How to Successfully Work with a Ghostwriter

how to work with a ghostwriterYou have a great story to tell or important information to share and wish to write a book. However, your demanding schedule leaves little time to put pen to paper. In addition, you have never written a 200-300 page book and might not be completely fluent with all the rules of writing and storytelling. This is the moment when most people reach out to me because they realize the process would be so much easier if they could work with a ghostwriter.

A ghostwriter is a professional writer who specializes in helping her clients bring their stories to life. She will write your book but you’ll own the rights, because you’re the author. Although you’ll need to be involved, she will do 90% of the work and will help see your project through to completion in a timely manner.

Over the last twenty years, I’ve had the pleasure of partnering with many different clients on over three dozen memoirs, novels, and business books. While each relationship was unique, I’ve picked out some common steps you can expect to take if you decide to work with a ghostwriter.

Finding the right ghostwriter for you

Your first course of action is to interview and select the best ghostwriter for you and your project. The most popular way to find ghostwriters by searching for them online. You’ll find there are a lot of choices, but you can begin whittling down the list by determining three important requirements before you start interviewing.

First, know your budget. At least know your range. For instance, if you wish to write a 100-page (25,000-word) book and have a budget of $12,500, that’s fifty cents per word. Don’t contact someone who charges two dollars per word. Find writers within your range. This will save you a lot of time and frustration.

Second, know the genre of your book. You don’t want to waste your time on interviewing a writer who specializes in novels when you intend to write a business how-to book.

And, third, prepare a brief summary of your book. I can’t tell you how many clients spend over an hour sharing their entire story with me during our initial conversation. It’s draining and exhausting for the author and the writer. While you need to share the overview of the story to determine that the ghostwriter will be a good fit, it should be an elevator pitch lasting only a few minutes so that you have enough time and energy for the rest of the interview questions.

After you’ve determined that the potential ghostwriter is qualified, has a lot of prior experience, and is within your price range, it’s time to interview her on the phone. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time. For a little advice about the kinds of questions to ask, please read my article: Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter.

When you speak on the phone, make sure that you and your ghost can talk comfortably and easily. You want a ghostwriter who listens well and asks intelligent questions. Ideally, she will engage in your story right away. And there should be an immediate bond; it should feel like you’ve been friends for years.

Signing with a ghostwriter

when you work with a ghostwriter have a good contractOnce you’ve found your perfect match, it’s time to make it official. Your ghostwriter should have a ghostwriting contract for you to sign. Always put all the important details in writing so there are no confusions later.

Your contract should include the following:

  • all milestone deadlines and payments
  • the expected word count of the book
  • all the services that will be provided
  • a clear agreement that the author will hold all copyrights
  • the permitted number of revision requests
  • a confidentiality agreement
  • a contingency plan in case there are disputes.

Plan to pay 25% of the total fee upfront. This covers research and outlining, which in my experience is often the most time-consuming phase. I work on a milestone approach so that my clients always know what to expect with each payment. For example, with the first payment they will receive a detailed outline within two or three months.

Work with a ghostwriter on research

Now that you’ve selected your ghostwriter and have signed the contract, it’s time to gather all your research information and notes. Don’t worry if your notes are messy and disorganized. Personally, I never mind if the notes provided are riddled with typos and grammatical errors. All I’m interested in is the information, so that I can begin formulating the outline for your book. Then I’ll set up an interview schedule to fill in the gaps.

Notes can come in a variety of forms. Over the last twenty years, clients have given me:

  • Diaries
  • Website links
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Handwritten notes
  • Audio or video files
  • Photographs
  • Rough drafts of chapters

research when you work with a ghostwriterIf you want to work with a ghostwriter, but don’t have any written notes prior to signing the contract, that’s completely fine. Your ghost will be able to guide you, so that you can give her the information she needs.

For instance, if you desire to write a memoir, I’d ask that you jot down a list of crucial incidents. This list can be very basic. The wording should be designed to help you remember what happened. For instance, you might write “the time I met Mary on the subway,” or “graduation day,” or “the big argument with my brother two years ago.” You know what each phrase means and can instantly remember all the details. Of course, if you’re so inclined, you could also note a few details at this time.

In the case of a non-fiction book, your notes would take the form of chapter titles for a preliminary Table of Contents. Under each chapter title, you would list out the subheads you plan to incorporate into that chapter, along with a few comments about what you want to say.

As you work with a ghostwriter, she will take these notes and use them as a starting place to create her interview questions. These questions will help her get more details to flesh out your story.

Settling a few important details

As you pull together the research notes, consider these important aspects of your book:

  • the genre
  • the readership
  • your goals

select the right genre for your bookWhile you determined the general genre of your book before starting your search for your ghostwriter, now you can get more specific. This will help your writer when she begins outlining.

For instance, if you’re a successful businessperson, you might have a choice between writing a memoir or a how-to book in which to share your hard-won knowledge. Or if you have led an exciting life, you might choose between writing a memoir or creating a fictionalized version of your story, turning it into a novel.

Next, you need to determine the readership of your book. This will help you choose which incidents to include in your story and the style in which they will be written. After all, a college textbook would be quite different from a romantic comedy. Or a World War II memoir would be written in a very different style from a space opera science fiction novel.

And finally, you need to clarify your goals. Do you hope to gain financially? Do you wish to share your wisdom and experience to help others improve their lives? Or do you simply wish to record your family history for your loved ones? When you know why you wish to publish your book, you can work with a ghostwriter to realize those goals.

Interviewing with a ghostwriter

Some people I speak to seem to have the impression that a ghostwriter is someone who follows a celebrity around all day, perhaps living in the guest house or in a spare bedroom. While I have seen this portrayed in movies, in real life it isn’t terribly practical.

