It can be perplexing for new authors to understand the distinction between a ghostwriter and an editor. Moreover, the existence of various types of editors, as well as literary agents and book coaches, further complicates matters. Determining the specific assistance you require can be a challenging task.
To begin with, let’s discuss the concept of ghostwriting services. In this scenario, you furnish the ghostwriter with the necessary details regarding your chapters, and they undertake the actual writing of those chapters.
You can convey the information through written materials, interviews, research, or a combination thereof. The ghost writer also
(1) collaborates with you on developing your book’s concept and outline;
(2) ensures the proper structure of the book;
(3) ensures each chapter is well-structured;
(4) guarantees overall flow, clarity and readability; and
(5) presents you with a book ready for publication.
Collaborating with a ghostwriter is a great choice for individuals who
(1) dislike writing,
(2) struggle with writing proficiency, or
(3) have limited time for writing.
While this approach still necessitates your involvement in conveying your expertise to the ghostwriter, it demands less time compared to writing the book on your own.
However, is it possible to simply provide your ghostwriter with a topic and allow them to independently write your book for you?
While there are writers who may offer such ghostwriting services, if someone can write your book without your involvement, how can it truly be considered your book?
Conversely, as long as the content of the book accurately represents your knowledge and expertise, it remains your book even if you collaborate with a ghostwriter.
Consider this perspective: Numerous exceptional non-fiction books would have never come to fruition if individuals lacking writing abilities believed they had no entitlement to share their expertise.
As a ghostwriter, I assist someone with expertise in a specific field by utilizing my own skills in writing and editing to ensure their message is lucid and readable. Even though I am the one assembling the words, the information and opinions still belong to the expert.
It’s important to understand that a ghostwriter can also assist in creating a book proposal for you. This is a distinct document similar to a business plan for your book, designed to help publishers determine whether they are interested in acquiring your book idea.
Even if you have already completed the entire book, most publishers will still require a proposal. To draw an analogy, let’s consider a scenario where you have already established your business but are seeking investors.
In this case, potential investors would still expect to review your business plan. (Please note that fiction is an exception to this. In the case of fiction, publishers prefer to review the complete book as the writing itself takes precedence over the information.)
What About Editing?
As mentioned before, various categories of editors are involved in the process of bringing a book to publication, and typically, all of them are utilized at different stages along the way.
Developmental editing, also known as substantive editing or book doctoring, functions similarly to a ghostwriter by ensuring the cohesiveness of your entire book.
This type of editor may rewrite sections or propose restructuring the book or specific chapters. Additionally, they may perform initial editing tasks related to punctuation, grammar and clarity.
This category of editor meticulously addresses language usage on a line-by-line and paragraph-by-paragraph basis.
They diligently identify and rectify issues such as overly lengthy sentences, unnecessary or overused words, passive voice, tense problems, unclear sentence structures, and other related matters.
A copy editor, also referred to as a technical editor, meticulously reviews the manuscript, meticulously examining grammar, spelling, punctuation, tense, and hyphenation, addressing any inconsistencies in capitalization, numbers, and more.
Frequently, this editor ensures that the manuscript adheres to a specific style guide, such as the Chicago Manual of Style.
These style guides are employed by publishers to maintain consistency. For instance, a style guide may specify whether percentages should be expressed as “five percent” or “5%.”
A proofreader conducts a thorough examination of the manuscript, focusing on identifying obvious grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.
It is recommended to have the manuscript proofread multiple times to catch as many mistakes as possible. However, it’s important to note that even with multiple rounds of book proofreading, some errors may still go unnoticed.
The majority of books published by publishing houses undergo the comprehensive scrutiny of all these editor types before being considered “ready to go.”
While publishers do have editors on staff, if a manuscript arrives in subpar condition, it may be returned to the author for further revision, resulting in production delays or even a rejection after the contract has been signed.
This is precisely why many authors opt to hire their own ghostwriters or editors, ensuring that the manuscripts they submit are in excellent condition.
What Is A “Literary Agent”?
What exactly is the role of literary agents? Firstly, it’s important to note that a reputable literary agent will never ask you for any monetary compensation.
Their primary function involves reviewing your manuscript or book proposal and deciding whether they want to represent you. If they choose to do so, the agent will actively promote your book idea to suitable publishing houses, aiming to secure a publishing contract.
If successful, the agent will receive a small percentage from the advance payment you receive from the publisher, exclusively when a publishing contract is secured.
Additionally, a literary agent may assist in enhancing your proposal and book concept, and they will definitely handle negotiations on your behalf when it comes to your publishing contract.
It is crucial not to underestimate the significance of this aspect, as many publishing houses tend to offer unfavorable contracts to first-time authors.
Now, let’s briefly touch upon advances, as their workings are often misunderstood: A book proposal serves the purpose of selling your book, enabling you to receive an advance payment from the publisher.
This advance payment is then used by you to support the writing process of your book. Only after this advance has been paid back to the publisher will you start earning royalties. Consequently, it’s a harsh reality that the majority of books never generate any royalties.
What Is A “Book Coach”?
Indeed, there is another valuable role within the publishing industry that you might find beneficial. A book coach is an individual who can offer guidance throughout the process of writing your book or proposal.
This person can assist you in refining the concept of your book, including the title (and possibly the subtitle). They can also aid you in creating an outline, and you may choose to hire them for feedback as you progress with writing your chapters.
It’s important to note that the book coach’s role does not involve ghostwriting or actual editing, although there have been instances where I have been initially hired as a coach and later as an editor.
Additionally, your book coach can provide support in making decisions regarding self-publishing versus traditional publishing, as well as offer advice on which self-publishing companies or literary agents to pursue.
So, What Do You Need?
In my experience, I have rarely encountered a first-time non-fiction writer who possesses the ability to effectively structure a book. While it is possible that such authors exist, they are as uncommon as a spotted zebra.
Most individuals require some form of assistance because mastering book structuring is a skill that needs to be developed. It is your responsibility to determine the extent of support you need.
It’s worth noting that even the most exceptional writers, whether in fiction or nonfiction, have relied on an objective perspective to evaluate their work. Witnessing your work undergo editing can be a challenging experience, but it ultimately enhances the quality of your book.
However, it is crucial to find an editor or a ghostwriter who is in sync with your vision. When you discover someone who truly understands and connects with your ideas, they can become a valuable ally and a source of encouragement during the laborious process of bringing a book to life.