The World Needs Your Story - Laura Gale

ghost writing writing May 29, 2021
Mark Struczewski, Laura Gale

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Laura Gale is a ghostwriter who specializes in helping entrepreneurs sharing their success stories with the world.

Mark Struczewski
Laura, welcome to the show.

Laura Gale
Thank you so much for having me, Mark.

Mark Struczewski
Now, I am regretting that I didn't record our pre-interview call which all my guests have to go through. Because it was unbelievable. And I didn't record it. So did it even happen? I don't know. But I'm so thankful you're here because many people have been asking, Mark, when are you going to write another book about productivity? Now, I've never written a book on productivity yet, but then I met you. And I'm like, wow. So my whole world has changed. So tell us a little bit about what ghostwriting is and what you do.

Laura Gale
So basically, the role of a ghostwriter is to help their client externalize their story. And what that means is to take it out of that person's head and get it on the page in a way that is very painless, and very easy. So a ghostwriter's role is basically to get inside their client's head, learn everything about their experience, and their expertise, and their insight, and then go away and turn all of that material into a written book. So I do that through interviews, we have a lot of conversations that go very in-depth about everything that you've experienced, and who you are. And then I record those conversations and go away and work from those transcripts to turn all of that material into a story that readers are really gonna want to engage with.

Mark Struczewski
I think the first time I have ever heard of a ghostwriter is with Gary Vaynerchuk. He was sharing on one of the social media feeds how he would have these long conversations with this writer. And then he or she, I don't know if it was man or woman, would go back and do what you just said. Now, my question for you is how do you know if you're getting the voice of the author? Obviously, I have my own voice. Gary's got his own voice. How does a ghostwriter make sure that when they're taking the interviews and the transcripts, how are they making sure that the voice in the book and the actual transcript is actually the voice of the person?

Laura Gale
This is such an important component of doing good work in this field. And there's, there are two parts to it. So one is the technical aspect. And that's a three-part process, which is their voice, their cadence and their tone. Ah, sorry. Their vocabulary, cadence and tone. Vocabulary is the type of words they use, you know, do they speak in a very academic way? Is it very casual? You know, do they curse a lot? Do they keep it very clean? You know, what's their kind of their style of what are their word choices like? Then there's cadence, which is their speed and kind of the rhythm that they speak with? So that's, are they very staccato, very fast, very punchy? Or are they very sort of lilting and flowy. And, you know, as much more relaxed? And then you get to tone which is basically is it very highbrow is a very kind of authoritative, or is it very, you know, buddy, buddy? And so that you sort of looking all the time for which of those components are present. But then there's also the other side of it, which is just that relational aspect. And something that I focus on a lot with clients is building really great rapport. I want to have really good trust and a really good relationship with each client because the conversations are just going to flow much more easily if we're getting along. And I want the client to feel really comfortable, really trust me, so that they're not filtering themselves, you know, it's really important that they feel able to be completely honest and transparent. And, you know, say the things that maybe are not, you know, you know, maybe new for people to hear. And so I think that's a really important component of getting the voice right, as well. And the reason voice is so important is that, at least for the people I work with, they already have a really established brand, you know, their clients, and their audiences know them a particular way. And so it'd be very jarring for them to have a different experience. If someone was to read your book, for example, Mark, and it was very different in tone or kind of vocabulary from what they're used to getting from you, that would be very jarring. And it would really defeat the purpose of having a book in the first place. And so it is really important that the reader gets a really consistent and really engaging experience.

Mark Struczewski
When you're saying that I was thinking about how I have every episode of the podcast transcribed, and then my wife goes through and she, you know, cause sometimes the AI doesn't get it right. And she goes, do you want it to say "gonna" or "going to"? I'm like, I don't know, I say "gonna" all the time, but "going to" is more proper. And she goes again, what do you want? And that's something what you're talking about. Right?

