Recently, I was hired to help edit and ghostwrite a book that involved two authors. They had been working on this book for a while and were now stuck. So they brought me in to help get the project going again. Immediately, I noticed one of the problems was that the book needed to get back to its original focus. This happens sometimes when you’ve been working on a project for a while – the book becomes a collection of your thoughts rather than a focused project that the reader will be able to follow and enjoy and learn from.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to let a project you’ve been working on so diligently to not only be scrutinised, but to now be handled by someone else. In an email exchange I simply said this:
You’ll need to be ready for someone else to handle the baby for a little while – I always have to help my clients be prepared for this as sometimes they can get a bit touchy about their art!
It’s true. But one of the things I have found helps is to clarify what a ghostwriter is, by using an example most people are quite familiar with. And that is the role of the music producer.
Having worked in music studios myself back in my younger years when I was working a music career (and now tinkering as an amateur producer), I learned quickly that the role of the studio producer is absolutely integral. They can essentially make or break a project. A good producer doesn’t just tell you to do the take again, or listen out if you’re going out of time, but also helps you to work with your reference material, aids you in your research, brings their own ideas, and helps guide the project to keep it focused. An album would be nothing without a good producer. Essentially, a good producer makes the project even better than it could have been. That’s what a ghostwriter does – but for books!
While a good editor will tell you to go back and write it again, or get rid of a chapter, or take out whole swathes of work you poured your life into, they won’t necessarily bring you ideas, help you in your research, work with you on reference material, and help you keep the book focused. That’s my job. I don’t just tell you how to write better but I help you to write better. I bring my own ideas and listen carefully to what it is you’re wanting to achieve with the book – and then I keep you focused.
Sometimes, this process can get a little irritating, I admit. You might feel like I’m taking over. Sometimes, you need to let a ghostwriter just take over for a bit. But a good ghostwriter is not taking over the project, what they’re doing is providing what the project needs to steer it into a direction that not only matches your original vision, but also matches what the market is looking for. This is why a ghostwriter is much more than an editor but at the same time not the original writer of the project. The big ideas are not mine, they are yours. You remain the writer, but I take on a producer role.
George Martin was often called the “fifth member of the Beatles” because of his creative contribution to their music as a producer of several of their albums. The unique role a producer plays in a group / artist’s career is well established. Ghostwriters are simply the same thing for writing. That’s why you can also think of them as “book coaches.” So, if you’re stuck, need help in focusing your writing project, and need creative input that helps you see your original vision come to light, it might be time to get a ghostwriter involved – before you work with an Editor.