Hire A Ghostwriter: Your Secret Weapon For Compelling Content With Douglas Hardy

by | Apr 25, 2024 | Podcasts

Speakers Who Get Results | Doug Hardy | Ghostwriter


Are you stuck staring at a blank page, overflowing with ideas yet unable to weave them into captivating content? Fret no more because in this episode, business strategist and writer Douglas Hardy sheds light on the power of ghostwriting. He explains how partnering with a ghostwriter allows you to seamlessly share your valuable knowledge with your target audience. He also shares valuable insights to help you find the perfect writing partner who understands your voice and vision. So, don’t let writer’s block silence your story or expertise. Join Douglas Hardy and discover why a ghostwriter could be your secret weapon for unlocking the power of exceptional content.

Watch the episode here


Listen to the podcast here


Hire A Ghostwriter: Your Secret Weapon For Compelling Content With Douglas Hardy

This is the show where we talk about leadership, presentation skills, and communication challenges. We’re going to talk about one of the useful things to know. We’re doing a series of practical useful tips with my guest, Doug Hardy. Before I get into Doug’s official bio though, let me invite you to see where your presentation skills are strong by taking our free four-minute quiz at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where you are a strong presenter and where perhaps a little bit of support could help you get the results you need and the recognition that you deserve. 

My guest is Douglas Hardy. He is an old friend of mine and I had him on the show a few weeks ago to talk about a book that he’d worked on as a ghost writer. Then I thought maybe there are some of you listening who are thinking about writing a book but you’re busy, you’ve got a full job, and you might consider working with a ghostwriter. I thought let’s bring Doug back and ask him. What’s it like to use a ghostwriter? What’s going to make the difference? 

His official bio is Douglas Hardy is a Business Strategist and Writer specializing in the topics of human innovation and work collaboration. To date, he has written 18 books and numerous articles for industry and academic leaders including Deloitte, Elkins Manfredi Architects, work human Monster.com, Bentley University, and Babson College. 

Previously, over the course of 20 years, Doug has been an immediate executive at the New York Times, Random House, AT&T, New Media, and others. His current writing appears under client bylines in Forbes Fast Company Inc. and other Publications. Doug’s recent areas of research include organizational culture, technology leadership, Employee Engagement, pandemic and post-pandemic workplace issues, workspace design, entrepreneurship, and artificial intelligence applications in industry, and in the employment economy. We’re going to talk about what it’s like to work with a ghostwriter, what you should know, and how to make it work. Onto the interview with Doug Hardy.

Doug Hardy, welcome back to the show.

Thanks. Good to be here again. 

I have to say as I said in the intro when we had our first conversation about the book that you co-authored Who’s in Your Room? and I said, “What is it about being a ghostwriter?” I watched you light up as we were talking. I said we have to have a whole other conversation about working with a ghostwriter. Before I do that, let me ask you who would be your dream interview. If you could interview someone who is no longer with us, who would it be? What would you ask them? Who should be listening? 

First of all, that is the most unfair question anyone can ask.

You only get to choose one. 

I went through probably 40 possibilities. Shakespeare, Lincoln, who’s it going to be? I thought that right now, one of the most interesting conversations as an interview, one of the most interesting interviews if I could go back 2,500 years and interview Siddhartha Gautama who was the Buddha. What I would ask the Buddha, if I spoke Pali would be, let’s talk about the intersection between modern science-based and brain-based psychology. 

This extraordinarily logical system that you came up with using the only technology that you had which was your own mind, which very closely parallels some modern understandings of how the mind works. I think it would be a fascinating conversation to how you reach enlightenment in a non-supernatural intervention that looks so much like complete awareness that only in the last 100 years or so science has been grappling with. I think that would be a fascinating conversation about that convergence. 

I got a little lost as you’re talking about that. I’ve known you for many years and you often lose me in the way you talk about these. That’s probably something that you would make sense of on the page Mr. Writer, my friend. Can you say that in a simpler way? You’re the king of metaphors here. 

