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Working with a Ghostwriter To Complete Your Book
By Debra Christian and David Leonhardt
When you seek help in completing your book from a professional writer who will not share the publishing credit or book’s income with you, the best person to help is someone called a “ghostwriter" or "ghost writer". This cryptic title simply means that the writer, like a ghost, will not be visible or publicly identified with your book, and after paying a fee for writing assistance, the writer is not entitled to additional compensation or rights from your book. A contract should be drawn up reflecting specific conditions of your agreement - especially ensure that all rights are yours! - and then is signed and dated by both author/client and the ghostwriter agency.
You might already have read Are You Ready for a Ghostwriter?, which discusses typical planning and organizational steps in preparing to work with a professional writer. This article focuses on the nature of a business relationship between a client (you, for example), also called the author, and a professional writer (us, for example). Since you may be unsure about your role as an author while working with a paid writer, we will discuss the process. Keep in mind that each situation is unique, but typically there are similar circumstances to each ghostwriting project.
Who leads, ghostwriter or author? You can choose whether the ghostwriter or you will lead the project, or share the decision-making process involved in developing your book. Some clients have a clear idea of what they want to happen with their book. Other clients are uncertain about managing a relevant concept, and may expect the writer to take the initiative and make suggestions. Sometimes it becomes a give-and-take process, with someone leading at first before tossing the reins to the other party. If you are unsure about how to proceed, a quality ghostwriter will work with you to establish a comfortable working relationship.
What does a ghostwriter expect from the client? You should have a relatively clear notion of the type of book you wish to produce, the key points you want to get across, and whatever else is important to you to be included. The writer may suggest that you create a tentative theme or story arc that can be developed for the book. This may be captured in written form as an outline, notes, or a rough draft. Or you may want to participate in several phone conversations or email exchanges to generate information for the book.
Will you need interviews? If clearly you do not have organized all the information you want included in the book, your ghostwriter might offer to conduct interviews or gather research, unless you prefer doing these things yourself. Typically, this will cost you more money and less time, so it depends on which is more valuable to you – time or money. Find out in advance whether they are included in the cost of producing your book or if they are priced separately in addition to your book contract.
Will the writer need to travel? If you require in-person interviews and the writer needs to travel, that also will cost more. Most of our clients do not require this, but occasionally an author really wants that kind of working relationship, the book-writing as a process being as important to the author as the quality of the finished manuscript.
What do you expect from the ghostwriter? Be clear in communicating expectations, timelines, and other relevant information. It often helps to email or send by post any written record related to working on the book for future reference, if needed. Also, early in the process set up communications arrangements so that both of you know how to contact the other, and when. As mentioned earlier, sometimes a client will request a face-to-face meeting with the author, so this will need to be scheduled in advance to allow for flexible travel plans.
What if you go off schedule?Make sure there is a common understanding about timelines and flexibility. If, for instance, something hits you while reviewing the draft for chapter three, and you need to ruminate on some ideas for a few weeks, will your ghostwriter be flexible and wait for you? The Happy Guy Marketing's writers give authors that flexibility because we understand just how important it is that your manuscript be the document you want...and that will always be a higher priority than deadlines.
How much outside help is acceptable? Does your ghostwriter have an associate or assistant writer? Aside from contractual terms, how much input should a third person have—and who will decide if such contributions are advisable or acceptable?
Do you need professional input? Will you need an attorney to look over your contract or the finished manuscript? This is a big issue for anyone writing about a true story. Even a fiction based on a true story might require legal counsel to determine whether characters have been obscured enough to protect you from libel.
What if changes in direction are required? Plan in advance for editorial changes that could come from either author or ghostwriter; for example, what if the author wants to kill off a character but the ghostwriter believes the character is integral to the plot? Can the ghostwriter quit if he doesn’t agree with your assessment? One of the benefits of working with an agency is that if for whatever reason the paths of writer and author diverge to the detriment of the finished manuscript, the writer can be replaced within the contract without causing too much disruption to the author's (your) project.
What if major edits are required? Should an outside reader or editor be asked to review the manuscript before the book is considered final? And if so, how will recommended edits be handled—and priced? For instance, The Happy Guy Marketing understands that there will be edits along the way, however, if whole sections need to be rewritten because the author chooses a new direction, that would be a separate project with a separate fee and a separate contract. Sometimes it is worth it, but it is considerably more work for the writer who cannot take that much extra work on without additional fees.
Will you need publishing guidance? Ghostwriters often know the publishing industry better than most other people. They can provide tips, suggestions, and directions for finding a suitable publisher for your work. Many know something about self-publishing, publishing on demand, and vanity publishing, as well as how to get an agent and write a query letter. These services are usually sought beyond the scope of the contract, although they can be factored in as part of the author’s agreement with the ghostwriter.
you can see, writing a book involves business as well as inspiration. For ghostwriters, writing is their business—their livelihood. Before each session with your ghostwriter, make a list of questions to have ready for discussion each time you talk, or “meet” by phone, online, or in person.
Everybody has a book inside them. Publishing your book is an exciting and reachable life goal. An experienced, professional ghostwriter can help bring that goal within easy reach.For more free writing-related articles for reprint, please see our article directory.
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