I find that it is most effective to interview clients over the phone and via email. It’s rare that I ever meet them in person (although sometimes I have had the pleasure). In-person interviews aren’t necessary and don’t make the process easier.

During these interviews a ghostwriter will gather details on all the incidents in your memoir or novel. If you’re writing a how-to book, your writer will want to interview you to gain insight into the information, techniques, and tips which will be featured in the book. In addition, successful nonfiction books include amusing, illustrative anecdotes to hold the reader’s interest. These are usually best communicated through interviews.

As you continue to work with a ghostwriter, an effective way to pass on important information is through written materials, such as documents, notes, emails, etc. But ongoing oral interviews are key to a successful outcome because they give her the opportunity to master your voice. Becoming familiar with the way you express yourself will allow the writer to convincingly write in your style. After all, this will be your book and your name will be on the cover.

Tips on interviewing

When you are interviewed, be prepared to be honest and candid. Don’t try to hide things. Take responsibility for your actions. If you attempt to blame others, your readers will lose respect for you and interest in the book. Embrace what happened, no matter how embarrassing or messy it may seem to you. That’s important. Then be sure to express how much you’ve learned from your mistakes. This will resonate with your readers. After all, we’ve all been there.

use your senses when describing a scene in a bookAnother tip is to consider all of your senses when you describe a scene. People typically default to their sense of sight and describe what they saw. While these descriptions are crucial, it’s important not to forget all the other perceptions.

For instance, let’s say you’re sharing the story of your tenth birthday with your ghostwriter. Think about the sounds of the outdoor party. Were there birds singing or perhaps cicadas buzzing and clicking? Then try to remember the smells of freshly mown grass or grilling hamburgers. You should probably also delve into the emotions of the day. Were you excited or disappointed? There are so many possibilities. The more sensory details you add, the richer your story will be.

And finally, I’d suggest that you and your ghostwriter limit each conversation to about an hour. While an hour and a half can be fine, I wouldn’t recommend marathon three-hour talks. You’ll get worn out, and your ability to recall the details might diminish.

Planning your schedule

Plan your schedule when you work with a ghostwriterWhen you work with a ghostwriter, she will do the heavy lifting for your book, but remember that you also have a key role in your project. Some ghostwriters collect all the information upfront, learning as much as they can, and quickly deliver a first draft for the client to review. They basically complete the book without continued input from the client. Once the rough draft is finished, that’s when they request feedback and make adjustments accordingly. I feel that is a potential recipe for disaster.

Personally, I want to make sure to be delivering the style of writing the authors expect. To that end, I send pages to my clients for feedback on a regular basis, as I write them. That way I can be sure to be on the right track and deliver what my clients envisioned.

It is important to be upfront with your ghostwriter about your available time. In the beginning, you should plan to spend minimally a few hours a week on interviewing, answering questions, and providing feedback. A good ghostwriter is flexible and, with some forewarning, can work around your schedule.

Giving feedback

When you work with a ghostwriter, she will require feedback. It’s important to be specific in your comments, so that she can learn and improve. For instance, don’t simply say, “I didn’t like that.” Rather, explain what you felt was missing from the passage or what nuance you felt wasn’t correctly captured.

It’s also key to point out what you felt your ghost got right. Good feedback is just as helpful as correction. We learn from both equally.

It’s a good idea to give a quick turnaround on edits to your ghostwriter, as that will speed up the process and help her learn faster. Ideally, you can tell her when you’ll be able to review the document so she can schedule around it.

I like working with MS Word. I find Track Changes a helpful editing tool because the client can make changes within the document and I can immediately spot the edits. Plus, he or she can write comments that help explain the changes made. It’s a great tool for any writing team.

 

Work with a ghostwriterYour story is important and deserves to be heard. If you don’t have the time or know-how to write a book yourself, having a ghostwriter help you is a real option. Knowing how to pick a ghostwriter allows you to find the person who is best suited for you and your project. And understanding how to work with a ghostwriter allows you to two to become a strong team, one that works together smoothly and effectively to bring your story to life so that you can share it with the world.

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    Want to Write a Book?

    Want to write a book? Start now!

    As the year progresses, I think about all the potential authors out there who want to write a book. After all, I know that many people long to see their story in print. It’s an ultimate objective for many.

    How are you coming along with your goal?

    As a ghostwriter, I see many people procrastinate when it comes to writing a book. There are many excellent-sounding reasons why their book projects get shoved to the back of the closet.

    What’s the result?

    The books never get written.

    If you have a strong idea for a book, it’s important to write your book NOW. Don’t wait. I can’t emphasize this enough.

    Why do I feel this way?

    Well, here are a few reasons.

    In a year you’ll still be thinking about writing a book.

    If you want to write, schedule it!Think about it.

    Looking into my virtual crystal ball I can see that you have been pondering this book for several years. If you wait and do nothing, several more will pass. Decades even.

    I receive emails on a regular basis from authors who are passionate about writing a book. Beyond any other goal, they want to write. However, they often tell me: “I’m not quite ready to start.”

    Now, I will try to stay in touch with these folks throughout the year, contacting them regularly. My purpose is to help them complete their project. Their reply is often the same.

    “Yes, I want to write a book, but I’m too busy. Now’s just not a good time.”

    The problem is that this business of life will never change. You will always be busy. And whenever “now” is will rarely be a perfect moment to start.

    So what’s the solution?

    Find a way to write your book despite all the difficulties. Yes, you probably have many balls in the air, which you’re currently juggling.

    Find the time anyway.

    You can do it.

    You got this!

    Someone else will write a book very similar to yours.

    People sometimes are very afraid that someone will steal their book idea. That doesn’t happen often and isn’t something to fear. However, other people can come up with a similar idea on their own. That’s not only possible, but likely given all the authors in the world.

