Category Archives: Ghostwriting

On The Radio: Never Let A ‘Low’ IQ Stop You From Meeting A First Lady

NEVER listen to anyone who denigrates your potential. As a kid, I did~and it almost ruined my life, dimming my prospects.

glennkidWhen I was in 5th grade, my mother and I were pulled into the Principal’s office to discuss the ramifications of my D- average: “Don’t feel bad,” the genius told my mother. “Although your son has a low IQ, garbage collectors can be happy too.”

Great advice! It was a TURNING POINT that would forever change my life. And years later I wrote an entire book titled TURNING POINT, about how every one of us faces trials and crises. How do we get through them? And what do we learn? 519TzPxk1PL._UY250_

The humiliation of being called stupid stayed with me for years. You can see it in my shaky smile from a class pictureGlennteeth.

And as my mother said just yesterday: “That principal was unbelievably mean and stupid….I was  appalled at the time by what he said.”

Compounding my misery was the abuse I took for years from bullying male classmates.

Gym class was a horror. Getting beat up and pushed around was commonplace. And  I had no way of fighting back effectively, either verbally or physically.

Nor were there teachers who intervened, as they might today, aware that traumatizing any child that way is unacceptable.

And thereafter I escaped into fantasy, what some might  call “visualization,” imagining a greater, more glamorous life, hoping that one day I’d do something notable that would prove my worth.

I  spent hours escaping into magazines, reading about the lives of movie stars and politicians.  I was particularly fixated on then-First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Everything she did seemed magical to me.b5b9d34b5bb72c7c9cca056ab450443e 7523ef4199faabffbf313d36c0c194b6

I dreamed of one day of even meeting her. How ridiculous it must have seemed. There she was the most famous woman in the world; and here I was, just a kid in Buffalo with a low IQ! I had as much chance meeting her as I did appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. Her glamour was beyond imaginable. b995a842837e8b8d8cefe60883d2ef29[And how incredulous when years later I was on the phone with her and meeting her for lunch. She would even write a letter of recommendation for me.]

Flash forward: In a RADIO INTERVIEW released today, I explain to the host Kevin Horek, a journalist for TechZullu and an upcoming media personality, how it all happened—how I came to New York with no friends, no money, no job, and no writing experience–and how I sold my first book anyway, the BIOGRAPHY OF VLADIMIR HOROWITZ.  We also talk extensively about the process of ghostwriting and how the entire process works. 51S14Ix4f9L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_

I always say, if I could do what I did—anyone out there with a dream to succeed and perseverance can do it too.

Poison words like these must be dismissed: ‘You’re too young…or too old….too skinny or too fat….too dumb or uneducated….it’s never been done.” And one of my all-time favorites: “Get Realistic.”


Kick Me In The Wheels, and Lift Up My Hood

Creating a full-length book for a  client is like constructing a house from the ground up, or like manufacturing a car–both of which have thousands of moving parts.

A typical non-fiction memoir has  65,000 to 100,000+ words, with multiple chapters organized into a cohesive structure, each sentence customized to create momentum and interest. The process takes months of work, sometimes more than a year, including creating a story board, a chapter line-up, hours of tape-recorded interviews, transcription, composing text, followed by multiple re-writes, editing, and copy editing.

So what should writing a book from scratch cost? In the magazine world, for a seasoned writer, a fee of $2 per word is not uncommon. In the book world, it ranges from $1 to $2 per word, depending on many factors–the length of the manuscript, the number of months involved, the extent of the research, the supplementary interviews required, and the project’s deadline.

But remember, regardless of cost, creating a book is not just a business, but an art. It’s like commissioning a painter. In centuries past, great noblemen (and women) imagesMona_Lisa,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouchedwould have a self- portrait created by a master artisan in the court who could capture their aura,  facial expression and body language, down to every wrinkle on a silk blouse or leave on a background tree.

Writing a book is no less detailed an art. So when choosing a ghostwriter, you must look at their past “portraits”–their track record, published work, style, and, not least important, their reputation on the Internet.

