Why Hire a Ghostwriter?
When I chat with a prospective ghostwriting client, the conversation inevitably circles back to one essential question:
This article is designed to address many issues that go into answering that question. It may also help you to better understand just what a ghostwriter’s job entails.
One of the most compelling reasons for working with a ghostwriter is the often maddening process that writing can be. It’s been my honor to work with some wonderfully gifted and talented people during my career—people with the intellect and insight to grasp ideas and concepts that utterly escape others (including me, at least at first!). As if by osmosis, I always come out of those partnerships a better, more complete person. It’s one of the many reasons I love what I do.
But a ghostwriter holds up his or her end of the bargain through the process of moving that wisdom onto the printed page. However gifted many people are, the chore of expressing themselves through the written word can be exceedingly difficult, if not downright impossible. However clear an idea can be when it only exists between the ears, what emerges via the keyboard may be confusing, poorly expressed, redundant or fall victim to any number of other well-intentioned missteps.
That’s where a ghostwriter comes in. When I begin to work with clients, one point I always stress is the overriding importance of finding their “voice”—their singular way of expressing something, how they would go about explaining an important idea or simply how they would tell a story. Job one is making certain that, when someone reads their story, they’re hearing that person speak, not someone talking as interpreted or filtered by Jeff Wuorio.
If it’s a tough nut for a ghostwriter to identify a client’s voice, it’s often all the more challenging for many people to tell their story on their own. It can be painfully difficult to find your voice and, once found, to leverage it as a means of effective expression. Those aren’t skills that everyone possesses. As a ghostwriter, that’s my responsibility.
How do I achieve that? Very simply, I get to know my clients very well. I listen with a careful, critical ear and level of attention. I come to know what they would say and how they would say it most effectively, helping to make sure that the message between client and reader is conveyed in a convincing and compelling manner.
I also like to think that my job is to help stretch my clients’ thinking. Often, at the outset of a project, a client and I may think we have defined both the scope and the guts of a story. But, as we get further into it—as we continue to talk and, through that interaction, peel back layers we may not have known were there to begin with—the story can move in different directions and find perspectives and levels that may have remained uncovered without that synthesis.
Occasionally, that interaction can uncover an utterly different story from the one that first brings me together with a client. This points out that the actual exercise of getting thoughts down on paper is only one aspect of a successful and rewarding ghostwriting process. Deciding just what it is you want to say is just as critical as actually saying it. The ghostwriter/client relationship helps foster that important journey.
Another issue that warrants attention is the ghostwriter’s role as a storyteller. On the surface, given the nature of some of the material with which I and other ghostwriters work, the idea of telling a story may seem difficult to grasp. Put another way, a book on customer service doesn’t seem too likely to end up on a Hollywood sound stage thanks to a breathless narrative (Thrill as George Clooney bucks the system to help a frazzled client fill out a bewildering rebate form!)
Fair enough. But, the fact is, if anything—a book, white paper, web copy—doesn’t have a story in it somewhere, chances are a lot of people aren’t going to take the time to read it. Or, if they do, its central message, however powerful, may land well short of its mark.
So, as I tell every client, it’s critical that every project boil down to a good story—or, alternately, incorporate good stories as a means of illustrating important points. Good stories convey compelling messages and keep readers coming back. It’s as simple as that.
A ghostwriter also plays an important role in defining the purpose behind all this storytelling. It’s not uncommon for a client to approach me and say, “I want to write a book.” Fair enough, but to what end? Do you believe your life story will help inspire others? Do you have practical experience and insight in a particular field or enterprise that others will be eager to learn about? Or, on the other hand, do you hope a book will serve as a powerful marketing lever, boosting your credibility and credentials to help support your business or your career? These and other goals are both important and valuable. I work closely with every client to identify the focus that serves both their needs and objectives.
Lastly, a ghostwriter takes all this material and shapes it into a final product whose makeup and execution best fit both the story as well as the client’s needs. In one respect, that may involve arranging chapters and other material in various orders to determine which lineup tells the best story in the clearest manner possible. Some material may, in the end, be eliminated—new information or stories may suddenly make sense. As a ghostwriter, I approach every project as a living entity, one whose capacity to fulfill a client’s objectives depends on a thoughtful, hands on orchestration of subject matter, tone and overall message.