    That exciting plot twist that you’ve never seen before will appear in the mind of another author. Or a memoir similar to the one you’ve wanted to share, which you know will become a bestseller, will grace Amazon’s top 10. A different writer will have beaten you to the punch.

    Don’t allow that to happen to you!

    You will continue to think about your unfulfilled goal.

    Girl is sad she isn't writingIf you are anything like me, failure doesn’t sit well. This really hits home when you know you haven’t really tried to do your best to make your dream happen.

    You will continue to spend time thinking and considering your book project, wondering what your book would have looked like on the shelves of your local bookstore. You may even come up with brilliant marketing strategies to sell it. It’s all wasted time and energy if you don’t actually take action and write your book.

    You may want to write a book, but that isn’t enough. You must actually take the steps required to complete the project.

    That nagging feeling won’t go away. Trust me, you won’t be satisfied until you have completed your manuscript.

    You will develop a very bad habit of not writing.

    Habits come in many forms. Some involve doing an action you know you shouldn’t do and some involve not doing anything when you know you need to accomplish a goal.

    Once you develop the habit of not writing, it can become increasingly difficult to write. If you stop and start a lot, that pattern also becomes familiar. It becomes comfortable to you not to write and becomes something you learn to expect and accept.

    Don’t start down that path.

    You know you need to write!

    In order to actually complete your book, you must overcome the additional hurdle of the bad habit that you’ve formed. Authors require discipline to write a full-length book. There are no exceptions. It requires hundreds of hours. You can’t write a book in a week.

    Honestly, some people hire me because I’m a relentless bulldog when it comes to completing projects! Just ask my clients. They hire me because they know by the end of the ghostwriting process, they will have a book in their hands.

    If you want to write a book this year, the trick is to steadily write. If you can’t afford a ghostwriter, you will need to set aside time each and every day to work on your project. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of excuses as to why you don’t have time, energy, or enough pencils. The dog ate your manuscript shouldn’t fly either.

    Develop good writing habits and you will complete your book. If you wish to hire me as your consultant, please email me. I’ll keep you accountable and together we will complete your book!

    Excuses will enter in and plague you.

    If you want to write, don't allow excuses to stop you.Oh, you’ll come up with all sorts of legitimate sounding reasons for why you can’t write one day or the next. “I’m tired.” “There’s a good show on TV.” They sound good and reasonable, but you can’t let that deter you.

    Here’s a tip from your friendly ghostwriter: Treat yourself as if you were your own client.

    Give yourself targets and deadlines and then meet them!

    And finally, writing should be a joy. If it isn’t, something is wrong. If you’ve hit writer’s block, reach out and schedule a one-hour consultation today. I’ll get you writing again!

    If writing is a chore, don’t continue a painful process; the manuscript won’t come out well. Your readers will feel your resentment pouring from the pages. Think of the advice more experience chefs give their protégés: You need to cook with love. Your diners will tell the difference. As an author you need to write from a place of joy. Your readers will thank you for it.

    So, what are you waiting for? Stop reading this article and start writing!

    Additional articles you might find helpful:

    Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

    How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

    Help! I need help writing a book!

    Can I help you?

      What Ghostwriters Charge to Write a Book

      What ghostwriters chargeIf you’re interested in getting a little help to finish that book you’ve been working on for years, you might be a tad curious about what professional ghostwriters charge. This information is sometimes hard to discover because so many ghostwriters seem hesitant to post their fees. I’m guessing they’re worried that you might bolt when you find out the cost.

      My philosophy as a ghostwriter of twenty years is to be as transparent as possible about my fees and process because that’s really the only way someone will confidently reach out to me.

      If you do a little research, you’ll discover there are three main categories of ghostwriters:

      • Cheap (a few thousand dollars)
      • Celebrity (a six or seven figure price point)
      • Mid-range (tens of thousands of dollars)

      Cheap ghostwriters

      Cheap ghostwriters can be easily found through various websites: Craigslist, Fiverr, Upwork, etc. They may charge as little as ten dollars for an article or a couple thousand to write a book. I’ve even talked to a few writers who attempted to write a full-length book for under a thousand dollars. Sounds great, right? After all, who doesn’t love a good deal.

      Well…

      You have to ask yourself, how is it that these writers charge so little when you know that it takes hundreds of hours to write a book? They can’t possibly feed their family on two dollars per hour. The answer is, they have a different full-time job. That means they are fitting your project in on the weekends or after work, when they are probably exhausted.

      Another way around the pesky factor of time is plagiarism. It doesn’t take long to cut and paste someone else’s words into a document. Sure it’s illegal, and, yes, there is software that detects this crime, but cheap ghostwriters sometimes do it and get away with it.

      Celebrity ghostwriters

      On the other end of the price spectrum are the celebrity ghostwriters. These writers are reserved for those people with major household names. People in this class include former presidents, top-tier actors, major league sports stars, etc. These are folks who have a huge budget because they know they can jump to the head of the line and easily get a publisher to pay a six- or seven-figure advance based on their name alone.

      Mid-range ghostwriters

      what midrange professional ghostwriters chargeMid-range professional ghostwriters charge from fifty cents per word on up to two dollars per word. I fall into this category. I charge one dollar per word, so a full-length book usually runs $50,000–$75,000.

      When you hire a mid-range ghostwriter, you can expect to harness her extensive writing experience. She has been writing books for decades and know her stuff. In addition, most likely this writer will also be an author and can share a few titles that bear her name.

      This level of ghostwriter will have a well-defined process but should be flexible for your needs. You will get personalized attention and should find the experience enjoyable.

       

      Professional ghostwriters charge according to their experience, ability, and reputation. Before you comb through your options, settle on a budget. This will help narrow down your options. Then take the steps needed to find the right and best ghostwriter for you. Check out my book Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter for a few tips in that area.

