When you contact a potential ghostwriter, the very first question he or she should ask you is, “Why do you want to publish a book? What are you hoping to achieve?”
People have many reasons for wanting to put their name on a book.
In the case of a novel, the question is often answered thusly: “I have an idea for a novel that I think is really good, and I want to get it written.” Because most novels are considered works of art and therefore not utilitarian in the same way as nonfiction books, the goal is not always measurable. If you want to write a novel, while you may have an underlying goal, such as drawing attention to a social issue, the objective is often to make the book an exciting, stimulating, and engaging piece of literature. As you formulate your plot, setting, and characters, your ghostwriter can help you articulate your goals for your novel, thus ensuring you’re both on the same page.
In contrast, when you’re proposing a nonfiction book, the goal of the book is central to the project. By definition, nonfiction books exist to inform the reader and often to produce an effect, and you have to know what you want that response to be. Goals of a nonfiction book may include:
Inform. You may want your reader to have information about a certain subject. Examples might include a family genealogical history, the history of a business venture, or a memoir. The information need not be actionable, and it may not have immediate utilitarian value, but you want people to have it.
1. Help the reader solve a problem. The vast majority of self-help books, either written for individuals or organizations, are designed to help the reader solve a specific problem and, as a result, live a better life. Examples of personal problems include losing weight, getting a better job, planning for retirement, overcoming stress, and solving a medical issue. Examples of organizational problems include marketing a new product, hiring and firing, succession planning, improving management practices, outsourcing, and keeping up with competition. Because humans face endless problems, the possibilities for self-help books are equally endless.
2. Establish yourself as a thought leader. Many business books are designed to elevate the author within his or her industry. Being able to say “I’ve written a book on the subject” establishes you as an authority. When you speak at a seminar or convention, you can bring copies of your book to give away to potential clients. The effect is subtle but powerful. Having a book can also open doors to media exposure, as many news and opinion outlets seek authors to appear on their shows to discuss a subject, and having a book signifies that you’re an expert in your field. Nothing elevates you faster than discussing your new book in front of an audience that may measure in the millions.
3. Attract clients. Some self-help and business books go beyond the “soft sell” and become more blatantly promotional. These books may have calls to action, where the reader is encouraged to contact the author to learn more about how the reader can obtain the author’s services. You need to be careful about getting too close to a “hard sell,” which can be a big turnoff. No one will buy – or even read – a book that sounds like an extended sales pitch.
Readers are also sensitive to pitches that promise the true insider information if you sign up and pay for the next level, such as a seminar or training course. If you’re going to write a book, you owe it to yourself and your readers to make sure it has real value.
This doesn’t mean that your book should be encyclopedic. Unless you’re writing a college textbook or a groundbreaking authoritative text, stick to an upper limit of 50,000 words. Self-help books need to be easy to read and not exhausting.
4. Make money from book sales. To be honest, this is rarely a reason why businesspeople seek to write and publish books. They do it for the other reasons outlined above, and because the book will indirectly stimulate income from other sources such as speaking fees and new clients. If you write a self-help book in a lucrative niche, and you can get it high in Amazon’s sales ranks, you might make a nice trickle of income. And if your core business is to sell books – for example, if you’re a motivational speaker by profession – then you might make significant money from your books. You’ll also make money if you’re a public figure with a built-in market ready to buy your memoir or business book. Having said that, authors don’t normally expect to make money from book sales.
When you start talking with a ghostwriter, the number one issue you need to resolve is what you hope to achieve with your book. It’s the ghostwriter’s job to help you to convey your message to your readers and reach your goals, and before your ghostwriter writes a single word you need to be clear about what you hope to achieve.