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Is there a book in you?

The journey of working with a ghost writer

If you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, you have stories to tell and experiences that are valuable to you and to the marketing of your business. That’s how the world has been turning for centuries.

But where do you start? How do you begin? What is the beginning?

Centuries ago, you’d have picked up your quill pen and scratched away on a blank piece of parchment. Today, you just sit at your keyboard and type (which is much easier for you, and friendlier for your readers, too).

So go on: type away.

What? Do you still find this the hardest part? For the busy entrepreneur and business owner there may be a better way, an easier way.

What if, instead of having to bash it out on your own, you could tell your story to a professional writer? Well, you can. You’ll still need to spend time checking and revising your story, but the writing process will take a fraction of the traditional time involved, and you still get to say it your way.

You’ll never get stuck asking yourself, is this the right place to start, or how should I say this, and in what order? You can tell your story to a professional writer and have each step in the process defined and guided. Your story will still be told in ‘your own voice’, but you won’t have to suffer the terrors of staring at a blank page.

Famous authors have been doing it for centuries. Marco Polo, Winston Churchill and Julius Caesar all told their stories aloud and had scribes write them down.

Your story will still be told in ‘your own voice’, but you won’t have to suffer the terrors of staring at a blank page.

Here’s how a professional writer can help you through the process.

Who is your market?

First we need to look at who you want to tell your story to – or, in other words, how you’ll position your book. The traditional publishing model focuses on providing what readers will want to buy. However, most entrepreneur and business owners don’t see their books so much as ‘goods for sale’ as stories to promote the good of their product and to tell of the experiences they have shared along the way. Maybe you are looking for a new marketing tool; your story will give buyers confidence and create some new leads.

So ask yourself: why are you writing your book? What audience do you want to reach?

Create your book outline

The next step is to arrange your ideas in some sort of order. Divide your ideas into chapters and subheadings. Do you have any support material, references, photographs or drawings? These all form part of your storytelling and will help prompt a professional writer to ask the right questions when you are talking to them. Think about your ending: will it summarise your story, or add something new to make the book memorable? Remember – you are creating value for the reader.

What is the best story you have to tell?

Choosing a professional writer

When you know what you want your book to say, you are ready find someone to interview you and write it.

We can provide you with a list of professional writers to choose from. (Some writers refer to themselves as ‘ghostwriters’, because their role is largely unseen.) Look closely at these and do some research. All of them take a professional approach to their craft; not all will tackle a full range of genres. It’s usually best to get someone who is interested in your topic, but does not know your subject matter inside out. You could start by looking at their credentials: what other books have they ghostwritten? If your story is on a financial topic, then clearly a writer who has worked with a billionaire genius is a good bet; or, if you’re telling the story of how you conquered a mountain peak, then opt for a writer who has worked with other adventurers. Next, read reviews of their books, and look for glowing feedback on the pace, style and general readability.

How to review your first draft

Your writer will now begin the process of converting the audio into a written story. You’ll get a first draft to review. It may help to read this aloud and mark any changes as you go. As a general rule, if it sounds like something you would normally say, it will read well on the page. If there are any bad phrasings or errors you’ll notice them straight away. If you aren’t sure how to change something, just mark it and you can work with your writer to fix it. They’ll know what to do.

Now you’ve done this first draft, don’t be afraid to put it aside for a few days. It does pay to give yourself time to think and come back with a clear mind.

Will your audience care about your book?

What do you like in a good book? Think about other books you’ve read in the same genre as yours; what parts interested you the most? If no other books come to mind, perhaps you need to do some research.

Most people want to feel inspired and motivated by a book. They want to share the stories they have read – perhaps because it makes them look smart. Your audience wants to take a whole lot of value from your book.

What are the main points you want an audience to remember?

With some titles you may want the reader to take action. This usually requires a change of tone to something inspirational or imperative. You do not need to use a direct approach; you may choose to steer readers to resources, or give them tips on what steps to take next, or equip them with information they may need to make a change. The guideline is this: ‘Now that you’ve read my book, take action.’

Interview best practice

You want your writer to write about your experiences, not their preconceived ideas. Their role is to ask you questions and extract all the information that is needed for your voice to be heard, and then to make sure the story is well constructed.

This is where your outline becomes important. Your interviewer will use this as a guide for asking questions. It’ll be a bit like being interviewed for a news article, but more in-depth. This is much faster than writing and typing. A normal conversation is about 8000 words per hour, whereas when writing you can usually only get down about 500 usable words per hour. Plus, you don’t get writer’s block! Having a conversation is much easier. We have never heard of anyone getting talker’s block . . .

Interview Tips

Plan multiple interviews. Don’t try to do all the recording in one long session as it’s quite tiring and you’ll miss things out. Allow for anything from three to six sessions, and be prepared to answer detailed follow-up questions.

Make sure you are comfortable. The interview should be like a relaxed and enjoyable conversation, with no pressure on either party.

Stick to your outline. This is critical, as it will allow you to sync your audio transcript and make the later editing process much easier. If you don’t stay with the outline, the content will come out haphazardly and will appear to jump around from thought to thought, which may make it harder for the writer to preserve your voice while pulling everything together.

Do take the time to explain everything completely. Your interviewer needs to have the full explanation to place your story in context, which will result in a much better book. Expect your interviewer to ask, ‘Why?’ and ‘Can you explain?’ or ‘Can you be more specific?’ The transcript will be heavily edited, so the more thoughts the better. Later, the writer can edit material down to make it concise, and they will find this much easier with all the information to hand at the start. Just remember to come back to your outline if you go off course.

Don’t be too general; the best stories, the ones that ring true and bring the past to life, are about actual events. You need to show the full picture and give examples. It’s the same with emotions. Some of the best stories have difficult emotions in them. Don’t be tempted to move on; just talk about what you feel right now. You want your book to be real and authentic.

Put yourself in your reader’s place: have you passed on enough info for them to gain the context? What would they want to know next? Does the order seem coherent? What questions would they want to ask you?

Finalising your manuscript

Now things are getting exciting: you are almost ready for the production phase. This is the last chance to make sure your book is saying what you want it to say.

Are the points clear?
Is it simple to understand?
Is it as short as possible without losing meaning?
Did you leave out anything necessary to understand a point?

Rewriting at this point is okay – it’s a normal part of the editing process. It’s really important that everything is right.

Don’t be afraid to pass your manuscript on for production. Fear can be a barrier –the fear of publishing or the fear of failure. It’s impossible to get it 100 per cent perfect: there will always be more you could add, or points you might have put differently. What matters is you get this book out into the real world; it can only help your audience to get it published.

Well done. You are ready to go into production.