In addition, as I’ve said in a previous blog, CHEMISTRY between the Author and Ghostwriter is  paramount. Your personalities should click. There needs to be a natural conversational rapport between you, a meeting of the minds, with both people on the same “wave length.” If you’ve got that–you’re well on the way to building a compelling book that will attract readers to it.

Before the work begins, there must, of course, be a discussion of price. It’s not quite like buying a car–though authors should feel free to kick me in the wheels and lift up my hood, as they examine my background.

Unlike an automobile assembly line, books cannot be made in duplicates, following a cookie cutter approach. ford-model-t-assembly-lineEach book is unique. So you must choose your ghostwriter carefully. For starters, in my case, check out my Official Web Site, My Latest Book, and the site exclusively for Ghostwriting.

In any case, this is the assessment period and it’s important. So feel free to ask lots of questions.

In the end, you can find someone to write a book for almost any price imaginable, just as you can buy a used car for almost nothing or pay into the six figures for a top-notch car.

No matter what, first things first. Define your budget, then find a great writer who fits into it, someone who is reliable and consciousness, experienced, and produces work that captures your voice and message.

Like a fine piece of furniture,quality and workmanship are top priorities, davidroentgenattributes that will stand the test of time, creating your legacy–and increasing the likelihood of substantial book sales.

Typing Or Talking: Which Will It Be?

Unknown-1Before starting work on any book, it’s essential for me to understand YOU.

How do you most effectively communicate your ideas and express yourself? What makes you come alive?

Some people are natural talkers. Their thoughts just pour out of them in a stream of consciousness, one thought flowing logically to the next. No problem.

Whether they’re talking on the phone or delivering a speech, they perform extemporaneously, spinning their ideas into an integrated whole.

670px-Talk-With-a-Deeper-Voice-Step-1In fact, if you ask a natural talker, often an extrovert, to type out or write out their ideas, they often stiffen up. Their natural rhythm is thwarted. Why? Because typing or composing in long hand either slows them down or inhibits them.

Many critique what they’re SEEING, trying to make it perfect as they go, rather than allowing their thoughts to flow—and having them edited later.

One of my celebrity clients, a motivational speaker, would always tape-record his initial thoughts for a chapter in advance of our work together. This recording would capture the essence of his vision.

j-k-rowling-writingOther authors, however, articulate their thoughts and emotions effortlessly while TYPING or WRITING it all out in long hand. JK Rowling, for example, says she “still likes writing by hand. Normally I do a first draft using pen and paper, and then do my first edit when I type it onto my computer. For some reason I prefer a black pen to a blue one, and in a perfect world I’d always use narrow feint writing paper.”

VanityFairColorJackie Collins says: “I write in longhand. I want that black felt tip pen and I want that yellow legal pad and I’m good to go anywhere in the world.”

For a memoir, authors often present their initial writings in the form of a journal, a diary, or a daily log. It’s almost as if they think through their fingers, their thoughts flowing naturally onto the screen or paper. Often, as introverts, these authors would prefer to initiate their ideas in a tangible form.

So which are you—a talker or a typer? Most ghostwriting clients, I find, would prefer to be INTERVIEWED, allowing me to steer the conversation and extract from them all the detail needed for an expressive chapter. These conversations are recorded and transcribed and form the essence of the raw material that will ultimately be refined for the book. Remember: What you write is a lasting legacy. Home-page-logo

However, if you’d prefer to write out your thoughts, inevitably, we STILL need to do conversational interviews to supplement what we have.

No matter what you do—talk or type or longhand– a ghostwriter then FILLS IN, EXPANDS,  REWRITES and ENHANCES the narrative, turning something interesting into something magnetic.

86In the end, my job as a ghostwriter is to SQUEEZE the juice from the orange, extracting everything I can in order to capture your thoughts and emotions in a compelling way. So before we even begin, we always experiment a bit and see which method works best: A phone call? An in-person interview? Reading already-prepared written materials?

Once we settle on what works best for YOU—the  magic begins.


Turning A Ford Into A Ferrari

Determined first-time authors are sometimes able to sketch out an entire first draft of their book, capturing the basic themes, and even the overall chapter structure. But while many of the fundamental ideas are laid out on the page, the result is not yet a finished book. As Ernest Hemingway once bluntly put it: “The first draft of anything is shit!”

