How and Why to Hire a Ghostwriter [Interview]

How and why to hire a ghostwriter


How and Why to Hire a Ghostwriter - Interview with Richard Lowe

What is ghostwriting?
Why to hire a ghostwriter?
How can ghostwriting help your career?
What kinds of things can ghostwriters write for you?
What is a good strategy for ghostwriting?

Richard Lowe is a professional ghostwriter and author. His passion is to help businesses and individuals write books that showcase their expertise, build credibility and tell their story. Richard has written and published 63 books on a variety of subjects (including 2 Kindle bestsellers), ghostwritten 28 books, and authored over a thousand articles for blogs and social media. Before his writing career, he was the Director of Computer Operations for Trader Joe’s Company, and before that the VP of Consulting for two computer firms. His works include Focus on LinkedIn (an Amazon Kindle bestseller), Cyberheist (for KnowBe4), and Digitize or Die (as Copy Editor).

Host: Welcome to 22nd century management with Kim. I am actually coming to you live from Playa Del Carmen in Mexico. We’re doing some video work. And so that’s why I’m not in my usual studio. I have with me today. quite excited. I’ve got with me, Richard Lowe. He is a professional ghostwriter.

And he that doesn’t mean that he writes ghosts, but and he is passionate really is to help businesses and individuals write books and other things that showcase their expertise, build credibility and tell their point. He has. He’s a professional ghostwriter. He’s written a lot of books. So, Richard, tell us a little more about who you are and what you do.

Richard Lowe: Well, as you said, I’m a professional ghostwriter. For 33 years, I’ve worked in the tech industry, or in the tech field, most recently, 20 years with Trader Joe’s as a director of it. And then I decided, I was tired of working for the man, so to speak, you know, for a corporation and struck out on my own and went through all the fear and terror of that, and kind of wandered into ghost writing and found out.

That’s my passion. I always like to write. But I like I like to write, I like to help people, and it makes income. So, it’s a nice intersection of all of the various things. I’ve actually written 60 books of my own plus five or six that are under pseudonyms that are a little more controversial than I want under my name. And I’ve written 43 ghostwritten books, some of my 43rd. That’s in eight years. So that’s a lot of writing and eight years.

Host: That is a lot of writing. And it’s interesting, because when I was getting ready to retire, and I am sort of officially retired, though, I work harder now than I than I ever did in my job. But it was interesting, because I started by writing articles for magazines. I was kind of I wanted to, when I first started writing, I started writing to kind of correct some things that I saw happening in the copier industry. That’s the background I came from.

Then I went from that to I started writing about technical issues for technicians, and then a little broader into the industry. So I’ve got about 40 articles I’ve published, because I can appreciate the the amount of words it takes, right as much as you’ve written. I haven’t I have a book I’m working on at least mentally I don’t have much on paper yet. But it’s again, there’s just so much involved in writing. So let me start with this. What is ghostwriting? Tell us about ghostwriting?

Richard Lowe: Well, ghost riding is basically I’m a work for hire, you contract with me to write, I tend to write books and blog articles. But ghost writers can write anything from Hallmark Cards, to, to poems to whatever to songs, apparently, that’s pretty popular now, hiring goes songwriters. So, you hire me to write a book for you, let’s say. And then I do the writing and you do the ideas.

So, I interview you to get your concepts, your values, your what do you want the book to be about, and so on. So, it’s still your book. And that’s a very important concept. It’s not my book, it’s your book, much the same as a contractor of a house is building a house for you. It’s not his house, it’s your house, he just built it. So that’s important to understand from kind of an ethical point of view.

And from you really, if you hire me to write a book, you want it to be yours, you want to have your voice, your thoughts, your, your background, whatever else you want to put in there. And that’s what I capture in the interview part of the ghost writing. And then I write the actual prose and whatever.

Now I also write fiction. And nonfiction, I’m pretty much all over the place, because I found that I can write about anything because I am the writer, and you are the subject matter expert, as they’re called in the tech industry. So I depend on you or research or both to get the to get the information that I need to do the writing.