Laura Gale
Exactly, exactly. And I don't think it always has to be perfectly grammatically correct. You know, I think that language is really dynamic and it changes a lot and so to force yourself to write in a very particular way to make sure it's absolutely perfect, according to the rule books, is not really true to life. And I think, you know, reading is much more interesting when the person who's writing is allowing that kind of organic, creative way of communicating to come through.

Mark Struczewski
How many projects do you work on at a time? Because I can imagine the more you work on, you can maybe the voice in your work will bleed over. So do you limit how many clients will actually work with at one point?

Laura Gale
Yeah, absolutely. I only take on a handful of projects every year, because they're big projects. But certainly, this aspect is really important as well, what I never want to have happen is to have overlap in the interview process. So it's fine if I'm interviewing one client and editing another or drafting one client and kind of publishing another, you know, you can have overlap in the different stages of the project, but you never, for me, at least, I never want to have overlap in that interview process, or in the drafting process, because that's where you're really immersed in the voice really immersed in that particular story. And it tends to break my brain a little bit if I try to do more than one at a time.

Mark Struczewski
Now, let's talk about cost. Because a lot of people, including yours, truly, I will go oh my gosh, that's a lot of money. It's not like $100, but you have to factor in, I self published two of my books. And it took so much time, because I didn't know how to format it. Goodness gracious. Why would I know what a gutter is? I remember, I tried to upload a book to Amazon CreateSpace and it said your gutter is not big enough. And I'm like what? And so when you're looking at the cost, which is several thousand dollars, you got to factor in, you don't have to write the book, you don't have to format the book; it's being done for you. And your time is worth something. So I don't want you to give us your prices unless you want to, but what are we looking at if someone's listening to our conversation? They know like, yeah, you know, I have a book in me, but I don't want to do all that stuff. What are we looking at, ballpark?

Laura Gale
So as with anything, there's a range here, ghostwriting is a really immersive type of project. And it does take time. So for most people, if you're working with a reasonably junior writer, somebody who's fairly new to this, then you can probably expect something in the ballpark of $10,000. If you're working with someone who you know, published a whole bunch of really famous people's books, you know, maybe Gary Vaynerchuk, or, or, you know, if they're working with Beyonce, or you know, someone really famous, then probably at that end of the scale, it's more like 100,000. So I'm pretty squarely in the middle there. But it's it's definitely contingent on the type of experience that the writer has, as well as how big a scope the project is going to be. So for me, I sort of charge probably towards the higher end of what most people in my position are charging, but that's because I have a whole background in publishing, traditional publishing. And so I really know what works in the market. And so I do a lot of marketing advisory with clients help them with their publicity, I also do a lot of the, you know, we go from sort of ideation, just getting clear on what the book is all the way through to published. And so it's not just the writing, it's also, as you say, the editing, the formatting, the publication process, helping them launch, you know, there's a whole lot of other stuff that goes into it beyond just putting the words on the page. And so for most people, that value significantly outweighs the actual cost.

Mark Struczewski
I didn't know you were a mind reader, because I was going to ask you, what do your services entail. So for example, let's say someday I want to have my book published and I want to use use a service, you can actually do the interviews with me and then do the entire process. And then you send me the chapters and I approve it, make corrections. So I basically don't have to really do much; you do most of the work, right?

Laura Gale
Exactly right. So I need you for the interviews, obviously. And then I will come back to you once I've got a completed draft and say, please have a read of this. Let me know if there's anything that you want to change, if anything needs to be added to or corrected. Usually, you know, that's not, it shouldn't be a complicated process, if I've done my job correctly, and we've had those open conversations that I mentioned earlier. And then at that point, you know, I would hand it off to one of my team members and they will get it formatted and ready to publish. And then, you know, on that day, we sort of get you on the phone and we upload it together so that you know anything that we need your input on is there but it really it minimizes your time in chair significantly.

