My Process

 

Curious about how ghostwriting works? Let's get into it!

 

 

When I tell Lyft drivers I am a ghostwriter, they think it means I write scary stories. Not everyone is familiar with the job of a ghostwriter, and indeed not many people set out to become ghostwriters (although they should, as it is one of the best jobs on the planet...in my humble opinion). A ghostwriter's career usually begins with an author creating her own books and then seeing them through the rigorous and challenging publishing process. I did this four times with four different titles before someone asked me to help them with their book project. When they did, I realized I loved collaborating with dynamic individuals on their books. (I still work on stories alone from time to time as well. My next novel for young readers will be released in the spring of 2022.)

 

When you hire a ghostwriter, you are hiring an expert guide, and you want to be sure your partner knows what he or she is doing--because that person has done it many times before. I'm currently working on my 15th and 16th book projects, respectively, so we've got that part covered!

 

Next, trust is everything. What is your gut feeling about a particular ghostwriter? Honor it. Finally, you need to like the person you choose to work with. Your book won't be good unless you open up and get very, very real with me. Don't worry--I'm easy to like. I'm lighthearted, wry, warm, and goofy. I appreciate intellectual rigor (and demand it of myself), but I'm also laidback and down-to-earth. I truly love my job. What could be better than talking about ideas all day long or hearing my clients' best and most surprising stories? It's all a joy.

 

I begin by talking with you on the phone about your book idea. If we agree we'd be good collaborators, I like to kick off the project by meeting you in person. During this first meeting, we talk about the books you've admired (written by other coaches or entrepreneurs) and how your project is similar to theirs.

 

Next, we talk about the main topic areas you'd like to cover and the stories you have that will best illustrate these concepts. I'll be curious about your own personal, life, and business challenges or moments of transformation, and I'll also be interested in how you've helped your coaching clients, employees, or mentees. I then create a working Table of Contents we will follow throughout the project. This TOC is subject to change and will evolve over our months of working together.

 

From there, I will review any existing materials you have, including blog posts, podcast episodes, keynote speeches, or online courses. I'll begin the process of choosing what material will serve the book and should be included, and what material should be left out. We make a plan for communicating each week. I am flexible on exactly how this will work. For example, we can do weekly recorded phone calls or video chats. Or, we can communicate via email. Some of my clients enjoy receiving brief question sets every few days and respond to each query with a short audio recording that they then email me right from their phones.

 

I transcribe our interviews or your recordings and write the book.

 

The first piece you'll receive from me is the book's introduction. You'll check that I've captured your voice and have a proper understanding of your main goal. I'll use your feedback to complete Draft 1 of your book. You'll receive this as a Word document in an email attachment. I encourage you to print out this document and read it over, making notes in the margins as you go. You can either snail mail this back to me or take pictures of your notes and send them to me over email.

 

I will integrate all of your feedback and notes. This Draft 2 document will then be ready for our collaboration in Google Docs. By moving the document online, we can edit it together. Each of us can see all of the latest changes and margin comments. Once we are both happy with this Draft, I will pull it down from Google Docs and get the book proofread. I will format it for you if you choose to self publish and provide you with two book cover designs to review. Or, I will advise you on hybrid or traditional publishing options.

 

Finally, I will celebrate with you on a job well done!

How to Approach Your Book with a “Both/And” Philosophy

Let's discuss a common issue that crops up for leaders, coaches, and entrepreneurs when they begin writing a book: whether to call what they’re trying to create a memoir or a business book.

 

It’s confusing because most people did not learn their most valuable life and business lessons by osmosis or by luck. They learned their lessons and gathered their unique wisdom through real-life, challenging circumstances—by overcoming tough events and growing through difficulties.

And now, these individuals want to share their stories with the world. Because it’s personal, the whole thing sounds like a memoir…right? But the idea of writing one of those is overwhelming—and seems as if it could be unwise or impractical from a business perspective.

Does this sound familiar?

 

If you are struggling with what sort of book to write, I am here to help you. I want to introduce you to the concept of the “both/and” book: a business book animated by the best elements of memoir. This kind of book is my absolute sweet spot as a ghostwriter.

 

 

Here’s how the process of creating one of these valuable books works:

 

1. First, think of the one main theme or challenge you’ve overcome in your life. This is the central idea of your book. For me, that one main theme would probably be about following my inner voice—trusting it, giving it better tools, making time to tune into it. Every chapter of my “both/and” book would have something to do with this central idea.

 

2. Next, consider 6-7 main lessons you’d like to give to your reader. These lessons will form your book chapters. Think of your reader as your younger self, perhaps 22-26 years old.

  • What do you want to tell them?

  • What have you learned gradually over time in business and in life?

  • What lessons were the hardest to integrate?

 

For me, one of the hardest lessons to learn was simply: “I am responsible.” I am responsible for every single aspect of my life. No one is coming to save me, and that’s a lovely thing. Truly. If someone had come to save me (financially), I never would’ve built this awesome business helping others tell their stories. I would’ve missed out on a whole swath of the human experience. This lesson is powerful, and it actually fits nicely under the larger theme of following my inner voice (the one that is obsessed with books and reading). Cool, right?

 

3. From here, we’re going to turn our attention to the memoir aspect of your book. The 6-7 main lessons you want to teach will never connect with your reader unless you illustrate each one of them with a powerful story. A story YOU’VE lived. A story with detail, with texture. A story only YOU can tell.

 

4. We will then bolster your 6-7 main chapter lessons with secondary stories from your clients and friends as well as data from scientific studies, news stories, cultural trends, etc. The point of this part of the process is to strengthen the lesson you are trying to teach by providing the reader not just with the depth of your lesson or idea, but with further applications and information…breadth.

 

5. Finally, you will provide your reader with some concrete action steps, tips, and chapter takeaways. This is the business book part. Give away your ideas! If you’d like your readers to press your book into the hands of others, be deeply generous. Share what works.

 

 

The "Both/And" Takeaway

 

When you break down a book project using this powerful “both/and” approach, the whole process becomes a lot more manageable and fun. From start to finish, we know exactly what we are doing and how each and every element of the book serves one central purpose. I love this approach because the whole point of a memoir is to pick and choose the stories that you tell from your life in service of a larger theme. A memoir is NOT an autobiography. It’s selective. It’s perfect. It's inspiring.

I also want to mention that between 600,000 and 1 million book titles are published in the United States each year, and over 2 million in the world. If you want your book to connect—to find its readers—you need to keep a relentless focus on the reader. Each and every story you choose to tell in your book MUST serve that purpose. It should solve a pressing problem for your reader. You cannot just tell a story from your life because it stands out in your mind or it’s fun to tell. Focus on the reader and you will win. Force yourself to choose only your best, most impactful, life stories. I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR EVERYTHING. (Picture me covering my ears.) LALALALALALA! 😊

 

My Ghostwriter Promise

 

I love helping my clients create powerful “both/and” books. If you choose to hire me, I can promise you I will:

 

  • Communicate regularly to keep our project on track

  • Make the process of getting stories out of your head and onto the page easy

  • Meet you with empathy and kindness as we dig into your life’s stories

  • Deliver a manuscript we can both be proud of on or before the due date

 

I only have four client slots left for 2020. If writing a “both/and” book appeals to you, I encourage you to reach out to me today and grab one of them.

Let's Connect

ljsch22@gmail.com

608.886.3703

Laura Schaefer is a member of the Association of Ghostwriters.

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© 2020 Laura Schaefer