1 Certain Ghostwriting Secret: Publishing Not Included


Clients want publishing deals. I’ve recently had conversations with a client and a prospect. I ghostwrote the client’s manuscript, which she appreciated tremendously. Now, she’s trying to get it published and is finding it very difficult. She showed me how one publisher wanted $50,000 to edit, publish, and market her manuscript.

“I can’t believe how expensive it is,” she told me. “I didn’t know. I’m really learning all about publishing. I didn’t realize there was so much to learn.”

The prospect, meanwhile, told me that he had signed a contract with a publisher, but he was extremely disappointed. The people assigned to work with him didn’t convince him they were in sync with him. So, he came to me to discuss how I could be of service.

These two examples reveal a secret many don’t realize about ghostwriting: It is completely different and separate from publishing.

The point of publishing is to make money. Therefore, the book needs to be the very best it can be before it’s released to the masses or it won’t make money. 

Take this quote I found online from Joel Richardson, who at the time was publisher at Michael Joseph, a Penguin imprint:

Publishing is a team effort. It relies on such a range of different expertise. The best book in the world might never be read if it didn’t have a great cover to make you want to pick it up, a skilled publicist to make sure you know about it, and a brilliant distribution team working tirelessly to ensure that the book is actually there to buy, whether on a shelf in a bookshop, or in the warehouse of an online retailer.

Notice he said nothing about the writing. He mentioned cover art, publicity, and distribution. This reflects another reality: Publishers that offer ghostwriting services only offer them in service of publishing. That means the ghostwriting services could be mediocre.

The primary purpose of ghostwriting, meanwhile, is to tell the story in the best, most compelling way possible. It is not to edit, design a cover, create a PR campaign, or make sure Amazon carries the book.

As ghostwriter Kristin Hackler wrote, “Ghostwriting is the crafting of an individual’s words into polished prose that reads as authentically as if the named author spoke them directly onto the page.”

In other words, it’s all about the writing. Ghostwriters know this, and the best ones stay in their lane. They don’t try to be a jack of all trades, or they risk being a master of none.

Having said that, ghostwriters are not insensitive to clients who want to be published. For example, I have met with and spoken to a wide variety of publishers, some of which I think are high quality, others not as much. If a client wants my help in getting in front of publishers, I refer them to any of my contacts that I think would work best for them.

I do this for one reason: I believe in the story and want to see it reach the widest possible audience. I’m not receiving any type of commission or compensation for the referral. I already earned my fee by getting the story out of the client’s head and onto the manuscript page. Now, I want to help the client get the story onto a publishing page, so I will refer them to a publisher who’s the expert at all things publishing. And I do that only if the client requests it.

One could say that ghostwriting is an important step on the way to the ultimate goal: publishing the story. But don’t confuse the two. They are different and require different skill sets. Clients should understand that working with a ghostwriter is to focus on the written word. Publishing comes later.

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