In writing my own books, for example, including a 650-page biography of VLADIMIR HOROWITZ, or years later, my memoir, KATIE: UP AND DOWN THE HALL, I always started with roughly getting the general flow of ideas onto the page without worrying too much about making it perfect. Remember, it’s a work in progress, not a monument.

The mistake that many first-time writers make is trying to make each section perfect before they move on to the next. Not necessary. By the time an actual book is finished, it will often go through multiple drafts.

So the FIRST draft is a little like looking at a blurry photograph.

You can get the general idea of the image, but it’s fuzzy and unfocused, though it’s a great start. After all, nobody expects you to reach the summit all alone. And that’s where a ghostwriter comes into play.

I recently had a prospective client submit a first draft of a self-help inspirational book about how how to find a career that most closely corresponds to ones true calling and passion. Not least important, this book proposed to demonstrate how you can turn that calling into a profitable business. One sub-section was titled: “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.”

As an example of how a kernel of an idea can be transformed, I took just that one paragraph, digesting its overall message, and then re-wrote it. It’s the before and after:


Anything is possible. An easy thing to say and more intensive to produce, but note I said “anything,” not “everything.” The same theory applies to if you chase two rabbits at the same time, there is a good chance both will escape. That is why your dream, along with your action plan is critical – to making what you want possible for your life, a reality. Listen, anything is achievable, it’s just a matter of time and approach.


You often hear the maxim that ‘Anything Is Possible.’ But to those who may be stuck in a rut or burdened by a financial, physical, or emotional challenge, this may sound like just an easy thing to say.
To those skeptics, attaining a great dream may seem all but impossible.
But it isn’t.
I believe that anything is possible, but notice I didn’t say “everything.”
To attain success, you need single-minded determination. You also need to be physically energized and laser-focused, rather than chasing off in different directions. If you attempt to fulfill two goals at the same time, you may not succeed in either one.
As the adage goes: If you chase two rabbits, both will escape. So in a culture driven to distraction, it’s essential to remain concentrated on your dream.
And to make that dream a reality, your ACTION PLAN, as we define it, is critical.
Armed with that, it’s just a matter of time before what you imagine is achievable.

After the author read it, I was touched by his note to me:

“Glenn, I am sitting here after reading looking at the copy as a kid does with his
hands and nose pressed up along side the glass window of a Ferarri dealership
wishing that some day he could have one of those.”

022111_some_old_ford_tferrari340competizionegI never thought of myself as a Ferarri!–but what a compliment.

In any case, what the ghostwriter can do is take the image you have in your mind and produce from it a fleshed out picture. This means that anyone with a great idea and the support of a ghostwriter can make their book come fully to life, and it doesn’t have to take more than 6 months to get the job done.

If YOU could write a book about anything at all, what would it be?

Tony Robbins Uncensored

In between writing books, nothing compares to interviewing world figures for Playboy, the  venerable magazine that  features the most extended interview format in publishing today.

Playboy CoverDon’t just read it for the pictures!

UnknownUnknown-1Unknown-2Unknown-3Everyone from Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King to Tom Cruise and Barbra Streisand have done the Interview–and in the September issue, on newsstands now, you can read my exclusive interview with the king of coaches, Tony Robbins.


Our 8-hour conversation originally banked in at 100,000 words, the size of an entire book. We then took the  most riveting portions of it. And voila–read it for yourself.

Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 10.07.40 AM

The father of what has become an entire industry, Robbins is the world’s pre-eminent peak performance coach today, earning $30 million per year.

Unknown-8Unknown-9Over three decades, four million have attended his seminars, 50 million have purchased his tapes and books, and he’s  worked with luminaries beyond the expected:

Unknown-4Unknown-5Unknown-6Unknown-7Bill Clinton sought his advice as president. Serena Williams relied on him to avoid on- court meltdowns. Princess Diana bared her soul to him in Kensington Palace. Hugh Jackman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anthony Hopkins, Quincy Jones, Andre Agassi, Donna Karan and Greg Norman have all turned to him.

