You Don’t Want to Do the Writing: 7 Points to Consider when Hiring a Ghostwriter

The year I started working as a ghostwriter, I went to see Roman Polanski film The theghostwriter2010Ghost Writer.

It didn’t receive great reviews. In fact, it was given 83 percent on the Rotten Tomato meter.  I quite liked it, given that it related to my new career. Without retelling the whole story, the primary message I took away from it was a ghost (writer) shouldn’t become ‘too familiar’ with their clients. Number one no-no! The ghost began probing too deeply into his client’s political affairs to find out why the previous ghost died, and unfortunately, he met his own demise in the end. Maybe that’s why it won a Rotten Tomato award. It seemed too far-fetched.

But given a personal experience I had with one of my first clients, I do ardently believe there should always be a healthy distance between client and ghost. Depending on the project, we do have to work quite closely with the client. But apart from how the client-ghost relationship goes, a ghostwriter can help you prosper with your project. There are many advantages to hiring one. I’ll cover a few of them here.

1. Wordsmiths.  If words don’t always come easy for you, a good ghostwriter should be a master wordsmith. Having a love for words and finding the most effective ones for your story are essential. As the ghost in The Ghost Writer says to his new client, “I interview you. I turn your answers in the prose.”

2. Story’s purpose/goal. A ghostwriter should be asking at the onset, “What do you want to achieve with your story?” Mass distribution through self or traditional publishing? For family and friend or work? Not only should he or she hold the vision for the highest outcome of your story, but be able to guide you on how to make it happen. 

3. Authentic voice. A ghostwriter will write your thoughts in the most authentic and articulate way without losing your cadence, diction and tone.  I had a client who was writing a spiritual book with a specific message. At first I was being a bit hard-edged about the grammar and sentence structures. After a while, I realized that by focusing too much on the technical, I was disrupting the rhythmic flow of his use of language. We spent a couple of hours, working through it and we laughed about it, which definitely made moving forward easier.

4. Discretion is also important feature when finding a ghostwriter. We are your invisible partner, which means we are unseen to your readers, clients, family or friends. You are the one to shine, as many of the celebrities, politicians and executives who use ghostwriters.  A non-disclosure agreement is usually signed between client and ghostwriter.

5. Chemistry is crucial. When working with a ghost, it is a personal relationship in a professional way. You are working closely with each other for a period of time. It’s good that there is chemistry there in order for the both of you to collaborate well without, of course, crossing personal boundaries.

6. Fee Schedule. A ghostwriter should not take all your money upfront. I’ve heard many stories of ghosts taking their client’s money, but there’s no accountability on their part: they don’t produce the end result you discussed, or the project drags on indefinitely. There should be a discussion about setting milestones and setting up a fee schedule.

7. Editing. Sometimes the cost of hiring a ghostwriter is way beyond your budget. It is in the thousands and depends upon the number of words/pages. Most people underestimate the hard work that goes into writing for someone else, because there are misconceptions about the craft of writing to begin with. I encourage people to make an attempt to do the writing themselves first. In fact, I prefer it, because at least what they are thinking is already on paper. I have a visual of what they want to say and where the story is going. I can provide advice on how to develop their story, and if they plan on publishing it, I can help them form their book’s structure and give it a good editing. Usually traditional publishers have an editor, but it helps that the copy is fairly ‘clean’ before the editor gets a hold of it.

Wishing you the best of success with your writing,

Sherree

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