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Ghostwriter for ire

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Dear Caleb Breakey,

I recently learned about your website, "SpeakItToBook.com," which advertises your new quick-and-easy ghostwriting service. Speaking of books, your business reminds me of a character in a Nelson Algren book, who started a service where he finds people's lost dogs. More on that in a minute.

On your site, I read about how you are one of "the nation's leading Book Directors." Actually, I'd say you are the nation's leading Book Director, because that's a title you just made up.

I watched the video where you sit in a non-writerly bro pose with a manual typewriter in the background, and make your pitch: "Your superpower. Your goal. The thing that you want to do. The knowledge, the expertise that you have. We capture that, and we put it into book form in less than 24 hours of your time."

With gathering interest, I reviewed your ghostwriting process, which begins "with several initial interviews to help set goals, clear up foggy ideas, and start forming your introduction. This is our starting point because we want to understand the real value of what you're going to say so that we can structure it in a powerful way."

What do you do if you find there is not enough value to the customer's musings to recoup the $25,000 you're charging for writing plus "Platform Building and Book Funnel services"? Never mind—let's not get hung up on the details.

Let's proceed to the second step in your process, which begins with a daring dangling participle: "By simply sharing your story through a few recorded phone interviews, we gather enough valuable material to shape your interviews into a full-length book. There’s no need to say everything perfectly. That’s what our editors and 7-point ghostwriters are for!"

When I searched Google for the title "Book Director," nothing came up. When I searched it for "7-point ghostwriters," I actually smelled electrical smoke.

Caleb, I should say, I run an association of professional ghostwriters. It's actually the Professional Speechwriters Association, but many of these folks also ghost books for their clients; and all of them have deep experience in drawing ideas out of clients. I confidently speak for all of our members when I tell you that not a single one of them would promise a client they could create a decent full-length book from "a few recorded interviews."

And so far, you haven't proven that you can, either.

"I had all this cool stuff in my head and I didn't know what to do with it," says one of your clients about his book, which I see is still "forthcoming."

"If I knew writing a book was going to be this easy, I would have done it a long time ago," says another client. Her book is also forthcoming.

In fact, all your clients' books seem to be forthcoming.

What's the big hold-up? In search for answers to this and other questions, I went into your FAQ.

Q. How do I afford the financial investment?

A. Our Clients can't afford not to make this investment. Books are not for bucket lists, they're for humanity.

Oh, Caleb. How much coffee had you had when you wrote that line?

Q. How is Speak It To Book different from using a ghostwriter?

A. Ghostwriters are paid anywhere from $20K to $100K to write a book that you can put your name on. That’s not how we operate. We draw out your book via interviews so that every idea, every story, every detail given is rooted in your story and knowledge.

Caleb, that's exactly what ghostwriters do. But they charge more because they do it carefully. They frequently interview more people than just the client. They do all kinds of other research. And they write drafts, and rewrite them. And they demand much more of the client's time. And they spent months of their own time. I know, right? What a pain! 

On your website, you do address the difficulty of capturing a human being in words. "We here at Speak It To Book believe that humans are made in the image of God and that words will never be able to reflect that beautiful fact. So take note: You are too special to be captured by words."

Back to the Algren book and the guy who started a service for finding lost dogs. That business model sounds pretty inefficient, right? Until you realize that he had a pretty good idea of where the dogs were, because he stole them in the first place.

Are you offering a virtuous service, Caleb, or have you started the literary equivalent of a dog-finding racket? Maybe you don't know yet. You're young, and maybe you've talked yourself into the idea that you and your 7-point ghostwriters can have some telephonic powwows with some strivers and crank out some books for humanity.

And maybe I've been unfair. Maybe I've surrounded myself with slow-poke, fat-cat 5-point ghostwriters for too long.

Do me a favor, will you? When the first of those forthcoming books comes forth, aim that funnel my way. I promise to give the first published Speak It To Book an honest look.

I bet I can read it in two minutes. —DM

***

UPDATE:

I reached out to Speak It To Book offering them a chance to respond, and received this email from Caleb Breakey, under the subject line, "You have been called to help people and that matters."

Dear David, In a world where there is trouble, pain, and problems, there are also people like you—people who have been called to help. We believe that you have a message inside of you that the world needs to hear. But it's often difficult to know what to do with such a message or idea. Well, guess what? We know something that will help. A book. Yes, we believe books are the answer. They can go where you cannot go and build relationships with those who most need your expertise. Speak It to Book exists for people like you. We help you achieve what you were made to do. We provide a vehicle for your message by helping you turn it into a book. Our process is designed specifically for you, and our team makes the writing process simple. You’ll actually save time without compromising on quality. It’s time to share your story and send your message into the world. It’s time to speak it to book. Get started! Keep your eyes open for another email in a few days. We will show you how publishing a book has changed from the onerous project it once was, and how it is the next best step to propel you closer to your dreams. Caleb Breakey P.S. If you'd like to talk more about the message inside of you, schedule a call right here.

