The process of hiring a writing collaborator (ghostwriter) can be daunting—especially for first-time authors or those unwilling to impart personal or delicate subject matter or express controversial viewpoints.
Self-expression is intrinsic to the human fabric. As long as your message is significant to you and your target audience and easily understandable, you will be on your way to becoming an author.
Ghosts are very forthcoming in demystifying the process from the outset. The client and writer engage in a dialogue that involves open communication and conceptualization (either via email, phone interviews, or audio recordings). Some ghostwriters meet with their clients, but doing so is neither required nor always possible, owing to time, geographic constraints, and other commitments. And in today’s world, technology often renders in-person communications superfluous.
There are fundamental elements to hiring a ghostwriter. Those presented here, though not exhaustive, will hopefully serve as launching points.
(1) Trust—As in any relationship, trust is an essential ingredient. Entrusting the details of your story (e.g., a memoir or an autobiography) to a stranger may seem intimidating, but professional ghostwriters understand and empathize with their clients. No one is immune to life’s fluctuations, and as conduits of ideas and innovations, ghostwriters free their clients from the shackles of inhibition, uncertainty, and even pain. As such, the collaborative process is often cathartic for the client. Compassion and professionalism are not mutually exclusive, and at the core of the collaborative process is the human experience.
Frequently, ghostwriters comport themselves like psychologists who listen to, advise, and counsel their clients. Hand-holding is sometimes of the essence—a natural consequence of your creative collaboration. No matter what you want to discuss, know that the end product will reflect your voice, message, and mission.
Some ghostwriters may decline your request due to the subject matter. Do not be discouraged. This candid admission enables you to move forward and find the perfect ‘fit’ that will result in a successful collaboration. Once you connect with a ghostwriter, the magic begins.
(2) Preparedness—Although pre-prepared drafts and notes are not necessary, they can be helpful. Professional ghostwriters are highly skilled in composing texts from scratch, so you don’t have to struggle with the written word at all.
However, it is essential to approach your ghostwriter with an idea. By no means must the concept be fully developed, but it should at least be generalized and susceptible to elaboration over time. Typically, your ghostwriter will assist in crafting an outline—your focal point of organization and inspiration.
Envision your target audience—those individuals who would most benefit from, enjoy, and relate to your message. Keep them in mind throughout the process and allow your expressions to flow. When you write about what you know, your work develops and becomes more relatable.
When dialoguing with your ghostwriter, avoid the dreaded monosyllable. ‘Yes’ and ‘no’ answers may sometimes be appropriate, but excessively cursory responses are static and only go so far in the creative process. A book produced from finite phrases or thoughts does not entirely reflect your purpose and wastes time as your ghostwriter embarks on a fishing expedition.
(3) Subject-matter Expertise— Select a ghostwriter with a proven history in the genre of your choice. For example, if you want to write a sci-fi novel, your choice of a memoirist might not be apt. But most ghostwriters have aptitudes across a wide range of subjects. Your comfort level and the ghostwriter’s ability to conform to your chosen style are paramount, as is your willingness to impart your desired message.
(4) Consistency of Communication—Once you decide to sign on with a ghostwriter, you make a steadfast commitment—throughout the process to completion. Ghostwriters don’t appear and disappear on a whim, and neither should the client. Doing so halts the project’s momentum, generates confusion and wastes the ghostwriter’s time and resources. Diligence and tenacity are of the essence for all involved.
(5) Timely payments—Ghostwriting fees vary and depend on the writing collaborator’s experience level. The magnitude and complexity of the work also determine rates.
The client must be ready, willing, and able to remit timely payments and adhere to the guidelines set forth in the ghostwriter’s contract. Failure to comply results in a material breach and termination of the agreement, with additional terms and penalties imposed in some instances. Therefore, before commencing a project, follow protocol meticulously and be sure that you are prepared to proceed in all respects.
Most of all, enjoy the journey and unleash the truth of who you are. Become a change agent, be aspirational, make a difference!
Copyright © Gabriella Gafni, 2021. All rights reserved.