Author: Jenna Inouye

The Magic of the Memoir: Does Your Family Have a Legacy?

In 2001, I visited Italy with my grandmother—a whirlwind of confusion and chaos. At 14-years-old, I was only then becoming confident in my skin, and only then beginning to suspect that perhaps I really did know everything.

Yet, my grasp of the language faltered. Everyone spoke too fast. Their words poured from their mouths and into their hands. And everything was so different, from the wall plugs to the grocery stores. They made grilled cheese differently! The elevators were death traps. All the norms that I had been forced to learn, and the socialization that I had been indoctrinated to, was now incorrect.

More to the point, I was lost in a tangled morass of identity and lineage. I was now being introduced to a large subset of family members that not only had I never spoken to before, but had never even been spoken of before.

It’s not unusual for an American to have family in other countries, and it’s equally not unusual for us to entirely lose our connection to them. In this case, we had been two generations removed. And while the Italian emphasis on familial bonds had made me a notable figure to them, they were nothing but strangers to me.

It was isolating and alienating, and what should have turned into friendship quickly turned fearful. I was given tour after tour of houses, shown photographs and documents that I could not even begin to understand, and ultimately shut down entirely.

It wasn’t that I had no interest. It was that I had no context.

But that would change. And for a very curious reason.

We were some days into a last minute trip into the heart of Tuscany. That summer, all our plans kept getting preempted by bombs, something that seemed regular at the time, but now seems somewhat surreal. An aunt—to this day, I’m not sure whose aunt—handed me a small, weathered book. With a firm smile and shaky English she said: This, history, family.

It wasn’t the history of the entire family, of course. That would be a monumental endeavor.It was was the history of the founder of the family. And it, like him, formed the foundation of the things the family now believed in.

Some time after he had passed, the wife of the family’s great progenitor had taken the time to pull together his letters, photographs, and writings. She had then paid someone to put together a memoir that would be passed down from generation to generation.

She had loved him so, that she never wanted him to be forgotten. And she had loved him so that she wanted his memories to be remembered in his own words—or at least as close to it as she could get.

It was a thin spine. It was probably no more than 120 pages. And it was in Italian, obviously. But it was something real and physical that I could grasp.

With what little Italian I knew, I could put together the story of a man, a great man. A man who started an entire fortune with a single bull, and who would later go on to purchase his own small township. A man who was able to build something out of nothing in a world that delivered unto him only hardships.

The township itself was fact. The rest? Probably mostly legend. But that didn’t matter. By creating this myth of the man that she loved, his wife had developed a tidy package of the values that she wanted her family to hold forever. She had taken the inspiration that she saw in her husband and asked that it continue to live on in her children, her grandchildren, and those far after.

Of course, it was all ghost-written, despite being in first person, and despite being an extremely intimate retelling.

For the most part, people reveal their true selves in their actions, their day-to-day conversations, their love letters to their spouses and their family. They don’t sit down and write a treatise on how to start a major enterprise with a single healthy bull. Successful people are busy doing things, not writing about them.

I’ve thought about that book often. It was a small publication that wasn’t meant to go outside of the family, but it had probably passed through hundreds of hands simply because the family itself had grown so large. It had been passed to newly married spouses and their in-laws. It had been passed to close friends and acquaintances.

But while it was such a small publication, the impact it had on the family itself was incredibly profound. It wasn’t a book that they had purchased on a store shelf. It was a book that they had created through their blood. It was a book that told them who they were and who they could be.

It was the story of their people.

I, myself, had no such close relation to it, but it still helped me to understand the pride and the work ethic that had been driven into the family from the start. And between you and me, the real secret is: It didn’t matter if any of it was truthful, if all of it was truthful, or if the truth had been cherry-picked to become even more fantastic.

When you are eight-years-old, listening to your uncle’s stories at a family dinner, you aren’t concerned with the truthfulness of it.

First: You’re a child. People lie to you constantly.

But what you’re listening to isn’t a factual recounting of events to begin with. What you’re listening to is a recounting of the man that your uncle wants to be. The man that he wants you to see him as.

Memoirs have this intimate closeness to them. It isn’t always about what you’ve done or what you’ve achieved. Sometimes, it’s about who you want to be perceived as. They can be factual or fantastic, and they can be distributed to friends and family members or o the shelves of Barnes and Noble. A memoir is a snapshot in time, a depiction of the things that you want to leave behind, and, in some ways, a vision of a better person that we wish could be.

