5 Great Ways to Turn Your Blog Posts into a Book

“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard, and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy and that hard.” — Neil Gaiman

Writing a book is a dream for many folks. Some try very hard to write a book from scratch but never get very far. Others take baby steps. Little by little, they manage to put something meaningful together. Nevertheless, they fall short of writing that elusive full-length tome.

Some writers have success by beginning their writing journey with a blog. Often, starting a new blog feels more like a hobby than a formal writing project. Over time, this “hobby” gains enough traction to earn the writer a regular following.

If they have been successfully blogging for awhile, they will have accumulated a significant amount of content. It could make sense for a recognized blogger to transform their blog posts into a full-length book.

This article will explore how blog posts can be compiled into a book. It will cover five ways it can be done, including how hiring a ghostwriter can help with such a major writing project.

Getting Started: Outlining a Non-fiction Book

Outlining is the first major step in getting started producing a full-length book. Starting with a fully developed outline can help with the writing process and organization of the book.

There are two major reasons why an outline is important.

First, an outline serves as a roadmap for the book’s content.

Many writers get stuck without the guidance of a clear outline. In some instances, they may write copious amounts of material. However, they are unable to translate the material into a seamless narrative.

Books without a consistent narrative are likely to fall short of readers’ expections.

Second, a solid outline allows writers to pick and choose which blog posts fit their vision for the book.

The outline provides criteria that can measure whether a blog post should be included in the final book. Without these criteria, mashing blog posts together can result in a disjointed final product that fails to convey the intended message.

When outlining a book, it is crucial to determine the book’s message.The blog posts must fit the message and not the other way around. A common mistake is to attempt to force a narrative around a collection of blog posts. Blog posts often touch on different subjects and have different approaches to them. Using a central message around which to select posts is more effective than trying to develop criteria from various posts.

The following steps will facilitate the overall process:

  1. Create an outline or table of content that reflects the book’s content.
  2. Search for the blog posts that fit the criteria presented in the outline.
  3. Compile the blog posts to create a working manuscript.
  4. Edit existing posts while adding new material to ensure a smooth narrative.

Please bear in mind that this process is not about merely shoving posts together into a volume. It is about weaving them together much like a quilt. A great outline can also become a highly useful tool when a ghostwriter comes into the picture.

Number One: “Blogging” a Full-Length Book

A common complaint among writers is that they do not have enough time to sit down and write a book. However, most bloggers already commit a specific amount of time to their blog. They have time to write, but don’t feel they have time to compile an entire book.

Consistent bloggers can leverage their writing habits into a full-length volume. The secret is to break up the entire book into blog-sized chunks.

By dividing the workload this way, producing the overall content is less demanding on the writer’s time.

Additionally, divvying up the material softens the psychological impact that writing a book can present. Focusing on 500-to-1,000-word blog posts at a time builds momentum, which can push the project forward.

A full-length book usually falls in the 30,000 to 50,000-word range. By “blogging” a book piece-by-piece, reaching this significant word count is accomplished in a steady and systematic way.

Use the following steps to “blog” a full-length book:

  1. Build an outline that reflects the book’s overarching message and theme.
  2. Divide the material into blog-sized posts (500 to 1,000 words).
  3. Publish “chapters” on your blog following a specific schedule.
  4. Keep roughly 25% of the chapters exclusively for the finished book.
  5. Compile the set of blog posts into a working manuscript.
  6. Review the material to ensure a consistent narrative.

A good rule of thumb is to avoid publishing everything on the blog. After all, why would readers be interested in the book if everything is on the blog? Moreover, the book will not sell if the content is freely available on the blog.  Creating a certain amount of material exclusively for the book will keep it useful and interesting.

Number Two: “Blogging” Short Books

Some writers prefer to break up a single, full-length book into a series of smaller books. This approach allows writers to publish more books at frequent intervals. More frequent publishing also cuts down on readers’ waiting time.

Like a full-length book, blogging short books begins with publishing blog posts. Each blog post pertains to the overall topic related to each of the volumes in the series. Short books can emerge from a a handful of posts or even one lengthy piece.

Typically, short books range from 5,000 to about 20,000 words. These types of books are common on Kindle or in e-book format.

Short books intend to provide the reader with detailed information on one or two defined topics. For instance, a writer may chose to produce a series on best management practices instead of a single, comprehensive volume.

When blogging short books, writers can use individual blog posts as teasers for the books’ content. As such, published posts can become the introduction to the book. With this approach, writers do not give anything away. Instead, they can create a buzz in readers, enticing them to read the entire book.

Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Create an outline that encompasses the series’ narrative.
  2. Break up the narrative into a reasonable number of volumes. Generally, three to five volumes work well.
  3. Write one major blog post that introduces the volume’s central message without giving away its essence.
  4. The blog post should avoid becoming too “salesy” but should strive to pitch the book.

Regular bloggers often exploit this approach to generate traffic for their content or drive sales. It can even lead to a steady income stream.

Number Three: Blogging Short Series

Another popular approach among bloggers is to produce a short series. These series usually have a specific theme to them. For example, a blogger may choose to chronicle a trip or detail a project. Creative bloggers often use this format to unfold a story over several “chapters.”

A short series offers a great deal of flexibility as they can generate expectations for every new installment.

How-to guides commonly follow this approach. Each installment in the series builds on the previous one. By the end of the series, readers have a completed project. In contrast, if they miss a chapter, they will not be able to fully reach the outcome.

A short series can also lead to a full-length book. Each installment could serve as a chapter that builds anticipation.

Additionally, short series help readers construct the overarching theme piece-by-piece. This approach allows readers to get valuable information in digestible chunks. As a result, it avoids placing too much information on readers in one volume.

When using the short series approach, writers should consider purposely leaving important details out. These details would only be available in the full book. In doing so, readers would need to purchase the full book to get the remaining pieces of the overall puzzle.

Non-fiction writers can benefit from this format. For instance, blog posts can introduce the main aspects of a case study. Each installment could present individual stories that build on the overarching message contained in the book. However, the blog would not include the book’s value proposition.

Consider this example:

A book on management practices presents a series of case studies on successful companies. Each blog post tells the story of a company turning their management practices around. However, the blog posts do not reveal how each company achieved its results. Readers would need to read through the book to find the specific measures that led to the successful outcomes.

Another benefit from blogging a short series is the possibility of a book series. Often, short stories have the potential to expand into larger books or expanded narratives. Both fiction and non-fiction writers could consider using short stories as a springboard into a book series.

Number Four: Publish an Anthology

An anthology is a collection of writings. Often, publishers bundle poems or short stories into anthology volumes. These collections may or may not have a specific theme to them. Their intention is to provide the reader with a compilation of a writer’s work. Also, an anthology may feature various authors’ work on a specific topic.

For some bloggers, an anthology may be a viable alternative to producing a full-length or short book.

Writers can benefit from producing an anthology as they do not need to “fit” every element perfectly. They can compile various ideas into a bundle that is consistent with an overarching theme. Nonetheless, each element should help build the narrative effectively.

Anthologies also offer more freedom to explore topics. This freedom allows writers to include material that does not necessarily fit in perfectly with the other blog posts in the series.

As a result, writers can allow themselves to the freedom to divert from the topic at hand. Of course, it is crucial to maintain focus on the overarching theme.