And now, his compelling message, in a detailed interview, is here for you. You’ll hear firsthand how his troubled childhood influenced his Herculean drive to teach millions, and how he transformed himself from a 17-year-old janitor into a 24-year-old millionaire.

On why people don’t succeed:  “The ultimate thing that separates people is finding a mission greater than themselves.  But most people major in minor things.  They know more about Lindsay Lohan and the Kardashians than about their emotional lives.  They start out with dreams but get slapped down by disappointment, which takes a bite out of their confidence.  So they travel through life with less than they deserve and come up with a story about why.”

On changing your life:  “People say it takes 10 years to change your life.  It’s bullsh*t.  It takes a moment, a second, yes.  But it may take you 10 years to get to the point of finally saying, ‘Enough.’ (People) feed their fear because they are deathly afraid of failing, of not being enough.  They will say, ‘I can’t lose weight because I’m big-boned.’  I say, ‘No, you’re freakin’ fat!’  You don’t like your body, your job, your relationship?  Change it.  It’s obvious.  But most people won’t do that.  It’s too scary.”

On his “very intense meeting” with President Obama:  “I was invited to a private meeting with 18 business leaders, most of them Silicon Valley billionaires.  I started off saying, ‘Mr. President, I voted for you before, but how will things be different four years from now?  You haven’t passed a budget.  Even Democrats aren’t supporting you much.  And why didn’t you support Simpson-Bowles?’  The audience was a bit shocked.  (After continuing to criticize Obama’s record) Someone came over and touched my arm and said, ‘I think that’s enough.’  To the president’s credit, he said, “No, Tony is generating some creative tension here.’  At the end, he looked at me:  ‘Tony, you made me think today.  Talk to my chief of staff.  Let’s set a time for you to come to the White House.’”

On his second wife, Sage: “(I am) the happiest I’ve ever been. Sage is one of the greatest gifts God’s given me. My whole life is driven by love. It always has been. It’s never been driven by material things—which are just benefits of doing something I loved.”

On monogamy: “I don’t know if monogamy is right for everybody. I wouldn’t have believed it was possible before. When I got divorced, I didn’t believe any man could stay with one person and be fulfilled. But I believe in it 100 percent today.”’


Together with Tony in Fiji, and after taking a leap

The Nuts & Bolts Of Writing A Book

Although the idea of writing a book may, at first, seem insurmountable, it’s actually quite doable. The efficient process I use allows any author to write and finish their book within six months.

Magic book

Here’s how it works.

Preliminary Coaching: Here we define your VISION, OUTCOME, and PURPOSE. Why do you want to write a book?  What passion is driving you to do it? As an entertainment-oriented memoir, to include a great variety of celebrity stories, what do you most want to convey to your readers? What are the main themes? What will the book accomplish? What tone do you envision for it? How do you see it in your mind? How long will it be? What will it look like? How will it benefit you?


Creation of the Story Board: This is a detailed outline of your book’s structure, ideally created in story board format with banner chapter-by-chapter titles and a sequential, detailed outline of the topics for each chapter that guide us in performing the ‘download’ in step three. Like a screenplay, we create the most dramatic, effective ORDER for the topics to be included in the book, which creates a compelling narrative for the reader. Remember: Illustration rather than explanation is always a more effective technique for drawing the reader in—which is why so many successful memoirs are packed with detailed narrative and descriptions. With this in mind, we compile the best stories and anecdotes possible to illustrate the themes of your book.


Dictation: This process involves you being interviewed for at least 30 hours over a period of approximately 45 days, i.e. TALKING your book from start to finish, using the story board as the guide. In the give and take process of the interview, all the content you want included in the book is thoroughly covered. Secondarily, interviews with other people key to the story or close to you can also be conducted. This includes key family members and professional colleagues. The interviews are transcribed by a professional transcription service.



This process also includes creating chapter titles and subtitles and any needed research to make the chapters complete. For certain books, some authors like to include questions, exercises, tables, graphs, diagrams, quizzes, or illustrations at the end of each chapter to demonstrate their points and/or to help ‘train’ the reader in their techniques.

