Secrets of Ghostwriting: It’s 2 Jobs, Writing and Coaching

The ghostwriter as coach is the watering can that helps the client's story blossom.

I once had a pair of ghostwriting clients who in our first meeting confessed, “We really don’t know what we’re doing. We need you to tell us what to do.”

In other words, while they hired me to ghostwrite their book, the reality was they needed a coach as much as a ghostwriter.

That’s not uncommon. One ghostwriting secret is that much of the work is actually coaching a client. But not just coaching. It’s also motivating, organizing, teaching, listening, handholding, researching, preparing, guiding, facilitating, reflecting, adjusting, partnering, and executing, among many others. It just depends on what the client needs.

But first things first. In simple terms, a coach closely works with the client to help the client write the book. A ghostwriter actually does the writing, but again works closely with the client to get the information.

Both coach and ghostwriter must have good interpersonal skills to relate to the client and the client’s various needs. From the aforementioned list, my clients have required handholding, teaching, listening, and adjusting.

In the case of the clients who admitted ignorance, they had the stories. They just needed to be taught how to write a book. I had to explain that the first step was for them to figure out which stories need to go into their book. We set a time a month out to start going over the stories and figuring out which stay and which go. That required them to meet and discuss beforehand.

Unfortunately, they didn’t do it, so we spent our scheduled meeting instead going through their calendars and figuring out blocks of time they could get together. We settled on a series of Mondays. Then we scheduled another meeting after that in which the three of us would get together. 

I had to “coach them up,” so to speak, before I could do any ghostwriting.

This “ghostwriter as coach” situation is often true with first-time authors. I had one client who had spent a decade trying to write her memoir. She showed me her work, and it was so convoluted and full of stream-of-conscious writing that we had to take time and go back over everything as if she had never written anything. It was a lengthy and time-consuming process, but it was necessary for us to get on the same page. 

Ideally, you find someone who “gets it” and knows the ghostwriter does, too. One prospect send me a request for proposal to write his business memoir that connected his personal history and all he had to overcome with his passion for golf and his founding of a successful academy.

In that proposal, I told him a ghostwriter and client’s relationship is similar to that of golfer and caddy. Each has its own set of skills that must work together to achieve optimum success. “Caddies empower the golfer and help them develop their skills to achieve their goals,” I wrote. “So does a ghostwriter.”

I expanded:

It might look like a caddy only carries the bag, when in fact he does so much more. Similarly, it might appear a ghostwriter does nothing more than write the words, but he plays a pivotal role in organizing the book.

A caddy regularly confers with a golfer on what club to use, how to approach the course/hole/shot, etc., before there’s any playing. A ghostwriter regularly collaborates with the author to determine an outline, what are the chapters, what will go into each chapter, etc., before there’s any writing. Caddies act as a course coach. A ghostwriter acts as a writing coach.

A caddy and golfer can work together successfully if they “click,” that is, they get each other. They relate to each other, they share a similar philosophy, their communication is open and honest, and they’re enthusiastic to work together. So it goes with a ghostwriter and author. The ghostwriter relates to the author’s story in some way, and the author relates to the ghostwriter’s style, personality, work ethic, and dedication to the project.

I was hired. Let the coaching and ghostwriting begin! Contact Lee for professional ghostwriting services and more!

If you would like to discuss this or any previous post, leave a message. Just click on the Contact tab and fill out the form.

Let's Start A New Project Together

Contact me and we can explore how a ghostwriter or editor can benefit you.