What's the Difference Between a Ghostwriter, Editor & Coach?May 19, 2021
A ghostwriter is not a co-writer. A ghostwriter is interviewing you, shaping what you say into a book and presenting it to you for you to approve.
Usually, with a ghostwriter, you are getting the sole byline and there is nothing that is considered dishonest about this. The assumption for many successful people is that they did have a ghostwriter that they are not crediting.
A co-writer is someone who gets credit. When I wrote a book with the actor Tom Sizemore and I was represented at William Morris at the time, they negotiated this whole thing where my name had to be as big as his on the cover.
The idea with a ghostwriter or co-writer is that it's built around what's best for the "name" person—the person paying the writer. I had Adam Corolla on this podcast and he talked about how he "wrote his book" by talking to the writer while driving to comedy gigs.
Everybody is going to treat this relationship differently. I don't even think Tom Sizemore read the book that we wrote together whereas some people are going to be very meticulous. At Launch Pad, we have some clients that are very involved and want to read pages every week and we have some clients who just have full faith, are hands-off and just sort of approve the book at the end.
I would just say it's safe to assume that most celebrity biographies were not written by the celebrity, even if it says otherwise.
If you have sold your book to a publisher, the publisher may pair you with a ghostwriter. Oftentimes the author picks who they want beforehand. That's what happened with Sizemore. In fact, I'm the one who got the agent and got it sold. If you're working with a company like Launch Pad, we will pair you with one of our ghostwriters. We will figure out who would be the ideal person for you.
If you are publishing on your own, you hire that ghostwriter and editor.
I did a separate episode on different editors (see link below) but the short version is that editors are either going to be very involved or not at all. My editor at HarperCollins never changed a thing. At Launch Pad, we really get in there and tend to change a lot.
Editors can be really expensive. I just heard about one that charges just $45,000 to edit a book! I do know editors that charge more like $2000 and I'm sure you can find editors that are more in the $1000 range, but you may get what you pay for—although you do not need the $45,000 editor.
Your editor is there to make you sound even better than you are. And I know from my own experience that it is easy to come to resent your editor. I was very lucky when I wrote for magazines; I had editors who made my writing so much better; I had one in particular at Details magazine who just made me sound amazing. And I had one experience with one book where the editor was very insistent on changing something that changed the meaning in a way that made me uncomfortable. When I told him that, he basically said "Either do this or we're not publishing your book." But that only happened to me once in many, many years of being a writer.
A Writing Coach
A writing coach is someone who is just your cheerleader throughout the process. And every coach has a different method.
So when you start working with one, you will establish the role and the boundaries, how often you want to talk and what you need from them. The range in cost can be wide.
I'll tell you that I don't love being a writing coach so I have what I call a "go away" price that's really, really high. And most people say "No way." I have one person who said "Fine."
So I have one client and our process is very it's very malleable. I am there to provide accountability. I do read pages. That is something to clarify with a coach: will they be reading and editing or just reading or not reading at all?
We offer coaching at Launch Pad and our coaches read and provide feedback for clients, but they do not do editing. So everybody's got a different way. But for the most part, a writing coach is not going to do editing.
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QUOTE OF THE POD:
"The idea with a ghostwriter or co-writer is that it's built around what's best for the 'name' person—the person paying the writer. I had Adam Corolla on this podcast and he talked about how he 'wrote his book' by talking to the writer while driving to comedy gigs."