By Ken Walker
Several years ago, since the lead author and I couldn’t afford to hire a high-powered publicist, I assisted with contacting radio and television talk shows and newspapers in an attempt to generate more attention for our book.
Amid this process, a business contact asked if we would be interested in recording a spot for a radio program in another state that aired every Saturday. He also asked if I wanted to participate. Eager for any opportunity, I replied, “Yes.”
That day, I learned what it’s like to be the proverbial fifth wheel. For most of the time, the host interviewed the author. When he came to me near the end of the show, I felt that my comments had a “me too” quality.
In a new way, that experience showed me that a co-author or ghostwriter (the difference is, when your name appears on the cover, you’re a co-author) needs to remain in the background.
There is really only one person that matters for a book. Unless your name is in the top position on the cover, you’re not that person. While this may sound kind of basic, prior to my awkward radio experience I didn’t appreciate the significance of assuming a position out of the spotlight.
I realize there are best-selling author tandems (Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend come to mind). However, unless you’re in a high-profile sort of position, you shouldn’t seek the kind of recognition that “authors” receive.
The difference that will make is appreciating the value of a support role, which is what being a co-author or ghostwriter is all about. When you expect to stay out of the limelight at the start of a project, you won’t get wounded if you fail to receive the acclaim that you feel is deserved for helping a book come to life.
When the author of the first book I wrote that was released by a national publisher appeared on a national TV talk show, he didn’t mention my name. When he apologized for the oversight a couple of days later, I told him that was all right. Secretly, I was upset he didn’t mention it.
Fast forward to 2016. I’ve been working all year on a book that is close to proposal stage. It’s the kind of ground-breaking material that I think has great potential, although I recognize that getting any kind of royalty contract in the brave new digital world is an uphill battle.
However, even if it does get published and does well, I will be content to keep a low profile. Of course, if you’re familiar with the publishing process, you know there are dozens of people along the way—editors, cover designers, proofreaders, and others—whose name will never be “known.” Any book is a team effort. A co-author should find gratification from being part of the team.
Read more posts by Ken Walker on ghostwriting and co-authoring:
Ghostwriting Compensation: Don’t Just Work for Royalties
Reasons to Be a Ghostwriter
Experienced. Award-winning. Skilled. For years, Ken Walker has been shaping stories—thousands of them—for books and articles in various venues. He uses his writing and editing talent now to help edit and refine authors’ material, as well as coaching bloggers and other writers on how they can improve their material. In recent years Ken has co-authored or edited more than a dozen health-oriented books. This specialty began with co-authoring Winning the Food Fight, a book that emerged from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, an Emmy-Award-winning mini-series on ABC.