Please consider the following steps when building an anthology:

  1. Anthologies need a common thread that unites every piece. For example, a book could contain several pieces on a specific topic, such as social justice.
  2. Individual blog posts do not necessarily need to follow a seamless narrative. However, they must have a clear relationship with one another. Disjointed or unrelated blog posts can leave readers confused and the writer’s main message may not be clearly expressed.
  3. An anthology must have an introduction that helps weave each post into a common theme. The introduction should make it clear  what the reader can expect to find throughout the book.
  4. A conclusion is another important component of a great anthology. The conclusion helps bring the book full circle in a way that leaves readers with something to look forward to. A conclusion can also serve to “hook” readers into anticipating the next short or full-length book.

Bear in mind that anthologies should also contain unpublished material. These “bonuses” help drive interest in the anthology. Otherwise, readers need only go to the blog to get the material. Fans of a blog may be interested in an anthology because the collection gives readers deeper insight into the blogger as an individual.

Number Five: Hiring a Ghostwriter

Unfortunately, there are times when writing projects stall.

When this occurs, it is often a good idea to bring a fresh mind into the fold. Hiring a ghostwriter can be one solution.

A professional ghostwriter can take a series of blog posts and mold them into an anthology, a series, or a full-length book. A ghostwriter can take the overarching narrative and fill in the gaps needed to complete the project.

There are two main benefits of hiring a ghostwriter:

First, professional ghostwriters can take existing blog posts and tweak them to fit the book’s criteria. This approach does not require any material to be rewritten. A ghostwriter can produce new material and link existing blog posts together to build a seamless narrative. With their help, a ghostwriter can greatly reduce the time needed to get the book out to the public.

Second, hiring a ghostwriter allows bloggers to start new blogs or writing projects.  Ghostwriters can also take ideas from the blogger and help create new blog posts or even short stories.

This approach is not about hiring a ghostwriter to write a book. Instead, the ghostwriter’s job is to compile existing content and bring the book writing project to fruition.

Ultimately, getting a ghostwriter on board might be the final piece of the puzzle. A professional ghostwriter is always a worthwhile alternative when other approaches cannot seem to bear fruit.

Bringing It All Together

Going from a blog to a full book is a great way to take a seemingly daunting task and attain a long-held dream. Writers who feel they do not have the time to produce a full-length book should think again. After all, producing consistent blog posts will eventually lead to a significant amount of written material.

Building a book from blog posts hinges on choosing a narrative that can bind the various elements together. Consequently, writers must craft a narrative that unites several posts.

Carefully choosing the posts that fit the narrative, and leaving out those that do not, will result in a strategically crafted book.

Lastly, hiring a professional ghostwriter might be the answer to reviving a dormant writing project. Whether it is taking existing blog posts or building new ones, a ghostwriter can help take a writing project from an idea into reality

Digital vs. Print Books: How a Ghostwriter Can Boost Both Digital and Print Publishing

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” — Cicero

Books have always been a powerful means of communicating knowledge. Humankind has used books to preserve and further develop civilization for centuries.

And in the information age, books have become more powerful than ever. However, the changing technological landscape has started to morph books into the electronic domain.

Nowadays, books do not need paper to exist. Books can thrive in a non-material world in which words pop up on a screen. This new domain has done nothing to diminish books’ importance. However, the question now becomes: Are books better suited in their traditional paper format or their new digital embodiment?

In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of print versus digital books. Moreover, we’ll discuss how readers, writers, and publishers can take advantage of both formats to pursue their aims. Lastly, we will examine the role that individual ghostwriters and ghostwriting companies can play within the shifting literary realm.

Are print books still relevant?

Virtually every facet of human existence is progressively migrating to the digital world. In fact, it is hard to find an aspect of modern life that is not somehow part of the digital world.

Books are no exception.

Now, more than ever, it is quite easy to access vast arrays of literary materials in  electronic formats. It seems as though digital publishing is barreling ahead, poised to overtake traditional print publications.

Or so it seems.

In 2019, the Association of American Publishers reported an estimated $26 billion in publisher revenue. While this figure is impressive, the most stunning figure is the disproportion between print and digital book sales.

Print book sales comprised roughly $22.6 billion of the total market revenue.

Surprisingly, digital books accounted for only about $2.04 billion in sales.

This significant gap raises questions about digital books’ true popularity among readers.

Meryl Halls, managing director of the U.K.’s Booksellers Association, offers this insight into print books’ ongoing popularity: “I think the e-book bubble has burst somewhat, sales are flattening off, I think the physical object is very appealing. Publishers are producing incredibly gorgeous books, so the cover designs are often gorgeous, they’re beautiful objects.”

Indeed, print books offer a sensory experience that digital books are yet to deliver. This phenomenon explains why devices such as e-readers have sound effects for turning pages. Moreover, these devices attempt to mimic the reading experience that comes from holding a paper book.

Unfortunately, electronic devices are unable to deliver that same degree of experience.

Halls adds, “The book lover loves to have a record of what they’ve read, and it’s about signaling to the rest of the world. It’s about decorating your home, it’s about collecting, I guess, because people are completists, they want to have that to indicate about themselves.”

Undoubtedly, a tablet or e-reader full of volumes cannot offer the same visual exposure that physical books can. After all, the visual that comes from seeing shelves full of paper books is unbeatable.

Are digital books the wave of the future?

As society transitions into a fully digital world, electronic publications will eventually overtake print ones. This phenomenon has already disrupted the newspaper industry.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, daily newspaper circulation averaged 63.2 million in 1990. Additionally, Sunday newspaper circulation averaged 62.6 million in 1990.

Fast forward to 2020, that figure had fallen to 24.3 million on weekdays and 25.8 million on Sundays.

Print newspapers’ remarkable decline is partially due to the accessibility that digital media offers consumers. With tablets and smartphones readily available, it would appear that a transition to a fully digital media world is evitable.

Furthermore, generations of digital natives continue to place greater pressure on print publications. Author Franz S. MacLaren sums up e-books’ influence by stating, “Life without a Kindle is like life without a library nearby.”

Indeed, an e-reader such as a Kindle can open the floodgates to an immense world of knowledge.

Therein lies both a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, digital media allows readers to access vast quantities of materials. A quick stroll through the Amazon Kindle selection can easily blow anyone’s mind. Consequently, there is no shortage of options to choose. There will always be something to read and something new to discover.

On the other hand, the seemingly limitless array of materials can make narrowing focus virtually impossible. Choosing what to read may become extremely complex. And getting lost in an immense ocean of titles may ultimately discourage readers from making a choice.

Undeniably, digital media has entrenched itself in people’s day-to-day lives. Nonetheless, it may seem that the transition from print to digital has not been as rapid as once thought. Therefore, authors and publishers should not neglect the importance that both print and digital have on society. It would appear that authors and publishers are attempting to serve two masters at once.

Should authors and publishers focus on print, digital, or both?

The question “Should authors and publishers focus on print, digital, or both?” encapsulates the core of the print versus digital discussion. There are three main points to consider in this debate.

First, print media will remain a significant force in the years to come. While print newspapers are rapidly becoming obsolete, print books are not. Print books maintain a firm position in the publishing world.

So, why are books in and newspapers out?

Newspapers, like all news media, thrive on speed.

The faster news reaches audiences, the better. As such, print newspapers cannot hope to compete against instant information sharing through social media.

In contrast, print books offer a leisurely or learning experience that transcends speed.