Sales Report in Graphs and Diagrams

Editing Process: Five edits of the material follow: I first perform a Restructure Edit. This process involves taking the raw transcripts, notes, and all other supporting information and structuring the material in a way that makes logical sense. Next is the Initial Edit: This second edit involves two parts. Part one is to choose a book structure. Part two is to create scenes, scene sequences, dialogue, transitions, and conflict. Next is the Polish Edit: This third edit involves developing the narration, voice, tone, and pace of the book. Note: At this point, after this draft of the book is completed, or as each chapter is finished, I submit that draft to you for review and correction; or if your schedule allows, we can review it together. Before going further, we make all necessary revisions, corrections, changes in nuance and meaning, together with needed structural changes. After a chapter has been reviewed, it is then revised with all changes made.


Final Editing: Once all changes are incorporated into the text, next is the Line Edit: This forth edit is a word by word reading of the text to correct or improve readability, grammar, spelling errors, and inconsistencies of characterizations. I outsource this edit to professional line editor. Finally, there is the Proofread Edit: The final edit involves proofreading the manuscript by two separate proofreaders, correcting grammar, word usage, or any other errors and comparing the pages to the line editor’s copy, making sure corrections have been made. I also outsource the proofread edits to two separate professional proofreaders. Once all these changes are incorporated into the text, the book is submitted as a finished product. There is a separate process for the Book Proposal, a 40-page summary of the book necessary for sale to a traditional publisher, which includes the 6-page opening pitch, a sample chapter, chapter summaries, and a marketing and demographics overview.


Chemistry Counts When It Comes To Choosing Your Ghostwriter

A few years ago, as a contributing editor at Family Circle, I had the pleasure of interviewing bestselling author Tim Sanders, who, at the time, had just released a book titled: The Likeability Factor. Tim, a trailblazer in publishing, has now created a brand-new web site, NETMINDS.COM, unique in bringing together authors and publishing professionals in a new kind of marketplace assembled for the purpose of making great books.


Tim recently called, wanting to interview me about the subject of ghostwriting. And I share with you, as below, our chat:

“Recently I caught up with my long time friend Glenn Plaskin to talk about why chemistry was the #1 factor an author should consider when selecting a ghostwriter. He’s both an author himself, a syndicated columnist and seasoned ghostwriter of several best selling books. While many authors look for credentials or sadly, price, Glenn suggests they first seek out a personal connection.”

Tim: How did you get started as a ghostwriter?

Glenn: For me, it all started with magazine writing. After 25 years in that business, one of my interview subjects, a celebrity, had liked an article I’d written about him, and asked me to write a book with him. We would talk on tape, I’d formulate a chapter from our interviews, and then we’d go over that material until it was a fully formed chapter, then a fully formed book.

Tim: Talk to me a little bit about why the author/ghostwriter relationship needs to be collaborative?

Glenn: It’s like going on a blind date except there won’t be any romance, at least there shouldn’t be! But it is a little like dating someone. There has to be that indefinable click. And is anything more collaborative than dating? You have to feel a rapport, some kind of emotional connection that allows the author of the book to feel comfortable with a ghostwriter, to feel that the ghostwriter understands them, not just intellectually, but emotionally. An author/ghostwriter relationship needs to be harmonious. You’ll be working together in very tight quarters. So things have to be amiable. And having a great sense of humor is key too! I once met with a prospective author for what was scheduled as a 45-minutes meetin. We ended up talking and laughing for three hours! I knew after that our writing relationship would be a successful pairing. And it was.


Tim: How do you conceptualize the author/ghostwriter relationship?

Glenn: The author may have a compelling story but may not have the time, skill, or training to write it. The ghostwriter is the conduit. I compare it having a Mercedes. It’s a great car but when you need it serviced, you don’t try to do it yourself. You take it to the dealer. The ghostwriter the book mechanic, who is best equipped to make the Mercedes run perfectly. The author has the ideas and the content; the ghostwriter has the technical skills to tell the story in the way in needs to be told.

Tim: Let’s put you in the author’s shoes. What should an author look for in a possible ghostwriter? You indicated humor previously. What other factors should the author be looking for in those first two general meetings with a ghostwriter?