Buddha said many things but his last lesson was to look to your own experience. What do you see? What do you experience? What’s going on outside in the world and inside in your mind and that’s how you will arrive at truth and you can call it religious truth, scientific truth, or so forth. What’s remarkable and I think this is why science is so interested in meditation these days is that when you strip away a lot of the cosmology of modern Buddhism, it reads like a manual to how the mind works. The mind is restless. The mind is always seeking novelty. 

The mind is always looking out for danger and opportunity and so forth and that we get caught up in these stories we tell ourselves all the time. Our experience is both part of the world outside of us, but it’s also these long stories and metaphors that we ourselves all through the day all day long. That’s how we comprehend the world. That’s the conversation I’d like to have. Why is brain science with electrodes running all around your head looking an awful lot like the basic truths of Buddhism? I should say the basic truths of many of the great world religions. Is that still too complicated? 

The Value Of Compelling Content

No, thank you very much. I wanted to talk to you about that because one of the things that I have loved about our friendship for many years is how you are very good at taking complicated ideas and refining them into something that’s readable and understandable. I wanted to talk to you about working as a ghostwriter because it’s one of the things that there are a lot of people who are out there riding content, but you’ve spent the last 20-plus years helping other people figure out what their thought leadership is and then distilling it into a readable format. First of all, why is it important to have really compelling content? Why does it matter?

I have a friend who says with a great deal of irony, “Thought leadership is really simple. It only needs two things thoughts and Leadership.” The problem is a lot of people think they have both and they don’t really they’re just going along regurgitating what they read in the past. They aren’t coming up with novel insights or other things or they don’t know how to lead. If someone has some really interesting new observations or new ways of saying them. There’s someone has the qualities of leadership, which is what I heard a few years ago a perfect definition of leadership. 

It sounds glib but bear with me said, “A leader is someone who has followers. Leaders come in all kinds of stripes and colors and affect and so forth.” George Washington and Steve Jobs are not exactly the same guy. Clara Barton and Marianne Williamson are not the same people at all, but real leaders. Content, those of us who started out in the book trade used to complain about the word content, but It’s a good word in a world of multimedia content as images, content is words, content, and so forth. 

Still, expressing concepts write content confirms in thought leadership that you are a leader. It’s proof that you are what you say you are in the same way that the track record of an investor, their returns over many years proves that they’re good rather than the way they talk about investing. Content proves that you are experienced and your insights and your applying smearing to different situations puts you in a position of leadership. That’s it. It simply affirms and verifies that you are a leader. 

Content confirms in thought leadership that you really are a leader. It's the proof that you are what you say you are. Click To Tweet

The Value Of A Ghostwriter

For the sake of one’s visibility in the world, certainly, creating great content, having a book, and publishing a book is more than a calling card, but I’ve always been someone who’s better off talking than she is writing. If you could talk it out too and then have somebody to help you write it that it’s good writing. But figuring out what your ideas are and what’s your way of saying it is a great way to raise your visibility. People say, “They’re stuck, Hardy. He’s the person who wrote such and so or there’s Elizabeth Bachman. She created the concept X, concept Y, and concept Z.” It does take work. Why is it worth getting help from a professional who just writes? it’s more than just writing but whose main function is to write. 

It’s worth it for the same reason that the CEO of a technology company has a chief technology officer or a chief marketing officer or the head of a biopharma firm has a head of research. People who are spending most of their time leading other people are subject matter experts as they say in leadership. They aren’t necessarily great at recognizing which of their messages are going to resonate with the people who need them and which are most useful. I think this is where your expertise in speaking and mine and writing have something in common. 

Years before, I was a ghostwriter and someone once said what makes you a good editor? I said I have tremendous empathy for the reader. That’s not sympathy. By empathy I mean I can put myself in the place of a reader. Anytime I’m reading a piece of writing, I’m thinking how is this affecting me? What am I going to take away from this? How does this apply to my life, my situation, my problem, or my ambitions? That’s a specialized set of skills in communication certainly. 

