There are many reasons why an entrepreneur should publish. Once your writing is out in the world it will have a life of its own. You will hear from people you don’t know and never would have reached, sometimes years after publication. Your books and articles are a great source of material for your online presence. You can repurpose what you’ve written across social media, and expand topics further on podcasts, panels, and webinars.
Odds are you have other things to do besides learning how to be a great author. However, books or articles that are badly written or poorly produced can damage your personal brand.
Hal Clifford is a ghost writer and editor with extensive experience collaborating with entrepreneurs. “Using a ghostwriter is great if you want to write a book or generate a lot of content but don’t want to devote the time and energy required for a professional result,” he told me. “You focus on delivering your knowledge, and they focus on turning it into great content that says what you want to say.”
Whilst an editor will take your rough draft and make it better, a ghostwriter can save you from having to write at all. They’ll interview you and write books and articles from your words. They can produce piece after piece in your voice, allowing you to focus on running your business while your content is created in the background.
Here are the four steps to follow to leverage a ghostwriter effectively.
1. Find a great ghostwriter
The first and most important point, albeit the most obvious, is to find a great ghostwriter. Writing style is nuanced, and you want someone who can pick up your voice, tone, sentence structure and wording. They need to write in a way that sounds like you.
To find a good editor or ghostwriter, ask someone who has written a book or look in the acknowledgement pages of books you admire. Not everyone uses ghostwriters, but if the author is already accomplished in another field, there’s a strong likelihood they did.
Once you’ve found some options, check they have a track record that’s relevant to your needs. Clifford offered further guidance, “Some people only work as editors, helping you with existing text. Some only work as ghostwriters, taking your spoken words and turning them into prose that shines. Some do both.”
A ghostwriter or editor can be a great collaborator, but you have to like each other and they have to understand your goals. “Find a ghostwriter partner who can lead you with strong, clear communication, and who shows they can help you think well and express yourself effectively,” he added. Talk to them. Meet them on Zoom. Talk to some of their previous clients.
2. Set up a contract
Engaging a ghostwriter on a monthly basis can set the relationship up for success. They’ll be vested in writing in your style, coming up with ideas and creating regular books and articles you are proud of. Their work will make you look like a content-producing machine, ensuring your concepts and ideas reach far and wide. The ongoing work will mean you are in their thoughts all the time, leading to proactivity and brand new ideas that perfectly match your style and requirements.
“Whoever you choose,” explained Clifford, “they should use a professional contract with a clear scope of work and defined deliverables. Their proposal should include a trial period with an easy off-ramp if things aren’t working out.” Fees vary widely, from a few hundred dollars to write a blog post or two right up to low-six-figures to work with an established ghostwriter for a year or more.
3. Make a plan
Agree on how you will get information to your ghostwriter in order to set up the relationship for success. As Clifford says, “some authors point to existing work they want repurposed, like blog posts.” Or maybe you want them to interview you to get what you know out of your head. You might set up a Dropbox or Google Drive account where you share things you’ve said in podcasts, panels, webinars, or media appearances. Perhaps you leave them voice notes in between meetings.
Clarity is key. “Agree to clear expectations on deliverables: what they’ll deliver, how frequently, what the revisions process looks like, and so on,” instructed Clifford. Set up a strong working cadence and stick to it. “If you’re expecting two blog posts a month, that cadence is simple. If the ghostwriter is producing a 100,000-word manuscript, establish a plan for regular check-ins and how material will be revised so you aren’t surprised by something that differs from your expectations.”
4. Collaborate and invest
This is a collaboration, so invest in the relationship with mutual respect. According to Clifford, who has edited the work of prominent individuals including David Goggins, this includes “being on time, being prepared, prompt payment, clear communication.” Even though your ghostwriter is doing the heavy lifting, you still have to provide the goods. “There’s nothing worse than getting on a scheduled interview call with an author who’s unprepared for the day’s agenda,” says Clifford. “That wastes everyone’s time.”
Instead, set a regular schedule in which you will meet with your ghostwriter. This is especially important if they are interviewing you for your content. A regular cadence helps you be prepared. “Delivering content is hard creative work on your end, so set a time when you know you will be at your peak (in other words, not while you are driving, making dinner or otherwise distracted or exhausted). If you need to do homework ahead of time, even it’s just jotting a few notes, do it.” Turn off your email, Slack and any other notifications. You are here to tap into your wisdom, so be present. Finally, know your limits. “If your ghost wants to work in two-hour blocks, but you start getting brain fog after 90 minutes, honour that and adjust accordingly,” explained Clifford.
A solid collaboration with a ghostwriter can mean that you multiply your output of published words with little additional work on your part. With a ghostwriter as your secret weapon, you’ll build your brand and have a steady flow of content that establishes your expertise and elevates your profile.