Mark Struczewski
Now, if the number let's just say the average cost is $55,000. Okay? If the listener is going holy crap, that's a lot of money, well, here's I want you to do; I want you to figure out how much would you charge yourself for whatever you do for a living? How much do you charge for yourself? And then I want you to extrapolate that out and say, okay, how quickly could you come up with that kind of money? And if you're writing a book, instead of I don't know, getting business, what's that worth to you? Because what Laura just said, is, you do the interviews, and she does most of the work; she and her team do most of the work. And then with the end, they go, here's the book, which you obviously already approved. It's not like she just writes it, whatever she wants to write, she actually goes back and forth, right? So do you actually send this like a you go chapter by chapter and say, Okay, what do you think of this? And it goes back and forth? How often do you send the the copy back to the the author?

Laura Gale
So usually, what I'll do is send them a Google Doc with the complete draft in it. So all the chapters, everything is in there, and then I'll just have them leave comments on anything that they want to change, then we'll have a call, and we'll just talk through them just to make sure that I completely understand what they want. And that so it's a very real-time process, you know, they can read it on their own time, just, you know, not in a rush, not with me kind of looking over their shoulder, just waiting, you know, they need to have some peace and quiet to do that. But yeah, once they've gone through that process, it's very quick to usually we only have to do one or two rounds of this.

Mark Struczewski
Oh, wow.

Laura Gale
So, it's usually pretty dialed in. And to your point earlier about, you know, not doing business or not getting business because you're otherwise occupied, there are so many things that most business owners are much better suited to, it's not to say that they don't have great stories; most of them do. And they're really valuable stories that other people really do need. But you know, writing is a skill like any other. And it just doesn't make sense necessarily, for them to spend that much time focusing on something that's not their key skill set, you know, it's not going to bring immediate revenue into the business. But on that note, it's also really important that you do have something that you're going to sell on the back of the book, if you're an entrepreneur, and you're writing about your business, certainly, you want to make sure that there's a high ticket item somewhere in your back end that is going to kind of pay off all of this work. So rarely will people make that investment back from actual book sales, what they will make the money back on, and much more is when they have a high ticket item that readers will then progress towards buying.

Mark Struczewski
I've also heard that a book, a well-written book is a great business card.

Laura Gale
Absolutely.

Mark Struczewski
You can get some of your business cards or go, here's my hardcover book, that's really impressive.

Laura Gale
It is and honestly, whenever I go to a conference or an event, I always take copies of my books with me because it proves the concept. You know, for me, for me, particularly, it gets a very meta, but it's definitely, you know, here's my book about writing books. And so if you're interested in writing a book, then, you know, here's me living out this model for you. And you know, many times that has resulted in a new client. Many of those have become repeat clients. And so if you think about, you know, the amount of time and energy that you invest in creating an asset like that, it definitely pays off many times over down the line, but you do sort of have to think of it as an investment, as an asset that you cultivate and, you know, shepherd through the world.

Mark Struczewski
Yeah, it is an investment. I have a transcription service I use. Yeah, I could listen to my podcast, and play it type a few words, play it, type a few words. Now, the AI doesn't get it right all the time. But it gets like 94%. So I only have to fix 6%. My time is worth paying them $100 a year for access to their service. And people have to think about it when they look at $50,000 or look at $100 a year whatever the case may be, what is your time worth? Is it better, you going live on some social media platform to talk about your business, or is it transcribing your podcast? Where is your better bang for the buck? And I love the whole concept of ghostwriting. I mean, I think our 15-minute call was like 45 minutes if I remember correctly, it was incredible. Because I was mesmerized at what it can do. Now I want to get really tactical here. Let's say someone's going okay, Laura. I'm convinced. I know. I have a book inside me. I know. I'm probably better off going to hire a ghostwriter. How do I find a ghostwriter? How do I find the right ghostwriter? That's going to do justice for my work.

