7 Myths About Ghostwriting

Ghostwriting is one of those occupations most people know nothing about. Even when they do, it is not something one regularly hires. When you need your taxes done, an accountant is an obvious choice. If retirement and money management are important, a financial advisor is who to call. Your mechanic, plumber, hairstylist, or barber, all have their places in the lives of most as well. But how many people need someone to write for them?

Well, the answer is a lot more people than you might think. Writing is much like speaking in the fundamental principle that just about everyone is capable. But doing it effectively is another thing entirely. There are countless courses, seminars, and books on how to become a better speaker or writer for this reason. If you are not looking to make a career out of either one, it probably is not worth the time or effort to master the art form.

We all have a story inside of us to some degree. What to do with that story and the best audience for it are two questions a ghostwriter can help answer before you embark on the journey. Much like other topics where information is not readily available, ghostwriting can get a bad reputation. So, we will debunk the top seven myths about the process!

1) It is Cheating or Unethical:

Is it cheating to have a trained professional change the brakes on your car? How about allowing a pilot to fly the plane?

As ridiculous as that might sound, employing someone else to write your book is no different than either of those examples. Ghostwriters are trained professionals who have performed the task countless times before. They bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to help make the process faster and less painful for the person with the message to tell.

Imagine for a moment a scenario where a person knows the key to eternal happiness. They have spent the better part of their life devoted to uncovering the secrets and now want to share that information with the world so that more people might have the opportunity to be happy. Most would agree this is a rather noble cause and capable of making the world a better place. Now, think about what happens when that message is not shared because the person with that information cannot write!

A ghostwriter is not hired to make their client look like a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. If that happens as a byproduct, then great! But in reality, the ghost is merely a conduit helping convey the information from a source to a larger audience. The words are still those of the author but delivered through the efforts of the ghost. Many who employ ghosts are transparent about it since they are aware the true benefit is in the message, not the means.

2) The Ghostwriter Needs to Know as Much as You Do:

Many first-time authors get hung up on this point when deciding which ghost to employ. It is understandable. To reach the point where a book is a topic of conversation implies the author has a wealth of knowledge in a particular area. Of course, they want to convey that to their audience in the most polished way possible.

But the less a ghost knows about a particular subject or topic can be of tremendous benefit to the author. Experts on anything tend to know the material so well they struggle with explaining it clearly to people who lack the same level of understanding. There are gaps and blind spots resulting from eating, sleeping, and breathing the information.

A good ghost should be interested in the topic and as impartial as possible. That is it. As the conduit, the ghostwriter is responsibile for taking the author’s words and ensuring the reader can understand them. This process allows the ghost to place themselves in the shoes of a reader and ask clarifying questions. Not being an expert on the topic puts them on a level playing field with most of the target audience, thus an added resource for clarifying the message.

3) You Lose Credibility:

No one ever lost anything because they did not write a book themselves. Unless, of course, the author adamantly took one hundred percent of the credit and denied having assistance of any type. That would be like a singer without lyrics or a baseball player without a bat.

There are many ways to hint at having assistance on a book project without digging heels in and swearing it was a solo effort. Book coach. Publishing coordinator. Developmental editor. These are all terms often used interchangeably with a ghostwriter. Yes, there are subtle differences in what each of these different roles would provide, but the reader will not care.

If the person who shared the secret of eternal happiness admitted they did not write the book alone, would you refuse the message?

4) Your Work is at Risk:

A ghostwriter is a professional service provider like any other. When an accountant prepares taxes for a client, they are not looking to steal their identity or siphon off funds. There is no benefit to a ghost stealing from their clients or exploiting them. Most ghosts have writing of their own to work on, which means numerous ideas bouncing around their brains at any point in time. No matter how great your idea is, they have their own.

Ghostwriters also enter into contracts with their clients to ensure all parties are protected. These agreements specify the scope of work the ghost will deliver and by what deadline. It will have basic information about the project title, subject matter, and expectations from the client. NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) are another layer of protection for some higher-value projects and clients.

5) No Client Involvement:

While it is true that the client who hired a ghostwriter is not doing the labor-intensive part of writing, they are still very much involved in the process. It would be difficult for a ghost to capture the information needed for the book and the voice in which to deliver it if they were strictly given a topic and set in motion. The process of ghostwriting is very much a collaboration with aspects of delegation.

At the outset of a project, both parties should be clear on what will be needed to complete it in the specified timeframe. Sometimes content can be gathered from sources other than the client, such as blogs, interviews, or other collateral. But nothing replaces the human element of the author lending their voice to the content. That is, after all, how to connect with the audience.

6) It is Cheap/Quick:

Nothing about writing a good book is cheap or quick. Sure, cheap books can be produced quickly. Whether they were good or not is a different question entirely. Time and money are integral resources, but need not be provided in equal measure.

The average investment for a fully ghostwritten book can range from twenty-thousand to fifty thousand dollars, based on many factors like word count and deadline. The client’s time commitment on a project like this could be as little as a few hours a month spent in interviews with the ghost and reading material submitted for review and approval. This is the perfect arrangement for successful professionals whose time is best spent doing what they do best.

Let’s be serious, though. Not everyone can afford an investment like that. Perhaps time is a commodity more readily available than money. The more work a client can contribute beyond just providing the content can significantly help reduce costs. Transcription, editing, and formatting are a few time-consuming activities a ghostwriter must perform or pay to outsource to deliver a polished finished product. 

7) Results are Guaranteed:

Nothing in life is guaranteed – period.

Let’s back that up for a second. First, we must define the word results. What is the measurement of success for the project? Some clients may use metrics like book sales or bestseller lists, while others track the return on investment in the project. Either way, results are still not guaranteed.

Remember, the ghostwriter is here to deliver a finished product, not convert it into a sales tool. Book publishing and sales are multifaceted and require much more expertise than the person who wrote it likely has. Your mechanic can fix a car but might not be the best person to drive it in a high-speed race.

If book sales are the most important thing, create a book launch strategy well in advance of completion. Hire some social media experts and a good PR person. Ensure you are promoting the heck out of it in every way possible. If attracting new clients to your practice is the ultimate goal, work with your sales and marketing teams to leverage it accordingly.

Oh, and if you want a traditional publishing contract – that is not guaranteed either. The world is filled with amazing books and authors snubbed by the finicky world of publishing. This in no way diminishes the quality of the writing. There are some traditionally published, best-selling authors of numerous books who wind up self-publishing one or more at some point simply because the timing might not have been right.

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