Q&A with Business Book Ghostwriter Laura Schaefer
I am an Orlando, Florida-based ghostwriter who specializes in writing business books and blog posts for financial advisors, real estate investors, associations, and executive coaches. In a recent conversation with my client Jaime A. Planells, I discussed my background, process for writing client books, and the benefits of working with a ghostwriter.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I started writing books at a very young age, as in about nine years old, but I didn’t begin pursuing it as a career until after I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001. (Go, Badgers!) During my time in school, I edited the literature page at the student newspaper, The Daily Cardinal. In that role, I wrote a lot of book reviews and got to interview some major authors including Mona Simpson and Douglas Coupland. I also got to do a series about how book publishing works as I was an intern at the University of Wisconsin Press. So, all the signs were there.
How did you start?
As with pretty much anything, you learn by doing. I graduated from college and announced I had no intention of getting a real job—meaning a salaried 9-to-5. Instead, I tended bar in a restaurant to pay the rent and began responding to editors putting out the call for freelance writers online. I would not have the career that I do if the internet hadn’t been available!
I wrote every kind of content you can imagine when I first started but quickly found out that I most enjoyed creating k-12 curriculum. There were many educational publishers who needed smart writers to create original reading passages for comprehension exercises, for example, or engaging biographies of historical figures. From there, I transitioned to writing long-form educational content for adults such as career guidebooks. This proved to be excellent experience for the business book ghostwriting I do now.
While I was taking on paid writing assignments, I also pursued writing my own books on spec and had some early success with my first title about historical personal ads. My first book MAN WITH FARM SEEKS WOMAN WITH TRACTOR was published in 2005 and landed me on Good Morning America! After that, I transitioned to writing novels for younger readers and published three titles with Simon & Schuster. I have a new original novel for young readers coming out in 2022 with Lerner Publishing Group. I can’t wait for everyone to read it!
How does ghostwriting work?
The ghostwriting I do is highly customizable to the needs of a particular client. It is usually based on recorded phone or video interviews along with the compilation and editing of existing materials. When I start with a new client, I want to know their goals for their book project. From there, we design a Table of Contents together and talk through all the content the book will include.
I am big on real-world examples and personal stories. I love to hear about processes and data as well, but it’s the gritty lived experiences of our day-to-day lives that help us connect to others. There’s almost nothing I believe in more than books, which is why I love my job. Books are such a powerful way for humans to influence and inspire one another, and my clients tend to be the most thoughtful and interesting people you’d ever hope to meet!
Why would anyone hire a ghost? What's the benefit?
Ghostwriters are amazing! We offer accountability, expertise, and empathy. People hire a ghost when they are serious about project completion. The beauty of working with a ghostwriter on an ambitious project is that we are not daunted by the prospect of writing an entire book because we’ve done it dozens of times. Also, having another brain along for the ride is a great thing. Books are better when more smart people work on them.
What should a person look for in a ghostwriting partner?
Look for honesty, experience, and personality fit. See if you feel at ease talking to a particular ghost. It’s a personal relationship and comfort is key. Do a paid test assignment with a ghostwriter to assess skill level if you’re unsure. Also, keep in mind most skilled ghostwriters charge around $1/word (and business books are generally 50,000 words). If you go to Upwork and want to pay someone $15/hour…well, you get what you pay for.
What is the benefit of putting out a book or series of articles?
A book is an authority-building tool. It cannot create your authority or credibility, but a book can solidify it, grow it, and serve your audience in a new way. Some people will want to learn from you in person. Others love video. But there is a huge audience out there that loves books—the audiobook market, in particular, is growing very quickly right now.
Writing a series of articles is a way to stick your toe in the water, to learn what topics are connecting with your audience and getting engagement. The world has changed so much in the last twenty years. It is now possible, through social media, to connect directly to the people you wish to serve with your business. So, serve them! Offer value—stories, processes, and information that will make their lives better or easier. You cannot lose if you do this consistently.