In the beginning, there was the business card.
Then the e-mail address.
Next, the website.
Today, as a businessperson, if you are not an author, you lack a certain credibility.
Authoring a book has become the must-have for big media placements, speaking opportunities, and bigger clients, not to mention your chance for grabbing that elusive brass ring, a bestseller. Hey! You just never know!
Several years back, I was running my midtown PR firm, Katz Creative, and going through a period of angst. All our clients—even those I had just put on “Today” or “Oprah,” or who had just been written up in The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal—was asking, “What have you done for me lately?” At the same time, my staff was making it impossible for me to ever watch another soap opera since I was living one daily. Someone in my office was always in the throes of an existential crisis and now I was having mine!
So I asked myself what I could do from home, with little or no staff, and still be paid well enough that I would not have to give up my lifestyle? In one Aha! moment, the answer came to me: ghostwriting! I didn’t know all that much about it, but still my thought was, “I can do that!” Not only could I ghostwrite books, I decided, I could also set up my own publishing imprint and publish the entrepreneurial books I would collaborate on. Wait: there was yet another dimension I could offer; I could help my authors further by marketing their books!
Voila! A fantastic new business was about to be born.
I made the mistake of calling my first company, “Your Life as a Book,” and a big story on me appeared in The Associated Press (I do know how to get tasty PR, remember?). I was immediately inundated with offers to write “sure to be best-selling books” for hundreds of people. Had I accepted even half of them, I would have been living in a refrigerator box on the street.
People who responded were giving me the opportunity to write their books, but were surprised they would actually have to pay me for the privilege.
I left the clamoring masses to tell their own stories and harangued a couple of clients until they agreed they could indeed use a book. We printed 7,500 soft cover copies of the first book I ghostwrote, and mailed them with a short but powerful cover letter to a targeted audience of CEOs. This firm’s business rapidly tripled. Enthusiastic recommendations followed, and my ghostwriting business was securely on track.
Of course, remember the adage “Be careful what you wish for.” I was working harder than ever, and, soon had to find other ghostwriters to assist me. Nonetheless, I was passionate about helping people become successful authors. I set up New Voices Press, educated myself about book design, bar codes, and pricing, and joined forces with talented, reliable book cover and interior layout designers. I also found effective ways to get celebrity and VIP blurbs as testimonials (I promise I’ll talk about that in another article.)
The takeaway from my experience, I think, is that there’s a big business in ghostwriting out there, more than enough in fact, for everyone who writes well and wants to do this kind of work. The greatest opportunity, I believe, lies in the middle reaches, not with celebrities, sports stars, and politicians for whom traditional publishers offer large advances, but rather with people intent on writing a memoir, an inspirational tome, or the CEOs of small-to-mid-sized companies. Those ambitious, street smart entrepreneurs who want more brand awareness, want to position themselves as experts, and know that in today’s noisy, fast-paced world, authoring a good book on their special topic is the shortest route to get from point A to point B.
On a personal level, the most memorable lesson I learned is this: If you have writing talent and related skills you’ve developed over time, and you want to use them to realign your life with a new set of objectives, I did and so can you!