Host: Okay, and so we have a question from Beth. She said, what books are most popular now in 2021? So, we’ll come back to best question. We can think about that a little bit, and we’ll talk about it as we go on. So how can a ghostwriter help an individual?

Richard Lowe: Well, it depends on what your goals are the most recent customer of mine, they wanted to write a book that would help them get a speaking roles. Because if you can become a keynote speaker at a major Your conference, you can make 1520 grand a pop, if you’re the keynote speaker. And if you’re just a speaker, you can make a little bit more a little bit less.

But still, that also helps them get press because the media loves books. And that’s a that’s a sign, especially if it’s got some, some sales associated with it. And it helps them get get established in their fields, because they’re the one who wrote the book.

One of my customers actually one of my very first ones, he came to me, and he wanted me to write a book for him because he wanted, he was like a sea level employee for this division and a bit larger company. And he wanted to be noticed by the CEO of the whole company.

So he wanted to write a book about the subject matter of that company. And I wrote the book, and not only did he get the notice of the CEO, but the CEO wound up writing the foreword of the book. And he’s now doing speaking engagements. And the book is a textbook in some classes, and it’s for sale in libraries and things, he had a lot of success with it.

And that’s, that’s what it does, it gives you a name, it’s a tool, you can think of it as a tool, it’s like a hammer, or you know, an air drill or whatever. Of course, it doesn’t do any good if you don’t use it. So you have to actually use the book to help your career. That’s one use of it. The other use is, if you’re a fiction writer or something, you actually want a book that you want to sell to the media itself to the mass market.

So in that case, that would help you plot your book and come up with all the plot points and the characters and the things, put together the book for you to work with you, and write the book for you while you and I work together. But it was more of a collaboration in that in that case. So we kind of collaborate on the book. And when we’re done, we’ve got a finished fiction book.

And he just finished in January, a young adult book that got published on Amazon, and it turned out pretty good. The lady liked it and starting to sell. And in those cases, the hard part in that case is is the marketing, I don’t do the marketing and the hard part is getting the book to sell. Especially if it’s self published, how do you sell that book? And that’s some, that’s usually a problem, but it’s surmountable, of course.

Host: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s interesting, because there’s two very, very different components there. Because the writing is one piece of the marketing and a lot of the guests. I have honored people that have books, you have a new book out, well, we’ll mention it and there’ll be a link in the description for both on if you’re watching this on LinkedIn, if you’re watching it on YouTube, or if you’re listening to the audio in the in the description, you’ll find a link to Richard’s book.

But I think the the key thing for business people, and it kind of falls into two categories is to build credibility. Because people if you’ve written a book about something, they just kind of automatically assume you know what you’re talking about. I know even with the articles I’ve written, is generated speaking engagements.

Now they’re not paid speaking engagements. But I haven’t been hunting that market yet. At least, you know, there’s a possibility I will. Okay, so let me ask another question here. So what kinds of things can ghost writers write for a person?

Richard Lowe: Well, that’s a that’s a broad question. As I’ve said, I’ve wrote written young adult books. I’ve also written some fiction novels, I’ve written I’m just getting a contract today, it looks like to do a children’s book that is aimed at younger children, kind of like the Goosebumps books.

That one looks like it’ll be very nice, then. But um, but my main focus is on, say, since I have a technical background as on more technical books, but they’re not technical. They’re more explaining technology to others, like managers and leaders and things like that. I don’t tend to write technical books that are explaining like how artificial intelligence works at that level, because I’m not that kind of, I’m not an artificial intelligence guy.

And I really am not interested in learning to be an artificial intelligence guy. I’m, you know, I’ve been through the whole tech field. But I can explain it to people, I understand the level that a manager would understand.

And so I’ve written say, we’ll just give you an idea for books on artificial intelligence, five books on digital transformation, three books on computer security, a book on the Internet of Things, and looking for books like that plus books on it for a private practice that was a dentist and for a cleaning supply company, and for a person who did retirement.

