Let me answer this question for once and for all: will writing a book make you rich? It’s pretty unlikely. Have books made people rich before? Yes, they have, but there’s a lot that goes into making money from a book. It’s complicated.
I say this because sometimes ghostwriters get a bad rap as “that shyster who talked my mother/father/brother/boss into spending tens of thousands of dollars on a book.” Be it known that I am not a shyster, and I inform my clients of the realistic uses for a book before they invest in having one ghostwritten.
But seriously, when will writing a book make you rich?
A memoir is a great way to ensure people have a way to understand you. If your philosophy is controversial or your lifestyle unusual, your memoir explains how you got to be the person you are and why your life makes sense to you.
For some people, this benefit alone is worth the cost of having a book ghostwritten. We all want to be understood, not just tolerated. So, will writing a book make you rich? Rich in friends, maybe!
A second common use of a book is for the ghostwriting client, usually an entrepreneur, to establish his/her expertise in some area. For instance, a general contractor I know has a lot of experience in architectural restoration and wants to get more jobs in that niche, so we may write a book about those experiences. (A blog can also be useful for this, as I discuss here.) Whether the book is written as a memoir or a how-to, the very fact of its existence will put its author head and shoulders above others vying for the same jobs. (Here’s a link about entrepreneurs and their unique struggles.)
Don’t lie about your goals to your ghostwriter
Potential ghostwriting clients, here’s what doesn’t work: lying to your ghostwriter about your goal for the book. People have done this to me a few times, actually.
The ghostwriting client makes it sound like they want to have a book ghostwritten for an altruistic purpose, but in the end I realize they wanted to make money off of it all along. The problem is, if you’re writing it for money, I need to write it differently than if you’re not.
So, will writing a book make you rich? It definitely won’t if you don’t let your ghostwriter know the true purpose of it. The quality is the same for either type of book, it’s just that for a book seeking wide distribution, you have to think about the marketing and public relations angles as you design the book’s outline and style.
I want well-informed clients. Yeah. No kidding.
In any case, when you have a ghostwriter write your memoir, please be honest with her as to what you want to achieve with the book. I don’t want to take your money to write a book for some unachievable goal. I really don’t.
I want well-informed clients who know what they’re getting into and have realistic goals. I also genuinely want my clients to make a million bucks on their books, but you know the old saying: if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
In my heart of hearts, I want to make a bunch of riding beggars out of us all, but realistically, I’d settle for getting the beggar into a better job, where people deeply understand him. Okay, the metaphor is falling apart here, but I think I’ve made my point.