Reading a book is an exercise in discovery. As a result, print books deliver a singular experience that fast-paced media outlets have come to overlook.

Second, digital media, such as e-books, offer instant access to readers.

In the past, publishers needed to wait weeks, or even months, for their publications to reach a nationwide audience.

With online marketplaces such as Amazon Kindle, access to a nationwide and worldwide audience becomes instantaneous. Authors and publishers can begin to see the returns on their investments within minutes.

Third, digital media is boundless insofar as its capacity to store information. In contrast, physical books need to compete for shelf space. Unfortunately, some books do not make the cut.

Sadly, folks discard unwanted books, relegating them to oblivion. While digital media seems to remedy this situation, it is crucial to remember that physical books are trophies. Print books constitute a status symbol that no e-book can match.

Ultimately, authors and publishers cannot neglect one type of media over another. Authors and publishers need to keep one foot in print and one in digital if they aspire to make their investment profitable.

How can hiring a ghostwriter help boost print and digital publishing?

It has become clear that authors and publishers must boost their presence in print and digital landscapes. Neglecting one over the other may lead to a counterproductive strategy. Moreover, publishing formats that discriminate may ultimately alienate readers.

Based on the need to publish materials in both formats, authors and publishers may become overwhelmed. After all, producing content for both print and digital requires different approaches.

Print books provide a recreational experience that demands more extensive materials. Books related to history, travel, art, and science, among other topics, provide readers with a pleasant reading experience.

Conversely, digital materials provide a quick burst of information. Digital materials appeal to the fast-paced lifestyle of most individuals. Therefore, authors and publishers must focus on a differentiated approach.

However, a differentiated approach to publishing across multiple platforms can become a daunting task.

A professional ghostwriter can help authors and publishers share the workload. The adage “the more, the merrier” certainly applies within this context. After all, authors’ time and attention are finite. Thus, employing the assistance of a ghostwriter or ghostwriting agency can make a huge difference.

Hiring a Ghostwriter for Digital Publishing Purposes

Hiring a ghostwriter or ghostwriting agency can help publishers and authors apply a segmented strategy that allows them to cover several bases.

For example, an established author can employ the services of an experienced ghostwriter to produce a series of blog posts.

In essence, the blog posts serve as marketing copy to draw attention to the author’s books. However, the author does not have the additional time it takes to produce a regular blog post.

As a result, hiring a professional ghostwriter enables mainstream authors to extend their reach without sacrificing quality or quantity.

Hiring a Ghostwriter for Print Publishing Purposes

Authors and publishers working predominantly in the digital domain may choose to move into print. This endeavor may require additional time and effort to produce full-length books. However, they may not have the additional time and effort to spare. As such, a professional ghostwriter can help produce content specifically aimed at print publication.

Ghostwriters are a great alternative for authors and publishers looking to pivot into print. Indeed, sharing the workload reduces unnecessary stress while allowing for a differentiated publishing strategy.

How can hiring a ghostwriting agency help boost publishing?

Publishers looking to paint with a broad brush should consider hiring a ghostwriting agency. Reputable ghostwriting agencies employ a team of professional writers specialized in various areas. As a result, authors and publishers looking to spread their wings can take advantage of what a ghostwriting agency can offer.

While hiring an individual ghostwriter is a great alternative, hiring a ghostwriting agency offers greater flexibility than individual ghostwriters.

In particular, publishers can employ ghostwriting agencies to produce large quantities of material within a relatively short timeframe.

The secret lies in employing a team of writers to work on specific projects simultaneously. As a result, publishers seeking to expand their scope can certainly benefit from a ghostwriting agency’s services.

Individual authors can also benefit greatly from hiring a ghostwriting agency. For instance, an author looking to promote their blog can employ a ghostwriting agency to produce a series of articles within a quick turnaround.

In doing so, the author can provide consistent content to their readers while they work on their next full-length book.

Indeed, employing a ghostwriting agency offers a significant amount of flexibility: The agency can help authors and publishers leave their traditional niches and confidently move into new realms.

Moreover, a ghostwriting agency virtually eliminates the need for additional investment in terms of time and effort. Undoubtedly, a ghostwriting agency offers the opportunity to create a diversified publishing strategy without overextending current capabilities.


The shifting landscape in the publishing world has progressively morphed traditional print publications into the digital world. Traditional print publications such as newspapers now predominantly populate the digital world. However, regular print books still hold their ground amid digital media’s expansion.

The dual relationship between print and digital publishing has forced authors and publishers to maintain digital and print markets. However, maintaining such a presence can imply a significant investment in time and effort.

Hiring a professional ghostwriter is a viable alternative for authors and publishers to further their reach in one or both domains. Professional ghostwriters can produce content that allows authors and publishers to strengthen their position in either domain. This strategy enables them to continue focusing their efforts on their core business while expanding their reach.

For authors and publishers looking to truly spread their wings, employing a ghostwriting agency can help them produce significant quantities of content in a relatively short timeframe.

This approach enables authors and publishers to maintain a consistent presence in the digital and print domains without overextending their current efforts. Since ghostwriting agencies employ teams of writers, ghostwriting agencies have the capacity to produce high-quality content quickly.

Ultimately, authors and publishers can continue to focus on their core business while expanding their overall digital and print media presence.

4 Surefire Ways to Keep Your Nonfiction Book Project on Track

It is an inevitable reality that all nonfiction manuscripts hold the potential for work-stoppage and long-term shutdowns along the way to completion.

It doesn’t matter if you are a commissioned writer working on an assigned topic.

It doesn’t matter if you are an independent researcher, intrigued with the subject matter, thirsty for further discovery, and eager to share your findings with the world.

It doesn’t even matter if you are a world-renowned authority with the capacity to type out an entire textbook on your field of expertise from memory alone. 

Writer’s block and other intangible obstructions can halt anyone’s writing progress at any time.

Quite often the culprit behind such shutdowns is a lack of inspiration.

Fiction writers famously suffer from this affliction—writing themselves into corners or losing sight of where they wanted to take their characters, but nonfiction writers are equally susceptible.

Works of nonfiction differ from their fictional cousins in the sense that their stories are already written. The facts are known. The timeline is in place. A guidebook already exists that you could follow and interpret as a means of fleshing out your nonfiction manuscript.

The trouble for nonfiction writers arises when confronting certain realities of their craft.  Despite the convenience of already having the whole story and all the facts and figures, one must decide exactly what information to cover, explore, and illuminate. They must also choose the most effective and engaging order in which to relay this information.   

Not every detail can make the cut. Nonfiction authors must decide what elements of the larger story to exclude based on weight, and how to most effectively link up the elements that remain.

If you’re working on nonfiction, it’s safe to assume that you’ve surrounded yourself with other published books, folders packed with documents, piles of your own notes, and more than just a few computer files. 

Without a firm, well-thought-out framework for tying your source materials to your own writing underneath it all, it’s easy for your entire project to get away from you. 

Unfortunately, unfinished works of nonfiction that get unruly during the writing stage have a real knack for staying unfinished. 

Creativity, artistry, and entertainment are also not strangers to the realm of nonfiction. Failing to adequately tend to these essential components (relative to the subject matter at hand) will only produce a snooze-inducing final draft in the end.

Letting go of the fun factor within a work of nonfiction is also a guaranteed method for thoroughly killing whatever inspiration you had left to finish writing it.