So, it really runs the gauntlet of things. The three last books I mentioned, the dentistry one she wanted to have something in the in her office that she could give out to her patients that explain how the industry works and what all the different things were. That was an interesting book to write the cleaning company he wanted something he could give to his customers.

What is what did we do? These were actual Well, you know, 200-page books about all about their, their franchise, and that kind of thing. So it can be anything that you want me to write. I can write because I do the writing. And you do the knowledge. Although I do do research for those two. Okay,

Host: Very interesting. So, what’s the strategy to work for somebody that might be interested in working with a ghostwriter?

Richard Lowe: Well, that’ll take a few minutes. But let me just go through the entire process. So first of all, we hook up usually from LinkedIn, or from my website, or you can call me by numbers, and, you know, my Google or whatever it’s called. Usually, I get them off of LinkedIn.

And I’m starting to get a lot of referral business too. So you contact me, we have the initial free consultation that’s up to an hour long, and we talk and chat about what your books about and what you want to write about and explain exactly what I’m going to explain right now.

To you, so we go through the whole process from front to back. Once we do that, we put together a contract, it’s called a statement of work with all the terms that we talked about, and the price, and so forth, you sign it. Of course, if there’s any changes that need to be made, we will negotiate those and go so forth, I use something called Docusign.

For that, which makes it electronic, which is very simple. So there’s no printing, because in these days of work from home, and modern times, a lot of people don’t have printers, I found out and turned out to be a problem until I found Docusign. And then you pay your invoice, the first invoice, which is there’s a down payment, and then we get started.

The first part of the book, usually the first two weeks to do a month is strategizing the book, coming up with the Table of Contents coming up with the theme, the view, the voice, the all of the various things that are in front matter if it’s a fiction book could be coming up with the plot points and the characters and all the other things about the ghost, go to the book. So that’s what we’re doing for the first month.

Usually, after that, I try and target one to two chapters per month. And we based basically work on one to two chapters per month, beginning with interviews at the beginning of the month, an outline which you approve, then I write the first draft, you get to see it on the first draft is going to be very rough and it’s not spell checked or anything. It’s it’s a first draft for you to look at.

And so yeah, these concepts are right there Correct. Of course, I do use a spell checker from the machine, but I haven’t manually gone through it. And then if you like it, or I take into account your comments, I polish it up, send it back to you. And we move on to the next chapter. The idea is, is by the time we’re through the book, we have a book that’s in pretty good shape. And then we begin as a final revision of the whole thing.

And then I always recommend that they send it to an editor, usually a line editor, or a copy editor that then takes that book and puts the final polish on it and cleans it up. Editors tend to know what markets and what, what, what looks better, the style from that style and so forth. They get real nitty gritty and picky about it. And then then it kind of depends on how you want to go from there.

Do you want to traditionally publish? Do you want to self-publish? And so forth. Now, backing up a minute, while we’re writing the book, there are some things that need to be done. And this is usually done by by the author. So let me explain. I’m the writer, you’re the author. So if you hire me, you’re the author. I’m the writer. So I’m the brick, I’m the bricklayer. So the author has to then build up a following. Because if you’re going to sell it to a traditional publisher, the first question they’re going to ask is,

How many followers do you have? are engaged followers are looking for people who are actually engaged, right? If you’re self publishing, you want to have those followers because they’re the ones who are going to buy the book. So during that, six months are here are for long, it’s gonna take us to write this book. You the author need to be building up these followers.

What I recommend you do is choose the channel you like usually one. So if you like videos, YouTube, if you like pictures, Pinterest or Instagram, Instagram, she’s probably a little better. If you’re kind of I don’t know who likes Twitter, because I don’t.

But if you’re that kind of person, Twitter, if you’re going to consumers, Facebook if you’re going to businesses LinkedIn, choose your channel and focus on that and build up a following there. I do have my own podcast that’s called author talk with Richard Lowe. I interview authors and one of the authors.

She went to her church, and she got 600 People basically to work with her as volunteers, and she gives them little prizes and things to help spread the word about her books, they’re not, they’re not religious books, they’re, they’re, I think they’re science fiction books, actually. And they help her sell them. And then they get little prizes, and she makes a game out of it and have a lot of fun.

