Monthly Archives: November 2012

What is a ghostwriter?

This question pretty much tops the questions people have about ghostwriting, so let me give a very complete explanation, which I will break down into three parts.

  • Definition of ghostwriter/ghostwriting.
  • What a ghostwriter does – and doesn’t do.
  • Who needs a ghostwriter – and who does not (in what situations is a ghostwriter your best option?)

 Definition of ghostwriter

What is a ghostwriter?  Simply put, it is a writer who is not seen.  A writer who is not credited or acknowledged.  A writer who is invisible – like a ghost.  You read a book or an article and you never know who the real writer was, because it was ghostwritten.

You would be surprised at how much is ghostwritten.

Almost any autobiography of famous people is written by a ghostwriter. Think about it; it makes sense.  Somebody might be a great statesman, or a great scientist or a successful businessman.  But that does not mean he is a good writer and more than a good plumber or a good teacher.  For teaching, he sends his kids to school and lets a professional handle the job.  For plumbing, he calls a plumber to fix his leaky pipes – a professional who knows what he is doing.  For writing, he calls a professional ghostwriter.

Most speeches you hear have been ghostwritten.  Busy political and industrial leaders have neither the time nor skill to write their own speeches, so they hire speech writers.  For important addresses, very often they will edit and send back for several drafts; but most of the writing is done by a ghost.

What does a ghostwriter do?

A ghostwriter does the writing.  The ideas come from the “author” or the speaker – the client.  Done properly, the writer picks the words that best express how the client would write or speak if he had the time and ability to pick his own words.  This is not always easy and sometimes not completely possible.  But it is the ideal goal.

The ghostwriter does not make things up.  OK, sometimes a ghostwriter and/or PR department and/or political handlers do make a lot up.  When I worked for a politician, there was a fair amount of material that I wrote on my own initiative, guessing what my boss would have said.  But in such cases, the ghostwriter has a “regular” client and can make such guesses based on previous experience.

  • The ghostwriter might do research.
  • The ghostwriter does keep in the shadows.
  • The ghostwriter does not reveal her identity.
  • The ghostwriter does not take credit.
  • The ghostwriter does not (usually) get royalties.

When do you need a ghostwriter?

There are three factors that you need to factor in when deciding whether to hire a ghostwriter or to choose some other alternative (which you can probably guess without even looking at the list):

  • Skill
  • Time
  • Money

Skill is the biggest show-stopper.  If you can’t write well, you need to outsource, the same as you probably need to do with plumbing and teaching and growing wheat for your bread.

Skill is not a black and white factor.  It is pretty complex.  There are many people who simply can’t write.  I could show you reams of partially legible emails I receive. And there are many people who write quite well. And there are many people who write passably – they can communicate their ideas, but they do not inspire or pull the reader along.

But one’s skill at writing depends also on what one is writing.  I write good quality blog posts.  I write great how-to and self-help material, and I can write excellent humor.  But if I wanted to write a novel, I would outsource the project.  Yes, a writer hiring a ghostwriter.  I simply do not have the skills required to write convincing fiction.

And then there is speaking.  You might be surprised how many people have difficulty with highly personal speeches, such as for accepting an award of some sort or  best man or other wedding speeches.  They often call on a speech writer.

Time is also a big deal.  Many of our clients are hard-pressed business leaders who simply do not have the time to put all other things out of their heads and focus on writing their business book or autobiography.  Some have the skill, many do not, but none have the time.

Time is money, so if you don’t have the time to spend, it might even be less costly to spend the money.  Better to spend $12,000 in ghostwriting fees than $100,000 in lost time.

Speaking of money, ghostwriting does cost money.  Here is a list of some “typical” pricing.  In real life, plenty of high end ghostwriters charge more, and plenty of low end writers charge less.  But you have to be careful, because you will discover that at the bottom end the quality really suffers.  We try to keep our prices below average, at least to the extent that it does not sacrifice quality.

If you can’t afford the cost of writing your book, your screenplay, your letter personal injury attorney boca your speech, you might have to spend more time and write it yourself.  You might have enough money to hire a writer to edit your writing, which costs much, much less.

But a word of caution: if your writing skills are not fairly strong, your manuscript might not be good enough to edit.  You won’t save much money if the writer has to rewrite your material from scratch.  So, as I said above, skill is the show-stopper.

If you don’t have the money, you might be able to inspire some wealthy relations.  Maybe they will hire a ghostwriter for you.

 

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Win a free copy of The Frugal Book Promoter

So you’ve written that masterpiece.  Perhaps you wrote it yourself, or perhaps you hired a ghostwriter.  It is destined to become a best seller.  Now all you have to do is get the word out.

But, wait!  What’s this? There is a hole in your pocket?  You have very little money to spend on promotion?

Fear not.  It is not how much you spend that counts, but how cleverly you spend it.  And that is why you need…

…the Frugal Book Promoter, by Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

Whether you have a publisher or whether you are self-published, whether you are trucking around crates of paperbacks or trying to pull in clicks to a website, the Frugal Book Promoter is full of tips on how you can spread the word without breaking the bank.

Read Kristin’s review
of the Frugal Book Promoter,
which we published earlier.

And now, to make things even more frugal for you (in case that hole in the pocket is really getting out of hand), we are giving away three free copies of the Frugal Book Promoter to three lucky contest winners.  The contest runs all through November, and there are four ways you can win:

1. Tweet this contest.  You can tweet once a day, and each tweet is another entry in the contest.

2. Follow us on Twitter. We do blab a lot about everything from website promotion to health, business to entertainment, finance to …well…pretty much whatever. But it’s all good stuff.

3. Follow Carolyn Howard-Johnson on Twitter.  She is somewhat less of a blabbermouth than we are.

4. Blog about this contest.  This is the big one, worth ten points, giving you a much better foreclosure defense hollywood of winning one of the three prizes.

Three winners will be chosen in the first week of December based on the number of entry points they rack up.  The Rafflecopter widget below makes it easy for you to enter and easy for us to tabulate.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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