The first part of my interview with Ginny Carter, the Author Maker.
Abidemi: Ginny Carter, thank you so much for agreeing to take part in this interview for abidemi.tv. Can you tell me a bit about yourself, please?
GC: I’ve got a business marketing background. I worked in marketing for about 20 years and I worked in various companies, big and small. I’d always quite enjoyed it but, I got made redundant. In fact, I was made redundant three times and I figured, ‘Someone’s trying to tell me something’, like working in these big companies is not really for me.
At the time, I had two young children and I needed to work part time or find something flexible. It was just at the beginning of the recession and there weren’t many jobs around. So, I kind of fell into working for myself. It wasn’t something I’d ever intended to do. I’m not a natural risk taker, at all actually, but it kind of took that to get me into it and I’m so glad it did. Now, I can’t believe that it took me that long to get out of corporate.
I started off working as a marketing consultant, then progressed into social media management. And that was at the time when social media was really exploding. I worked out that it was quite easy to get work from companies who would give me monthly contracts to do all of their postings for them, manage all their followers, and build up their profiles online. I did that for about two or three years and got pretty good at it. It was going very well and it was a great business in many ways. But I asked myself, ‘Is this what I really want to be doing for the next 10 years?’ And the answer was ‘No’. It just wasn’t really me.
Abidemi: Even though you were good at it. You didn’t-
GC: –Yes, I was good at it but I didn’t really love it and, it wasn’t my natural talent. And I think it’s that thing where, you do something you’re good at, because it’s easy for you, but it’s not what you really want to be doing. Then, I had a bit of a crisis where I thought, ‘Well, what am I going to do?’ I didn’t really have any idea. One of the clues I had was that my clients in social media would often say to me: ‘Ginny, you know, you sound just like us when you’re posting, it’s like we’d done it. How do you do it?’
That’s when I realised that it was really easy for me to do that; I didn’t find it difficult to sound like I was my client. Afterwards, I worked with a coach to help me make this transition. I said to her, ‘Look, I don’t want to do this anymore but I don’t know what I do want to do, can you help me?’ And we went through an incredibly helpful process. I mean, I could never have done it on my own, and this was the lesson I learned: That you can’t do business on your own.
Abidemi: Yes, you need people.
GC: You need support from people who know better than you do about certain areas. And with her help, to cut a long story short, I realized that the business, ghost writing, was what I wanted to do.
Abidemi: I mean, how long did that process with the coach take?
GC: Well, it took me about six months actually in all, because it took me quite a while to work out what it was that I really wanted, and I tried out various different ideas. It didn’t actually take me the full six months to decide that’s what I wanted to do. I think that was more partway through the process but then, what she helped me to do was to make that transition. Which I found quite difficult, at first, because I had to then start aiming at a different client market than the one I already had. And of course, I couldn’t just stop all of my social media work. I had to carry that on in tandem with the new work because-
Abidemi: You have commitments.
GC: Exactly. So yeah, it was a several months process really, and, I’m now so pleased I’ve done that. Because now I know that I’m doing what I’m truly talented at, that thing that I can do. And although it’s hard work, and then some jobs are easier and other jobs are harder, actually, I know I can do it and it’s just that wonderful feeling of just knowing I can do this.
Abidemi: When you said you worked with the coach, how did you actually decide on the niche? Because you do ghost writing, but it’s also coaching, like being a business expert as well. How did your coach help you with that process?
GC: That was the easy bit for me really. Because I’ve got a business background, it just made sense to focus on business books and I felt like I was making the connection between my experience and what I could give to my clients. Also, I think the business style of writing just really suits me. I’m not a story writer really. I’m somebody who takes ideas that can be quite complex and esoteric, and makes them clear and persuasive in a book, and, I’m quite a practical writer. I’m quite straightforward. And that suits the business sensibility, I think. Business people like to read things that are kind of easy to absorb.
But, although I work in the business niche that doesn’t mean to say all my books are about business, it’s more that they have a business purpose. So, for example, I’ve written one book for a guy who is a therapist, and it was about a particular area of therapy that was aimed at people with a particular psychological problem. So, not a business book as such at all, but the purpose of the book is to promote his expert authority and credibility in his niche. In that sense, it’s for his business, rather than it being about business. But, then there other books which that I write, which are more about business and aimed at business people. So, business is kind of the overarching theme through it all, and for me it was just a natural thing, actually. It didn’t take lots of analysis to realise that that was the right area for me.
Abidemi: Could you tell me about the first person you coached and the first book that came out of that? What was that like?
