At a Loss for Words

Dear Doctor:

Our architecture firm has finally committed to publishing a monograph. Fortunately, we have lots of great photography and other visual material, but no one has time to actually write anything for the book. And a lot of our project descriptions are out of date. Do you have any advice on working with—pardon the seasonal reference—ghostwriters?


At a Loss for Words


Dear At a Loss:

I’m delighted to hear that you’re not one of those fraidy-cats who is scared of books. Many people these days (the Doctor is one of those people who was not born yesterday!) do not understand the fun of curling up with a book, a mug of steaming brew, and a nice black cat. OK, so I admit it: the Doctor is never without her iPhone and checks her e-mail in the wee hours of the morning (but—mind you—does not tweet that early in the day). However, she still thinks that books are beautiful to read and they make a great marketing tool. Ahhhh, but even though it can be fun to read a book, writing a book can be very frightening, indeed. As you point out, who has the time? And, let’s face it, some people just don’t like to write. Why sit at your computer, staring at your screen tapping your day away, when you could dress up like a witch and go door to door for free candy (wait, am I too old for that?). Anyway, ghostwriting is such a great idea, I’m surprised that I didn’t think of it myself!

So, there are many ways of getting help with your book. First, if you are not too fearful of a bit of writing, you could hire someone (preferably, a recognized author) to write an introduction for you. Getting an expert to introduce your book gives you—what we call in PR-speak—some good-old third-party credibility, and that’s sweet! The Doctor highly recommends that approach. But if that doesn’t go far enough, and you need more help, then I prescribe that you hire someone to write the text for you. This could be someone who you have on your team already, or a group of people on your team. Keep in mind that you want to be sure that you are speaking in one voice—and no, I don’t mean that everyone in the office should be talking all at once. (Can you imagine how loud that would be?! It could wake the dead.) No, I mean that you want to make sure that the tone of the book is consistent, so all of the text sounds like it was written by one author. If you have multiple authors, then the Doctor advises that you bring on a good editor or copyeditor to make sure that you have dotted your proverbial “i’s” and crossed all your “t’s”. As we all know, the devil is lurking in the details! And finally, you can hire someone outside the firm, like a professional ghostwriter. That might sound creepy, but there are good, established writers who didn’t just crawl out from under a gravestone. Make sure you spend adequate time with your ghostwriter so he or she understands the culture of your firm and the book sounds like YOU. All in all, producing a monograph can be tricky, but you can turn the experience into a very rich and savory treat.