      If you’d like to explore working with me, please contact me directly.

       

      Is Your Story Novel Worthy?

      Do you have a novel worthy concept?As you sit down to write a novel, you may become overwhelmed. It’s a lot of work and will take many hours. If this is your first novel, plan to spend hundreds of hours planning, researching, writing, and editing. If you find yourself in doubt as to whether your story is novel worthy, consider the elements of a good book and see if your concept measures up.

      A well fleshed-out protagonist

      To start, it makes sense to focus in on the hero of your story. After all you’ll be spending a lot of words sharing their journey throughout the book.

      Your protagonist should be relatable. That doesn’t mean they need to be likeable (but they often are). To make sure your hero is relatable, you need to do your homework and really get to know the main character inside out. Avoid stereotypes. For instance, not every woman loves to shop, and wealthy people aren’t always snobbish. The list goes on.

      It is wise to invest time creating a character profile. Start by jotting down the hero’s name, age, physical traits, occupation, marital status, etc. Then you can think of the creative, outside-the-box questions that will help you gain a better understanding of who this person really is.

      I recommend that you ask questions as if you were interviewing a live person. Some example probing questions might be:

      • What was your upbringing like?
      • What would you like to improve in your life?
      • What are your passions?
      • What is your five-year career goal?

      Don’t limit yourself

      Ask any questions and come up with the responses. Of course, you need to take notes. Review them and feel free to modify answers as new ones come in. Make sure the answers are consistent. The process is a bit like molding clay.

      Now, it’s important to know that you don’t have to fit in all these details into your novel. Most likely, that would make for a tedious read. Rather, you are simply trying to get to know your protagonist so that you can write about him with reality. For instance, if you know that your main character grew up in the lap of luxury, he would know his way around fine dining. Whereas a man who grew up in the foster system might not know what to do with the two extra forks at a five-star restaurant.

      When you do in-depth research on a character, you’ll discover that you can describe the way he dresses, holds himself, talks to others, and many other traits that will help you create a novel worthy story.

      A properly motivated main character

      properly motivated character is novel worthyWe all have reasons for what we do in life. There is often a common motivating force that drives our actions. Now that you understand them better, it’s time to dig a little deeper to see what makes them tick.

      With a solid purpose in mind, the reader can track with your protagonist’s journey and hopefully root for them to accomplish their goals.

      It’s also worth mentioning that the goals of your protagonist will probably change throughout the story. They might start out with the ambition to become wealthy and own a mansion or two, but by the end of the story, they realize that they need more than possessions in life to be happy. Or perhaps your lead character starts the novel wanting to hold on to a failing marriage, only to realize by the end that the thing she needed to gain was a sense of self-confidence and independence.

      Once you know what motivates your character, their scenes in your novel will align more fully and resonate with your reader.

      Loads and loads of conflict

      novel worthy concepts include conflictThe quantity and quality of conflict is key to determining whether your story is novel worthy.

      Think back to some of your favorite novels. Did things come easy for the protagonist? No. Never. It’s always an uphill battle. Otherwise, the story would be boring.

      Once you’ve identified the hero’s goal, you need to make it hard for them to reach it. And there should be some risk involved. Add in a lot of challenges and gnarly stakes. If your protagonist never has a problem, you don’t really have a story.

      Boy meets girl, boy gets girl is super boring and takes less than a page to write. However, boy meets girl, boy is separated from girl through a series of misunderstandings, tragedies, and misfortunes, could be a good story. Boy overcomes hurdles and battles, as well as internal fire-breathing dragons to win back the affections of girl. Great! Or boy meets girl, boy makes a series of mistakes and loses girl, and then boy turns his life around to fix his flaws and wins back the love of his life. That works.

      Conflict can come in many forms. It doesn’t mean your book needs hand-to-hand combat scenes or full-blown wars. Look over your life. Have you ever had opposition to your goals? Have you ever stood in your own way? Sometimes a person can be their own worst enemy. These are valid conflicts that we can all relate to.

      A good story is filled with conflict, hitting the protagonist with a seemingly never-ending series of one-two punches throughout your novel.

      A creative and unique angle

      Be creativeThe more I study storytelling the more I realize that many stories follow a familiar path. Although there isn’t a specific “formula” that applies to all novels, you do need to follow a structure that works. If you’re new to writing, check out the concept of the three-act structure. It will help guide you.

      One way to tell if your idea is novel worthy is to make sure you have a unique take on the story line you’re tackling. There are many ways to tell a classic tale.

      When working with children, I love to help them flex their creative muscles. Sometimes they are really into a book series and want to use those characters and plot ideas to write their own short story. That’s fine if they want to practice their writing chops by mimicking their favorite author. It isn’t plagiarism but it also wouldn’t qualify to be novel worthy. Even fan fiction includes unique stories with twists the reader hasn’t seen.

      When you’re plotting out your storyline, you can use some of the tried and true structures but try to infuse it with your own creativity. For instance, how many different “Cinderella” books or movies have you read or scene? How about the classic “Romeo and Juliet” tale? These are pretty easy to identify. We know the story, and often even know the ending, but it’s the unique angle that keeps us engaged throughout.

      Go forth and write!

      Once you have these elements down, it’s time to consider your outline. Figure out your beginning, middle and end of the novel worthy story and create the individual incidents that will make up your book. Armed with a detailed outline, write your first draft. Don’t pause to reread over and over, but forge ahead and get your first draft completed. Once done, now you can edit your book.

      If you need help at any stage of the writing process, please feel free to contact me. I enjoy consulting authors as they write their books, helping them conquer the various challenges they are sure to encounter.

      Need help?