It doesn’t matter what particular genre of nonfiction you’re grappling with. It also doesn’t matter if you’re an expert, a researcher, or simply working towards completing an assignment. By putting into practice all four of the methods detailed below, you’ll manage to stay organized, on schedule, and inspired along the way.


1. Plan your attack.

All works of nonfiction are essentially histories. They merely differ in scope and level of magnification.

It doesn’t matter if you intend to document all the major world events between The Big Bang and yesterday or just the evolution of speed boat racing in Nevada—you’ll need to start with an attack plan regardless of your chosen focus.

What is an attack plan exactly? Unfortunately, there is no “exactly” in this case.

Attack plans come in many shapes and sizes. They can be written documents, hand-drawn flow charts, memorized lists, mantras that you regularly repeat to yourself, or codes that you adhere to strictly when writing your piece. 

How you craft your attack plan depends on your answers to four basic questions:

  • Where does the story I’m telling begin and end?
  • Where does it really begin and end?
  • Who am I telling it to?
  • How am I going to tell it?

If you have yet to begin your nonfiction project, answering these questions is a strong starting point. Meditate on them for a while before ever putting ink to paper.

However, even if you are three-quarters of the way through the lengthy book that you thought you were writing but have suddenly realized that you are actually in a massive quagmire of dead-ends and disillusionment, all is not lost.

Now would be the perfect time for you to go back, consider these four questions, and let them guide you through a newly inspired revision of the hard work you’ve already put in.

Let’s take a closer look at these questions and how your answers to them can guide your writing into a more vibrant and dynamic final form.

Who am I telling it to?

The intended audience of a written work must always be at the forefront of the author’s mind all the while he or she is composing it. 

Nonfiction is a term with a wide range of definitions that encompasses anything from primary school educational material to graphic explorations of horrific murder cases that shocked the world.

Conversely, there are publications out there that cover the same coursework as an average K-12 curriculum, but are written specifically for adults, just as there are other nonfiction subcategories like True Crime for Kids.  

When writing a piece for fellow scholars, you wouldn’t trail off on explanatory tangents to catch them up on concepts that they should already thoroughly comprehend, just as you wouldn’t let your writing get too salacious for an audience of young adults.

Knowing who you are writing for beforehand, and keeping them in mind during the entirety of your writing process, will keep you on point and on schedule while avoiding the pitfalls of veering in and out of the appropriate territory.

How am I going to tell it?

As a nonfiction writer, you need to pick a formula or a flavor for your project and stick with it throughout its development.

Will you stick to a textbook rigid description of the people and events in your story, or will you add some flair and humanity to it?

Nonfiction books that bring to life the places and characters described within them are fully capable of remaining equally factual.

Consider “setting the scene” as an introduction to each new chapter in your nonfiction book.

Look up the historical weather data for a particular time and place and incorporate it into your description. Make use of documented quotes from the prominent people in your story as dialog the same way a novelist would use it in theirs.

Of course, you should also be careful to avoid over-writing. You don’t want to bog yourself down by sharing the full biographies of each new side character that plays a part or the full history of each new location you introduce.

Knowing just how you want your work to read right from the start will help you to stay focused on writing in the same consistent voice the whole time.

If you have already written a substantial portion of your book, go back through it to make sure its voice is unified, and adjust it accordingly if it is not.

Beginnings and Endings

Lastly, you need to consider how your information is arranged for the reader in regard to time.

No matter the topic, your nonfiction book will have an exact chronological timeline to it.

For example, if you are mainly writing about a series of events that took place between 1976 and 1982, but there is one crucial anecdote that took place in 1954 and just one more in 1999, your timeline is 1954-1999.

Prescribing an order for the events in your book is essential to keeping on track and maintaining a steady flow to your writing. 

There are numerous story structure options to choose from for your nonfiction project. Let’s examine four possible structures that are often implemented by popular fiction:

  • The Inverted Checkmark
  • The Interrupted Timeline
  • The Circular Timeline
  • Parallel Worlds

The Inverted Checkmark is arguably the most common. 

Imagine a check mark, now turn it upside down. The story that you tell could follow along the same shape. 

The action of the story takes place in chronological order, and it intensifies as time goes on.  Eventually, the action meets its peak; then there is a turning point followed by a quick resolution.  The Hollywood blockbuster The Matrix follows this formula perfectly as the main character is plucked from his dull life and dropped into a dangerous new world. A series of increasingly difficult challenges reveals the full extent of his powers. He then uses those powers to defeat the foes who have plagued him from the beginning. 

The inverted checkmark is a classic pattern that translates well for any tale of overcoming adversity.  

The Interrupted Timeline can be adopted when your nonfiction story is perhaps more interesting and illuminating when told out of order. 

This technique can be observed in the movies Memento and Pulp Fiction. In both instances, the events of only a few days are shown as out of order as they can be. 

The choice to go with an interrupted timeline can keep the audience on their toes.

It forces them to pay attention to every small detail.

In the end, they are rewarded with a satisfying conclusion that answers all of their remaining questions.

The Parallel Worlds template is effective when initially unconnected stories are told simultaneously. 

Ford vs. Ferrari is an example of a parallel worlds story: It documents the trials of automotive racing designers, an ocean apart, who eventually go head-to-head with their creations at Le Mans. 

In Stephen King’s IT, the barrier is time rather than distance: He tells the story of just one group of people, but each chapter of the book alternates between their experiences in the 1950s and their present day lives set in the 1980s.

The Circular Timeline begins at a key point in the story. It then cuts back to another starting point earlier in history. The majority of the story is then told all the way back to where it began.

Saving Private Ryan and Forrest Gump make use of this timeline. Tom Hanks just happens to star in both of them, and both movies also won handfuls of Oscars. 

Maybe a circular timeline is the best choice for your story as well!

Allow your attack plan to manifest itself in whatever form you think will work best for you and your natural tendencies. Just keep it in your head or write it down and tape it to the side of your monitor. 

The real secret to a successful attack plan is sticking to it.

As a partner in the endeavor to produce a nonfiction book, your attack plan will constantly remind you to add the ingredients that your work is lacking, and it will give you permission to discard whatever it is that’s dragging it down.    

2.  Let your outline evolve.

Outlines are to books what engineering schematics are to finished mechanical devices. 

Name a product. It won’t matter which one you choose.

The best blenders, dishwashers, cordless drills, Corvettes, and curling irons all began their lives on drawing boards.

Countless great books began their lives as outlines and your book most likely will too.

An outline is an extremely pared-down version of an entire book. A traditional version follows all the rules of Roman numerals and indentation that you learned in high school, but this is your book, and you are free from such academic shackles now. Let your outline look however you want it to.

What’s really important is that you write one.

Write out your outline in whatever format you think will work best for your project and work style. If the right format doesn’t exist, make up your own. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else, as long as it makes sense to you.

A completed outline that details your entire book from start to finish will give you an aerial view of all the chapters you intend to write and the finer points contained within them.

As you write your book, refer back to your outline like a checklist. It will serve as a reminder of all the topics that you originally wanted to discuss and explore. 

The next most important step is to let your outline evolve.

As your book grows in length, it’s a guarantee that you’ll also come up with new ideas. The research that goes into nonfiction books never really stops, even as they’re being written, so it’s likely that you’ll make additional discoveries, even late in the writing stage.

When new information like this arises, consult your outline. Decide where it can be plugged in.  If there really isn’t a suitable space, make a new one.

