Nashville, TN

Nashville Resident Shares About Ghostwriting

Kyle Smith
writingPhoto by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

Have you ever wanted to write a book? Most people have at one point or another.

I recently spoke with Nashville resident Alice Sullivan, a successful ghostwriter with multiple books that have landed on the New York Times bestseller list. Of course, you'll never know which books she wrote because that would break the sacred code of ghostwriting. But just take my word for it, she's a pro, who is completely at the top of her field. In addition to being a ghostwriter, Alice is also a developmental book editor, and an author coach.

How did you get into ghostwriting?

That's a good question. And the truth is that I sort of fell into it, you know, looking back, I graduated college, really not knowing what I wanted to do with my degree, which is not uncommon. But one of you know, one of my minors was English, and I had tutor people all the way through, and I got hired by one of my professors right after graduation to work on his material. And so that was the first time I thought, Oh, I can get paid to do this, you know, this thing that I've already been doing. So I started taking jobs in the industry. I worked for a company that put together children's cartoon work workbooks. I worked for the Tennessean for a period of time, just anything with words, any sort of publishing company where I could learn the industry, and I finally was hired by Thomas Nelson publishers, which is now HarperCollins. And they actually hired me to ghostwrite two books right away. I thought, Oh, well, that was easy. I worked there for four years and learned the industry mostly on the editing side. But I did also hire ghostwriters for projects.

What do you say when someone says, isn't that dishonest? Someone else putting their name on a book that another person wrote,

When I was taking those first contracts, I was kind of upset about it. Because I was young, I was building my career, I wanted my name on everything to prove that I had done these things. The longer I've been in it, I've realized, my you know, I'm being hired to help somebody, tell their truth, write their story. And so it's, it's 99% about them and 1% about how well I can do the job, I guess, you know, so I, I don't, I don't any longer feel as though if I don't get mentioned in the acknowledgments or something, I'm not really upset about it. The whole purpose of hiring somebody as a ghostwriter is to help you tell your story well, and so it's mostly people who are super busy CEOs or entrepreneurs, or speakers. People that either don't have the time to write the book themselves. They're terrified of the writing process.

I also work with a lot of people who've got add ADHD, physical disabilities, other impairments that prohibit them from either sitting at a computer and writing. So they'll partner with a ghost writer. And and, you know, tell the story, speak the story out and allow the ghostwriter to create it for them. But it's still it's their, it's their process. It's their words, it's their story. And so I'm sort of like, like the puzzlemaster helping them put it together. It's still their work. I just want to see them succeed.

I think it is interesting that when, when it comes to ghostwriting, it seems like people apply rules to books that they don't apply to other forms of entertainment or communication. You know, whenever somebody listens to a politician give a speech, everybody knows that that was probably ghostwritten. But when it comes to books, somehow people get upset when they when they discover the author didn't actually write all the all those words. I don't know why that is.

Yeah, that is a good question. I wonder if it's maybe like the perceived proximity to the person. Like if it's a song, you know, it's it's floating there, right. But if it's a book, if you've got a physical copy, you're holding it. And maybe, maybe there's some sense of wanting to touch that author in some way, like wanting to hear the story that makes people hope that they wrote it themselves. It's an intimate connection that you have, you know, the reader and the writer connection.

Are there any particular books as a writer that I've helped you in terms of storytelling narrative?

Well, I would say Stephen King's on writing is pretty fantastic. And the second book I'd recommend is Anne Lamott Bird by Bird by Bird. She's a beautiful storyteller, as well. And I love her spin on it.

Thanks so much to Alice for sharing her thoughts with me. I hope you enjoyed learning more about ghostwriting as well.

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I write about writing, productivity, creativity, and much more.

St. Louis, MO

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