A bunch of us were standing around, playing “What do you do?” and munching on tailgate goodies before the football game. When one of the men learned that I was a ghostwriter, he said: “I don’t understand how someone can claim to be an author, when they didn’t actually write the book.” It wasn’t the first time I’ve confronted that idea.
Part of the problem is that most people’s vision of an author is of a Willa Cather or Ernest Hemingway writing great literature. If that’s what you think being an author is, then only the author can write the book. But that’s not the kind of book most ghostwriters work on.
We work on books that tell true stories or explain things. In my case that means either business or personal development books. For books like that there are really two roles.
The author establishes what the book is going to be about and who’s going to read it. My job is to help the author create a great book. That starts with writing, but ghostwriters like me usually add value in other ways, too.
We give the author time to concentrate on their real business. Every author I’ve worked with has been a good writer. They could do the book themselves, but they’ve usually got a business to run and other obligations to meet.
We help the author sharpen concepts and presentation. The benefit of any kind of collaboration is that you have more than one brain applied to a challenge.
We do critical legwork. Sometimes that’s research. Often it’s making sure that quotes and examples are accurate and properly sourced.
We bring book writing experience. Writing a book is different from any other kind of writing. The demands are different. The surprises are different. I’ve averaged better than a book a year for over forty years. I have experience to share.
In my case, I’m often the “Project Wrangler,” keeping track what needs to be done and what’s next. That’s one less thing that the author has to worry about.
“Ok, let me see if I get it,” my tailgate buddy said. “The author’s the person who decides whether there will be a book and all and what it will be about. And you’re the writer. Your job is to help the author make the book a great one.”
That about sums it up.
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