by Jeff Miller, Owner and Principle Writer
Years ago the church I was pastoring leased a building and undertook a large renovation project that involved hiring an interior designer to help with a plan for cosmetics. She designed colors and textures for the spaces based on some preliminary questions we answered about our culture and identity as a church (since it would be tacky for me to call it our “brand”).
We loved the concept she and her partner came up with and set them loose on the painters and flooring subcontractors. One day I came in and they had finished painting the lobby wall in the primer they were using. The primer was blue, and the eventual wall color was to be some sort of beige. I really liked the blue and told them, “Hey, let’s leave the blue.” They looked at me with a mixture of “oh dear, here we go again,” and “this guy’s going to be a pain.” Then they patiently explained to me that this happens often, but to change the plan now would change the whole scheme. They gently reminded me I was paying them because they were the experts in interior design and there was more to it than just liking a color.
I relented and let them do their thing. When it was finished I was so glad they didn’t cave to me.
The Difference Between an Okay Book and A Great One
Why am I telling you this? Because it occurred to me the other day that for me and any good ghostwriter I know, the difference between writing a phenomenal book that sells and writing a book that the client is happy with but doesn’t sell, is often how much the client/author is willing to let the ghostwriter write. Just like I was forming an opinion in the middle of the transformation in the interior design of the church, ghostwriting clients often do the same in the middle of executing a book strategy.
In part, I totally understand. This is their book and they want to make it their own. In the past, my attitude was, “It’s their book. They’re paying the bills, and I’m not even getting credit, so let them do what they want.” The result is almost always something a little less cohesive at best, and downright awful at worst (though I can think of only once I felt something was downright awful).
Who, Not How
I am not alone in this as I have heard other ghostwriters make the same claim, and this was brought to mind again last week when I was listening to (yes, I listen to books. You think I’m going to read while I drive?) to Who, Not How by Dan Sullivan and Benjamin Hardy. This short and excellent book discusses the idea that partnerships and collaborations are powerful. They say if you have the money to solve a problem, you don’t have a problem. That book is written by Hardy for Sullivan. Benjamin Hardy is not quite ghostwriting; he’s doing something better—collaborating, or co-writing. I love this and hope to do more of it myself. Sullivan is a genius in the business coaching world, but he is not a professional writer. He hired Hardy after Hardy approached him at a Genius Network event in which Sullivan had given a speech about Who Not How.
The basic concept is that when you have a problem, you usually ask yourself, “How am I going to solve this?” What Hardy and Sullivan say you need to ask instead is, “Who can solve this for me?”
What is provocative is that they don’t just explain this, they model it. Hardy describes how Sullivan repeatedly refused to get too involved in the writing. So long as the idea was properly represented, he was happy to let his “who” worry about the “how” of writing the book.
If you are hiring a ghostwriter, seriously consider this. If you truly want to be highly involved in the process, I recommend you get a coach instead of a ghostwriter, and write the whole thing yourself.
I’m happy to offer both ghostwriting and coaching (with a writing course). Contact me if you’d like to hear more about either one of these resources.