If your outline starts begging for a more visual existence, let it happen. Draw boxes and connect them with squiggly arrows—do whatever you need to do to keep the inspiration flowing.

If you find yourself fantasizing about markers and big white dry erase boards, get a dry erase board and wheel it into your writing room! If the cost of a brand new one is a turnoff for you, consult your local Craigslist or Facebook Market page. You’ll be shocked by how widely available and inexpensive they are second-hand.

If pinning papers into cork is more your speed, take some picture frames off the wall, hang up a corkboard for the time being, and get pinning! Yes, we’re having a little fun here, but this is not insincere advice. There’s a reason that you see whiteboards and corkboards in every “behind the scenes” documentary or FBI drama—they work!

With an up-to-date outline in your arsenal that is set up just how you want it, your nonfiction book project will be heavily fortified to stay right on track.

3. Live the lifestyle.

Setting out to write a nonfiction book shares many similarities with starting a new diet plan or fitness regimen. You will not find success unless you stick to it and welcome it in as a new part of your daily life.

The first step is to establish some kind of a deadline.

People set health and fitness goals for themselves all the time. “I want to be 20 pounds down by Thanksgiving” or “I want to see my abs in the mirror by summer.”

Set the same kind of goals for your book project.

Go easy on yourself at first. For the completion of the project in its entirety, pick a reasonable date as far off in the future as you think you’ll need and keep it in the back of your mind. 

After the big date is set, you have to focus on developing your habits. You’ll get back to setting smaller goals for yourself later.

First, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to put this book together. 

Inspiration comes in spurts that have to be acted on as soon as possible. It’s most likely that your book will assemble itself organically from a long string of these random moments.

A good practice is to keep a master folder for your book right on your desktop. Inside it, set up additional folders for your outline, notes and ideas, individual passages, and the rough draft.

Categorizing the separate elements of your book is a handy system for managing your thoughts as they develop. You should establish a system for capturing these moments as well.

Try to carry at least a pen and paper with you at all times to jot down notes throughout the day.  Fold the notes into your wallet or purse and transcribe them into one of the folders on your computer when you get back home.

In the 80s and 90s, it was quite possible that every single writing guru of the era recommended carrying a miniature cassette recorder for keeping a voice record of your random inspirations.  With present day smartphones, we have the luxury of numerous voice recording or voice-to-text apps capable of that very same function and much more.

Many established writers suggest writing every single day. While that may come naturally for some, it’s not feasible for others. You may prefer writing every other day or maybe your best work comes from marathon writing sessions every weekend. 

Follow your inclinations and stick with what works best for you, but it is definitely recommended that you do something for your book on daily basis.

Check out research books at the library, look over your notes and cross off entries you’ve already taken care of, schedule an interview, or clarify recent additions to your outline.

Spend at least a few minutes on the project every single day to keep it going as a part of your daily routine.

Keeping a progress journal is another technique for ensuring the continued momentum of your nonfiction project. 

It might sound redundant, writing about your writing, but this doesn’t mean multipage, long-winded reflections on your progress for the day—a single line entry is sufficient. Doctors and research scientists keep progress journals. Even Alex Honnold—the world-class mountain climber who famously scaled the face of Yosemite’s El Capitan without a rope—attributes some of his success to the practice of keeping a daily progress journal.

It’s also important to listen to your inspirations. If you feel obligated to keep chugging away at a particular chapter, but an idea for a passage in another section of your book keeps distracting you, follow it and get the gist of it down in the moment—you could lose it by putting it off.

The time to set new deadlines is when the writing stage of your book is officially underway.  Take your schedule into consideration and weigh it against where you’re at with your manuscript. Calculate a reasonable accomplishment for the timeframe available and then increase it by one percent.

If your goal is to finish a certain chapter by the weekend, challenge yourself to also write the introductory paragraph for the next one.

Setting the bar just one small step beyond your initial goal each time will keep the momentum of your progress rolling.

4. Secure your support system.

Finally, it would be in your best interest to assemble a support team for your nonfiction project. 

Reach out to friends and family members. Inquire as to whether or not they’d be willing to read and critique portions of your book as you write them.

If it’s in the budget, you may want to also consider hiring editors and proofreaders for a more professional analysis of your output.

If you find yourself in a creative rut with particular segment of your book, outsourcing it to a professional ghostwriter might be just the thing to get you over the hump.

Working with others, and making firm commitments to them along the way, will definitely keep you writing.

By combining all of the methods detailed in this article, you’ll surely keep your nonfiction book project on track.

How can a ghostwriter help get my book to the finish line?

Your book is your passion project. It was going great for a while, but then life got in the way. Work got busier. Kids are kids. Accidents happen. Or sometimes you just hit a wall.

Unfortunately, sometimes passion projects end up on the back burner.

Now, what you really want is for your book to be done, but you’re not sure how to get back on track. It may not seem possible at all. If that’s the case, it’s time to bring in a professional ghostwriter.

While it may seem like handing over your baby to a stranger, try not to think about it like that.

Think of a ghostwriter as a baseball reliever. You started the game and did great, but when you hit your wall, he comes in just to wrap it up with a fresh arm and a slightly different repertoire of pitches. At the end of the game, you still get the win!

What a Ghostwriter Brings to the Table

You’ve done a lot of work on your book, so why bring in someone else?

It’s really as simple as this: Ghostwriters are professional writers.

They’ve 'been there, done that' and they can help you get your project to the finish line, no matter where you’ve stalled.

Here are seven reasons why a ghostwriter gives you a better chance at finishing your project, with a few insights from professional ghostwriter Barbara Adams.

1. They have an established process. 

For many people who are trying to write a larger project for the first time, the excitement of the idea can quickly give way to the realities of getting it completed.

A professional ghostwriter knows what it takes to get a project completed successfully on a consistent basis. If that weren’t the case, they wouldn’t be surviving as a ghostwriter.

To stay consistent, professional writers establish a process that helps keep them on track. 

Adams knows this firsthand. “Most people can’t really imagine the work that goes into writing a book or professional article ahead of time. On the other hand, an experienced ghostwriter knows what’s involved and has the bandwidth, patience, perseverance, and talent to get the job done.” 

2. They have fresh eyes.

Have you ever looked at something so much that you don’t really see it at all anymore?

A big writing project can get like that.

You’ve been emersed in it for so long that you don’t even know where you start in again and what needs to be done.

When you bring in a ghostwriter, you are bringing in a fresh set of eyes.

She can review the completed work and figure out what’s missing, see what might need to be re-done, and may even have new ideas you hadn’t thought of for your project.

The key is to be open to their ideas.

A good ghostwriter is never looking to take your project away from you; they just want to help you make it the best it can be.

3. They have experience. 

Once you start your project and begin to understand the amount of time, editing, research, cataloguing, and other things that go into the process, it can be incredibly daunting.

Part of the reason that it seems so impossible is that you have to learn it all as you go. That’s not the case for a ghostwriter.

Remember, “been there, done that!” Because they’ve done it all before, it’s no longer intimidating to them. Plus, as we mentioned, they have a process now. 

4. They know your market and what sells. 

What is your goal for your project? Is it an article that you want to get published in a high-end industry magazine? Are you creating family history just for a keepsake? Perhaps you think you have the next great personal memoir to fly off the bookshelves.

