PUTTING A GHOSTWRITER IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT TO TAKE YOUR BOOK TO THE FINISH LINE: DO YOU WANT A LOW-BUDGET CHEVY — OR A PORSCHE?
By Elizabeth Ann Atkins
CEO & Co-Creator, Atkins & Greenspan Writing
“Now that I’m hearing your prices, I have sticker shock,” said a woman at a seminar that I moderated recently about How to Write a Book and Get Published.
“That’s the perfect analogy,” I answered, “because you can buy a low-budget economy car, or you can buy a Porsche, and you’ll get what you pay for. Catherine and I pride ourselves on being the Porsches of writing.”
This conversation repeated itself this week with another potential client who was seeking the ghostwriting and publishing services of Atkins & Greenspan Writing, the company I co-founded with my sister, Catherine M. Greenspan.
“After meeting with you and reading your contract, I can see that you are top quality,” said this highly educated and accomplished person. “Your contract has clearly dotted the i’s and crossed all the t’s. But this price is far more than we were thinking about paying for a book.”
For many people venturing into the world of book-writing for the first time, they have no idea how much it costs.
“Well I thought you’d like my idea so much,” one person told us a few years ago, “you would do it in collaboration with me and get paid on the back end.”
You don’t ask an architect to build you a house for free and promise to pay him or her if you sell it for a high price.
“I was prepared to pay you $2,000 to write this book,” another person told us.
Add some zeroes, and we’ll talk. We didn’t.
Others, thankfully, choose to hire Atkins & Greenspan Writing to chauffeur their books to completion in the intellectual luxury of a Porsche. They understand what’s required to transform their oral histories, their articles, photographs, interviews with friends and colleagues, awards, and videos into a masterpiece contained within a few hundred pages, a six-by-nine-inch book cover, and a beautifully designed dust jacket.
Writing is hard.
It takes hours, days, months, sometimes years, to complete a book. It requires intensive research, oftentimes at archives, libraries, and even out-of-town trips. It demands tremendous focus, concentration, and discipline.
It calls upon decades of experience in writing dozens of books, as well as the tenets of accurate, engaging writing that I learned at The Journalism School at Columbia University, and that Catherine was taught in the graduate Writing program at the University of San Francisco. It engages the skills that she and I honed as English Literature majors at the University of Michigan.
Way above and beyond that, writing is not a mechanical act as simple as putting a screw in a hole and revving up the drill.
Writing is CREATION.
And the source for creation is a divine power that flows through me to channel each client to compose their story as if I am a literary chameleon, taking on their voice, their pain, their joy, their life experience and expertise, and allowing my fingertips to dance over this keyboard in ways that feel supernatural.
Hence, the term “ghostwriter.”
“You channeled me,” a former client who is an intuitive medium said in awe.
Each project literally consumes my mind, body, and spirit. Ideas about the people I’m writing about, even if they are no longer living, wake me up in the middle of the night and force me to fire up the laptop to compose sudden ideas and insights.
Writing is a magical process.
It supercedes the biological explanations of how brain synapses fire.
My work cannot be explained in a science class.
It is a calling.
When I allow a client’s story to flow through me as I execute my life mission of using my writing gift to showcase amazing people who lack the time, talent, or desire to write their own books, I am engaging in an act that is mystical and indescribable.
Oftentimes, after getting in “the zone” and composing passages for a client’s book, I read what has just poured up and out from my heart and soul on their behalf, and I am awed.
Where did that come from?
How did I think of those exact words to write that anecdote or express that message?
“Elizabeth and Catherine, you two took everything I said and you captured me exactly as I sound when I’m speaking to audiences across America,” said Master Sergeant Cedric King, an Army Ranger who lost his legs in Afghanistan and now defies defeat by running marathons, competing in triathlons, and delivering motivational speeches around the world.
“You truly have a gift that’s going to help me touch even more people’s lives to show them that if I can do it, they can, too.”
Watch for The Making Point by Master Sergeant Cedric King, which will be published soon by Atkins & Greenspan Writing.
“Elizabeth, thank you for breathing life into my story and making it into something that I never could have written myself,” said Herman Williams MD, MBA, whose book Clear! Living the Life You Didn’t Dream Of is getting rave reviews. The Nashville-based hospital executive recently spoke at the Detroit Medical Center about how he died twice and lived to share an inspiring message.
“People are loving the way you tell my story with a bang that keeps the pages turning quickly,” he said.
Another affirmation came recently when one of the smartest people I’ve ever interviewed called one of the most important books I’ve ever written “a masterpiece.”
As I read this individuals’ email, I almost fell out of my chair.
But I am staying in the driver’s seat of my proverbial Porsche, welcoming the opportunity to chauffeur those who value the experience of reaching their literary destinations with the very best.