Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Exactly what does a ghostwriter do?
In brief, the ghostwriter is an expert at writing books for other people.
Sometimes, the ghostwriter begins with nothing more than a concept provided by the client, and handles all of the research and writing, rewriting, and editing.
In other cases, the ghostwriter works closely with the client, bouncing ideas back and forth, using some of the material the client wrote and creating the rest himself. Every situation is different.
In addition to creating the manuscript, clients have requested that we help them decide what to do with their books, write their book proposals, facilitate self-publication, oversee the printing process, handle the marketing and distribution, and more.
Let’s take a look at the various tasks that ghostwriters may be asked to handle, above and beyond writing the manuscript.
1. Helping you answer the “why”
This may sound odd, but a lot of people are not sure what to do with the books they are eager to write.
The process of deciding what should be done with the completed book begins with a simple question: Why are you writing your book? For example, are you hoping to:
- make lots of money?
- introduce a new idea?
- share your life experiences?
- launch or enhance a business?
- address a pressing political/social/economic/religious situation?
Answering the “why” helps determine how the book should be written, published and priced, marketed, and so on.
You may think you know why you are writing your book, But the “why” can evolve, and it does so in a surprising number of cases. As the “why” changes, so does the way in which the book is written, published and promoted.
Your ghostwriter can help you establish the “why” so that the finished product helps you achieve your goals.
2. Editing and proofreading your manuscript
Every manuscript must be edited and proofread, but not by the person who wrote it. Instead, it should be edited by an independent editor, then checked by a separate proofreader.
You can locate these professionals on your own, or your ghostwriter may offer some recommendations or send your manuscript to an editor and proofreader as part of the service provided.
3. Writing the book proposal
Next on the list is creating the document necessary to approach literary agents and publishers: the proposal.
Essentially, the proposal is a combination blueprint of the book-to-be, plus an idea of how much money the publisher stands to make.
Your agent will show the proposal to appropriate publishers in the hopes that one or more will want to purchase and publish your book.
The key elements of this document are:
- Title Page
- Proposal Table of Contents
- Overview – also known as the Synopsis or Introduction
- Author – also known as About the Author, Author’s Qualifications, or Biography
- Competition – also known as Competing Books or Competitive Analysis
- Marketing – also known as Marketing & Promotion
- Book Table of Contents
- Chapter Outlines – also known as Chapter Summaries
- Sample Chapters
Various agents have different names for and preferred ways of arranging the parts of a book proposal, but the basics are the same.
To learn more, watch Barry’s YouTube presentation on “Writing a Great Non-Fiction Book Proposal.”
4. Identifying literary agents
You’ll need an agent if you want your book to be brought to market by a standard publisher.
A handful of these traditional publishers are willing to review book ideas sent directly to them. But most require that you approach them through an agent.
We help our clients who are interested in standard publication secure agents.
That’s not to say that we will get an agent for you. Instead, we help you create a short-list of appropriate agents for you to approach, and we help create the materials necessary to query prospective agents.
For links to agents’ websites, see our list of “100 Literary Agents to Contact.”
If you’d like to go directly to publishers who welcome unsolicited submissions, see our article titled “35 Publishers Who Accept Unsolicited Submissions.”
5. Facilitating self-publication
So far, we’ve described the regular tasks that most ghosts are familiar with. With the types of assistance that follows, we’re venturing outside the traditional realm of book ghostwriting.
With self-publication, in essence you have three options:
- Do it all yourself—If you’re handy with computers and have an eye for design, you can use online tools to design your book cover and interior layout by yourself. You can work directly with a printer, manage your own PR campaign, and do everything else necessary to turn a manuscript into a finished book that’s available for sale and brought to the public’s attention.
- Work with various self-publishing professionals—You can hire individual experts to handle the various elements of self-publishing for you. These include a cover designer, interior designer, social media company for PR, and so on.
- Hire a self-publishing company—You can hire a self-publishing firm, such as Lulu or Infinity Publishing, to do all of the above. This is the simplest approach. It is also typically more expensive than handling it yourself, and you have less control over the process. But you are able to transfer all of the responsibility—and the burden—to the self-publisher.
6. Arranging for cover design and interior design
Cover design involves creating the combination of images and words that will appear on the front, back, and spine of your book.
Interior design, on the other hand, involves selecting the font, placement of the pictures and other graphic elements, and otherwise creating the “layout and look” of everything between the front and back covers.
Standard publishers routinely handle these designs for their authors, and many self-publishing firms offer these design services as part of a package or as à la carte offerings.
Still, clients have asked us to help them create their inside and outside designs.
While we are not designers, we can educate you about these matters and help you decide whether you need designs created from scratch, or if it makes more sense to go with a premade designs.
For a brief list of premade cover designers, see our LinkedIn article on “PreMade Book Covers: An Interesting Option.”
7. Getting your book printed
Having your book printed can be a simple matter. Or it may require research and a bit of effort, depending on how you approach it.
The simplest approach is to hire an all-in-one self-publishing company, such as AuthorHouse. These firms offer complete, turn-key packages that include the printing.
However, you’ll have to research printers to find the ones whose services best match your needs. You may also have to make your book files “printer-ready” or pay to have someone do so for you. If you’d like to investigate printers, see “70+ Book Printers.”
A third option is not to print your book at all. Instead, you make it available in print-on-demand (POD) format on Amazon or other online retailers. Copies will be printed as they are ordered.
If you’d like to learn more about printing, see “10 Book Printing Definitions” and “Is Digital vs. Offset Printing Better For Your Book?”
8. Handling marketing and public relations
It’s the very rare person who is expert in both book ghostwriting and marketing/PR.
In almost every case, you’ll be better off hiring one person to write your book, and another person or firm to bring it to the public’s attention.
Having said that, we have seen marketing/PR campaigns in action, for our own books as well as those of our clients, and can give you some general advice.
If you’d like to learn how to get some free PR for yourself and your book, read our blog on “Getting Free PR for Your Book.” You might also enjoy our “How To Build Your Author Platform – 8 Key Steps.”
What does a ghostwriter do? A lot!
In days past, ghostwriters mostly worked with standard publishers.
Whether hired by the publisher, agent, or author, the ghost wrote the manuscript, and the publisher handled editing, cover design, distribution, and the other aspects of publication.
Today, many book authors prefer to self-publish, and they ask their ghostwriters to help them do so.
This has encouraged many ghosts to learn all about design, printing, and other aspects of publication, so that they may offer a full slate of publishing services.
Which services do we offer?
All of the above, except marketing and publicity. Our goal is to help you go from idea to published book, no matter which publishing options you choose.
If you’d like to learn more about ghostwriters and ghostwriting in general, see our “The Professional Ghostwriter” page.
IF YOU’D LIKE HELP WRITING YOUR BOOK…
Contact us! We’re Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor, professional ghostwriters and authors with a long list of satisfied clients and editors at major publishing houses.
Check out our Testimonials Page to read their comments.
Then call us at 818-917-5362, or use our contact form to send an email. We’d love to talk to you about your exciting book project!