        The Contract with Your Ghostwriter

        Have a good contract with your ghostwriter

        It is a thrilling moment when you find the perfect ghostwriter for your book project. Your dream is about to become a reality—you can already visualize your book on the shelves of your local bookstore. I understand how exciting this moment is, but don’t forget that there is also a business aspect to writing a book. It is vital to have a contract with your ghostwriter covering certain important elements.

        Protect your rights

        When you first sign with a professional ghostwriter, she will probably possess a contract that she’s used for years. It’s important to take the time to read over her contract word for word even if you trust her. Please make sure your rights are protected.

        Retain your copyrights

        As an author, you should always retain all the copyrights for your book, along with the rights for any possible future formats that might come about. For instance, let’s say Warner Brothers wishes to option your life story for a movie. Make sure the ghostwriter can’t come after you for a percentage of that deal.

        Demand confidentiality

        Confidentiality is a cornerstone of the ghostwriter’s trade. The contract with your ghostwriter needs to spell that out specifically. The information in your book is yours and all the words the ghostwriter creates for you belong to you. She should never divulge her part in the work to your readers. You are the author; she is the ghost.

        Safeguard against plagiarism

        Although it may seem odd, you should have a clause in your contract protecting you from any acts of plagiarism on the part of your ghostwriter. This is really only a problem with low-budget and inexperienced writers. These ghostwriters can sometimes resort to stealing someone else’s work when the deadline is looming, and they become overwhelmed. As the author, you need to protect yourself from the financial liability that can result from this crime.

        Spell out all relevant details

        When you interviewed your ghostwriter, you probably went over a lot of little details and came to an arrangement. These specific agreements now need to be put in writing and included in your contract. That way there can be no misunderstanding as you move forward with your book project.

        Payment schedule and deadlines

        A contract with your ghostwriter should include a schedule of deadlines.There are numerous ways to structure a payment schedule. I prefer the milestone approach to a monthly draw, as my clients will know what to expect with each increment of money they spend.

        As an example, in my contract I have four milestones for each book project:

        • A detailed outline
        • The first half of the first draft
        • The second half of the first draft
        • A completed manuscript

        Although these milestones might differ from writer to writer, most ghostwriters will ask you to pay before each segment. If you decide to pay your ghostwriter monthly, make sure you receive something tangible as the project progresses.

        Expected length

        Although it can be hard to precisely predict a book’s length, you do need to estimate a ballpark figure to determine the price. For instance, if a client wishes to write a 150-page book, I’d estimate that to cost $37,500. If it goes a little over, I wouldn’t charge extra. However, if the client later decides to increase the length to 200 pages, we’d amend the contract.

         

        The contract with your ghostwriter should protect both you and the writer. If you have any concerns about the terms, be sure to clear them up before you sign. Once you have the paperwork done, you can focus on creating and enjoy the ghostwriting process.

        If you’d like to learn more about how to hire a ghostwriter, check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

        Tips For Writing Your Memoir

        Writing your memoirIf you have an interesting story to tell, you might be contemplating writing your memoir. As you sit down to start, most likely you’ll realize it isn’t an easy task. Most likely there will be a lot of emotion behind many of the events that have shaped your life story. Collecting these incidents together for your readers will take strength, time, and patience. Knowing this upfront will help you plan and complete your book.

        Take a deep breath. You got this!

        Many people have reached out to me over the last two decades asking advice about how to write their life story. Here are a few tips to get you started:

        Writing your memoir takes time

        Writing a book isn’t an overnight undertaking. For a professional writer, I’d estimate it will take two hundred hours to complete. If you’re new to the process, plan for it to take longer.

        It’s important not to rush the process. Even if you have plenty of time, give yourself some breathing room.

        Eight months to a year is a good timeframe for completing a book. Set daily targets and hold yourself accountable to making them. Your memoir will be the better for it.

        Character flaws are key

        Even if you have lived the life of a hero, you will need to take a step back and look for a few non-optimum personality traits to share.

        The reason for this is that the rest of us, your readers who have flaws, will never be able to relate to the story of a perfect superhero. Include the mistakes you’ve made in your life when writing your memoir. Find a few lapses in judgment and delve into them. Anecdotes showing how you overcame barriers and errors will enhance your book.

        Humor goes a long way

        When an author can poke fun at his or her situation and enliven a story by bringing out its comical aspect, it makes for a more enjoyable and memorable read. While it is best not to make fun of others in your book, there are still plenty of other ways to include humor.

        For instance, funny dialogue snippets lighten the mood nicely. There might also be times when you can uncover an absurd moment then expand on it. Don’t be afraid to shine a spotlight on certain aspects of your life that might make others laugh out loud.

        Write and write and write

        If you’re writing your memoir on your own, you’ll need to write on a regular basis.

        Don’t expect to make much progress if you only type a few pages on the weekends. Great writers write every day. It keeps ideas flowing and the creative pump primed.

        Feel free to embellish the details

        No one expects you to remember every single little detail of your life perfectly.

        For example, can you recall what you had for breakfast on October 20th, 1974? If you’re writing a breakfast scene and want to put Eggs Benedict on the table, go ahead. Your readers will accept it.

        The situation is similar with dialogue. If you are writing about an important conversation, your readers don’t care about the exact words spoken. They just want to know the gist of the conversation.

        The truth is, even if you have a photographic memory, you will want to change up the words a bit to improve the flow of the story. However, never invent fictitious and unflattering words for a real person you’re mentioning by name. He or she might not appreciate your creativity.

        Be honest

        Write without fear. Edit without mercy.Although you’re delving into the viewpoint of one character, you, you need to have the ability to pull back from your perspective.

        Be objective.

        This might mean that you don’t come out the winner in every argument. And, please don’t resent me for saying so, but you might turn out to be wrong on occasion. It happens! Remember, flawless characters aren’t very believable.

