If you’re browsing the internet looking for a ghostwriter, you are probably curious about the process. What am I signing up for anyway? Through my blog, I do my best to clarify all aspects of the ghostwriting (and writing) process so that this subject no longer is a mystery for authors looking for help. This particular article zeroes in on the steps I take when someone reaches out to me to write their book. I’ve been a ghostwriter for over twenty years, so I thought it made sense to share my ghostwriting process with you. That way there are no surprises.
If you’re interested in hiring me as your ghostwriter, your first step will be to fill in my online form below. I will reply via email with a few questions to learn more about you and your project. We will need to discuss several key elements. Although each client is unique, various aspects of my ghostwriting process hold true for any project.
Here are some points you might address in your initial query:
- The content of your book
- The word count you desire
- Your proposed budget
- The deadline for the project
When it comes to selecting a project to take on, you should know that I prefer to work on uplifting fictional stories, inspiring memoirs, or nonfiction material that will help others in some way. Though I would be lost writing a steamy romance novel, I do love writing a variety of fiction. Memoirs are my favorite genre; I’ve written dozens over the last two decades. I also really enjoy writing prescriptive (how-to) nonfiction. My ghostwriting process is essentially the same for any genre.
After this email exchange, if I feel that I could possibly become your ghostwriter, I will offer you a free 30-minute consultation. That initial phone call is important so we can both be sure we’d make a good writing team.
Our initial interview
I recommend that you begin by writing down a list of questions you might have for our initial conversation. We can discuss these so that you have a better understanding of how things work. There are no strings attached. I’ll give you this time for free. Honestly, I want to help you whether you hire me or not.
We will discuss your project in greater detail than we had in our email exchange. However, this isn’t the time to pour out all the details of the story to me. That will come later. Just summarize for now.
I will also want to discuss your goals for this book. As a heads-up, if your primary objective is to make a lot of money, you’ll need a top-notch marketing plan. It’s tough to make a profit as a first-time author, but it helps if you have an existing avenue for selling a book. For instance, if you have a strong online presence, a large mailing list, and an existing store, you’re in a good position to sell your book. Amazon only works if you support your book with one or more of the above tools.
Most of my clients aren’t interested in turning a profit; instead, they have a strong desire to simply publish a book within their lifetime. They have a powerful message they wish to share and feel they can do some good for others. Most aren’t looking to make money or recover their expenses. And some only wish to share their story with close friends and family.
Your goals are important to me. Part of my ghostwriting process is making your goals my own and ensuring they are met.
Signing my contract
I work on a first-come-first-serve basis. Once you and I have determined that I’m your ghostwriter, the next step will be for you to read over my contract, sign it, and send it back to me with the first payment.
I structure the payments so that you pay the total fee in four installments, each due before the work is to be done. The four milestones are:
- The research and outlining phase
- The first half of the first draft
- The second half of the first draft
- The final draft
You and I will determine the milestone deadlines. Each milestone usually takes me three months to complete. Depending on the project, sometimes the research and outlining phase might take a few more months.
It is important to put all our agreements in writing before we start your book so that you and I are clear about the arrangement throughout the project.
Researching your project
When I begin to research your project, I like to collect most of the information in writing. Once I have a foundational understanding of your story, my ghostwriting process will include asking a lot of questions via email. Your answers will allow me to establish a written voice for you. I will also need to speak to you on the phone. By listening to your words and how you phrase things, I gain a deeper insight into how you use language.
I realize that some clients are not confident in their writing ability. So if you are more comfortable chatting with me on the phone, I’ll adjust my ghostwriting process to meet your needs. Although I have my preferences, the client’s needs always trump that.
It’s worth noting that I must also do my own independent research to gain the information needed to write your story. That’s an important part of my ghostwriting process. For instance, if you’re writing a memoir about your time in Hungary in the 50s, I would comb the internet for historical accounts of that time. Or if I’m writing about the ins and outs of running a chain of restaurants, I’d need to make sure I understand the subject well enough to portray it realistically and accurately.
Outlining your book
Once I have most of the information needed, I’ll put together an outline for you. This will act as our roadmap for our project. The format of this outline varies from client to client, depending on the needs of the author. Some prefer that I summarize the story in a few pages, while others prefer a table of contents outline. Sometimes I use my own technique, where I delineate all the incidents that will form a novel or memoir. I’ve found this to be a workable system since any story is really a series of events.
I feel strongly that the outlining phase is an integral part of my ghostwriting process and contributes greatly to the success of any project. Honestly, it would be a waste of your money if I were to move forward without your agreement as to how the book will be structured and what the precise content would be. I’m not one to drive down a remote road for many miles, unsure if I’m traveling in the correct direction.
Writing the first draft
Writing your first draft is the most time-consuming segment of my ghostwriting process. As mentioned earlier, I divide this phase into two milestones. That means, if you hire me to write a 200-page book (which is approximately 50,000 words), I’ll deliver 25,000 words to you for the second milestone, and the final 25,000 as the third.
While some ghostwriters will only deliver the complete first half of the first draft at the end of that phase, I prefer to get feedback along the way. I wish to consult with you as I write to be sure that you approve of the pieces. This avoids unpleasant surprises.
Editing your manuscript
Once I have completed the first draft, I will collect all your notes about what you like and don’t like. Then, after I incorporate your changes, I’ll work to polish the manuscript. This is an internal phase of my ghostwriting process, one that doesn’t involve you as much. I need to read over your book a few times, making adjustments to flow, continuity, and style with each read.
Once I’m finished with my edits, I’ll hire an outside editor to do a comprehensive review. I feel strongly that objective eyes should always look at your book before I turn it in as a final draft.
My editor will need at least four weeks with your book. Once I get the notes back from her, she and I will discuss various points. I’ll ask questions and sometimes debate a few issues. But I will make the final call.
When I feel it is as perfect as it can be, I’ll submit the completed manuscript to you.
Although I don’t publish, I do know people who can help you prepare your manuscript for self-publication or write a killer proposal to land an agent. I will refer you to them if you wish.
Some people ask me if I have a secret backdoor to agents and publishers. I don’t. Anyone wishing to submit to an agent needs to apply through their official channels. There are no shortcuts.
Now, this is my ghostwriting process. Over the last twenty years, I’ve talked to several ghosts and have observed that each has a different way of handling the various steps of writing a book. Be sure to fully understand any ghostwriter’s process before you hire her. Ask questions and do some research to make sure the book you receive at the end of the undertaking fulfills all your goals.
If you’re interested in hiring me, please request a quote and I’ll get back to you within the day.
Check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter for more tips and advice on the subject.