So you need to get engagement on those. And those are the people who are going to buy your book when it’s first published, whether you’re self published, or whether you’re traditionally published. If you’re going to self publish, you need to cover and you need to do the publishing part, which I can help, I can help you with all of these things. I’m not a cover person, I can find them for you.

If you’re traditionally published, you just hand the manuscript and then they say yes or no, they’re gonna buy it or not. And then they move forward. There are other steps involved in all of that traditional or traditional published book, you may want to submit it to them an outline or a synopsis first, rather than before writing the book, you may not it kind of depends on what kind of book you’ve gotten, what the strategy is, we will discuss all that at the beginning.

There’s a thing called a book proposal. If you’re self published, you don’t do any of that. So it’s a long process, and it can be complex, but the beauty is, is I’m your ghostwriter, you’ve hired me to help you with that. So I know all the steps I’ve done. I’ve published hundreds of books, because I published all my clients books.

And since I also do book coaching, sometimes that people come to me and say, I just want to publish this book that I’ve got. Can you help me with that? So I’ve published a lot of books for people, that that’s usually by the hour and take just a few hours. And then you have to decide, do you want to want an paperback and Kindle format? Do you want an iBook? Do you want an audiobook? And how do you do those things? And I can help with all those things, too. Okay, well,

Host: That’s very interesting. We have a couple of questions. Let’s, let’s see, we get some answers. Tony, asked the question. He says, how do you price it? Do you consider outcome-based contracts?

Richard Lowe: By outcome based you mean royalties or something like that? If the answer would be, that would be no. The way I price it is by the word of for most books, there are some books, depending on the type of book where it could do by the hour. But you have to remember, this is my living.

And just like you probably wouldn’t work at your job on the possible chance that you get paid in a year or two. I can’t do that as a ghostwriter. So it’s all it’s literally upfront, downpayment and an upfront each month. So what I do is, let’s say, let’s say, I usually charge 25% down, and then we take the rest of it, and we divide it by however many months we think it’s going to take, and that’s the monthly payment. If that makes sense.

Host: Yeah. All right. Very good. And then Tony also asked, he says, How do you determine the timeframe to get a book completed?

Richard Lowe: Well, I target a certain number of chapters or words per month. So the timeframe is simply that if it’s 5000 words a month, and that’s a 60,000 word book, which is a pretty normal sized book, then we just, that’s however many months that turns out to be.

And the remember, the first month is not writing it’s, it’s it’s strategy. So your average book, probably take anywhere from six months to a year depending on your budget, because shorter timeframe equals more higher monthly payments. So most people that I contract with do eight months or a year, because they want that monthly payment be a little bit smaller.

I’ve had a couple who wanted it in three months. And sure that’s doable, it just means you’re basically paying more money per month, it works out the same in the end. And then after the books done, there’s the editing and the the more I edit it and revise it, and then we send it to an editor.

Host: Okay. All right. Well, that makes sense. Yeah, Tony said he was talking about maybe your retainer and then an outcome based, but I didn’t think that, you know, I can speak to that too a little bit is that, that for somebody that’s selling a book, the process of selling books, is not quick income, it can be a long, slow process to get enough books;

Unless you, you know, if you’ve got a million followers, if you’re, for example, if you’re Gary Vee, you know, Gary Vaynerchuk, you know, he’s got, you know, a million plus followers on LinkedIn or on YouTube. He’s the kind of guy that people will buy whatever he sells, or, you know, there’s a bunch of other people that are like that. Now, their sales cycles, probably a lot faster than than our new writer that’s coming into the market and it takes forever to build up.

Richard Lowe: Right? No, I don’t do retainer and outcome-based things. And very, very, very few ghost writers will do that. The only real exception is like, if you were lucky enough to be Clinton’s ghost writer, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, somebody with the Real name, who has a real concept of getting who’s almost guaranteed bringing in a lot of income later. Because it’s our living, it’s how we pay the rent. So, we generally can’t afford to do outcome based.