I would visit Italy many times after. Eventually, it would even lose its magic. But I would always remember seeing my distant family in animated conversation, amicably fighting over the color blue or the last bottle of Coca-Cola (despite being surrounded by expensive wines), and seeing the shadow of their ancestor. Through his love, and through his life, he was locked onto them forever: a permanent, tangible legacy handed down from hand to hand.

Who Uses Ghostwriters? Everyone, Actually.

From the works of Dr. Dre to Dean Koontz, ghostwriters are everywhere—even in the places that you wouldn’t expect. Rappers, billionaires, scientists, and popular authors all occasionally utilize the services of the humble ghostwriter.

A ghostwriter is, by definition, unknown. And that can lend an air of mystery to an otherwise common profession.

It’s not possible to know how many professional writers are also ghostwriters. But it’s likely that the majority of writers have worked as a ghostwriter at some point in their lives. Ghostwriters are used far more than most people think.

Thanks to a rich history of exposes and tell-alls, the general public has the impression of a “ghostwriter” as a somewhat skulking figure—fastidiously taking notes while putting together a cobbled pastiche of some privileged personality’s life. And while that’s certainly a popular niche, it’s far from the day-to-day realities of those within the discipline.

Ghostwriters write articles for Forbes and Medium, run snarky Twitter accounts, and even develop the hooks to the occasional phat beat. In fact, there may be no industry as inundated by ghostwriters as the rap and music industry. Ghostwriters write memoirs, autobiographies, and the occasional journalistic piece. Ghostwriters write anything and everything that someone else doesn’t want to write or have time to write.

A politician doesn’t write his own speeches. An entrepreneur doesn’t write his own seminars. And a mega-corporation certainly isn’t writing its own social media. They haven’t attained that level of sentience just yet.

But would it surprise you to know that even popular authors use ghostwriters? Ghostwriters aren’t just used by those who cannot write, they are used by those who have better things to do than write.

In the case of popular authors, ghostwriters are frequently used to flesh out the incredible, fast-paced outlines that they are able to produce on-the-fly. This is how authors such as Tom Clancy can churn out hardback after hardback year after year. The “writer” is still in control of the plot, characters, and feel of their story. The “ghostwriter” is the one who puts it all together.

For most people, a ghostwriter is simply the person who is able to articulate their thoughts and ideas—the person who is able to best express their concepts in a way that can be digested by others.

Most people aren’t going to build their own house brick-by-brick, even if they want to choose the flooring and the paint. And there’s no reason for most people to write their own books, articles, or social media, even if they have something unique and interesting that they want to say. That’s a job for the professionals.

You’ve likely run into a coworker who just doesn’t come across well through email. You open his newest missive, read the first sentence, and your blood is already beginning to boil—even though your coworker certainly never meant to illicit anything close to this type of reaction.

Equally likely, you probably have intelligent, motivated, driven family members, friends, and acquaintances who cannot write a text message to save their lives.

Some people are natural orators. Barack Obama could speak to any assembly extemporaneously, yet he still used ghostwriters when he needed to draft text. The same skill set that makes an individual interesting and worthy of listening to isn’t necessarily the same skill set that makes them a good writer.

And in the case of notable entrepreneurs, scientists, and critical thinkers—well, they just don’t have the time.

When it comes to autobiographies and the like, ghostwritten books are often panned as being “inauthentic.” Yet, you’d actually be hard-pressed to find an autobiography that wasn’t ghostwritten. In ghostwriting, a great deal of time is spent making the writing as authentic as it can be. In many ways, it’s more authentic than it would otherwise have been.

Consider: Your mother wants to know how you’re doing. She texts you:

how u?

That is not an accurate depiction of your mother!

That’s just how your mother writes. But the goal of a ghostwriter is to ensure that your mother is able to adequately express her thoughts in the way that is truest to her. So, “how u?” becomes “How’re you and the kids? Love you lots!” and all those personal flourishes that your mother would put in, if she didn’t struggle so with her new Samsung Galaxy S10.

Ghostwriting is an ancient profession. And in many ways, it’s a mundane and common one. It’s more popular than most people realize, and some of the most prolific authors of today are writing under other people’s names. Some of your favorite authors, songwriters, and personalities are likely using ghostwriters.

And that’s a good thing.

Everyone deserves the chance to have their stories and ideas heard, even if they aren’t a writer at heart. Good ghostwriters are able to chronicle the intricate and singular beauty of worlds apart from themselves—and they’re able to do so in a way that does true service to those that they write for.

Ghostwriting to Build Authority: The Easy Way to Develop a Reputation

Why do people publish books?

Everyone has their own reason. But ultimately, it comes down to two things:

  1. There’s something so monumentally important that you need to share it with someone else.
  2. There’s something you need to prove to others about your own personal expertise.