Laura Gale
So word of mouth is always really good for that sort of thing I would ask around your network first to find out if anybody you know has worked with somebody that they really liked. And you know, there's plenty of people who are in Facebook groups, as you know that I mean, there's just masses of people out there doing this. And so, obviously, a quick Google search will show up plenty of options in your area. But I think, personally, I love to work on recommendation, you know, if somebody I know has had a great experience with a service provider, that's probably the person that I'm going to work with. Because that trust is there, the evidence of their work is there, I really want to see somebody who has a portfolio of stuff that is similar to what I want to do, I want to make sure that they are personally a good fit as well. So you know, this is, for me, this is a huge priority is making sure that we get along personally because we're going to spend a lot of time talking to each other. So I want to make sure that that relationship is positive, and that we really like each other, you know, we should be friends by the end of that process. And so I think that's something to really look out for. And I mean, there are a lot of writers who would love to be ghostwriters and just haven't kind of made the leap from maybe blogging or journalism, and who would love the opportunity. So if you happen to know a writer, or you've worked with a content marketer before, then you could always go to them and say, Hey, I'm thinking of doing this thing, would you be interested in giving this a shot? And so you know, maybe there's a little bit of give and take there, especially if you are both kind of feeling your way through the process. But you know, there are masses of ghost writers out there; a quick Google, check-in with your network, you'll find somebody good.

Mark Struczewski
So the first step is to call Gary Vaynerchuk. I don't think he'll take my call, though. So do most ghostwriters give a free initial call to make sure there is a relationship? Or if they click?

Laura Gale
Yeah, I mean, I do that. I have a free discovery call just to make sure that one, the project is something that I feel good about working on, you know, some topics I don't want to touch. You know, there are other sort of flags, I suppose that I'm looking out for, you know, does the person show up for the call on time? Do they, you know, are they coming in, you know, really flustered and stressed out? Or are they like, relaxed and ready, you know, there's, there's a few things that I'm kind of looking for to make sure that that process is going to go smoothly. Most people do offer a discovery call, you know, to varying degrees of depth. But other people do charge for those calls. And I also understand why that is, but that tends to happen when you're extremely busy. And you're sort of at that quite high end. And you really don't have the capacity for somebody to not show up for a call, I get it.

Mark Struczewski
I applaud you for having not touched topics, because there are topics I will not have on this show. And I applaud you for saying, hey, there are just topics I'm not going to write on. Because I think that goes toward your integrity, your authority. Any other words you want to use to describe that, because if you are known, oh, she will write on anything. Well, then you can write on really bad things I mean, let's say some nefarious person wants you to write a book on how to kill people. I mean, say, hey, it's a million dollar retainer, but then it would really affect your brand. So I applaud you for having those no-touch topics. Now another question I want to ask you is about the name on the book, I've talked to a couple of other ghostwriters, none who have a cool accent like you do, who have said, some ghost writers want their name on the book, some don't care. They said, I'm getting paid, I really don't care. What are your thoughts, personally, as Laura Gail, what do you what do you require your customers to put your name in the book or not?

Laura Gale
I don't, it's nice if they want to. And you know, some clients have said, no, I want your name to be on it. You know, I couldn't have done this without you. Other people are very happy just to put me in the acknowledgments and say, you know, my role is kind of bled out a little bit, but my name is in there. And that's fine. You know, that's kind of the point of having a ghostwriter is that that person is anonymous. They're kind of just in the background. And you're the one. It is all of your information; it is your story. And so you do deserve to have your name on the front of your book. And so I'm not worried if my name is not on the cover of the book, but if they want to do it then great, you know, it's all credibility. The one thing that I do ask from clients is that I can, to varying extents, use their book to promote my own services. So, you know, I'm not running ads saying, you know, I wrote this book, but I will say in conversations in in discovery calls if people ask for samples, or you know, examples of similar projects, and I will say okay, I did this book, I did that book so that they can get a sense that I actually have the experience that they're looking for.

