An Alternative May Be Right Under Your Nose
Hiring a ghostwriter to help write your book can be challenging and also expensive-or it can be as simple as thinking outside the box.
You have the makings of a good nonfiction book. You’ve drafted your thoughts and even organized them into chapters. You have a title. You’ve hired an editor to help with the rough spots and to let you know if you are on the right track… she calls herself a “developmental editor,” a term you hadn’t heard before, but editors are editors, right? After reading your manuscript, she tells you that it could use some help. For instance, you Introduction won’t hook the reader… and your conclusion needs quite a bit of work as well, she reports.
OK, you say, what do you suggest?
Her answer, “Why don’t you let me rewrite those weak areas for you?”
Your book is written, it feels OK to you, except for Chapter 12… that one is still pretty rough and it doesn’t quite say what you want it to, even though you’ve rewritten it six times. And then there are Chapters 17 and 18, which aren’t coming together. And that ending! What a disaster that is!
Knowing that editors can help with lots of issues, you ask an editor to provide a critique. “Tell me what I am missing to get my message across. How can I say it more clearly?” you ask him. His response after reading your manuscript? “I know what you are trying to say in those chapters, but it will take some work on your part to get there. Why don’t you let me write those particular chapters for you?”
You have no time to write a book but you have heard that book ghostwriters can cost anywhere from $10,000 to who knows? When you checked around online, you found one competent estimate of $100 to $250 per page. But your budget for your “great idea for a business book” is way too tight. What to do? Deciding to bite the bullet, you call a book editor you worked with in the past and ask her for suggestions on finding a ghostwriter to “flesh it out.”
Unexpectedly, the editor says, “Why not let me help? With the draft you have completed and with a few phone conversations and emails back and forth between us, we can get it done. You will be surprised how quickly this can all be accomplished. I’ve actually done a number of ‘ghostwritten’ books,” she adds.
The path to book publishing comes with many bumps in the road but getting down the information you want to share in an interesting and clear way doesn’t have to be a budget breaker. Editors often wear many hats. Some have been in the business a long time and will have a sixth sense about how your book should shape up. She grasps the concepts you are striving to convey. She likely is a bit creative as well and can write a better Intro or opening chapter than you (you’re too close to the subject, or you’re not a promotional writer). Ghostwriting, after all, is really just an expanded version of developmental writing, she will tell you.
Next time you think you need a professional ghostwriter, give your editor a call instead. Give him or her your draft and share your concerns about any weak areas and also your ambitions for the book. Listen to her thoughts on what it will take to achieve your goals (whether it’s just a new opening chapter, a new wow ending, or a thorough rewrite of the book).
Most non-fiction books, even some memoirs, can benefit from this type of arrangement. Your job is to find the right person who isn’t afraid of adding her two cents and is willing and interested in working with your material and won’t charge those pricey ghostwriter fees. He or she may be an untapped goldmine…and may already be working for you!
Gone are the days when editors were pigeonholed into neat little categories and you needed to follow the three-step “rules.” You know, first you had to go out and find a developmental editor and/or content editor, then a copy editor to look at the final draft, then a proofreader to catch all those pesky glitches. Asking your editor to put on her writer’s hat and help may be all you need to get your book out there. But don’t forget that proofreader.