        One of my biggest tips for writing a memoir is to be truthful with your readers. It’s possible that they might learn a lesson and avoid making the same mistakes you did. Wouldn’t it be good to know that your book changed the life of just one person?

        Read other memoirs

        Girl reading a memoirI read a quote today that I loved. It said:

        “Reading and writing cannot be separated. Reading is breathing in. Writing is breathing out.” (I wish I knew who wrote it.)

        Writing a memoir is difficult if you’ve never read one by another writer. Reading a lot will help you learn about what works and what doesn’t.

        You can also learn to spot the memoir themes, which might give you ideas for your book’s theme.

        With these tips for writing a memoir, you are ready. Now start writing. Continue to write. Then write some more until your first draft is completed.

        Don’t edit, just write.

        Enjoy the experience.

        Personally, I love ghostwriting memoirs because I get to meet new people and help them share their life stories with others. While doing so, they usually remember new details about their lives that they’d forgotten for decades. And, in the end, they always learn a lot, as do their readers. The process is so rewarding!

        Additional articles you might find helpful:

        Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

        Interview Questions for a Ghostwriter

        How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

        Memoir Mistakes You Should Avoid

        How can I help you?

          The Right Ghostwriter for You

          How to find the right ghostwriter for youHave you been trying to write a book for months, years, or decades? I can’t tell you how many people I hear from who are in this position. People reach out to me on a daily basis asking for help. They desperately want to complete their books, but can’t do it on their own. If you find yourself in this boat, it might be time to hire help. After all, if you haven’t found the hundreds of hours required to write a book in the last few years, chances are you won’t have the time today…or tomorrow. So how do you find the right ghostwriter for you? That’s the challenge I wish to tackle with you today.

          Research candidate ghostwriters

          You can easily determine whether a candidate writer can help you with your story by researching her. Any qualified professional ghostwriter will have a website with testimonials. You can also throw her name into a search engine and see what you find. It’s a good idea to verify how reputable she is by checking her out on Google.

          For instance, try typing “Laura Sherman Ghostwriter” into Google and see what you find. The first page will have various entries from my blog, but you’ll also see mentions of me from other professional writers.

          You can also type in various key words that interest you and see what pops up. If you search for subjects like “memoir themes,” “help writing a book,” or “ghostwriting contract,” you’ll find a variety of writers that show up (myself included). That’s because we blog and guest blog a lot about these topics and have experience in these fields.

          Now, it’s worth noting that a ghostwriter doesn’t need to rank well on Google to be a good match for you. However, a reputable ghostwriter should have some kind of web presence (other than social media).

          Nail down pricing

          Discover your budget to hire a ghostwriterWhen you begin searching for the right ghostwriter for you, there are different ways to narrow the field. I suggest that you determine your budget before you start interviewing. Some ghostwriters won’t post their rates, while others are upfront about their fees on their websites. If you can, ask for the rate before you begin the interview process. It will save you a lot of time and aggravation.

          For instance, if your budget is $5,000 for an average-sized book, I wouldn’t be a good candidate for you. I charge one dollar per word (or $50,000 for a 200-page book). No matter how much I fall in love with your project’s concept, I can’t take a 90% pay cut.

          If you have a small budget, I’d recommend that you scour one of the many freelancer websites to find someone within your price range. Just please be warned: you will get what you pay for.

          Professional ghostwriters usually charge somewhere between fifty cents and two dollars per word.

          Discover the ghostwriter’s preferred genre

          Select the right genre for your bookOnce you find a ghostwriter within your price range, you’ll need to make sure your story is one he or she can write. The genre should be within the ghostwriter’s wheelhouse. Writers often specialize. For instance, I write memoirs, business books and novels, but I will only take on projects that are uplifting, inspirational or educational. Other writers don’t have such constraints on topic, while some only write books in a specific genre. For instance, I’ve seen certain ghosts who only write romantic comedies, how-to books, or screenplays.

          The right ghostwriter for you will have prior experience writing a book similar to yours. So, if you’re writing a memoir, I wouldn’t recommend a writer who has only done scientific textbooks or who specializes in cookbooks.

          Read up on the ghostwriter to discover his or her area of expertise. If you have trouble finding this information online, simply ask the ghostwriter about their preferences in an email or during the initial conversation.

          Summarize your story for the ghostwriter

          A ghostwriter doesn’t need all the details of your story to determine if she is the right ghostwriter for you. The broad strokes are enough for her to make a decision. With this in mind, don’t download your entire story to the writer in the initial conversation. Instead, find a way to summarize it in a few paragraphs. I recommend that you prepare this before you contact a prospective ghostwriter.

          I can tell you that after twenty years in the industry, I can quickly determine if I can do justice to a client’s story.

          For example, here are two excerpts from recent requests:

          • “My husband of 25 years abandoned me and our children to take up with another woman. I want to write a book to get back at him and her.”
          • “I’m a successful real estate investor and businessman. I want to share my story of how I overcame various challenges to inspire others to follow their dreams.”

          Both wanted memoirs written, but each had a very different purpose. Since I specialize in uplifting stories, I knew I wasn’t the best ghostwriter for the first person and told her this immediately. However, the second project was well within my wheelhouse and I was chomping at the bit to start writing that book. I didn’t need all the details to be interested.

          Hire the right ghostwriter for you

          Find the right ghostwriter for youFollowing these guidelines, you can quickly narrow down the candidates who could potentially be the right ghostwriter for you. Once you’ve done this homework, set up a time to talk to the writer about your story. You want to be sure that you are able to communicate easily and that there is an immediate and budding chemistry between you two about the project. That’s important as this will be a long-term relationship.

          If you’re interested in learning more about how to find the right ghostwriter, check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

          And please feel free to email me anytime to learn more about my ghostwriting process.

          What’s It Like to Be a Ghostwriter?

