Ghostwriting: Taking the Plunge

                In last week’s post, we did a very brief overview of what ghostwriting is and isn’t. Moving forward with this theme, let’s get into one of the most frequent questions I get asked by clients and even other writers: what is the involved in the ghostwriting process?


Initial Consult

                When meeting with your ghostwriter — whether in person or via phone, video or purely written correspondence — there will be an interview in which they will see what it is exactly that you are looking for. Questions will be asked, and the writer will get an idea of what it is that you need to be written, time frame and budget. Also, how hands-on do you plan on being with this writing? How much and what kind of work for this project have you already done?

                There are no right or wrong answers here, though you really should be prepared on your end before you begin this step; if you don’t have much or anything at all prepared, that’s fine. Just keep in mind that the more work you have prepared beforehand, the more you can be sure of your vision is honored throughout this process and the fewer misunderstandings or delays that you’ll experience later on.

                These sorts of consults are as varied as the type of work that we do, so the conversation and open communication are key. However, once all is said and done, you should walk away with the following:


·         A firm understanding of the work to be done by the ghostwriter

·         The exact amount to be paid (though leave some wiggle room just in case)

·         A defined timeline

·         A signed contract


Contracts Are Crucial

                While you obviously want to make sure that you’re working with someone that you trust, the truth is that this a business transaction and in business, it’s always best to have defined parameters before starting work or making a payment. Problems may arise, and a contract is set in place to make things right and act as a protection — for both sides.

                Happily, the vast majority of issues that may happen are almost always misunderstandings and not due to either party acting in bad faith. The contract allows both the client and the writer to understand exactly what is expected and most ghostwriters have a boilerplate form that can be customized as the need presents itself.  Note that here we are talking about the general contract. In subsequent articles, we will get into others such as NDAs and IPAs.

                One last point about this topic I want to mention is to keep parts of it flexible. I know it sounds counterintuitive to what I just said, but unless you have very rigid requirements from the writer, things can evolve and change positively. If you have some room to allow for this, such as in the time frame or price, it will foster a better experience on both sides.


The Actual Writing Process

                This will be the part that can be the scariest for the client because this is when you hand off your writing to someone else! Depending on the size of the project, you may want to make some milestones along the way, both in a review of the work and payment. If this is a ten-page report, for instance, you can typically wait until the end. However, if you have something more substantial such as a novel, you’ll want to check in from time-to-time, perhaps after each chapter or so.

                Remember that ultimately, this will be your work with your name on it, so don’t be shy about telling the ghostwriter how you feel about their progress. Most of us are used to handing in good quality work only to have it rejected because it doesn’t fit the tone or the vision the client had in mind, and we’re completely fine with that! After all, we’re being asked to write down on paper what we believe to be in our client’s head.

                Throughout the course of the writing, you may change your mind and want to make some changes to the direction. This is another reason why you want to make sure that the contract is flexible, to allow such changes without too much of a hiccup.


Don’t Overlook Editing!

                In school, editing and revising we’re easily my least favorite part of the writing. I figured that I wrote down exactly what I wanted to say before, so why waste my time? As a professional writer, I now understand that spending more time and effort revising and editing than actually writing is how to go from good to outstanding. To think otherwise would be arrogant (Sorry, 11-year-old Dave!).

                Editing is something that can be done throughout the writing process by both the client and ghostwriter, but a final edit is a must. Having extensive experience as both a writer and editor, I have figured out a universal truth that has yet to be proven untrue:


Never final edit your own work!


Never. It might seem fine, but it isn’t — trust me. The most common excuse I’ve heard is “I know my work better than any editor,” and this is exactly why you shouldn’t do it! A good editor will look at a piece with absolutely no love and be as critical as possible. Only then will you get the best version.

                All this being said, find a third party to edit your work or have the writer arrange it for you and include it in the price. It’s money and time well-spent.


Final Remarks

                Once the process is done, the document is yours. No matter how much or how little of the writing was done by you directly, you are now the author and free to do with this what you will. Later posts will deal with some more of these steps in greater detail, but remember the more work you do at the beginning, the easier the rest of the process will be.

Looking for a ghostwriter that will deliver the highest quality work while making the process as easy as possible? Don’t hesitate to drop a line!