Those are all perfectly valid goals, but they each come with different requirements.

A good ghostwriter knows the industry and how to cater a project to meet those end goals. Sometimes that can mean they’ll have to bring a little tough love and make you pivot your story direction or make cuts that are difficult.

Remember, the ghostwriter has your goals in mind. If you want to reach that finish line, you need to be open to new ideas.

Adams says, “A ghostwriter has to understand the author’s goals and objectives, conduct interviews, gather and review all the source materials, and create a plan from there.”

5. They may have publishing connections.

An added bonus to hiring a ghostwriter is that they may have some connections in the publishing or printing industry that could be of use to you.

Consider their portfolio and look for publishers you’d like to partner with for your book or magazines in which you’d love to see your article.

There are no guarantees here, but a ghostwriter’s experience in the industry could open a couple of doors for you or at least get you pointed in the right direction.

6. They can bring an editorial eye. 

Ghostwriters serve as editors, too.

They’ll look at your work with the eye of an experienced writer and help you clean it up, shape it, and get it in better condition than ever before.

It is still your ideas and mostly your words, but they can bring a little polish.

7. They work fast and efficiently. 

While you toil away at your project, get distracted, agonize over certain passages, and give yourself mental breaks, your project is moving at a snail’s pace, if at all.

Ghostwriters get paid to get the job done.

To this end, they’ve learned to be very efficient with their time and energy. You might be amazed at how quickly your project leaps forward in the hands of a pro.

Don’t worry, it’s in good hands! It’s like the average person changing a tire versus those professional pit crews. They have the experience and tools to make it look almost easy!

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Remember, the goal is to get the book done. The ideas are still yours. You’re just bringing in someone who can tie the loose ends together and wrap up your project, whether it’s a novel or a family history.

However, don’t expect to hire a ghostwriter and simply wait for a miracle. When asked about what misconceptions people have about ghostwriters, Adams said: “That we can read minds! We rely on the author to provide the information we need, although we’re always willing to do supplemental research.”

Trust your ghostwriter’s advice, but follow your gut, too.

Your ghostwriter isn’t looking to steal your ideas or take credit for the final work.

This is what they do, and they understand the rules of the game.

But that being said, it is your project, so if you feel strongly about leaving in a passage or some other edit, stand firm. Your ghostwriter won’t be offended.

You’ve already put a lot of time and hard work into your project. Don’t shelve it before it has a chance to shine! You’ll always wonder “what if….”

As Adams says, “Once you see the finished project and you can share it with pride, you’ll realize that getting it moving again was worth every penny!”

What Kind of Editing Do I Need?

“Can you edit this?”

It’s arguably one of the vaguest requests heard in the world of editing and publishing.

That’s because there are multiple types of editing, and they often mean something very different to each party in the editing relationship – the writer and the editor.

A basic Internet search of “types of editing” can send you into a flurry of terminology controversies and confusion.

As an example, the Grammarly blog breaks apart developmental and substantive editing into separate definitions, while the Institute of Professional Editors uses another term for developmental editing (structural editing), and lumps substantive editing into that category.

The list goes on and on.

The growing popularity of self-publishing, has only served to contribute to the confusion.

Whether you’re an author seeking to self-publish a book or a corporate communicator finalizing a marketing brochure, determining what level of editing your project needs and effectively communicating expectations to your editor is key to a satisfactory process and end result, says Wintress Odom, owner and editor-in-chief at The Writers for Hire.

“I cannot tell you how many times we get a piece of copy and are asked to, ‘Just proofread it,’ or, ‘Please edit this,’” Odom says. “Most of the time, our clients have a very specific idea of what this means to them, but a lot of people don’t realize that those terms are used vastly differently by different people, so you really have to clarify, or you could get something back from an editor that was not what you expected at all.”

So how do you, as a writer, navigate the editing portion of the process to achieve your desired result?

Let’s explore the types of editing, consider overlapping terminology, and look at some ways to ensure you get what you want out of your editor.

Editing and Proofreading Are Very Different

First, let’s clear up some editing basics.

Editing is a process that shapes and modifies your manuscript or piece of copy to prepare it for publishing.

This can mean many different things, as we will go into below, but it typically involves fundamental changes to aspects such as flow, grammar and consistency.

This can mean many different things, as we will go into below, but it typically involves fundamental changes to aspects such as flow, grammar and consistency.

Proofreading, on the other hand, is a final step to review your copy as it will be printed, with the intent of catching any mistakes that may have been made during editing.

While proofreading is considered part of the overall editing process, having your piece proofread is not the same as having it edited.

Levels in the Editing Process

Most editing authorities use somewhere between three and five levels of editing, including proofreading as a final step in the process.

Let’s review the main categories and some of the terminology you may encounter.

1. Developmental editing

Developmental editing (also often called structural and substantive editing) is the most intense level of editing and could involve vigorous rewriting, so you may also see terms such as heavy editing or content editing used. This is a bigger-picture overhaul of your manuscript for style, structure and flow.

For nonfiction, you need developmental editing if your material is lacking logical flow.  In fiction, you may need developmental editing if you need assistance improving plot and/or character development.  Developmental editing will typically include reworking:

  • Book organization and topic flow.
  • Big-picture transitions.
  • Overarching stylistic choices.
  • Plotline and characterization (fiction).

2. Line editing

Line editing is sometimes lumped in with copy editing below, but it’s a more detailed, sentence-by-sentence edit.

Line editing isn’t focused on the big-picture aspects of the book as in developmental editing, but it may include sentence rewording to address areas such as:

  • Flow or pacing issues.
  • Removal of sections that may not fit.
  • Improving sentence content, style and voice.

3. Copy editing

Copy editing is also a sentence-by-sentence edit, but more technical in nature, focusing on cleaning up your copy to prepare it for publishing. If you are happy with the organization and flow of your piece and think it is ready for technical polishing such as grammar and punctuation, this may be the right level of editing for you.

Not all editors agree on what copyediting entails, but common services might include fixing:

  • Errors and inconsistencies in style (like the Oxford comma or hyphenation consistency)
  • Errors in dates, URLs, page numbers or other pertinent details.
  • Repeated facts.
  • Internal contradictions within the piece.

4. Proofreading

If you speak to a writer, proofreading often includes fixing typos and grammatical errors, as well as all or several of the items listen in copy editing (above).

However for a publisher, proofreading is very different.  Proofreading for publishers occurs only after final layout, and is intended to catch any errors made during the layout process, such as:

  • Missing words or sentences.
  • Odd line breaks or picture formatting.
  • Missing pages or page numbers.

Determining Which Level You Need

As you can see, even within these four categories, there are many overlapping and interchangeably used terms within these levels, and your editor may break them down differently.

In his work with indie authors, Friedlander finds it useful to simplify by dividing editing into two areas of need – the information and the copy.

“If you think your book has problems with the way it flows, it isn’t quite complete and you’re not sure how it compares to other similar books … in the market, then consult with a developmental editor about what you need to shape your book,” he says. “If you’re already over that part, you know what should be in the book, you’ve written books before and you’re satisfied with the way the information flows, then talk to your editor about preparing the book for publication with a copy edit.”

Odom agrees that a consultation with your editor detailing your needs is the best approach.

The key is understanding the general terms out there, and clarifying what that means to your editor as it relates to your specific project.