          Understanding what it is like to be a ghostwriterAre you puzzled by the concept of a ghostwriter. Does it seem rather mystical? That’s probably become we stay behind the scenes, like a director of a film. Some people think about the movie, The Ghost Writer, while others wonder if I pen stories about ghosts. I realized it made some sense to clear a few things up. I love what I do and would like to share a little more about the industry with you, in case you are curious.

          What is a ghostwriter?

          Ghostwriters are simply writers who are paid by an author to write their books, but don’t receive any credit for their work. These ethereal creatures are rarely seen.

          We work hard so you look good.

          Over the years, a lot of people have asked me if I mind that I don’t get a cover credit. No, I’m cool with it. Why? Because I love to write. I love being part of the process for another author. It is an honor for me.

          Now, I am also an author, with my own published works. For that reason, I don’t crave seeing my name on the cover of a book. I’ve experienced that joy!

          What’s it like to be a ghostwriter?

          It’s exhilarating!

          Truly. Each project I work on is a fresh new adventure. Sure, some themes are similar to others, but no two authors have the same experience or the same message. In addition, each author brings their own unique perspective to the project.

          I’m the kind of person who gets very wrapped up in my projects. I am fully engaged and learn a lot about the subject matter so that I become an expert in that field for the year or two it takes me to finish the book.

          What do ghostwriters write?

          There are many kinds of ghostwriters. Some specialize in screenplays, while others only pen memoirs. A number write novels or only write niche-market how-to booklets. Then again, many focus on ghostwriting articles.

          I’ve ghostwritten about thirty books. Some are short stories, while others are over 400 pages in length. Most are memoirs.

          Personally, I look for compelling content when choosing my next project. I select books with positive messages which will help readers in some meaningful way. In addition, I also look for clients who can easily communicate their ideas to me.

          There’s a special bond that forms between me and my clients; I can’t explain it, but it is apparent when it is there.

          How do clients find me?

          Ghostwriting clients just find meBefore I had a website, clients would just find a way to reach out to me, usually through word of mouth or some bizarre and extraordinary set of circumstances. Honestly, the whole process seemed magical!

          Nowadays, most of my clients come in through my blog articles. They search the internet looking for help and find my page. When my clients find my website, something resonates for them and they stop shopping around and contact me.

          I try to answer most emails that come my way, even if I know the writer can’t afford me or the project isn’t a good fit for me. If I believe I can help the person, I’ll reply.

          Flexibility is key

          flexibility in writing a bookA good ghostwriter is flexible. We have to be, because we work with a slew of different personalities and creative voices. The style and feel of one book will be different from another. It has to have the voice and spirit of the author to be authentic.

          The needs of my clients also vary. Some wish a book written very quickly, while others require a lot of time to collaborate. Each relationship I have with an author is unique and I work hard to make the process enjoyable for each person.

          I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on what’s it like to be a ghostwriter. If you need help and wish to chat with me, please feel free to reach out to me! I’d love to help you write your book.

          If you’d like help learning how to hire a ghostwriter, check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

          How can I help you?

             

            Show, Don’t Tell: What Does it Mean?

            Show don't tell when you write a bookThere are rules for writers. One of the more senior commandments in the writing profession is show, don’t tell. This can be a baffling concept to new writers. Please don’t allow a lack of understanding of this golden rule to stop you from completing your book.

            As with most new skills, show, don’t tell simply takes a little practice to master. With practice you’ll soon find yourself beginning to apply the rules almost instinctively. While honing this skill, I’d recommend that you read some of your favorite books over again and observe how the authors bring their stories to life by showing their readers various details. You’ll find there are many ways to accomplish this goal.

            The meaning of show, don’t tell

            Show, don’t tell simply means that you allow your readers to experience incidents through storytelling rather than overtly tell them what happened. Showing is often done through character development, in which you thoroughly share sensory details, action, and dialogue.

            The reason showing is so effective is that it puts your readers directly into the shoes of the main character and lets them to see things through his or her lens. It’s a much more immersive experience for the readers, allowing them to lose themselves in your book.

            An example

            In order to illustrate the difference between telling and showing, here are two passages:

            Terry had a fear of spiders.

            Or:

            As the spider crept along the tartan quilt, Terry’s body convulsed with an involuntary shudder. His heartbeat quickened as its eight legs inched toward his arm. Would that he could move it away, but none of his muscles would obey his silent plea for escape.

             

            Which version did you prefer? Did one make you feel the emotions along with Terry?

            Most people would agree that the second example plops the reader in the middle of the scene and adds layers to his terror. And it’s possible that the reader might experience a shudder of his own.

            Use dialogue to show feelings

            Characters express emotions through dialogueWhen attempting to show, don’t tell, dialogue can be a powerful tool for a writer. You can show emotions and reveal the deep relationships between characters in an engaging way. Body language also gives the readers insight into what’s going on.

            Keep in mind that people have various ways of communicating. Based on their past relationships, they will speak to each other in different ways. Consider how you speak to and interact with your grandmother. Now think about how you speak with and interact with your sibling or your best friend. Each relationship is very different, right? We all have different behavior codes for the variety of people in our lives who are important to us. Well, the same would apply to the characters in your book.

            It’s also worth mentioning that people aren’t cut-out duplicates of one another. We all have different traits that create our personalities. Examine all the people you know. Do they each speak in the same way? My guess is that they have slightly different accents, use different words to communicate ideas (probably with a variety of slang terms), and sometimes slip into half-sentences. Use these personal experiences when you write. It’s through your characters’ idiosyncratic ways of speaking that you can reveal their emotions, intentions and purposes.

            Sometimes I find it helpful to see the incidents of my story as scenes in a film. Screenwriters have to show what the characters are experiencing through their actions and dialogue. In a film you couldn’t say, “Joe was angry” unless you included a narrator in the script, which would be awkward. No, you’d need to show that he was angry.

