Working with a Ghostwriter

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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, because each writing relationship is unique. Having said that, I can pull out a few commonalities to most projects that could help you plan a bit.

Settle on a ghostwriter, sign a contract, and pay them a down payment

working with a ghostwriterInterview 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.

It’s rarely a good idea to pay a ghostwriter the entire fee upfront. It can be 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 before they can begin writing (I request 25%). The first segment is always the most time consuming because it includes the outlining and research phase.

Provide your ghostwriter with all the research information

working with a ghostwriter to provide informationWhen 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 business book).

You may be wondering, “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 your book’s information! 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.

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 need 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 the course of the story.

By the time you get through this initial 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

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

There is no “standard” ghostwriting deal

Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

18 Comments

  1. Cindy Church

    Hi Laura,
    I’m in the process of writing my memoir – a unique love story that spans a continent and generations. My dilemma is – although wanting the story to stay true to the characters involved, I also want to show empathy and compassion for those that may be shocked with what I have to reveal. Have you come across this problem with memoirs? I’ve tossed around every scenario I can think of from just focusing on the two main characters and hardly bring others into the story to switching to a novel and tweaking the facts. I’d be interested to hear what you think and if you could point me to an article or blog that might help me. I want to tell my story and I made a promise that I would. I also would like to write it myself with maybe some coaching. Thanks, Laura!

    Reply
    • Laura Sherman

      Dear Cindy,

      I completely understand the dilemma. I would suggest changing the names (and maybe a few of the characteristics) to protect the people mentioned in your book. You can also opt to turn it into a novel based on a true story. Either way, with a memoir, it is OK to tweak the facts a bit to turn it into a good story. the reader will forgive you for that! Good luck with your project!

      Reply
  2. Patricia Callesano

    Hi Laura,
    I am in my 60’s and want to write a book about Dementia/Alzheimer’s through my eyes. My mom suffered with this illness for 8 years. I have no idea how to start, can you help.
    Thank you
    Pat

    Reply
    • Laura Sherman

      It was a pleasure to connect with you. I look forward to our phone chat in a few weeks!

      Reply
  3. Tracey

    I come from a interesting family and was one of the first women in construction. I am a mother of Triplet sons (26) found out my 29 year marriage was over when I found out my husband had a second family 25 miles away. I’m curious is this is even a interesting enough story to look for a ghost writer. My childhood is also different than most

    Reply
    • Laura Sherman

      Hi! I just wrote you privately and look forward to hearing back! Thanks!

      Reply
  4. Vi Lam

    Hi Laura, I am 48. I need someone to write my life story. I don’t understand you said I need to prepare work and research. Can I not just do interviews and tell my story? Why I need research cause it’s my real life story?

    Thanks
    Vi

    Reply
    • Laura Sherman

      Dear Vi, Thank you for your question! It’s a very good one. When working on a memoir with a ghostwriter, the research information might come in the form of a diary or articles. Prior research isn’t a requirement, but many people have notes. You are correct that the majority of the research will come from interviews! However, when I wrote this article, I was really referring to the nonfiction author, writing a how-to book, where research is key to the book. Thanks for taking the time to write!

      Reply
  5. Andrea

    Hello laura i am looking to get a book out about my life I’m22 in need of some assistance please help.

    Reply
    • Laura Sherman

      Thanks for reaching out! I will write to you privately and look forward to your response!

      Reply
  6. Georgia B

    I totally agree that you need to review and respond to your ghostwriter in a timely manner. If you are expecting the ghostwriter to get back to you quickly, then it’s really only fair that you respond to them just as fast. I also really like your tip of allowing one revision per segment because it keeps things very manageable.

    Reply
    • Laura Sherman

      Thank you! I’m glad my article was of help to you!

      Reply
  7. KL Sabin

    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

    Reply
    • Laura Sherman

      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!

      Reply
  8. Valerie Raphael

    I need heap getting my very interesting tru story out…pls contact me. Thank u.

    Reply
    • Laura Sherman

      Thanks for reaching out! Please email me your phone number so that we can chat!

      Reply
  9. Grant McDuling

    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.

    Reply
  10. Ebook Writing Service

    Writing is always exciting but as ghostwriter it is always challenging and need thorough research. Excellent post.

    Reply

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