To help guide your conversation, Odom recommends asking yourself these questions:

  1. What are my goals with the editing process?
  2. What are my biggest concerns?
  3. Am I happy with the book’s overall chapter organization?
  4. Does the logical flow need help (i.e. does it make sense)?
  5. Does the stylistic flow need help (i.e. is it clunky to read)?
  6. Am I comfortable with an editor rewriting large portions of my manuscript?
  7. Would I prefer that the editor stick to fixing egregious errors, leaving the manuscript essentially as-is?
  8. Do I want my editor to fix style inconsistences (such as writing out numbers or consistency in capitalization choices)?
  9. Does the editor need to fact check for me? If so, what types of facts (e.g. spellings of places, historical dates, specific magazine quotes)?

It is true that the editing process can be confusing.

With an understanding of the nuances and variants that go into editing, though, you can arm yourself with the necessary tools to make the relationship with your editor a successful one.

This will, in turn, result in a more successful outcome for your project.

Confusing Terms In Authorship

You glance at the cover of the memoir you are reading and realize that the author of the book is not exactly clear. There is a name on the bottom, but below that, there is yet another name. So, what does it all mean?

In the process of creating content for a book, there is frequently more than one person who contributes to the writing. The way these people are credited on the final product varies, depending on author preference and the level of involvement they had in the book’s creation.

To set things straight, we have come up with a list of confusing terms, and what they mean.

Your Guide to Confusing Terms in Authorship

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This is the person responsible for the creation of the book. They supply the overall ideas and stories for the book. This is also the person who frequently (but not always) will do the majority of the writing for the book. Most often, the name of the author is clearly stated somewhere on the front cover of the book.


This is the person who takes all of the ideas for the book and turns those ideas into the written content that becomes a book. Sometimes the writer and author are the same person; other times they are not.


A ghostwriter is a writer who is hired by the author to turn their ideas and stories into actual written content. Frequently the ghostwriter’s identity remains anonymous, as does the fact that a ghostwriter was even used. The ghostwriter flies under the radar, and credit for the book goes to the author.

Co-Author or Collaborator:

These are people who bring additional story ideas and research into the book. They collaborate with the author to conceptualize (and frequently write) the content for a book. Occasionally, a ghostwriter will be credited on a book and referred to as a co-author or collaborator.


This is the person who reviews the writing and makes sure that the style and format are consistent throughout. They also make sure that the content flows well and does not leave any gaps or areas of confusion. Editors frequently suggest changes to make the story better and more marketable.


This is the editor’s partner in crime. They support the editor and help with all of the functions involved with editing a book.


Once the final content has been written and edited, this person takes a fine-toothed comb through it and makes sure that it is free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors. This is the person who is responsible for making sure that the final product is ready to go to print.

Pen Name:

Also called a nom de plume or a pseudonym, a pen name is an assumed name used by an author in place of their own name. There are numerous reasons why an author may choose to use a pen name. To find out more, check out our blog on pen names and the famous authors who use them.

How to Combine Historical Research with Family History to Create a Riveting Nonfiction Book

The history of your family is about much more than names, dates, and places.

It can be difficult, however, to compile a family history that’s more than just a dry recounting of bare facts without access to the holy grail of the family historian: things like diaries, letters, memoirs, and oral histories.

Luckily, there are other ways to fill in between the lines of your family tree.

Combining historical research with more basic genealogical research is an excellent way to add color, depth, and context to the lives of your ancestors and craft a family history that future generations will enjoy for years to come.

Genealogy Versus Family History

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When you think of family history, your mind probably goes straight to genealogy. And while the two terms are often used interchangeably, there are important distinctions we are making in this article.

Genealogy is the pursuit of lineage, genetic connections between individuals that span centuries and are most commonly illustrated through a family tree.

Family history goes deeper, incorporating historical research and storytelling to allow future generations to understand their forebears and the formative events of their lives on a more profound level.

A family tree typically includes names, dates, and places of birth and death. A family history will also include your ancestors’ biographies, descriptions of the towns they lived in, personal anecdotes, historical context, and a recounting of the events and experiences that shaped the course of their lives.

Many people conduct genealogical research themselves, while others hire a genealogist to help them navigate the endless resources and rabbit holes that are an inevitable part of genealogical pursuits.

Likewise, some individuals seeking to compile a family history may choose to hire a ghostwriter to help them arrange their genealogical and historical research into a well-organized and compelling narrative.

Why Historical Research Is Important to a Family History

Provides Depth and Context

Your ancestors’ lives, just like our own, were shaped by the events and customs of their place and time.

Doing research into the history of the towns where they lived, the wars or natural disasters that took place during their lifetime, and even the popular fashions and cuisine of the time can tell you a lot about their day-to-day lives.

For instance, let’s say you’re interested in sketching out a biography of your great-grandmother Loretta but living relatives have little knowledge of her life before the age of thirty.

Your genealogical research, using vital records and census data, shows that Loretta was born in Mississippi in 1895 and that her father was a sharecropper.

This is where historical research comes in. Basic research into the area where Loretta was born can give you information, such as the population and demographics of her hometown.

Local newspapers from the turn of the century can provide you with not only major and minor news events but also town gossip, ads for local businesses, editorials and commentary on hot-button issues, and more.

What was the life of a sharecropper and his family like at that place and time?

Undoubtedly, there are books, articles, and personal histories that can tell you everything, from the day-to-day obligations of a sharecropper to the social contexts of racial and class discrimination that made the lifestyle toilsome and ultimately untenable.

Photographs from around the same time and place can even show you what type of clothing Loretta and her family likely wore.

You may never know what subjects Loretta liked in school or what thoughts crossed her mind as she drifted off to sleep at night, but historical research can help you understand Loretta’s early life on a deeper, more personal level than a family tree could ever do.

Provides Structure for Your Narrative

If your goal is to produce a book out of your family’s history, you may struggle to find the best way to structure your story to keep your readers (and yourself) interested and engaged.

Historical research can unearth interesting details that help you zero in on a certain event or person in your family’s history that you want to arrange your story around.

For instance, perhaps your great-great-grandfather was one of the thousands of Chinese-Americans who helped construct the transcontinental railroad.

You may have little knowledge of this topic, but research will quickly reveal a rich, fascinating, and often tragic history.

This experience could provide the central focus for your narrative, from which you can move forward chronologically to show how your great-great-grandfather’s grit and sacrifice shaped the lives of future generations.

If no event or individual jumps out to you during your research, never fear. Hiring a ghostwriter can help you not only compile and organize your research but also highlight the information that future generations are likely to find most compelling.

How to Combine Genealogical Research with Historical Research

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Step 1: Complete your genealogical research.

Before you embark on the historical research phase of writing a family history, you’ll want to complete your genealogical research first.

This can include a wide range of tasks, from interviewing family members to tracking down vital records. At the very least, you’ll want to decide the scope of your research, i.e., how many generations you want to cover, and build a family tree.

Though you may be tempted to dive right in by joining one of the popular online genealogical sites, be warned that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the vast number of resources and information available out there, not all of which is trustworthy.

Thus, consider first consulting a book on genealogical research for beginners, or better yet, hire a genealogist to complete the groundwork for you.

Step 2: Take notes and set research goals.

As you conduct your genealogical research, jot down the names, places, dates, and any random details that intrigue or surprise you. If you hired a genealogist for this initial phase, you could make these notes as you review their research.

Use these notes to set goals for your historical research.

