1 Interesting Ghostwriting Secret: Expertise Not Needed


Recently, I took on a new ghostwriting client. A Pennsylvania-based personal injury lawyer hired me to ghostwrite some chapters into an already existing book about depositions. In our early conversations, I asked him if the writing will be technical and legal, since the target audience is attorneys.

“No,” he said, “it needs to be written at a third-grade level.”

“Good,” I responded, “because if you needed it legal, then you’d need my daughter because she’s in law school and has more expertise than me.”

I don’t need to be well-versed in law. That’s because in ghostwriting, there are two types of expertise: the subject matter and the writing.

The professional ghostwriter only needs to be a writing expert, specifically in how to best organize and write the information so it will be presented in the most compelling, convincing, authoritative, and accurate way possible.

The client is the subject matter expert, and he works with the ghostwriter to educate him so he can do the ghostwriting job the right way.

If I had to be an expert in everything I wrote about, I wouldn’t be ghostwriting about the wide variety of topics I’ve been fortunate enough to come across.

▪︎ I didn’t know the first thing about what happened inside the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, but Jerry Dominguez and Melinda Murphy did. What I knew was how to organize their material and present it in the most effective way. The result was “A Culture of Fear.”

▪︎ I can’t know what it was like to survive the Holocaust; that’s Eva Perlman’s domain. But I could look at her stories that became “Eva’s Uncommon Life” and know what needed to be kept and where to best put them.

▪︎ I didn’t almost die from a defective heart valve like Marc Lieberson did, but I knew that his unpublished story “All the Way Back” had to begin with him waking up from his coma.

▪︎ I’ve never lived in Palm Springs, but John Stark does. He knows the sites to visit and the stories behind them. He demonstrates that capably in “What to See in Palm Springs.” I knew how to organize and fact check his details.

▪︎ I only have minimal knowledge about marketing, compared to Guy Powell. But he couldn’t have completed his book “The Post-COVID Marketing Machine” without my storytelling abilities.

▪︎ I didn’t marry a psychopath, have to fight and beat the state of Arizona over a ridiculously unfair judgment, then get the law changed so it could never happen again. But a client of mine did. It was my job to translate her stream-of-conscious journal entries and talk to her at length to get her amazing story told clearly and compellingly.

▪︎ I didn’t crash awards shows, concerts, the Universal Studios lot, and race car pits the way two current clients did. But I’m able to listen to their stories and present the best ones in the most entertaining way possible so the reader will react this way: “WHAT? Are you kidding me? Did they really do that? Oh my God! I wish I could do that!”

In each case, the clients provided the subject matter expertise, and I provided the ghostwriting expertise.

As for the personal injury lawyer, he and I met for an hour in which he provided me with slides from a Microsoft Powerpoint presentation that explained how he uses visual aids in depositions, which is the theme of the chapters he wants me to ghostwrite. I listened, took notes, asked questions, and came away with a good enough understanding that we will be able to collaborate on the chapters.

He has his expertise. My other clients have theirs. I have mine. And we all work together toward the common goal of putting out the best work in the best way possible.

That’s no secret.

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