Host: Well, and if you do outcome based, it’s a roll of the dice. Because part of is the writing skill, which you bring. But the other part of it is, is the person the story, you know, all of those, there’s just so much to, I am sure you’ve had some of your books that you’ve published that have taken a while to, to get to the breakeven point even?

Richard Lowe: Well, yeah, yeah. Also, the promotion is not under my control. So that that means that I’m not selling the book. So if you lose interest, I don’t make any money on it. And that’s, that’s really not fair. So, yeah, the the answer to that is pretty much a flat No, with the exception of if you have a real name. Yeah.

Host: Let me let me ask a question, because I go back to thinking about my book. And I’ve been thinking about this as we talked a little bit. Because what I am thinking about is creating a book based on the course I teach, because I teach service management in the coffee industry.

So, my thought process was I have all the audio recordings or the video recordings of the classes. And it just needs to be compiled into the book form. So, what something where I had a lot of content ready, would that be different in how you the pricing structure would look like? Or?

Richard Lowe: Yes, yeah, in that case, we Well, believe it or not, that’s also a lot of work.

Host: But it would be a lot of work I started.

Richard Lowe: In that case, we would work on a probably an hourly basis. And it just be by the hour, and we would have you transcribe all of those things through a transcription service. And then we would take that and basically just do collaboration edits on it, where we were editing it together, or I would edit it or whatever works.

But generally, going from that kind of thing to a book, they often don’t mesh well, especially if you didn’t plan that at the beginning. So it can still be more a lot more work than you would think, to turn all that into a book. But I usually do those by the hour.

Host: Okay. Yeah. And I’m at the stage, I was really into that just thinking about it. Tony asked another question. He said for a 60,000-word book, what’s it going to cost? Just ballpark? And then he had 15,000 followers, what percent would he expect to purchase a $20 book?

Richard Lowe: Well, a 60,000-word book, I charged 50 cents a word. So that would be $30,000. And that’s about mid range for ghost writers. I’m not the low-end ghostwriter, you can find ghost writers who will do that for almost nothing. But you don’t want them. Just like you don’t want the low bidder for your, for your little no Liam or something.

And you can find ghost writers that will charge you 10 times that. Those are the ones who tended to have Pulitzer Prizes. And they the ghostwriter themselves actually have a name that can sell the book, where they’re actually established authors on their own. But I would charge $30,000 For that, with the caveat, it includes a basic amount of research and interviews.

But if I’m one of the books, we have third party interviews, actually, dozens of third-party interviews and other people that I interviewed, those are by the hour. And then if it’s more than the normal amount of research, which we would define in the statement of work, then that’s also by the hour, I’ve only had two books that two of the 43 books that actually fell into that, and they were a lot of extra work.

So that’s that’s how I came up with that. That’s pretty rare. Because research, there usually isn’t that much research in a book because you’re the subject matter expert, you usually know. You can point me to the articles to read and whatever I need.

And remember, we’re talking per chapter, there’s a chapter is usually between 2000 to 5000 words, there’s usually not a lot of research for two to 5000 words. I don’t write highly technical books that require like the require a citation every 15 lines. Okay.

Host: All right. Well, you know what? We’re coming up on the end of the half hour I really enjoyed her. Oh, actually, let’s go back to best question. I did promise we talked about it. She said, what books are most popular now in 2021.

Richard Lowe: Romance novels are the most popular. Science fiction obviously is super popular fantasy is very popular. And biographies like Arnold Schwarzenegger his biography, which is fascinating, by the way, incredible book. 150,000 words huge.

Those kinds of books are very popular course self-help is always popular. And goosebumps. The guy who wrote goosebumps has sold 400 million copies of all of his books. I think he’s the number two author next to Rowling, the one who did A Harry Potter Harry Potter.

Yeah, yeah. She’s, she’s the richest author in the world, I believe. And I think she’s one of the richest women in the world. And the guy who did goose bumps is pretty close. Second, he’s not a woman, but you know?

Host: Yeah. But then again, you know, so we see there’s a wide variety, or there’s Let me ask just another thought, because in the my industry in my industry, I have my background is as it was in the in the copier business. And one of the things that I see, you know, is a marketing tool even would be to, to think about newspaper articles.

