For decades, hiring a ghostwriter has been the traditional approach for a thought leader to write a book if they’re not a professional writer. But in today’s world, low-cost information is everywhere, and the new currency is not what you know, but rather who trusts you. As the president of a storytelling company, I have seen that most thought leaders are slow to recognize this massive shift and its impact on how they approach their book(s).
Think about your favorite thought leaders: Simon Sinek, Brené Brown, Gary Vaynerchuk. While each of these leaders have learned through rigorous trial and error and have shared new and profound truths with the world, if you think about why you love them, chances are because they boldly stand for something that validates your own beliefs about the way the world should work. For example:
- Simon Sinek may validate your desire to matter in the work you do.
- Brené Brown may offer you a world where shame doesn’t hold you back from opportunity.
- Gary Vaynerchuk may spark that fire inside of you that wants to take no prisoners and make things happen.
If their philosophy aligns with how you live or want to live, then chances are strong that you will spread their message as well. The key piece to understand here is that the filter of who they are is profoundly more important to their brands than the lessons they are teaching. Who they are is what builds the trust required for them to stand out and be heard in a cluttered world.
Why Ghostwriting Is Not the Solution
Ghostwriting, as I see it, is a business relationship where a ghostwriter is asked to take what a client has learned and share that information in a straightforward manner. The ghostwriter then takes no credit for the work they’ve created on their client’s behalf.
Let’s take a moment to remember this paradigm: Your value as a thought leader increases when people trust you. If you hire someone else to write your story for you, and you don’t acknowledge their contribution, your own credibility could be brought into question. In my opinion, hiring a ghostwriter will not help you deepen your relationships with your customers and followers. It is also a transactional arrangement, and you want your book to be a transformational experience. After all, aren’t you writing it to change your own life in some way or another?
Finding a Better Approach
In the end, transparency is what pays off. Imagine what it would mean to tell the world that you’re smart enough to hire a partner whose expertise complements yours. You have a great business model, proven idea, or beautiful life philosophy and you’ve decided to partner with someone who has spent as much time mastering the craft of writing. How does it diminish you to share an “as told to” or “with” credit on your book? As the saying goes, the light of a candle is not diminished when it lights another candle. The room simply becomes brighter.
Caring deeply about your work is what helps your writing enter a magical space. Nearly everything about the structure of the relationship between you and your writing partner(s) should lead to the possibility of this kind of outcome, because this is what will turn your readers into raving fans.
Here are some tips when it comes to hiring a writer:
- Find a great writer whose work you admire.
- Ensure that your core values align with theirs.
- Work with them on a smaller, short-term project to ensure their communication is stellar and that they are committing themselves as a valuable partner.
- Offer them compensation and writing credit (50 percent of your credit on the cover is appropriate, based on my experience).
- Use a work-for-hire agreement so that you own all the content. You’re still the client, so you have the right to own the product.
My sincere hope is to eradicate the ghostwriting model of transactional book writing. Instead, let’s celebrate the courage of the thought leader alongside the gifts of the writing team. Let’s acknowledge that there is strength in coming together with other experts to create a thought leadership piece that generates an impact. Let’s bring our writers out of the shadows and acknowledge their contributions. From there, we can deeply connect with our readers and engage them with the most profound work of our lives.