UPDATE:

This morning, Speak It To Book founder Caleb Breakey wrote back in person, and with substance. On my mentor Larry Ragan's theory about letters to the editor, "We've had our say, let them have theirs," I offer this without comment:

Hey David, thanks for reaching out. Would love to answer your questions and concerns about Speak It To Book. The work of ghostwriting and delivering speeches is incredibly hard, and I admire all who endeavor to accomplish it with excellence.The title “Book Director” is the most descriptive title we could come up with to describe what we do, which is to guide a rising thought leader from book idea to thriving platform. I’ve found that very few know what this process entails, especially platform-building, which is essential to making sales and creating sustainability (I stopped writing for four years to learn it: web presence, funnel creation, online advertising, remarketing, automation, split testing, etc.—all of which require constant refinement, as these best-practices often change in a matter of months). Having contracted books traditionally in both non-fiction and fiction (about a 10-year journey), invested in mentorship from a 10-figure marketer (4-year journey), served as a journalist to master interviewing (8-year journey), and built two thriving companies from $300 to over a million (5-year journey), I found that the intertwined skill sets of “Writer,” “Interviewer,” “Entrepreneur,” and “Internet Marketer” were incredibly rare and required a title. Hence, “Book Director.”When I talk with an inquiring potential client on the phone, I always aim to put myself in their shoes. So when someone doesn’t have a full book in them, I shift the focus to helping them see where they provide the most value to others. Sometimes I suggest creating a 5- or 10-page PDF, but the general advice is this: “The book must stop when the value stops.” Sometimes that means a booklet, sometimes it means a PDF, and sometimes it means the potential client isn't a good fit for what we do. We market toward our ideal client, but more often than not we spend thirty minutes on the phone educating those who are not ready for a full-length book or who do not have a clear path to their ROI. We train our team to not give sales pitches on these calls. Our ideal clients see the value we bring and move forward on their terms. We’ve created a deep-dive process for our clients in which we not only develop an outline for their book that our editors, the author, and our interviewing team approve before the in-depth interview process begins, we’ve also incorporated incredibly valuable education on how to use a book and thought leadership to build a brand and profitable enterprise.My personality is the kind to create what I want to see in the world (e.g. “Book Director”). This is why I created my own 7-point ghostwriting system, which I detail for pastors in the book, “Sermon Crunch,” which as of this writing is #4 in its category in the paid Kindle store (note: The 7-points as described in this book are about how to organize sermons with a powerful framework, not ghostwriting, per se). We want each chapter of our books to: 1) Snatch the reader's attention 2) Simplify the point 3) Show the reader why this is important to their lives 4) Give them proof of concept 5) Articulate the readers' questions so they feel understood 6) Make it applicable to their lives so it isn't just head knowledge 7) Inspire them to keep reading. I’d gladly send you or any interested Ghostwriter or Professional Speechwriter a PDF breakdown of these steps. Speak It To Book is actually just getting off the ground. We started it after several years of refining our process and serving pastors with Sermon To Book. Our first Speak It To Book project (published in the summer) by the man you quoted can be found right here (https://www.amazon.com/Expect-Greatness-Living-Life-Excellence-ebook/dp/B0741V83KP/). His name is John Hawkins, and his book helped him acquire 30K in new business shortly after we published, along with adding a new subscriber to his email list every third day (we expect this number to increase as we continue to refine his marketing strategy). Essentially, our first author doubled his investment with us in less than 30 days. We also coached one of our clients through how to run a successful crowdsourcing campaign because his story was fantastic but he didn’t have any finances. He raised 10K in 45 days. All of our other Speak It To Book projects, including an author who ranks highly at Proctor & Gamble and a couple of millionaire entrepreneurs at the top of their game, are still going through our Speak It To Book process, which takes several months (if not a year). We’re working on speeding up our pace of delivery, but quality is of utmost importance. “Get it right, not rushed” is something I’ve said since starting the company. We don't claim to be perfect in our process, but we are tenacious in our pursuit of excellence. When clients come to us, we tell them that they’re not hiring a person, but a process. It’s not as hands-on as traditional ghostwriting because they are extremely busy and the time investment is usually what’s been stopping them from authoring a book in the first place, traditionally or hybridly. Also, what good is shelling out 20-100K if no one will ever read the book? This is why we focus so much not only on content, but also on platform-building, which is ultimately what makes thought leadership and authorship sustainable (unless the author wants to bank on being the 1% that makes a living from just selling books). We take great pride in serving our clients in writing, interviewing, internet marketing, and creating their path to thought leadership and sustainability—and we look forward to continually innovating and making a name for ourselves within this ever-changing realm of publishing. Here’s wishing you and your tribe here a fantastic 2018.