In my case writing and your case speaking. Also understanding which of the ideas are very familiar and therefore not necessarily of high value, which ones are novel and will grab people’s attention, and which ones are entertaining and energizing or provocative and thus energizing or persuasive. Great salespeople know that it’s the relationship you build over time that makes a sale. I think people have relationships with what they read and people relationships with what they hear. 

I always call that strategic empathy as a rule number one is to know your audience and put yourself in the shoes of your listeners or your readers. Why should they care? Who are you speaking to? What does that matter?

When I work with someone, I’ll sit down and ask a few questions and we’ll talk for maybe 90 minutes. What they don’t realize that it’s some of what they’re saying is intriguing to a certain audience or really follows a thread that we’re trying to create or follows a path and they’re thinking ahead to the next thought. One of my clients years ago used to say, “The question that I always dread from you Doug is, but wait a minute, say more about that.” Because they don’t realize they’ve just said something profound. They’ve been thinking about it for years and suddenly they say, “Why do I believe that?” Now, we’re getting somewhere. Tell me a story about when that happened to you. 

I think this is a very important point because we live with our thoughts and so having somebody else who can say, “Wait, that’s important. That’s new,” or maybe you say, “Everybody knows that,” but not everybody knows that or maybe you’ve put it together in a different way. 

There’s also the matter of craft. 

Craft as in skill and technique. 

Craft as in skill and technique. I will listen to a client and say this is the format I suggest. Right now. I’m finishing a book with a CEO and the book is a format or a narrative arc that I’ve never used before because I’ve never worked with a person quite like this before. I changed the entire structure. Literally, the structure of the book moved it from six chapters to 11 chapters. I won’t get into the details, but it’s a really novel construction of both narrative and case building because this person’s story is so compelling and so usual and that’s their voice. 

Their voice is different from other CEOs of work who say are very data-driven, stick with data, and messages like that. The expertise of the ghostwriter is to understand the concepts and the stories and also the formats your intended audience is going to receive best and are going to receive in their own way, but are an extension of your leadership. You’re leading them someplace. You’re convincing them of something. You’re making a case that you want them to see as an important case. 

I want to come back to that. First of all, let’s just talk about when it makes sense to say, “Okay. I’m going to do a book or if not a book. I’m going to do articles. I want to get my ideas out into the world in some sort of written form.” When does it make sense to do that? When does it make sense to hire the specialists, the professionals? 

It makes sense when you’re ready to commit to a long-term self-marketing program or marketing program for your ideas. By marketing I mean, the full media array whether it’s social or a book or video or whatever but also really thinking it through what’s your message? What endures? What is going to make you stand out? What are you better at talking about than anyone else? Typically, that’s your experience and how it proves your points and I don’t mean memoir. You the client or the person working with a ghostwriter have to understand that this is not novel writing. I think it’s a good craft, but you’re not trying to make great art. What you’re trying to do is bring these ideas to the widest possible audience and that’s a marketing program. 

What do you say when someone says, I think this is something but it’s been said before, what if somebody says, “I don’t know if this is new or unusual enough. Do I have a new idea?” How can I tell if this is a new idea? 

I think good ghostwriters are also really good researchers. Again, the marketing metaphor, you’re going to research the competition. There are always new ways to say things. We look at business best sellers and we think well, I’ve seen that message before but once in a while something comes along that’s data-driven, for example, or has a truly dramatic turnaround story or is a story of an individual so compelling that their life could be written like a novel. It’s just that exciting. 

Speakers Who Get Results | Doug Hardy | Ghostwriter

Ghostwriter: Good ghostwriters are also good researchers.


