The term ‘ghostwriter’ conjures up certain images. Ghostwriters are invisible. Nobody apart from the named author and the publisher knows who she is. No moans or rattling chains for these ghosts. They are also imitators. Ghostwriters have a chameleon-like quality that enables them to write with other people’s voices. ‘You always end up sounding like me’ is a great compliment to a ghost.
The reality is more complex. Some ‘ghostees’ insist on total secrecy. Others like to have the ghost on the cover (‘by Fred Bloggs with Joanna Doe’), out of respect or because they think the ghost’s name will reassure the buyer that the book will be well written.
This is the main service we offer at United Ghostwriters. However there are other ways in which professional writers can help subject-matter experts get their message out into the world.
One is co-authoring. ‘The Beermat Entrepreneur’ (which you might have seen on railway stations in September, as it was ‘book of the month’ at WH Smith) is a book I co-authored with Mike Southon. Mike put in most of the material, but I added some of my own business experience. Rather than my trying to sound like him, he suggested I write in my own style, which he liked. We both agreed that if there was something in the text that the other didn’t approve of, it would be taken out. I think this model works really well, but there is a big caveat. The expert and the writer have to really like and trust each other.
A third model (alongside ghosting and co-authoring) is that of the ‘writing coach’. The coach will talk the expert through the book, helping them think through what the book is really about and how they will structure it. Then the expert goes off and writes it, with a little hand-holding as they do so. The writing coach may or may not then offer editing services and / or marketing advice at the end. There are a number of people offering such a service. Our own UG member Ginny Carter is one.
Professional writers will also edit existing manuscripts, but I think getting a little coaching before (and while) you write is money well spent.
Which approach should you choose? If you have a tight budget, then coaching will be a lot cheaper, as you do most of the work. If you have enough money and neither the time nor the desire to write yourself, hire a full-on ghostwriter. If you have a friend who is a writer, suggest co-writing to them and see what they say.