GC: So rewarding-
GC: -Well, it was terrifying in the beginning because I knew I’ve never done it before. But actually, I think the thing about finding the thing that you know you can do is, I knew that I could help her. There wasn’t any doubt in my mind that, the book that was going to come out of this process, was going to be 100 times better with me helping her that it would have been on her own. I mean, the simple fact it was going to probably get finished, was benefit enough. And so, I just kind of felt my way through with it really, and, I know it sound like it might have been big deal but, it really wasn’t.
I think I get a different sense of reward from helping somebody to express themselves in their own book, than what I do for writing somebody else’s book. Because, on the ghost writing, I really enjoy the writing, that’s my reward I get from it. But for somebody else to help them express themselves in their book, it is some ways, is double the reward because I know that, not only have I enjoyed helping them get there, but it’s so lovely to see them feel so happy with what they’ve done. I feel like I really helped somebody else so, and I think with books, one of the marvellous things about them, is this ripple effect – somebody writes a book and that will benefit them as an author, but then, it will also help the people who read it, and those very people will then go on to help other people because of what they’ve learned in the book and it just kind of goes on and on. I think there’s just this, lovely reward with books, in total.
Abidemi: Can you give me like a profile of the people that you ghost-write for?
GC: They all tend to work in the same sort of field so they’re all coaches themselves, or speakers, or experts in some way, that want a book to raise their profile. The people who I ghost-write for, they’re often ambitious, very happy with outsourcing. They understand that you don’t build a successful business by doing everything yourself. They’re confident, in that way.
The coaching people, want to have a bit more control over things themselves so they want to express themselves in their own book. It matters to them to write it themselves. So they maybe just want to feel more emotionally involved with the process. There’s not like a huge demarcation between the two types. I guess, with the ghost writing clients they’re usually happier to spend more money on that book being produced because obviously it costs more to have it ghost-written than for me to coach you to write your own book, because you’re doing the work yourself. So they may be a bit more advanced in their business, or have a more financially successful business, but that isn’t necessarily the case. It’s just different sometimes in the approach they have toward the book been written.
Abidemi: What would you say are the challenges of ghost-writing?
GC: I really enjoy it to be honest with you. I don’t find there is an enormous amount of challenge but, I think, I suppose that one of the challenges is in getting my clients to think in a structured way. Because a book is very much, as you know, a linear process, and it needs to have an argument that flows throughout it, especially a non-fiction book. So, one of the things that I get pinned down right from the beginning is what the structure is going to be, and what the flow with all the points is going to be, and then it’s getting the author to keep to that when I’m interviewing them, so that I can then write the book for them. And, I think probably one of the other areas is, because of my marketing background, I always approach it in a very strategic way so, I always think, ‘Let’s decide; what’s the goal for your book? What do you actually want to get out of this?’ because if you don’t know that, then you can’t really write it. You’re not going to know how to write it. But then secondly, the audience, ‘Who do you want to read it?’ And then thirdly-
Abidemi: So, that way you can work backwards, and that is how it is in most projects, isn’t it? You always have to have an objective and then work backwards from your objective.
GC: Well exactly. I’m sure from your digital marketing days you’re very familiar with that. But a lot of people don’t think like that. What they think of is, ‘I’ve got all this knowledge inside me, it needs to come out it into a book’. And so they’re thinking of the content before they are thinking ‘Well, what do I really want this book to do for me? And who’s it for?’ and then going on to the big idea – ‘What’s the big central message of the book? What’s the way you could sum it up in one sentence?’ And that can be quite hard for people, so that’s partly what I give them, really, at the beginning of the whole process is, this strategy, and then we then go on to think about-
Abidemi: -Structure. Because you need structure, don’t you?
GC: -Exactly, exactly. And what some people do, I mean I have some people who have written 20,000 words and, have got stuck. And my heart goes out to them because they’ve put so much time into it. And actually normally, what it comes down to, is that they didn’t plan the structure beforehand, or they didn’t think about who they were writing it for. And so, they get partway through it and they realize they’re confused, and they don’t quite understand why, and they’re not quite sure what the problem is; and, when I start to unpick it all with them, it really just comes down to lack of clarity, really, right from the beginning. So, it’s important to get it right.
Read part two of my interview with Ginny.
Ginny Carter, The Author Maker, is a business book ghostwriter, book writing coach, and author. She’s on a mission to transform established speakers, coaches and consultants from ‘experts’ into ‘experts-with-a-book’, through the publication that grows their reputation and expands their business. Do you want to get seen, heard and hired with your own book? Claim your free guide Picking the Killer Idea for Your Business Book.
Also published on Medium.