            Same goes when writing a book.

            Example

            So, you could write:

            Sally decided to leave her husband of twenty years. When she confronted him about it, he became very angry.

            Or you could write:

            Sally stood at the doorway and studied her husband. “Joe?” she said as she fidgeted with the hem of her shirt.

            Joe crumpled the newspaper onto his lap with an exaggerated flourish. “Yes? What is it?”

            “I…” she faltered, then took a deep breath. “My bags are packed.”

            Joe glared at her. He grabbed his cane and slowly eased himself out of the chair to a standing position. “You’re really doing this?”

            She gave a quick nod. “Yes.”

            Sally watched as Joe’s face turned a familiar shade of purple. If he’d been a cartoon, steam would have been coming out of his ears right about then. She took an involuntary step backward.

            “Twenty years of my life wasted,” he said through gritted teeth. “Get out. And don’t bother to come back.”

            Avoid overusing adverbs

            show don't tell by not overusing adverbsWhy is it that we hear seasoned writers warn against using adverbs? After all, they are an important part of speech, modifying not only verbs, but adjectives and other adverbs. Pretty universal, right?

            Well, Stephen King wrote in his book On Writing:

            “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s—GASP!!—too late.”

            Dramatic? Yes. But that’s Stephen King’s signature style.

            So, is it wrong to use an adverb? Nah. Just don’t overuse them because they can become a crutch. After all, tossing in a ready-made adverb can be easier than investing the time to show the reader how a character feels. Maybe that’s why Mark Twain warned us that “Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer.”

            An example

            “I wouldn’t if I were you,” Becky said condescendingly.

            Or:

            Becky folded her arms across her chest, her lips curled into a smug smile. “I wouldn’t if I were you.”

             

            There is no doubt about it, writing is a balancing act: You want to find your unique voice while obeying all the agreed-upon rules of the craft. If you’re new to writing, give yourself some time to develop your own style. Don’t worry too much about all the rules like show, don’t tell until you begin editing your own book. And remember, while it’s good to know the rules of writing, they aren’t intended to become a straitjacket. Keep writing and enjoy the process!

            If you’re looking to hire a ghostwriter, check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter on Amazon.

            Different Kinds of Editors

            Eyes on your manuscript from different kinds of editorsLet me start by saying that every writer needs an outside set of eyes reviewing their manuscript. In fact, we all need the assistance of a few different kinds of editors to complete a book.

            Writers will sometimes try to skip the editing process. Perhaps they wish to save the money, or they don’t want to receive a critique. Personally, I’d be lost without my editors! It’s impossible for me to catch all the errors in my manuscript. I rely on those outside professional eyes to point things out to me.

            A good editor will indicate the good points, along with the bad. Becoming aware of both is equally important because it helps me be a better writer. I learn through each editing experience and improve.

            It’s important to recognize that there four main types of editors:

            • Developmental
            • Line
            • Copy
            • Proofreading

            Each has a role in helping you polish your book. While you might not need to hire every type, you should know the different kinds of editors so you can select the best person to help you.

            Developmental Editing

            This is the big picture, large-scope editing. A developmental editor will not be looking for misspelled words or misplaced commas. They probably won’t even comment on them. Rather, they will be reading your book for organization and overall presentation.

            Here are some points a developmental editor will correct:

            • Problems with flow
            • Awkward dialogue
            • Poor pacing
            • Holes in the plot
            • Any inconsistencies

            Expect a good developmental editor to pick apart your book for overall flaws and ask some probing questions. Most likely he will point things out you haven’t noticed because you’re too close to the work. This process should be the equivalent of a good writing course in college, because you will learn so much.

            Line editing

            A line editor gets her name because she looks at each line of your book, each sentence, and analyzes it to determine if it works. She will look for errors, but she will also point out when a sentence can be tightened a bit. In addition, she will have attention on the overall flow of the manuscript.

            Here are examples of areas a line editor will work with you to fix:

            • Inconsistent verb tense
            • Overuse of a word
            • Awkward phrasing
            • Redundant words

            Your line editor will work with you to make sure each sentence belongs in your book and that the pacing of your story works. She will help ensure your reader continues to read your book through to the end.

            Copy editing

            There are different kinds of editorsA copy editor will do a light edit on your book, giving it that polish so that it sings. He reviews your manuscript and makes sure it’s accurate, cohesive and readable. This editor is very detail-oriented and knows the various (and latest) rules of grammar. Most are trained in a few styles.

            A copy editor will fix:

            • Spelling
            • Grammar
            • Punctuation
            • Factual errors
            • Blatant inconsistencies

            A copy editor will find and help you repair most of the errors, but keep in mind that he won’t catch them all. You’ll need to also hire a proofreader.

            Proofreading

            This is the final stage in your book writing process. Just before you’re ready to publish, a proofreader will review your manuscript and give you feedback on spelling, grammar, formatting, etc. At this point, they are really looking for typos or any little detail that isn’t quite right.

            If you’re self-publishing, it isn’t wise to simply hire a proofreader, as they will not help you discover errors in continuity, flow, character development or anything of substance.

            Now, having delineated all these different kinds of editors, I must say that in practical use, these roles can blur a little. For instance, a line editor will sometimes throw out suggestions that technically fall into the developmental editing category. Or a proofreader will sometimes add his or her two cents about the flow of your book.

            As a writer, it’s important to know which kind of editor will best assist you with your writing project. It’s easier for you to hire the best person for the job if you know what you need.

            If you would like help finding an editor, please let me know.

            Here are a few related articles that you might enjoy:

            How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

            Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

            Help! Help! I Need Help Writing a Book!

            Learn to Become a Ghostwriter

            How to Edit Your Own Book