The Full-Service Ghost: How to Think Outside the Book.

Books are collaborative projects that bring together the talents of authors, ghostwriters, editors, proofreaders, graphic designers, web designers and developers, photographers, printers, agents, publishers, distributors, and publicists—just to name a few.

As a ghostwriter, my first priority is to deliver a great manuscript to my authors every single time. But then what?

If that’s all an author wants from me, that’s great. But if an author needs help navigating the waters of traditional publishing or self-publishing, I want to be involved with that, as well. I also want to be my author’s marketing partner, and continue to be his or her voice after the book comes out.

One of my first assignments as a ghostwriter also involved producing a store-ready book for my author, an entrepreneur. He really just needed copies of the book to pass out at his annual Christmas party, but he wanted them to look “real”.

So in addition to writing his story, I became project manager for the production of the hardcover edition of his book. This involved a fair amount of research and networking, but it was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. And it turned out to be a nice diversion: When I hit a snag or just needed a break from writing, I could put on my project manager’s hat and learn about ISBN numbers and barcodes.

From just looking at other books, I realized I needed four things: the aforementioned ISBN number and barcode, cataloging data, and a publishing entity. The ISBN number and barcode were easy enough to obtain online. The cataloging information required some unexpected lead-time, but we went with a private company over the Library of Congress and it all worked out.

A designer friend of mine created a logo for a fictitious publishing company, and he also designed the book jacket. A friend of the author knew a great photographer near where the author lived, who was able to coordinate a photo shoot.

I found someone else to layout the interior of the book, hired a team of proofreaders, and asked around for printer recommendations.

And about a week before the Christmas party, boxes of books were delivered to my author, who couldn’t believe he was holding a real book in his hands.

After the party was over, I would have loved to have helped my author market his book. I got my professional writing start as a copywriter, and I’ve written my fair share of press releases and editorial features, so I knew I could add value. Unfortunately, that particular author didn’t want to go that route, but I know there are others out there who might avail themselves of my ancillary services.

My point is that, at least for me, thinking outside the book can be a rewarding experience for both author and ghost. It gives the author-ghostwriter team greater control over the total package, and it allows for a more consistent message from manuscript development to book promotion.

It can also be more cost effective, and more efficient, for an author to have his or her ghostwriter as a single point of contact for a variety of book production and promotional tasks.

If an author hires me to do his or her Web site, for example, there’s no learning curve. I already know his or her book backwards and forwards, and my skills as a copywriter make it easy to translate the book’s messages to an online, promotional format. And since I’ve already invested time and energy creating the manuscript, I could write the Web content much faster than someone from outside, which would translate into cost savings for my author.

If you’re a ghost, don’t be shy about offering to add value in other ways. Being a full-service ghost will deepen your relationships with your authors, and will allow you to expand your earning potential on every project.

[Photo by Steven Snodgrass]