Ask yourself: What information is most interesting to me? What information is missing? What do I want to know more about?

There may be specific events or tragedies that stand out to you, like an ancestor’s death in a war, or a particularly notable person, like a politician or an artist or even a single mother who ran a successful business while raising her children alone.

Step 3: Dive into the historical research.

Once you’ve set your research goals, it’s time to dive in and learn more about the people, places, and events that will collectively make up your family history.

A wide variety of sources exist for the purposes of family and historical research. Here are just a few:

  • Newspaper archives: Local newspapers can turn up valuable information like birth, marriage, and death announcements, but they also provide a glimpse into the character and idiosyncrasies of the places your ancestors called home.
  • Town histories: Published town histories include an abundance of information about buildings, businesses, and inhabitants over decades or even centuries. Even if your ancestors aren’t mentioned by name, these histories can give you a strong sense of the communities from which they hailed.
  • Maps: Historical town and county maps can help orient you to the layout of the localities of interest to your family history, while plat maps and fire insurance maps may help you actually pinpoint where a specific family member lived.
  • Photographs: Even if you are unable to locate photographs of your ancestors, images of others from around the same time and place or in a similar profession can indicate the style of clothes they likely wore.
  • Cookbooks and restaurant menus: Looking through old cookbooks and menus from a particular time and region is not only fun, it also gives you an idea of what your ancestors ate on a day-to-day basis.
  • Local historical societies: Many local historical societies maintain an archive of items—unpublished family histories, oral histories, photographs, letters, travelogues, diaries, and other ephemera—that provide firsthand experiences from the people who have lived there over time.
  • Your local library: Reference librarians are an excellent resource to help you find history books that deal with a particular time, place, and/or social group, providing insight into everything from religious and social customs to popular modes of transportation.  
  • National Archives Research on Ethnic Heritage: The National Archives maintains a section of its website for those researching ancestors from historically oppressed or displaced groups, including Black and indigenous Americans. For the former, the site includes not only resources for locating ancestors but also an array of materials documenting the Black experience throughout U.S. history.

Step 4: Find a focus and start writing.

Based on what your genealogical and historical research turned up, decide on a focus for your book.

Maybe it will be chronological, beginning with an event like your ancestors’ arrival in the U.S., or maybe you’ve run across a fascinating individual in your family line who you want to serve as the focus.

Writing a family history should be fun, but it isn’t always easy.

If at any point you’re stuck, or perhaps need help organizing or finding a focus for your research, hiring a ghostwriter is the perfect way to help transform the disparate anecdotes, characters, and experiences of your ancestors into a rich, fascinating family history.

How a History Book Can Benefit Your Cultural Organization

Cultural organizations are an integral part of public life, allowing groups large and small to foster community bonds and celebrate their shared history, interests, and traditions.

While most cultural organizations have established ways of keeping these traditions alive, there is one activity that your organization may not have considered: writing a book about your history.

There are several critical reasons to create a written history of your organization, from preserving institutional memory to crafting a compelling narrative that can be used for fundraising, new member recruitment, and promotion of your mission and goals.

Not a writer? Not a problem. Hiring a ghostwriter is a simple way to transform the rich and varied stories that make up your organization’s history into an organized and absorbing story in print.

Is my group considered a cultural organization?

Cultural organizations are those dedicated to the preservation and promotion of shared identity or interests, be it a cultural or ethnic identity, a language, a religion, an art form, or even a sport or style of cuisine.

These organizations may take the form of large international groups, such as the Alliance Française, which comprises hundreds of chapters dedicated to preserving the French language and culture.

They can also be small, hyperlocal organizations, such as the Whiteclay Immersion School, a school on Montana’s Fort Belknap Indian Reservation working to preserve the A’ani language.

They may be ethnic or folk museums, like the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, or hobby groups, like the Denver HO Model Railroad Club.

A shared identity may even be one of location, as with the Brooklyn Heights Association, the oldest ongoing neighborhood association in New York City.

Whatever its focus, every cultural organization has a distinct history of its own that may extend back decades or even centuries. Here are a few reasons why that history is worth recording in a book about your organization.

Preserving Institutional Memory

Writing a history of your organization is an effective way to preserve institutional memory.

The Dictionary of Archives Terminology defines institutional memory as a collective of “personal recollections and experiences that provides an understanding of the history and culture of an organization.”

It is everything from the story of your founding to the buildings you’ve occupied over the years to the quirks and personalities of your members.

Institutional memory relies on transmission—it must be passed down in a direct line, otherwise the facts may become distorted, like a game of telephone, or forgotten entirely.

Think of your own organization.

Perhaps the best-known story is that of its creation—the names of the founders, the reasons why they saw a need for its existence, the vision they had for its purpose and direction. But over time, founders retire, move, or pass away, as do the individuals who take their place.

If the heart of an organization is its people, writing a history book ensures that the vision, contributions, and legacy of its members will be remembered long after they’re gone.

Writing an organization’s history is also a way to create a cohesive narrative out of archived records like newsletters, meeting minutes, photographs, member rosters, and financial reports.

Maintaining an archive of these items is itself a critical aspect of preserving institutional memory, but a written history is an excellent complement, providing color, depth, and context to the disparate items your organization may have retained over the years.

Continuity of Mission, Goals, and Identity

A written history can also provide a clear picture of what an organization has accomplished over time. It can keep your mission and goals consistent, document programs and initiatives launched over the years, and record what worked and what didn’t.

This history also ensures the shared values and identity of your organization are communicated consistently to new members.

Take, for example, an organization dedicated to preserving a language.

For five years, language classes have been held on Saturday mornings, but a new teacher wants to move his class to Wednesday evenings.

Is there a reason not to?

After all, the decision to hold Saturday classes may have been made simply because it fit the original teacher’s schedule. But what if there is a more significant reason, like an informal needs assessment conducted the first year of the program that showed most individuals in the community have trouble accessing transportation on weekdays?

Oftentimes, we rely on institutional memory, i.e., the knowledge of longtime members, to answer such questions. But that knowledge is not always accessible.

In a February 2018 article in theTufts Observer, Jordan Lauf described the difficulty of maintaining momentum and consistent focus in a Tufts University activist group that, because of its very nature as a student-led organization, sheds its most senior members every semester.

While turnover is rarely so extreme, many organizations go through turbulent times at some point in their history. Hiring a ghostwriter to compile your organization’s history provides a definitive record of your past, helping you avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

Fundraising and Outreach

Many cultural organizations are registered 501(c)(3) nonprofits that rely on private donors and grant funding to sustain their work.

If you’ve ever written a grant proposal, you know it’s a tedious process that most of us would rather avoid.

Writing your organization’s history can help alleviate that stress, providing you with a comprehensive, streamlined document that incorporates many common elements of a grant proposal: your mission and goals, descriptions of your programs and services, the need for those programs, and measurable impacts on the community you serve.

With these narratives ready to go, grant writing just got a lot easier.

Even if your organization does not require grant funding, you probably still rely on outreach.

It could be to attract new members who will pay dues, sell tickets to festivals and performances, promote your classes to new students, or find local sponsors for events.

In these cases, a written history provides professional, ready-to-use content for promotional materials like flyers, websites, social media posts, event programs, annual giving letters, and much more.

Examples of Histories of Organizations

Here are a few examples of groups that have seized the opportunity to hire a ghostwriter and craft a compelling history of their organization.