A good ghostwriter will speak very candidly with you about what’s real what’s not, and what’s publishable and what’s not, who cares? They can answer the who cares question or does? Does anybody care? I think a truly good ghostwriter knows the media landscape. They’ll say, “This idea you have is not a book.” It’s not going to be 50,000 words to explain but it could be a series in an online business magazine, Forbes, or an ink or whatever and that’s because I keep in touch with those things and you’ve got something to say. Let’s put together a proposal and then go try to be on the Forbes. Is it a leadership counselor? I think it’s called can look that up online. It’s strictly an online gathering of experts but they all publish on Forbes online. 

That’s actually a good way of saying it’s to know if is it a book. Is it a series of articles? You have choices. One of the things that I talk about a lot is maybe you’d start out speaking about it first and then turn it into a book or maybe it’s a book or a series of articles that you’ve written and now you have to get out there and speak. This is the sort of thing. I work with ghostwriters and editors a lot in terms of what do you want to say. You’ve got to be able to do both. 

We work in a world now that is so different from when I started as a book editor in that all media intersect with all other media. Who knew that one of the biggest drivers of bestsellers in fiction is TikTok? I’m not even on TikTok but book talk is incredibly effective not much for nonfiction though. Nonfiction is a different animal in business. That might be a generational thing by the way. 

Picking A Good Ghostwriter

It might be, yes, exactly. How do you pick a good ghostwriter? Say you’re curious, and you’re starting to investigate the idea, how do you know who to work with and who not to work with? 

That’s a great question. It’s a great question because half the key to success is the relationship. Your relationship with a ghostwriter has to be one of complete confidentiality, complete trust, and complete candor. The collaborations I know that have worked have a couple of qualities that you recognize. One, you respect each other and with one would hope you like each other and you respect each other separate expertise. Don’t go working with someone who’s going to tell you all about your business. Instead, what I would look for in and ghostwriter is someone who is deliberately naive. 

I say to people, “I’m going to ask you a question,” and say, “Didn’t he do his homework?” I’m going to say to you, “I’ve done my homework. I’m asking these questions so that they can be answered in your voice.” You should look at samples of their work and see if they have written for different people and it sounds different. All sounds like the same diction, the same phrases, and the same sentence lengths. That’s not as good as someone who sort of captures someone’s unique voice. By the way, the highest-paid ghostwriters at the peak or slightly different market from mine, are the memoirs. 

There’s J.R. Moeringer who wrote Prince Harry’s autobiography and he wrote Andre Agassi’s autobiography. He got started as a reporter and also wrote his own autobiography of a wonderful book called The Tender Bar. If you read those books, they’re very different voices and he spends something like two years. He moves to where the client lives and spends two years in that neighborhood with them. That’s a little too intimate for me and a little too costly but in any event. 

Speakers Who Get Results | Doug Hardy | Ghostwriter

The Tender Bar: A Memoir

You are looking for someone. After the relationship, I think a certain degree of expertise in the industry or an ability to come up quickly with it is good certainly endorsements from past clients. That’s always something you want to check out. Finally, there’s going to be some range of price that you’re okay paying and that’s going to be part of the business relationship too. 

What’s the return on investment? 

The return on investment is the same way you measure a marketing program. Are you getting more clients? Are you getting more exposure? Are you getting more media mentions? You won’t make a lot of money selling books, some, but I think most of your clients at their level, it’s a few weeks’ salary or a few weeks’ profits. That’s not the point. The point is exposure. The point is to raise your profile. 

I will say that for people who are connected to corporations C-level people, I often contract with their marketing department because what they want to do is get their ideas in front of their clients and potential clients. It’s a great way for customer relations people and go-to-market people to say here so and so at Nike, here so and so at Apple, here so and so at Walmart. Take a look at this book, it’s relevant to your business and our CEO wrote it and we think we should have a conversation about it. In B2B stuff even B2C, much of it can be thought of as a marketing program. 

That’s a very good way that you put it because the process you have weeks and months together where you’re talking through ideas and then you going through various drafts of the book and then ultimately the book comes out, then there’s the whole talking about it publicity. I interview authors all the time. The podcasts are great for that and it gives you the legitimacy to do that or I’ve had clients who had a speech. I had one client who had had a hard time telling stories. 