For example, if you’re trying to build credibility in your marketplace, if you get it right and get newspaper articles published, you know about what your business does for others. Maybe it would be a case where if you’re not the wordsmith, to write it yourself that then you hire a ghostwriter to do something like that. Does that make sense?

Richard Lowe: Yeah, what you’re what you’re talking about, if you’re hiring a writer to write, I guess, more or less advertising copy for you?

Host: Well, I don’t want to call it advertising copy, because I’m a firm believer that you provide real value. So okay, you can write about things to think about when buying a copier, for example,

Richard Lowe: I do that all the time. That kind of thing. I do blogs and articles and things and those kinds of things come my way all the time. And because I’m a little bit higher price to tend to do more of the AI, artificial intelligence type things that are a little bit that require some knowledge to do, um, copiers, tend to go a little bit lower in price.

Because you can find lots of writers who can write about copiers. No, no offense to cop to copiers. Oh, yeah, no, I understand. Yeah. Which is harder to find writers who can write about AI, or whatever and make it sound good. But I certainly have done a lot of that when I was starting, and it’s certainly in my bailiwick.

But if you’re getting into the advertising field, you’re getting into a copywriter, not a ghostwriter. And a copywriter is an entirely different thing. copywriters will go for probably 10 to 50 times my price. I mean, one single page of copywriting could cost you $100,000. Because that copywriting is going to sell your product. And when you look at it, you can make millions of dollars off that one page. So copywriters, they charge whatever they want, if they’re good.

Host: Yeah, I think of it and I go back to where I started, my writing was your road to to build my credibility. So people would respect what I had to say, I wrote to provide information that will help others learn to deal with some particular aspect.

But the collection of those articles is done a lot for me, they also created an internal into blog pieces as well, sure. But for people that are trying to build a credibility in your local market and wanting to become viewed as an expert, having some things published, and like said, in magazines, or in, sitting in newspapers, those kinds of places that are, again, provide value to customers, you can’t write ads, because that’s a whole different,

Richard Lowe: Of course. That’s why I split it apart on one thing that I’m doing that’s rather interesting for one customer right now finished with this real quick, is we’re just finishing up his book. And the next step we’re going to do is we’re gonna take each chapter, and we’re going to turn it into speakers notes, so that each chapter becomes something he can talk about.

And we’re going to turn each chapter into a blog. And we’re going to write a workbook. So this book is getting split up into all these different things, to help him with his career. He’s owns his own company, to help them with selling his products and services and things. So it’s one book turned into an interesting thing.

Oh, there was a second question from Tony. Assuming I have 15k followers, what percent should we use? Should we expect to purchase a $20 book? That really depends on how engaged they are? You those followers need to be engaged and need to want that book. And that’s kind of up to you to make them want the book.

It could be I mean, if it’s one of those lists that you buy off the internet, you know, buy 5000 names for 10 bucks, none of them are going to buy your book. If it’s somebody that you’ve you’ve built up over a long time, and they’re very excited about tuna staying engaged with them, and they’re talking to them all the time.

You could have you know, 20% by the book, it really depends. Depends on you. And that’s that’s the problem with the promotion is it depends on you or the value of your promoter. Whoever you hire to do it. Depends on how much they engage.

Host: Yeah, and I said it is a real challenge. Listen, Richard, I’ve appreciated very much. You’re being with me today. I’ve enjoyed the conversation. I love learning about ghostwriting. What I would say is as eBay has questions, hit Richard’s got a contact information will be in the show notes in the description where it’s easy to find.

If you got a book that you’re kicking around and want to investigate it further, reach out, give Richard, reach out to him. He’ll get back in touch with it and be glad to help you.

Richard Lowe: And just go to my website and fill out the form and it’ll send me an email. That’s the easiest way.

Host: Okay. All right. And again, thanks for joining us today. Hope you enjoyed this conversation. we’ll see everybody next week on 22nd century management with Kim All right.

Richard Lowe

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