Working with a ghostwriter to create your book is a delicate art. After all, you are entrusting your ideas or life story to a stranger, hoping she’ll turn it into a marvelous book.
Here’s a little advice on maintaining a good relationship with your ghostwriter, from the ghostwriter’s point of view…or, at least, this ghost’s point of view.
How to Work With a Ghostwriter
Know why you are writing your book
Do you want to make money, introduce a new idea, create a legacy, or do something else?
It’s a good idea to address this issue with your ghost. You really need to have a clear focus before you begin writing, for your answer will help determine the book’s style, layout, and content.
For more, see “8 Questions to Ask Your Ghostwriter.”
Don't expect the first draft to be perfect
The ghostwriting process goes much smoother if you understand that the first draft is rarely perfect and that any imperfections are not a reason to become upset.
Look upon the first draft as a “best guess.”
It’s the ghost's way of getting the client to think long and hard about what he wants.
If it happens to be just right, great. If not, you've just moved closer to the target by having that discussion on content, style, and tone.
Once you set a direction, stick with it
It’s fine to make adjustments as you go; in fact, expect to do so.
But be aware that problems will arise if you make major changes in focus or structure down the line.
I once had a client who kept changing his mind as to what the book was about. First, it was a health book, then a call for reforming the health system, then a look at the health habits of famous people, then an examination of how notable people support social causes, and so on.
As you might expect, the project eventually withered and died. We never even finished a synopsis because the idea wouldn’t stand still long enough to be written down.
Don't set conflicting goals for your ghostwriter to wrestle with
One of my former clients wanted his book to be a fun and easy read for laypeople, and a highly detailed discussion that demonstrated his expertise to professionals in his field.
And he didn’t want to relegate the technical stuff to appendices; he wanted it all blended into the main text.
Every time we spoke, and every time he reviewed the material I wrote, he would cram in more dry, technical stuff, then complain that the manuscript was boring.
Working with a ghostwriter was clearly a challenge for him!
Read drafts of the manuscript as the ghostwriter produces them
I know this sounds odd, but I’ve had clients who wouldn’t read the material as I wrote and sent it to them.
One of my clients neglected to read any of my work, even though I sent him drafts of each chapter as they were written. Making matters worse, his idea of what the book was about evolved during the months I was working on it.
When he finally read the finished, edited manuscript, he was astonished to discover that it was based on the original outline he had given me, not on the totally new book he had created in his mind.
Don’t expect your ghostwriter to incorporate critiques from your spouse, six best friends, hairdresser, and gardener
Too many uninvited editors will spoil the manuscript in progress!
So don’t show it around to everyone you know, collect their conflicting opinions, and expect your ghostwriter to sort them all out. You’re not going to please everyone, so don’t try.
Besides, these people are not usually qualified to give opinions on work-in-progress.
Treat your ghostwriter as an expert
Your ghost is much more than just someone who takes down your words and tells you how brilliant you are.
Remember that you’re paying good money for the ghost's advice and expertise. His suggestions regarding book structure, style, what to include, and what to put where are well worth considering.
If you just want someone to put your words and thoughts on paper without changing anything, hire a typist. It’s a lot cheaper!
Be professional when working with a ghostwriter
When you set an appointment with your ghost, stick to it!
When you promise to jot down a few ideas or a couple of pages, do it!
When you’re sent material to review, review it!
You get the idea. Remember that you’re working with an experienced, professional ghostwriter.
Use her expertise, trust her judgment, and respect her time. In return, you’ll get the best she has to offer.
For more information:
You can learn more about ghostwriters and ghostwriting in general on our “Working with a Professional Ghostwriter” page.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A GHOSTWRITER…
Contact us! We’re Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor, professional ghostwriters and authors with a long list of satisfied clients and editors at major publishing houses.
You can learn about our ghostwriting work and credentials on our Home Page.
If you’re ready to get started, call us at 818-917-5362 or use the contact form below to send us a message. We’d love to talk to you about your exciting book project!
Please Note: Although we’re based in Los Angeles, California, we travel around the U.S. and abroad to meet with our authors. We do not ghostwrite screenplays, books for children, poetry, or school papers.