One of the Bible stories that had a big impact on me as a kid was Matthew 6:6 (yes, I had to look it up. I was raised Catholic, so I hardly ever read the Bible myself. But I remember hearing this passage being read at church often).
What stuck with me from the passage is that Jesus wants us to go into our closets and pray in secret. Now, maybe “closet” isn’t the best translation. Other versions read “inner room” or “private room.” But I did enjoy hiding out in my closet with a good book, a flashlight, and a warm blanket, so it seemed reasonable enough to me that I could also talk to God or say a rosary in there.
In college, I would argue with my Evangelical Christian friends who were always wanting to pray together, outloud, bringing others (including me) to the faith. To me, praying was the kind of thing you should do silently — or at least, quietly — and privately. So, all of this felt like a flagrant violation of the law to me.
Today, as a ghostwriter, I think back on little me, crouched down in the closet in my childhood bedroom praying that the Russians wouldn’t rain nuclear war down on our heads. I no longer go to church or pray, but I wonder why so much energy goes into prescribing how people pray.
And I also wonder why so much energy goes into prescribing how people write business books. As a ghostwriter, I’m back in my closet. Only this time I have a computer instead of a rosary. But does ghostwriting really need to be the kind of thing we do in secret?
Secret Business Collaborations
Before I explore why authors who use ghostwriters think it’s important to keep it under wraps, I want to get one thing out of the way: I extend full confidentiality to my ghostwriting clients. I’m not here to rebel against this standard practice.
Instead, my intention is to start a conversation and get you thinking about the motivations behind ghostwriting being secretive and somewhat mysterious. And to kick off this conversation, I want to point out that there are a lot of other secret business collaborations happening behind the scenes.
Do you have a virtual assistant who lives in a different time zone and works on your business while you sleep?
Do you have a social media manager who posts or comments as you?
Do you have someone who cleans your house, so that you can spend more time working?
Now, perhaps you’re transparent about these types of business collaborations. But if you’ve ever hesitated to talk about a way you get support in your business, I think it’s smart to reflect on that hesitation.
Why do you feel uncomfortable talking about hidden labor within your business?
And by the way, you may be doing that hidden labor yourself. I know that people often talk about the hours they put in outside of “regular business hours” with a badge of honor (#4amwarriors). But it’s just as common to hear people bragging about how few hours they put in and how quickly they’ve been able to scale.
I always wonder, though, are they tracking those hours? Do they really know that the ROI is worth it? Is any of this an exaggeration (hint: if it’s part of some chest-thumping on social media, you should take it with a grain of salt).
It’s important to acknowledge the hours you put into becoming an overnight success, ten years in the making. And it’s just as important to evaluate all the secret business collaborations happening behind the scenes as well as why you’re keeping them a secret (if you are).
Once we start to uncover and take a hard look at these other secrets, using a ghostwriter starts to feel more normalized — more like any other outsourcing service you might decide to purchase to increase your bandwidth.
What’s the value of publishing a business book?
To answer the question about whether ghostwriting needs to be done in secret, we need to first answer another question: What’s the value of publishing a business book?
Whether you’re writing a thought leadership book, a how-to book, or a personal development book, the value is in getting your ideas out into the world. (By the way, you can take the quiz here if you’re trying to figure out what type of book to write.)
While some ghostwriters might provide you with the ideas themselves, that’s not how I operate. My clients and I work collaboratively, meeting weekly throughout the entire 16-week process. You come to me with an outline of your book idea and we figure out together how to best position your book and how to best get your message to your audience. My writing amplifies your voice.
Working this way ensures my clients take ownership of their books in the end and this is key to getting the most value out of your business book. See, most business book authors won’t make a lot of money on royalties. You’re more likely to see a return on your investment through:
- Increasing your consulting fees
- Landing paid speaking engagements
- Getting podcast guest spots that put you in front of bigger audiences
- Expanding brand awareness
- Clarifying your big ideas so you can discover new revenue streams
To really capitalize on these money makers, though, authors need to want to talk about their books. So if you don’t know what’s in your book because your ghostwriter works alone, your book will be less valuable. And perhaps this is what most people think of when they consider what it would be like to work with a ghostwriter.
When you talk to some authors, it may seem that the value of publishing a business book is all in being able to add that “author” title to your LinkedIn profile, and it’s true that if you’re after the credential, you may feel it’s necessary to keep your ghostwriter’s support a secret.
However, the real value is in what you do with your book after it’s published. I encourage every prospective author to consider the business case for your book before you start writing or choose to hire a ghostwriter. When you know how the book fits into your broader business model, that’s when publishing a book has the most value.
>>> Do you have a business case for your book? Take this quiz to find out.
Does ghostwriting really need to be the kind of thing we do in secret?
So, finally, we can return to the main question I posed at the beginning: Does ghostwriting really need to be the kind of thing we do in secret?
You probably already know my answer. But what do you think?
If you could work with a ghostwriter and be assured that you would take ownership of the book when it’s finished and…
If the real value of publishing a business book is in getting your ideas out into the world and…
If not writing your book could actually give you the bandwidth to market the book and pursue some of the above ways to capitalize on your book being published…
Then maybe, just maybe, using a ghostwriter isn’t one of those business collaborations that needs to be kept a secret. Or maybe it’s just the best kept business collaboration secret.
I’m ghostwriting in the closet and as much as I’d love to come out, it’s simply not up to me. That’s the deal. That’s what I signed up for. But I would love to be a part of a conversation where we discussed the real implications of shedding light on all the secret business collaborations going on beneath the surface, including ghostwriting.
Photo credit: https://www.123rf.com/profile_artursz