Today, we’re going to focus on the second.

In academia, it’s often called publish-or-perish. The easiest way to show that you’re an authority within your field is to publish a book about it. The problem is that people who are skilled experts within their field aren’t always able to convey it to those who are outside of their field.

Consider an expert in artificial intelligence and machine learning. They may be able to discuss the intricacies of AI to their colleagues, but they may not be able to do it in a way that really “sells” it to those who are interested in their services. Even though they can discuss it from a technical standpoint, they can’t publish a book that is readable to the average person—and it’s the average person that they need to reach.

Ghostwritten books are the perfect way for those who have technical expertise to articulate their thoughts to those who have a need for that expertise.

Books can be used by:

  • Business coaches to describe their point-by-point business-related strategies.
  • Financial managers to introduce their new and revolutionary financial strategies.
  • Medical professionals to explore new medical processes from a patient point-of-view.
  • Software companies to explain the pain points that their software solutions address.

Any time a professional needs to describe something that is intricate and technical, a ghostwritten book can help.

Professionals often understand their industries too well. They don’t know what the consumer or client doesn’t know about their field, and can consequently move too fast or leave too much unsaid. A ghostwriter’s role is to make sure that these gaps are filled, so that the layman has a more thorough understanding of why the professional is an expert and what role the professional can fill.

And there’s a certain weight that comes from having a book. While the professional may not have “written” the book, they came up with all the ideas and concepts within the book. The audience for the book knows that the professional has this incredible body of knowledge, whether or not they actually read the book.

This is an incredible benefit. Simply having a library of books under one’s name imparts some level of authority even if no one reads those books. Of course, it’s better to have a good book. It’s even critical. But even when the title and the subject are all that an individual knows, it still indicates that a professional at least has put that amount of thought into their career.

With all other things considered, a book is something that imbues a person with an automatic level of authority. It’s a process and an endeavor: No one “accidentally” writes a book. No one simply gets a book because they have tenure. It’s a conscientious effort, and something that not everyone can do.

Do You Have Enough Content to Publish a Book?

You’ve been kicking around the idea of a book for some time. But you have one question remaining: Do you actually have enough content to publish a book?

How Much Content Do You Need for a Book?

Not as much as you think. Consider the last time you talked passionately about a subject. Could you talk about that subject for an hour? Two? Three?

In general, a one hour conversation is about enough for a chapter. A book will usually cover a number of topics, each specific and complex. When you think about the outline of a book, think about it as a list of “topics.”

It’s likely that you have more content than you think. Writing a book is a lot like having a conversation—it’s just a conversation with an audience.

Do You Really Need to Write a Full Book?

A “book” is really a lot of things. A book could range anywhere from 150 to 300 pages. If you have a very light book, that’s not a bad thing. It can be a short book. It can also be filled with diagrams, statistics, or pictures.

But you also don’t need to write a full book.

It’s possible that you only need an eBook. You might need a book from 20 to 50 pages long, that only goes over the major points of your strategy, service, philosophy, or history.

You may also only need a sequence of authority-building articles, or a sequence of short stories. It depends on what your ultimate goals are, and the amount of content that you really want to present.

The Importance of Not Stretching It

With rare exceptions, it’s better to write a punchy 100 page book than a 300 page book that is stretched for content. There’s nothing that people hate more than having their time wasted.

Today, there’s been a push for longer and longer pieces of content. Blogs have gone from 400 words to 2,000 words. Even tweets became longer! This push for longer content is really a push for engagement. The more time you can get someone to spend on your content, the better the relationship you’ve built with them (or so they say).

But people are becoming fatigued. They are inundated with content today, and they really want to spend their time on things that are unique and insightful. So, if you have less content, you don’t want to push yourself to provide more. Instead, you want to find the right medium for the content that you have.

What If You Do Want More Content?

If you have your heart set on a 200 page book, but you have 100 pages of content, there’s still one secret trick:


This is the hidden role of the ghostwriter. You may want to talk about a certain medical process that you’ve studied. But a ghostwriter can dig down deep and find out more about the history and the context of that medical process.

Ghostwriters are able to build out content significantly by doing additional research surrounding it. Rather than just “padding” the content, they produce valuable information that works contextually with the information that you yourself have provided.

If you’re wondering whether you have enough content, the best thing to do is connect with a professional. It can be difficult to really figure out how much content you have without sitting down, writing an outline, and exploring what you need to say. Most people have more content than they think they do—they just need some help expressing it.

Get Your Book Written


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