Glenn: Well, the first thing a prospective author should do is check a ghostwriter’s credits. A simple resume check. Google the name, see what comes up. Go to the ghostwriter’s website. See if it’s professional and well maintained. Make sure they’ve been published. Make an effort to call authors the ghostwriter has worked with in the past and ask them how working with that ghostwriter was. There is quite a lot of pre-prep that can be done.

Tim: And ghostwriters have their credentials readily available.

Glenn: Exactly. Once an author has determined the ghostwriter is professional, step two is the meet and greet. Usually the first iinteraction is conducted over the phone, the second meeting in person. The very first thing I look for is simple likeability. Do you like the person? Would you be their friend in “real life”? Are you impressed with their intelligence? Do they seem to understand what you’re talking about? Did they come prepared? Nothing will impress someone more than knowing something about them. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. Also, is the ghostwriter a good interviewer? Can the ghostwriter fill in the blanks? Are they a good listener?

Is your ghostwriter a good listener?

Is your ghostwriter a good listener?


Do they seem to be grasping the verbal cues that you’re giving them and picking up on them and furthering along the conversation?

Tim: Do you always ghostwrite subjects that you are well versed in?

Glenn: Not at all. I met with a pastor once. I really liked the guy, so he passed the likeability test. But I didn’t feel connected with the religious subject matter of his book. I didn’t actually have much interest in it. So, I turned the project down. A few months later, he came back to me and asked me again. I said yes, I challenged myself. We ended up having a great collaboration. My lack of knowledge of the Bible didn’t hurt the product in any way. I feel a good ghostwriter can write about anything, especially if they have great chemistry with the author, as I did with the pastor.

Tim: Can the author cultivate that chemistry?

Glenn: The author shouldn’t have to. Remember, the ghostwriter is making your life easy. They’re servicing your Mercedes. It’s not up to the Mercedes to do the work. The ghostwriter is the one that has to build the relationship and build the trust.


Tim: As a ghostwriter, can you improve the chemistry with the author?

Glenn: If you go on a first date and then you go on the second date, and by the second date you’re not crazy about the person you’re really not going to go on any more dates. So I can’t overemphasize the importance of the first telephone and in person meetings. If the click doesn’t happen after the first two or three interactions it’s likely that it may not go any further. And maybe that’s as it should be. You can’t improve what never existed.

Tim: What do you do to sustain strong chemistry over a long project?

Glenn: Well, for starters every working relationship needs boundaries. We can’t work in an unorganized vacuum. So it’s up to the two collaborators to decide when are we going to work? How are we going to work? How often are we going to talk? Once these boundaries have been established, a ghostwriter might need to get creative when making sure the author follows them. I once worked with an author and our schedule was a tight one. We needed to finish a chapter every week. The problem was that he wasn’t giving me the information I needed soon enough. So, I gently told him, “The train is leaving the station every Monday. One way or the other.” He heard me and we had zero problems after that. I got the information I needed first thing Monday morning from then on.

Writing a book takes discipline on both sides. And that certainly helps the sustained chemistry stay buoyant. The final thing I’ve learned to help keep the chemistry strong is never responding when angry. In the book writing process, there will be moments of great tension. There’s going to be times when the author is irritated, not in the mood to do his or her part, and there’s also going to be times when the ghostwriter may feel irritated by the client. That’s just normal. One thing that I practice, and I hope this is useful to others, is that when I’m upset is always the wrong time to discuss it with the client. Instead, talk to a friend, talk to your sister, talk to anybody, but don’t talk to the client. By practicing this, I hardly ever have arguments with an author. You want to avoid those at all costs. You’ve got to learn to let annoyances go. It’s almost like you have to take a Ghostwriter 12 step program! I think in order to keep the chemistry going, it’s very important to keep the relationship as harmonious as you can make it.



The Anatomy Of A Book–Creating ‘Something’ From A Blank Page

How often do people think about writing a book about their life experience?

One of my favorite quote from Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan


Research has shown that an astounding 81% of all Americans say they have a book inside of them. That’s approximately 200 million people who aspire to the literary limelight. Yet only a precious few have actually completed a book through the publishing process.  But, now, with the advances in self-and-custom publishing,  (with self-published titles dwarfing traditionally published works nearly 2:1),  it’s easier than ever to efficiently get a book out into the market. And  people  do it for very different reasons.

