One Way to Write Your Book

Before You Hire a Ghostwriter, What You Should Know

by Claudia Gere

One Way to Write Your Book

Before You Hire a Ghostwriter, What You Should Know

by Claudia Gere

by Claudia Gere

Some time ago, New York Times contributor Julia Moskin referenced Gwyneth Paltrow and Rachel Ray in an article on celebrity ghostwritten cookbooks. Both celebrities vehemently denied using ghosts to write their books, which appears to be the case given their responses on follow up appearances, where they talked passionately about the writing process. Both described it as a labor of love. From my experience, anyone who talks about being involved with that level of passion and commitment is the de facto author. At one point, Paltrow deduced that the reporter lumped writing the glossary and stocking the cupboard as ghostwriting.

Why Hire a Ghostwriter?

How much and what parts constitute a book as being ghostwritten? You’ll find as many definitions of a ghostwriter as there are ghostwriters and authors who’ve collaborated in some way. For authors who hire someone to be their ghostwriter, it is usually for one of three reasons:

1. I don’t have the time to write my book.

For these people, so often they can see the book written in their head and then it is just the annoying detail of putting it on paper. They need someone to hold them accountable for getting the book done, even if that means throwing all of their content over the wall for a ghostwriter to organize, put into readable form, and polish.

2. I really can’t write.

Most people can write, but might not know it, because they haven’t been encouraged or taken the initiative to try. More often it’s because they don’t know the difference between writing, writing a report, a blog post, or a proposal for example, and writing a book. The fear of not knowing what you don’t know.

The greatest fear is often not knowing what you don’t know.

Writing a book is different. There are guideposts and other elements readers expect.

3. I don’t know what I have to say.

The opposite of number two, these people don’t know what they do know. They either think everyone already knows what they do, so they have nothing new or interesting to offer. They think all of the books have been written on their topic, and everything they know is already in a book somewhere. What they need is someone who can pull the information out of them. Someone who can help reveal their experiences solving their clients’ problems, the advice they give over and over, the tasks they perform so routinely they could do it in their sleep. Then someone who can help develop a framework and recognize what is different in how or what they deliver for their clients.

Know When It’s Smart to Hire the Expert

There is a fourth reason. Tamara Myles grew up in Brazil. Portuguese is her native language (though you’d be hard-pressed to deduce that in a conversation with her). While she is an excellent, successful corporate trainer and has developed courses that inspire people to become more productive and reach their full potential, the idea of writing an entire book in a foreign language was daunting. And as a productivity expert, she knows that hiring an expert to do something you would need to learn at the expense of conducting business is a smart investment in your business.

What all of the authors I have worked with have in common is their unique knowledge and experiences. They might not know what they know, but they have used their knowledge and skills to become successful in their field. All they need is someone who can help them get that information out of their head and into a book.

What that means can be as varied as there are authors and ghostwriters. When I agree to ghostwrite a book, first I want to be sure both the author and I agree upon what that means. There are ghostwriters who will take an assignment from a client to write a book on a topic, how to sell real estate for example. The ghostwriter researches all of the information available on real estate: sales techniques, skills, checklists, legalities, ethics, do’s and don’ts, and so on, then writes a book based on the findings. The client contributes nothing. While that may seem to be the easiest way to become an author, there is one caveat. One of the most difficult aspects of being an author is selling your book. Can you imagine how much more difficult it is when a book isn’t authentically yours? How can you speak about the book without knowing what it says inside out? How can you relate the content in the book in a way that is personal enough to connect with your audience? It will be much more difficult to present yourself as an author if you don’t know the material, if you don’t own the material.

So before you hire a ghostwriter, be sure you have the roles of author and ghostwriter carefully mapped out and agreed to.

The role of the ghostwriter:

  1. To interview the author and help discover and uncover what it is the author knows that is unique.
  2. Help to develop a framework or template to deliver the content. While some might call this an outline, often this structure is what makes the book unique and creates a new way to display even timeworn techniques.
  3. Showcase the author’s content in the best possible way, but also maintain the author’s voice.
  4. Create a book rather than a compilation of information, with all of the window dressing people expect when opening a book.

The role of authors:

  1. Keep the idea of writing a book in the forefront while going through the day. It is astounding what authors can remember, observe, and connect with their topic if they operate in author mode.
  2. Record and transcribe or make notes of everything connected with their topic (teleseminars, new client intake conversations (with permission), training sessions, and so on.
  3. Prepare, prepare, prepare. When the ghostwriter assigns the next chapter, think of all the possible experiences that relate to their topic (stories, examples, successes, failures, identify the steps used to solve problems, the tools, books that influenced their processes, outline the steps, do mock interviews. Whatever authors can do to rehearse the content will make the task of creating the content for the chapter go more quickly.
  4. Review and revise material as requested by the ghostwriter.

Working with Tamara Myles was about as professional an experience as it gets for a ghostwriter. She was always prepared. While I helped with prompting her thinking about what she knows and her experiences, she had always thought through the content. I helped with book and chapter structure, crafting the wording and presentation, but every thought, idea, and story belongs to Tamara. She is clearly the author of this book. Without her delivering the content, it would still only exist in her head. No ghostwriter, without her experience, could have created The Secret to Peak Productivity. In fact, we never referred to me as a ghostwriter, we were always Author (Tamara Myles) and Collaborator (Claudia Gere).

People sometimes ask why I don’t have my name on the cover like many ghostwriters. The explanation above shows that I’m not the author of the content. I did all of the window dressing. Taking the content and making it flow, creating a roller coaster ride that keeps readers engaged as they learn, creating the elements and guideposts that turn writing into a book were my contribution. I’m not a productivity expert and only want to be known as an author consultant. As the collaborator, I just made Tamara’s content accessible. Tamara is the productivity expert with The Secret to Peak Productivity now published in the English-speaking countries, as well as Brazil, Russia, and China, all of the world’s largest markets. Tamara’s brilliant content is what makes this book unique and valuable.

Find her book on Amazon: The Secret to Peak Productivity 

For more information about Tamara Myles and her book: TamaraMyles.com/writing

For more information about ghostwriting for your book project, contact me, Claudia Gere, to as set up a time for your free 15-minute consultation.

Claudia Gere envisions a world where all aspiring nonfiction authors can write a great book that shares their experience and knowledge. As an author consultant, literary agent, ghostwriter, and host of her Rock Your Business with a Book Program, Claudia has launched many successful authors. [email protected], 413-359-0003 (Eastern)

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