We created three stories and then she said, “Okay, I’m going to go visit.” I said, “The stories are not the speech. The stories are the illustrations. Let’s dig down to where the ideas behind it were and how these stories would illustrate.” It’s kind of working backwards but it’s what made sense for her. Frankly, for a lot of people, it’s what they’re pissed off about? What they’re angry about? What really bothers them in their industry? Then say, “All right. This is a problem. How would I fix it?” 

That has driven more successful entrepreneurs than any single cause looking and saying this makes no sense at all and I’m going to figure out an answer to it. You bring up a point that’s really important, which is that writing a book or even an article can be a pretty organic process. This is where chat GPT doesn’t quite work yet and that is it’s back and forth. Why not start with the stories and say, “If these stories matter to you, what about these stories matters? Or you start with a framework and say, “Here’s the problem we’re trying to solve. 

People have trouble with organizational structures. How can we make organizational structures better?” Well, what are the real problems here? You find that you’re focusing on performance reviews or performance management and suddenly, you can write 50,000 words about Performance Management. Most of them are really original even though we’ve all done performance reviews forever and we hate them. Why don’t we solve that problem? 

A book is a way to work your way through those ideas and say, “No, that’s not really what I thought or that is what I thought or this sounds an awful lot like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Let’s look into that. Maybe there’s a metaphor here that we really should be using.” That’s what the conversation is about. Then the writer goes away and rights and then puts it in front of you and you say, “Yeah, I want to say that but I don’t want to say that.” It’s organic. It’s lots of fun. It’s lots of work. 

It is work but once you have it, you have it forever and then people say, “She’s the one who wrote that book. I know I’ve heard you say there are a lot of people out there who brand themselves as ghostwriters who just don’t write well. Sometimes I think nobody cares whether the language is well written or not and it drives me nuts, that might also be a generational thing, to try to make the language sing if you will. 

If people are going to invest 30 bucks and 20 or 30 hours of their life reading a book or are you just going to shovel burgers at them or are you going to give them a really terrific well cooked, well-sourced fresh dinner? I mean, which one are they going to remember in any Endeavor? Especially in writing and performing, quality is worth the price, quality is worth the time. It’s hard to process and make a really good book. There’s a book by the fellow who found a GrubHub. 

At the very end of the book in the acknowledgments, he says, “I build a billion dollar company and I’ve written a book. Writing a book is harder,” and he says, “Don’t laugh. I have done them both and writing a book is harder.” Now personally, I think building a billion-dollar company is harder. He’s making is that if you’re going to undertake a project so personal, the project’s so tied to your value. Why would you make it the best possible product you can? 

I love that. 

If you ask who will know or readers will know but also you’ll know.

Good point. 

It should be. This is your testament. 

It’s your legacy. 

It’s your legacy. It’s your testament. By the way, if you want to get any notice from the business press or in the other press, it better be well-written. It better be original. It better be well-researched. It better be true because there are an awful lot of books out there and people have a limited amount of time. You do need to stand out. 

It better be well-written and well-researched and original if you want to get any notice from the press. Click To Tweet

The Joy Of The Creative Process

Doug, this has been fascinating and really fun. Just out of curiosity, do you have the moments where you finish a conversation and then you jump up and dance around the room saying, “They’re so smart. There’s no smart. I love it. I can’t wait to get working on this.”

Yes. I Don’t dance about the room. What I do is I jump up and I go to that window and I look out I go, “Wow. I’m gonna have to rewrite chapter 2 now because this really changes things and it just gets better.” What I love about the iterative process suddenly someone will say something almost spontaneously and you’ll say, “Boy yeah. Everybody can resonate with that.” I love those moments. Yeah, when I hear a great story, when I hear a great phrase, even when I write a great sentence and that doesn’t happen too often. All right, a lot of good sentences but when it really comes together, I mean, it’s just pure joy. This is what I love to do.