Some public speakers and corporate executives, for example, use a book as a marketing tool that broadens their platform. It’s  a tangible promotional calling card that can be made available for “back-of-the-room” sales at conferences, meetings, and speaking engagements.


Others want a book written to establish their legacy, an accurate record of their life and experience, a treasure that can be given to family, friends, and business associates. Still others, celebrities or newsmakers, want a book to set the record straight. And many authors in the self-help and Christian markets write service-oriented books to inspire and help others. Whether it’s a diet or exercise manual, or a spiritual guide, such books are hugely successful, often topping the bestseller lists.


No matter what the  incentive, most people, even with compelling stories to tell, often procrastinate or become afflicted with writer’s block once they begin. After all, writing a book is a skill that requires discipline and training. Most people hardly have the time to go to work and take care of their families, much less compose a manuscript of 100,000 words. And that’s where a ghostwriter comes in.

The ghostwriter’s job is mapping out the tone, scope and structure of the book; creating a detailed storyboard outline, with chapter titles and a concise summary of each theme; then interviewing you in detailed recorded sessions, talking your book from start to finish over a period of 30-45 days, accessing your memory and drawing from you the story in all its vivid detail. And  then, once the interviews are finished, the ghostwriter goes to work and does ALL the writing and editing, presenting drafts to the client as the book evolves.


 Some might say, can’t I do this all myself? If you owned a Mercedes, a great car in every way, would you attempt, with no training, to service it yourself? Or would you take it to the dealer?


 A ghostwriter is your book mechanic, your under-the-hood guy, recreating your life experience for others to read and appreciate.


Hiring A Ghostwriter? Chemistry Counts

In the The Ghost Writer, the 2010 political thriller directed by Roman Polanski, the film’s hero, Ewan McGregor, is hired to ghostwrite the memoir of England’s former Prime Minister, played by Pierce Brosnan.


As  McGregor’s character eventually discovers, the ghostwriter who preceded him was murdered on the job, while the Prime Minister is later assassinated in the film.


Let that be a warning! (Just kidding.) Neither a client nor a ghostwriter should be mortally wounded by the end of any project. (And most ghostwriters, unlike the McGregor character, don’t wind up in bed with the boss’s secretary.)


But chemistry does count. After all, your ghostwriter becomes your muse, someone who can get inside your head and transform your life experience into a compelling narrative. He or she is creating a work customized for you, capturing your unique voice and intention.

Just as 18th century European royalty would commission court composers, including the young Mozart, to write chamber music and symphonic works, hiring someone to write a book is not much different. You’re engaging someone to produce an expression of your thoughts and feelings in a form that is considered an art.

Young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart playing one of his compositions at Court

Young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart playing one of his compositions at Court

Choosing your ghostwriter is like choosing someone you’d want to date–minus the romance. Your writer becomes a trusted friend, a confidante, someone with whom you’ll have almost daily contact. For that to work, you must have personal chemistry, a subject I’ve written about.


I remember once flying to Chicago for an interview with a prospective client, who happened to be a Pastor. From the minute I walked in the room, there was instant rapport. The interview lasted 3 hours! And I was hired. Likeability, one of my favorite subjects, is almost always a factor in creating an effective team.


 And one key component of likeability is a shared sense of humor. The Pastor and I were always laughing and telling jokes, and it was this easy rapport that allowed us to produce the book in record time. Laughter was a tonic that dissolved tension.


Whereas, I recently met a Wall Streeter (who had been charged with insider trading and wanted to write a book about it), and there was zero chemistry. Shall we say it was no laughing matter, a true mismatch. And I wasn’t hired.

In short, the ghostwriter and client must feel a genuine connection, a  meeting of the minds. It’s all a matter of personality. And it’s not predictable or predicated on someone’s resume. But you’ll know it when you see and feel it.

The result can be stellar–a bestseller that becomes part of your legacy. And equally important, left behind is the experience of writing the book, a fun process that becomes a treasured memory.


 ghost writer


Instant Credibility With A Quote

Once your memoir is finished, the all-important marketing phase begins. In fact, before your book is even published, you always want sample copies of it sent out to experts in your field who can provide testimonial quotes for the back of the book jacket.

