Many people are floored when I tell them what I do for a living. “You mean, people don’t write their own books?” they ask incredulously.
I answer, “Some people write their own books. Many people don’t. They hire people like me to write them instead.”
I’m often met with one of those facial expressions that says, “Dang, how much money will I get by selling this revelation to the National Enquirer?”
The answer to that question, I believe, is none.
Personally, I don’t get the shock value. When we want a new house, we hire other people to build it, don’t we? We hire other people to decorate our houses, too. We hire them to landscape our lawns and to paint our walls. They install our carpeting and our bathroom tiles.
We generally get the credit for this sort of stuff. When friends and family visit, they ooh and awe about our taste in decorating or about our new carpet, even though they know we did not do these things ourselves.
That’s because most people understand that, to be done right, such work requires a unique set of skills and talents. Therefore people with those skills and talents must be hired to get these sorts of things done.
It’s the same with books. Very few people know how to write a book. Book writing requires a unique skill set—one that goes far beyond the mere ability to write. In order to write a successful book, one must know quite a bit about the book market, the publishing process, and reading habits.
For instance, I’m just going to toss out a random question to you. Let’s say you want to write a book. How long should it be? Do you know the answer to that question?
Think about it as you read. I’ll give you the answer at the end of the post.
It takes a lot of people to write and publish a book—a lot more people than most people think. Often, the author serves as a director: the person who hires key people and gives them direction on what needs to be done. These key people might involve a ghostwriter, a recipe developer, a photographer, a graphic artist, a researcher, and more. And then there are all of the people who work for the publisher: the line editor, the copy editor, the proof reader, the interior designer, the cover designer, the sales team, the marketing team, the publicity team, the indexer, and so on.
In the end, the author gets all the glory—just as film actresses and actors do. But plenty of other people worked behind the scenes to make that book a success.
And the ghostwriter is just one of these behind-the-scenes people.
Here are some of the reasons I’ve been brought in on a book project:
1. The author has a great idea for a book, but doesn’t have time to write it.
2. The author is famous and an agent and/or publisher has talked this famous person into doing a book. The famous person likes the idea of having his or her name on a book, but he/she has no idea what the book should be about. A writer like me is then brought in to work with the famous person and try to get an idea to gel.
3. The author has a great platform and lots of credibility. The author might even have great writing skills, but the author doesn’t know how to take what she/he knows and turn it into a book with a unique commercial message. Someone like me is then brought in to help the author develop the “hook.”
4. The author has a great platform and lots of credibility, but writing is not one of his or her strong suits and he or she knows this. Such authors usually breathe a great big sigh of relief once they learn that it’s really okay to hire someone else to put the words on the page.
5. The author already has one very successful book. Now the author and the publisher want to extend this book into a series. The author feels completely tapped out—as if he or she only had one book to write. Someone like me is then brought in to find the words that belong in the rest of the books in the series.
6. The author thought he/she could write a book, but he/she got 20,000 words into it and then ran out of things to say. Then someone like me is brought in to find the rest of the words.
7. The author thought he/she could write a book but now the book deadline is just a couple months away (or it already came and went) and the author still has writer’s block. Then someone like me—who rarely suffers from writer’s block—gets hired to make things happen quickly.
8. The author thought he/she wrote a great book, but the publishing house does not agree. Someone like me is brought in to help the author and the publishing house meet in the middle.
Now, let’s get back to the quiz I posed earlier. The answer is that it depends on the book category. A book’s retail price is based on its page count. No one wants their book to be the most expensive book on the shelf, which means that most publishers will require authors to write to fit the category. If most of the books in the category are 200 pages, then your book will be roughly 200 pages.
A 200-page book comes to roughly 60,000 words—and that’s a short book folks. A professional writer like me can crank that many words out in just a few months. That’s why people hire us, among many other reasons.