Friday, January 15, 2010

Reader Mail

We received a question from a ghostwriter who asked: "Do ghostwriters ever promote the book they ghostwrote alongside or in lieu of the author? And how can you go about it, considering you’re not the 'expert'?"

Ellen, Alisa and Gwen each weighed in:

Ellen: I do help my clients in promoting the final book, although I’m pretty behind-the-scenes in my efforts. Sometimes, I actively contribute. I write press releases, I ghost essays and articles for placement in magazines, I write blog postings, etc. But sometimes, it’s more of an advisory role. Many clients come to me with zero experience in the book business and so I’m not just the ghostwriter, I’m the best source of information on what’s really going on with the book project. I spend a lot of time counseling clients on why the platform is the most important part of the book process. It’s the key to getting an agent, the key to getting a publisher, the key to selling your book. I often say “If you’re not spending a lot of time and effort on your platform, you’re wasting your money on me.”

Alisa: It depends. Generally, I don’t think most ghosts feel obligated to promote the books they write, especially if it’s a work-for-hire deal that pays a flat fee. That said, I have promoted many of the books I’ve ghosted or co-authored. At times, like you, I did this because I was getting a cut of the royalties and had a financial incentive to do so. Other times I did it because I liked the author and wanted the author to succeed. Still other times I did it because successful books help to advance my ghosting career, whether I earn royalties from them or not.
Here are some of the ways I promote the books I write:

• Tell my Facebook and Twitter friends about the book
• Blog about it
• Help the author connect with bloggers who I’m friendly with
• Send review copies and personally written notes to freelance friends who write on the same topic and to magazine editors I know well
• Alert either the book publicist (if one exists) or the author about any publicity opportunities I stumble across
• Mention the book when I am at a speaking event
• Quote the author when I am writing magazine articles
• Mention the book in my author bio when I write articles for magazines, guest blogs and other outlets

Occasionally, I’ve been asked to do real publicity for books—to be interviewed on the radio or for print. This is rare, as most outlets want the author and not the writer. But it does happen. In such cases, I just tell myself, “You know this subject matter. You wrote the book for criss sakes.” And that has always been true for me. I’ve yet to have an interviewer ask me a question about one of my books that I can’t answer.

Gwen: Before I became a full-time writer, I managed marketing functions at two major companies, and then owned my own marketing agency for nine years. So, I can’t help but think as a marketer when I’m developing book projects. I always look for potential promotional opportunities as I’m working with the author and make suggestions. As the book comes together, there are often angles that I believe would make great publicity hooks. I may suggest events for appearances or groups which may be interested in hiring the author as a speaker or in otherwise becoming involved with the book. I’ve also made appearances at events with the named author and discussed my role in the book’s development. I do not handle these appearances or opportunities solo for books I’ve ghosted, as I am not typically the expert in the subject matter.

I think how far a ghost or collaborator becomes involved in the marketing depends on how expert he or she is in the subject matter. Certainly, if you can, give the author or publishing house some input and spread the word among your own contacts. (Unless, of course, you're bound by give-us-your-firstborn nondisclosures, of course.) If it’s an area you know cold and in which you can offer authoritative and credible advice, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t. However, if your knowledge doesn’t extend too far below the surface, being a spokesperson for the book probably isn’t a good idea.

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