In brief, the ghostwriter is an expert at writing books for other people. Memoirs, business books, health books, books on art or history, philosophy or sports—any kind of book.
Sometimes, the ghostwriter begins with nothing more than a simple 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.
So the quick answer to the question “what is a ghostwriter?” is simple: a ghostwriter is an expert in writing books for other people. But there’s really more to it than that.
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 services ghostwriters may be asked to handle, above and beyond writing the manuscript.
1. Helping you answer the “why”
That may sound odd, but a lot of people are not sure what to do with the books they are eager to write.
Should your book be designed as a quick read or an in-depth study? Is standard publication appropriate, or is self-publication the better approach? Should the book be sold, or simply given away?
These are a few of the issues that we’ve addressed with our clients, helping them to discover the best way to create a book that best achieves their goals. The process often begins with a simple question: Why are you writing your book? 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?
Or you may have any number of other goals. While you may think you know why you are writing your book, 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.
We often do the latter, facilitating the editing and proofreading for our clients.
For a brief discussion of the various types of editors, see our “8 Editing Definitions” on LinkedIn.
3. Writing the book proposal
Next on the list is creating the document necessary to approach literary agents and publishers: the book proposal.
A proposal is necessary if you’re interested in standard publication—that is, you’d like to get your book published by Simon & Schuster or another of the standard publishers.
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 literary 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 a book proposal 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 elements of a book proposal, but the basics are the same.
To learn more about proposals, watch Barry’s YouTube presentation on “Writing a Great Non-Fiction Book Proposal.”
4. Identifying literary agents
You’ll need a literary agent if you want your book to be brought to market by a standard publisher. There are a small number of standard publishers who are willing to review proposals sent directly to them. But most, including the major publishers, require that you approach them through a literary agent.
We help our clients who are interested in standard publication locate literary 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 literary 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 standard tasks that most ghosts are familiar with. With self-publication and the services that follow, we’re venturing outside the traditional realm of book ghostwriting.
More and more of our clients are opting for self-publication. There are many reasons for this, and you can compare the benefits of self-publishing to standard publishing by reading our blog titled “Which is Better, Standard or Self-Publishing?”
As for the process of 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 create your book cover and interior design 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. For links to self-publishers, see our “60+ Self-Publishing Companies” on LinkedIn.
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 the designs of the cover and interior. Many self-publishing firms offer cover and interior design as part of a package or as à la carte services. Still, clients have asked us to help them create their designs, based on their own ideas or images, which they will later give to the standard or self-publisher. 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 cover and interior design. 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.
You can also work directly with a printer, such as IngramSpark or 48HourBooks. This can be less expensive, as you won’t be paying the middleman’s commission. 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.
A new world of duties for ghostwriters
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 assistance with your book, please contact Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor. You can use the contact form on this page to send us a message, or call us at 818-917-5362.
If you’d like to learn more about ghostwriters and ghostwriting in general, see our “Finding and Working With a Ghostwriter” page.