Working With a Ghostwriter to Write a Book

What Authors Can Expect During the Ghostwriting Process

When hiring a ghostwriter to help pen a book, it is important for authors to remember this is an ongoing, collaborative process. There are a few ways authors can prepare.

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Some authors are qualified writers and choose to write their own stories. Others choose to hire professional ghostwriters to help them create that compelling narrative. Both are acceptable ways to produce a book. That said, before electing to go with the latter of these two options, there are a few things authors should have prepared ahead of time.

Preparation of Clear Deadline Expectations

Before contacting a ghostwriter with a new book project, it is important for authors to set a clear goal as to when they would like to see their new book in print. Even more crucial: that deadline should be shared with the ghostwriter at the very start of the partnership. This will ensure both parties are headed in the same direction at the same time.

Is this a family history book that must be published and printed before that family reunion in July? Is this a business history book that must be completed in time for a company’s milestone anniversary? Is this a special cookbook or novel or poetry collection that the author wants available in time for Christmas gift giving? These are three common examples of deadlines that must be shared with the ghostwriter ahead of time.

From there, the ghostwriter can backtrack, with the help of the book publisher, to determine how much time is available for the writing, editing, design, proofreading, indexing, and printing stages of the book publishing process in order to meet that deadline.

Preparation of Notes

Book publishing is done electronically in this day and age, so it is important for authors to have access to a computer, the Internet, and email. They should also have a working knowledge of Microsoft Word (for the text portion of their book) and Adobe Acrobat Reader (for viewing .PDF proofs of their designed books down the road).

If a ghostwriter is supplied with various sets of notes that are scrawled on several different sheets of paper, the author’s costs will immediately skyrocket because it will take the ghostwriter extra time to type everything into Microsoft Word from scratch.

If at all possible, it is best (and most cost-effective) for authors to supply all their notes to the ghostwriter in one, continuous Microsoft Word document. The top of this document should include a first draft outline of roughly where they want this book to go and in what order they want each section to appear. From there, the ghostwriter will ask more questions to gain a clearer picture of the author’s vision, and the book will begin to take form.

Mental/Emotional Preparation

Some authors go into the ghostwriting process with the misconception that once they’ve handed their notes to the professional, their job is done and the book will be written. It is important to understand that ghostwriting is an ongoing, collaborative process in which the author will be required to answer questions and proof chapters all along the way.

Authors can also expect to go through a series of emotions during the ghostwriting process. It is natural to feel an initial resistance to each new draft—to feel a bit frustrated if things aren’t worded exactly the way the author first envisioned.

This is a common reaction during the ghostwriting process, particularly when it comes to personal books like biographies. Recognizing this, authors should read a draft over once, and then put it away for a couple of days to give their emotions time to settle. If they do this, it will be easier to read it over again, the next time around, with a more objective mindset. In that objective state, they can then feel free to change the words they don’t like or correct the dates/times/names however they see fit. All authors make better decisions in the objective state than they do in that initial emotional state.

Analogy for Ghostwriting

The perfect analogy for the ghostwriting situation is a police officer interviewing several witnesses to a car accident. Even though every witness saw the same thing, they all gave the police officer a different account … not because they were purposely trying to change the story or be malicious in any way, but simply because they were each viewing it from a different vantage point. They were still being honest and true in their account. The same can be said for a ghostwriter that has to take someone else’s words and interpret them and write them into a readable, marketable story.

If authors can keep this analogy and these tips in mind throughout the ghostwriting process, then it will run much more smoothly for them and their writing partner. In the end, they will come out of it with an amazing book they can both be very proud of.

This article was originally published at Suite101 in February 2010.

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