Working with a Ghostwriter – What steps should you take?

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People often ask me for the steps involved in working with a ghostwriter. I always say that each job is different, each writing relationship is unique, but there are common aspects that I can share.

You need to settle on a ghostwriter, sign a contract and pay them about 25% of the total fee upfront.

Interview ghostwriters until you find the perfect match, someone with whom you can really communicate well, someone who is excited about the project. Look for someone with experience in your genre.

While you don’t need a gardener to write a gardening book, you do want someone with experience in nonfiction writing.

Never pay a ghostwriter the entire fee upfront. It’s a recipe for disaster. The writer will have no motivation to complete the book, or if they do, it likely won’t be done by the pre-determined deadline.

However, your ghostwriter will need to be paid something ahead of the writing. The first segment is always the most time consuming because it includes the outlining and research phase, which is why it often requires the largest payment.

You need to get all the research information to the ghostwriter.

When you realize that you will be working with a ghostwriter, you should begin gathering all your research information and notes together. Think about what your writer will need in order to tell your story or prepare your nonfiction manual.

“But why should I do this work? Aren’t I hiring the ghostwriter to do this for me?”

Sure, you can pay the writer to do all the research, but remember you are the best source for information on your book! Also, the cost for your ghostwriter will increase substantially if the writer needs to research from scratch. In the long run, it will save you money and time if you can do the bulk of the research for your writer.

You need to review all the material your ghostwriter sends you in a timely manner.

Your ghostwriter will email you segments of the book on a regular basis. Make sure to read the pieces and provide the writer with detailed feedback. If it is good, tell your ghostwriter why it works. If it isn’t, tell him or her why it doesn’t work.

I always allow one revision per segment. You don’t want to get into a ton of back and forth at this phase, but you do want to guide the project. Remember, the outline has been hammered out by this time, so now you’re just settling on the details and voice of the book.

It is a bad idea to wait until the entire rough draft is written to tell your writer what you think of the book. By then, it may be difficult to change things, not to mention time consuming which can push your project past its deadline.

By the time you get through this process, chances are you’ll have a very nearly completed manuscript. Personally, I work and rework the first draft, making minor changes (mostly for flow and consistency) and then request one more set of revisions once I’m satisfied. Often, I get a thumbs up.

Again, no two writing relationships are the same. Each client has different needs and each story is unique, but there are commonalities that you can expect when working with a ghostwriter!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Hiring a ghostwriter

Should you hire a local ghostwriter?

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

There is no “standard” ghostwriting deal

Laura Sherman (89 Posts)

Laura Sherman, a.k.a. “Laura the Friendly Ghostwriter,” is a professional ghostwriter and author. She enjoys writing fiction and nonfiction and is happiest when juggling multiple projects. She recently authored “Chess Is Child’s Play” to introduce the next generation to the game of kings and queens. As a parent of three, and one of the top 50 women chess players in the United States, Laura wrote this book to teach any parent to teach any child, of any age, to play chess.


6 Responses to Working with a Ghostwriter – What steps should you take?

  • That about sums things up. I require 50% upfront, though. Waiting for comment/corrections from my clients is usually the most challenging time. I get the feeling they do expect the ghost to work magic and complete the book with minimal input. I have written many books this way. In fact, I am sure some of my clients still haven’t read the books even after publication.

  • KL Sabin says:

    Hello, Laura! I’m a writer who has been approached by a screenwriter to adapt their work into novel form. I’m still not sure I’m going to take the job, but I wanted to thank you for your articles on the subject. What a wonderful resource! Best wishes, Katje

    • Laura Sherman says:

      I am so glad you found my articles helpful, Katje! Let me know if you do take the job. If you need some tips on pricing, don’t hesitate to write me privately! Thanks!

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