As you navigate the publishing landscape, looking for a book coach, ghostwriter, editor, cover designer, publisher, or any other publishing professional in between, look for the people who are relational, not transactional. Look for a human who is more about people than profits. You want the people who give a damn and don’t just want to make a dime. We all judge a book by its cover. Sometimes that’s unfair and the way something looks on the outside isn’t a true representation of the beauty held on the inside. Other times, however, the way something (or someone) comes across in the first impression says everything. If we only have one shot to connect or impress, we better make it count.
Case in point. There was a man on Facebook looking for connections to ghostwriters. A mutual connection of ours tagged me in the post. Because he and I weren’t connected previously, I couldn’t reply on the thread to thank her or introduce myself to him. I didn’t want to send a blind friend request without any interaction, so I sent him a DM. I acknowledged I was a ghostwriter, but the first question I asked was about the book he wanted to write. “Tell me a little. I’d love to know,” I wrote.
When that message went unanswered, I asked our mutual contact to do an introduction between us to ensure he saw it since we still weren’t “friends.” She happily obliged and put us in a thread. With a second chance, I re-introduced myself, and this time I talked about who I was. I talked about being a book coach and ghostwriter, for a split second. Then, I mentioned I was a mom, loved maple lattes and The Princess Bride, and lived in Vermont. I wrapped up by talking about the types of people I liked to work with. I wrote, “I want to work with silenced voices. Those who either have been silenced because of some piece of their identity or because the experiences they’ve endured are those we don’t speak enough about.” I ended my message with, “Would love to know more about you and your book.”
What was happening simultaneously (that I didn’t know about right away) was that he had over 40 different ghostwriters reach out to him. Some he talked to specifically and others left him messages. By the time he got back to my introduction, he had already decided ghostwriting wasn’t for him. He was confident that he had the skills to write the book on his own and he had determined that maybe he needed to wait on the book until he finished some other creative pursuits.
Being that I’m not one to sell anyone on anything they don’t need or convince someone the time is right, I sent him a message back that said as much. What I added was simply that there were other ways I could support him (if and when the time arrived) and it was nice to be connected. We ended up in a back-and-forth exchange of voice memos just getting to know each other.
What I didn’t expect was just how powerfully our candid and human conversation would stand out. I was merely showing up the way I knew how to–with attentiveness and interest in what the other person was saying and with kindness. I showed up as a human.
I got a message from our mutual contact. “I want you to know how much you stood out from the other 40 people. Everybody else was money first but you. You were a person who cared first.” In my mind, I thought, “Duh.” But that’s me taking for granted something I think should be so simple but for so many isn’t–being human.
Right after her message, he sent me one. “I think that’s the best response I’ve had from everyone that’s responded to me.” Because 90% of the conversations or messages he had received from other ghostwriters jumped right to money–What’s your budget? They wanted to know. Or they flat-out told him how much they cost before all else.
I was the only one in 40 ghostwriters to ask him about his story and to take the time to get to know him. I was the only one to offer him free resources first or invite him to follow me on social or get on my email list. I was the only one to provide insight or advice based on what he had shared.
While it made for a great connection for the two of us, it made me sad to think how much this happens all the time to other good people, looking for support. I’ve spoken with people who have given up all their investment to a ghostwriter who then truly ‘ghosted’ them after the client requested revisions, leaving them with a manuscript that was a mess and no more money in their budget to go elsewhere to fix it.
I’ve learned about other people’s processes and how some just sit down and write and see where the muse takes them all while they haven’t asked the client their main goals or objectives of the book or, sometimes even, what category of nonfiction they consider their book. This is negligible to me. To take someone’s money to write a book without any strategy or plan.
I’ve heard from others who have paid manuscript developers to review their manuscript and provide feedback on how to better organize and structure their work only to get back a list of items the author already flagged as being items they needed to work on.
And, I’ve gotten on calls with clients of mine to help facilitate conversations with possible publishers and have watched as the client tells them their story (which includes abuse or trauma) and the publisher does not even acknowledge it. The publisher just jumps to, “But what’s your platform? How are you going to sell it?” A worthy enough question but not while overlooking the human being sitting in front of them that just revealed their most painful moment.
Never underestimate the power of your possible publishing partner showing up human. You don’t want to be seen as a dollar sign. You don’t want to be fed a line or sold to. You want someone who can see you and hear you.
If you’re looking for someone to work with on your book, be mindful of how they show up to the first conversation. That first impression they make can say a lot about what they’ll be like to partner with. You want someone relational, not transactional. You want a human.
Consider the following:
- Do you feel seen, heard, or valued?
- Would you tell this person anything?
- What questions do they ask first?
- Do they seem genuinely interested and attentive to you during that time together?
- Are they able to repeat back to you what you said?
- How are you feeling when you are in conversation with them? (Your body knows stuff. Listen.)
- Did you learn something new from having spoken with them?
- Do you feel you made good use of your time in speaking with them?
- Were they more interested in hearing about you than talking about them?
- Was one of their first three statements about money?
Your book can feel like your whole heart on the page. Like standing naked in front of a crowd and someone takes a photo and that photo never goes away. Your book is forever. So choose the people who are going to treat you like a person, not like a bank deposit.
Wanna chat with a real human who gives a damn about your story? Book a Story Stroll with me. Let’s chat.