the acknowledgments.  On some occasions, ghostwriters get a “with” byline.  As in “Stupid Worthless Memoir by Famous Vacuous Star with Ghostwriter.”

But most of us ghostwriters get nada but a paycheck.  Which is why we do it, of course, because ghostwriting can be among the most lucrative of writing assignments.  You are writing a whole book, after all, not just an article or series of articles for a website.  You are expected to know how to take bunches of information, perhaps some interviews, and vague thoughts and organize them into a readable, informative book.

A great number of business and self-help books are ghostwritten.  Ditto with celebrity biographies and so-called novels.  (You really think Nicole Richie has ever read a novel, let alone written one?)  Rumor has it that some popular mystery series are actually ghostwritten and many readers believe that some of the most prolific romance writers employ ghostwriters to help them churn out the novels.

I can’t verify those rumors, though I suspect they may be true.   I also suspect that many novelists have learned their craft churning out books under the name of a best-selling author.  But I think I prefer to stick to non-fiction.

To my way of thinking, non-fiction ghostwriting projects suit me just fine.  I enjoy learning about different subjects and getting into the mind of the person who I’m writing as.  

Last week was the first time I’d ever actually experienced a booksigning where the “author” of the book was signing what I wrote. 

I had a blast, met a lot of nice people and reconnected with the folks who hired me.  The thing is, I don’t feel the emotional connection to the book that I would with, say, my novel.  And while I’m proud of the finished product, I’m not so invested in it that I can’t let it go.

We’ll be starting the next book in the series soon and I’m looking forward to attending future book signings.  I wish I could give the book some publicity and send you to the website, but alas, then it wouldn’t be ghostwritten anymore, would it?  (And let me tell you, the whole ghostwriting thing wreaks havoc on the old resume, since I can’t really blatantly list all the books I’ve written.)

Fun as this book signing was, I look forward to the day when I’ll be signing my own novel at a book signing!

Ghostwriting

One of the main ways I make my living is through ghostwriting, and I love it.  I get to write about topics I’d never write about otherwise, meet fascinating people, and enter the minds of those fascinating people.  Sort of like writing fiction, only not.

What is Ghostwriting?

Ghostwriting is when I write the book for you but your name appears on the book.  As far as the world knows, you are the author of the book.  If I’m lucky, you might thank me in the acknowledgments .  But even that is not really necessary.  Some big-time ghostwriters even get a “with” credit, as in “by famous person with ghostwriter.”  But not usually.

Who Uses Ghostwriters?

A better question might be, who doesn’t use a ghostwriter?  Generally, ghostwriters are employed for non-fiction projects, though many a novel has been ghostwritten (you can read a post I wrote about that here.)   Many of the best-selling business and self-help books are ghostwritten, as are those by politicians and celebrities. 

Not only famous people hire ghostwriters.  People in all walks of life who are too busy to write a book or simply feel they don’t have a way with word hire ghostwriters.  Working with a ghostwriter can be an efficient way of getting your book to print.

Why Do I Need a Book?

You may not have dreams of bestseller status, but you do need a book.  Why? Here are some reasons:

  • A book lends your career immediate status and prestige.  No matter what profession you are in, having a book to show for yourself gives you credibility.
  • If you do any public speaking, or aspire to, you need a book because many speaking bureaus will not book you unless you have one. 
  • A book  offers a potential  additional income stream.   You may choose to sell it on the internet or as a  back-of-the-room product.  If you are providing useful content on your website or blog, people will want to buy a book to read more.  If you are giving inspiring lectures, people will want to read more.  Give them what they want–a book.
  • A book offers you a chance to spread your message in a different channel.  Make no mistake, even iin this digital age, a book is still considered the ultimate authority.

What is The Ghostwriting Process?

People come to me when they have an idea for a book, have been struggling to write one for awhile, or need to get a product out fast, for any of the above reasons.  Generally, the client will have a fair amount of material or notes on the project ready.  If this is not the case, there may be quite a bit of upfront interviewing time required. 

It is my job to take this material and shape it into a finished product that reflects the voice and style of the client.  No two of the books that I ghostwrite will sound like the same author if I’ve done my job correctly.  I assess the potential readers and what sort of style might be appropriate for them, also.

Every project differs, but basically I’ll send the client constant updates of the the manuscript for him or her to edit and make changes on.  I guarantee my work and I’m not happy until the client is happy. 

How Long Does it Take?

The time frame varies.  I’ve gotten books out in as short as a month, while some projects tend to take much longer.

How Much Does it Cost?

While I have a base fee, again, each project will vary in cost.  It depends on how much material you have ready.  Some books really only need a rewrite or edit, while others require a massive assembly of notes and research.  Still others may need a lot of upfront interviewing time to pull the story out of the client, and this, of course, will cost more.   Please, please, please don’t assume that a ghostwriter will work for royalties only.  We’re professionals, too, folks, and we like to eat also.  Royalties are more of an “if” than a “for certain” and if they do every manifest, it may not be for months or years in the future.  Unless you can find a ghostwriter who needs experience and a credit to show, forget about asking us to work for royalties.

I’m Sold, What’s My Next Step?

Contact me  and we’ll discuss specifics.  If you’re not quite ready to hire a ghostwriter, and want to do it yourself, I can help coach you to get your book onto the page, too.