Mark Struczewski
What are some mistakes people make when they invest in a ghost writer such as yourself?

Laura Gale
I think the biggest issue is when they don't want to go to a particular conversation; where there are areas where they're really blocked off and really don't want to have me kind of poking around. And I understand that there are some things that are not going to be relevant and that some things are painful. I think though, it's really important to establish that trust with each other. And that's a two-way street. So I think where you're being a bit cagey because well, that's kind of a trade secret, or that's kind of a, you know, I'd rather people didn't know that I made that mistake, or whatever, those kinds of things irk me, because that's where the really interesting stories are, you know, when you have anyone who has been in business for a while learns to kind of give the elevator pitch about who they are and what their business is, we've all done that 1000s of times. So it's really polished, really easy, and you don't really think about it. But the stuff that you don't talk about is really usually where the interest is, and where the really engaging stuff is that's going to make readers really grip on that book and not put it down. And so the biggest mistake, I think, is trying to act like you've not made any mistakes, or like you've got it all figured out, or like your way is the only way. You know, having a little bit of willingness to kind of be a bit vulnerable, I think is really important.

Mark Struczewski
See, I thought you were gonna say an impatient author who's saying, come on, are you done with the transcript? You done? Are we done? Is it done? But you said something totally different. Now, do you find people don't understand the process? Or is it because when you do that initial call, you set the expectation, so they know, it's not gonna be done in a week.

Laura Gale
I'm really careful to set those expectations because it is a long process. Fortunately, I've never had anybody come and say, Hi, hurry up, you know, that has never happened. But I think it is because I'm very clear from the beginning. You know, interviews, take 10 weeks, editing, you know, drafting takes 10 weeks, editing takes a month, we're gonna have these really clear milestones all the way through, so that they have just a sense that I know what I'm doing, partly but also, so they know, okay, I don't need to check in with her right now. We're only 4 weeks into a 10-week process. You know, we're talking all the time, I want them to be very comfortable with where we're at. So I do make sure that they're getting regular updates about where I'm at in the process. I never want a client to feel like, oh, I haven't heard from her in a few weeks. She just ghosted me. But it's, you know, you do really want to be clear about that process. And obviously, the more experience your growth writer has, the clearer they're going to be about what that process will look like. But even a reasonably junior writer should be able to give you some estimates about how long something is going to take. And sometimes your estimates will be wrong. Even now, I think, most projects, I would say there's a one to two-week variance usually, usually in the drafting. But you know, as long as you're communicating with the client, it's usually fine unless I'm on a super, super strict deadline. And in that case, you need to make sure that you're really on top of it. But I think as long as they understand where you're at, it's usually fine.

Mark Struczewski
So when a client signs on with you is the first question you ask them is when do you want this project done?

Laura Gale
Yes. Because it's really, you know, you really need a deadline to work backwards from and if they say, Well, I was hoping to put it out in two months, I will say, Sorry. Good luck. Yeah. Yeah, I know plenty of other people who are willing to pull 14-hour days to get it done. But that's not gonna be me.

Mark Struczewski
So someone wanted to invest in you today, after listening to this episode, what is the the minimum lead time you would tell them right off the bat?

Laura Gale
So right now, I'm booked until summer 2022.

Mark Struczewski
Wow.

Laura Gale
As soon as you can.

Mark Struczewski
That's amazing. Good for you. So So where can we go to find out more? I mean, we can't hire you right now. But where can we go to find out more about you and what you're doing in the world?

Laura Gale
So my website is lauraiswriting.com. And on that website, you can sign up; I have a daily essay that I publish about the writing life and sort of how writing can help you be a better person basically, and how it can keep you motivated and moving. And that's probably the best place to be in touch with me.

Mark Struczewski
Well, I am an aspiring writer, so I am going to sign up for your email newsletter. Laura, thank you so much for being on the show today. I really appreciate it.

Laura Gale
Thank you for having me, man. It's been great.

 

Her website

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