Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Author Guest Post: Heather Hummel

Thank you to Heather Hummel for writing this interesting blog post for Books Etc. I really enjoyed learning more about her ghostwriting experience and I hope you do too!

The Mystique Ghostwriting

There is an air of mystique that comes with “author” as the label that defines you. People are intrigued by the behind-the-scene-goings-on of author-hood. They wonder how authors string together tens of thousands of words, let alone come up with plots, characters, and a compelling story. Now throw the role of ghostwriter into the mix and their heads could spin wool.

The characters in my fictional Journals from the Heart series come into my head and tell me how it’s going to be! They show up in my mind and take me along each step of their journey…in other words, my protagonists own me while I write their novel!

But, my role as a ghostwriter is quite different. I wear a different pen for each client. Being a ghostwriter does not mean you’re hidden away behind the scenes pounding out words for your client. It’s a very interactive approach. Since I work with people ranging from public figures to celebrities to corporations, I have to be quite flexible and diverse in my writing. The number one challenge is writing in the client’s voice. This means leaving any personal agenda (i.e. ego) aside while stepping into their shoes, learning their voice, their message, and their agenda for delivering it. That doesn’t mean I don’t coach and guide them; they hire me for my expertise in writing, formula and format of a manuscript. It becomes such a collaborative effort more so in some cases more than others that by time the first draft is complete, I have to step aside and touch base with Heather Hummel again!

The ghostwriting project that launched my career was Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age (McGraw-Hill, 2008), co-written with Valerie Ramsey (my mother), who became a model at the age of 63. It’s often assumed that it was easy for me to write from my mother’s voice. But, it’s not that simple, especially when penning a self-help book. As I wrote, I constantly thought about the reader and what they would get out of the message, which is to seek new challenges at any age while staying healthy in body, mind and spirit. As the writer, I interviewed nutritionists, healthy aging experts and a Pilates instructor. After manuscript submission, I continued to collaborate on edits with John Aherne, our editor at McGraw-Hill. Susan Lucci and I wrote the Foreword and the Introduction respectively. In Gracefully’s case, I did receive public recognition as “with Heather Hummel” acknowledgment on the cover. (I’ll touch more on ghostwriters’ credits in a minute.) 

Just recently I signed on with Tamra Barney of the Real Housewives of Orange County as her ghostwriter.  I love the essence of her book! Its ultimate message is that once you learn to love and appreciate yourself, you will attract people into your life who love and appreciate you back. The book delves into her personal life, some of which millions of viewers witnessed on Sunday nights, but it also blends in aspects that people don’t know about Tamra. Ultimately, it inspires and helps others who are going through a divorce and reinventing their lives. It’s has been a very collaborative effort. I tell Tamra that just like a personal trainer whips your body into shape, a ghostwriter whips your book into shape! With her story and message, I can do what I do best editing, co-writing and consulting her on the formula and format of the book right up to working with the publisher and the book’s release, marketing and promoting. In this case, I do receive book cover credit: “with Heather Hummel.”

Another nonfiction book that I’m ghostwriting is almost ready to be sent to the client’s publisher. In this case, I’ve signed a NonDisclosure Agreement (NDA), but I can say that it’s a book that will change the way readers perceive dating and finding the love of their life. I will be able to promote and discuss it in great detail next spring when it launches. In this case, I will not receive public credit for authoring the book because having my name on the cover would not fit into the client’s corporate brand…or mine, for that matter. 

By keeping myself open to new ideas and projects, I have not pigeon-holed myself into one genre. That can certainly work against a writer, but if done right, it can push you in directions you never thought possible.
Heather Hummel is the author of the Journals from the Heart Series. She is an award winning author and celebrity ghostwriter. Her published works include:
Journals from the Heart Series: Whispers from the Heart and Write from the Heart
Nonfiction: GO BIKE & Other Signs from the Universe and  Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age - Merit Award of the 2009 Mature Media Awards
Heather's books have appeared in newspapers such as: Publishers Weekly, USA Today and the Washington Post; and in magazines that include: Body & Soul, First, and Spry Living.
Visit Heather’s website, follow Heather on Twitter, and "Like" Heather's Fan Page on Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. This guest post is awesome! Loved reading about ghost writing


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