It’s the creator process. I’ll have to tell you that the clients that I love to work with and then we hang up and I jump up and dance around the room and say, “I love it. I love it. I get to work with this. I get to help this person. I get up. She’s so brilliant. She’s so smart. He’s so brilliant. Yes. Let’s get it out there.” That’s what keeps me going. 

I’ll ask you a question. There’s always that moment with my clients when they get the books in their hands and it just feels so good. Do you get that moment when you see them finally up there doing their TEDx Talk or whatever it is, and you go, “They nailed it?”

Speech Vs. Book

Yes. It’s when they get out and they do the speech and we’ve worked on the delivery. That’s the other thing, the big difference between a speech and a book is how you deliver the speech which is a little different every time but hopefully, you have practiced it enough so that muscle memory takes you through it. You’re going to be nervous at the beginning and you’re probably going to be nervous at the end and maybe even in the middle when you see somebody important sitting there in the front row and you go, “I didn’t know he was here.” 

Speakers Who Get Results | Doug Hardy | Ghostwriter

Ghostwriter: The big difference between a speech and a book is how you deliver.


We just the voice is in my head’s going. When you get up there and you do it and for me, when I see somebody up there and I see the audience drinking it in and that’s my craft is we’ve worked on the craft of how do you deliver it? We worked on the craft of shaping the sentences making the phrases memorable and making it interactive so that people stay awake and are excited and interested. 

They walk out there, and I think of it as giving them the craft, they open to the art of their message. Just open up and be a channel for delivering this idea because we all know that great ideas at least in my cosmology come from somewhere above from the universe or God or a higher power or whatever you want to call it, somewhere there’s that spark that makes you go, “Ah.” Then the craft is how you channel that in a fashion that people can hear you in a way that they can take it in that makes sense to them and watch them going. Yes. Got it. Wow. That’s why I do what I do. 

You’re reminding me and I know you know this quote but in case maybe one or two of your clients or listeners don’t, The Speakers Who Get Results reminds me of that marvelous Maya Angelou, which is even if they may not remember what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel. 

It’s a very famous quote. It’s become a cliche but cliches are cliches because they’re real. It’s true. 

When you energize a room like that. 

When you’ve got somebody reading the book and staying up too late because I can’t stop turning the page. Doug Hardy, this has been such a joy to talk to a fellow craftsperson and someone who like me helps people get their ideas out into the world. I enjoyed it. Thank you for coming back to the show to talk about this wonderful craft of ghostwriting. If you’re somebody who’s think you’ve got some ideas, then explore them and see but then get help writing it because most of us are too close to our own stories to write our own stuff. That’s where you need an editor or if you don’t have time, you just have a ghostwriter who helps you do it. 

You need an editor if you don't have time. Find a ghostwriter who helps you do it. Click To Tweet

Thank you. Wonderful show. It’s great to be here again. 

Thank you so much, Doug. This has been Speakers Who Gets Results. If you enjoyed this conversation especially that Doug and I are geeking out about the craft, if you enjoyed this conversation or any of our other conversations, please tell your friends to subscribe to us on whatever app you’re listening to. Subscribe to us on YouTube. We’ve got a lot of material there. Do us a favor and give us a good review on Apple Podcasts because that’s the one that people track. I will see you on the next one.


Important Links


About Douglas Hardy

Speakers Who Get Results | Doug Hardy | GhostwriterDouglas Hardy is a business strategist and writer specializing in the topics of human innovation and work collaboration. To-date, he has written 18 books and numerous articles for industry and academic leaders including Deloitte, Elkus Manfredi Architects, Workhuman, Monster.com, Bentley University and Babson College. Previously, over the course of 20 years, he was a media executive at The New York Times, Random House, AT&T New Media and others.

Currently his writing appears (under client bylines) in Forbes, Fast Company, / Inc. and other publications. His recent areas of research include organizational culture, technology leadership, employee engagement, pandemic- and post-pandemic workforce issues, workspace design, entrepreneurship, and artificial intelligence applications in industry and the employment economy.