Having a glowing endorsement written by someone with authority, knowledge, and a high public profile provides instant credibility for your work. Most commercial publishers send out a “galley,”  the copyedited, typeset manuscript bound into what looks like a paperback. It’s not the final hardcover, but it’s the advance version of the book, a teaser sent out for reviews and testimonial quotes. This galley can also autographed and distributed at BookExpo America, where all the upcoming books are exhibited.

That's me in the sport jacket in the middle of Book Expo America, signing books.

In the middle of Book Expo America, signing books.


My puppy Lucy resting on my arm as I sign books

My puppy Lucy resting on my arm as I sign books


My book galleys all lined up at Book Expo America

My book galleys all lined up at Book Expo America

How do you get these testimonial quotes? In my case, having worked as a  journalist for more than three decades, I’ve built up a rolodex of contacts. And I’m sure you have a professional network as well. Before the publication of my memoir about my dog, I made a list of every celebrity dog lover I could think of, including Betty White, Judge Judy, Calvin Klein, Mary Tyler Moore, Joan Rivers, Mariah Carey, and Mary Tyler Moore,  all of whom I’d interviewed for magazines.


calvinplayboytext JJtrumplayboytextFriends1

I was  touched by  what some of them wrote, comments seen scrolling in the right column of this page. Also, as my book has a light-hearted component to it, to make my overture an appealing one, I proceeded to send out 18 festive gift bags, into which were put edible dark chocolate dog bones, First Aid Kit for dogs, hand-painted Christmas ornaments in the shape of dog bones, cuddly stuffed cocker spaniel toys, treats for dogs from Pedigree, plus a hand-written note from me.

The Katie gift bags all lined up and ready to go

The Katie gift bags all lined up and ready to go


The Christmas ornament dog bone in every bag

The Christmas ornament dog bone in every bag


NEVER SEND OUT AN E MAIL OR A TYPED LETTER. A personal note hand-written by you on good quality stationery (I had Katie cards printed) will capture the interest of the recipient far more effectively than anything else. (Do your research and customize this note, making reference to the person’s past achievements and current activities, etc.)

The note card sent out for the Katie book

The note card sent out for the Katie book

Also, I always use either FedEx or a messenger service to deliver the gift bag, as doing it this way telegraphs that this package is an important one, something appealing they want to open.

Of course, if you’ve written a book about economics or politics, a fun gift bag such as the one I used is obviously not appropriate. You have to find what’s right for your subject. In fact, a gift bag isn’t even necessary. Just the bound manuscript and personal note are often enough, though if you’ve written a cookbook, brownies go a long way!


In any case, what you’re asking for is just a few sentences of praise that capture the tone or flavor of your book. Some of those approached will simply not have the time to read your book; others may not want to provide a quote. But you’ll find that many people are receptive to your work.

So begin mapping out a list of people you can contact.


Be practical. If you don’t know celebrities, don’t worry about it. Start with people in your community—leaders in your field who can relate to your story. Ask your friends and family and colleagues whom they know. Also make a dream list of people have attained greatness in their field. (Finding out the addresses of those you want to contact isn’t very hard nowadays, and you’d be surprised how delighted some people are to receive such a request.)

The goal is about 10 quotes, if possible, but just a few good ones from the right people are worth their weight in gold. It’s a great feeling turning over your book and seeing those quotes appear.

Horowitz BackJacketKatie BackJacket

Ultimately, when a customer picks up your book, or browses online for it, they’re going to read  those testimonial quotes, which can make all the difference  between buying the book and moving on to another one.

So dig in and enjoy the process of sharing your work with those you most admire.

In closing, I can tell you that my most treasured testimonial of all time was from former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, an esteemed book editor at Doubleday with whom I  conferred on projects. One day I asked her if she would write a short quote for my then agent who was supporting my TV interviews. It arrived in the mail a few days later and I was incredibly touched by it.



Your hero or heroine just might be interested in your work too. Just reach out to them with confidence. You never know what can happen. That’s for sure!