Ghostwriting is quite common in the publishing industry. While true authors-the ones who have dreamed of being authors since childhood and write regularly-would never consider hiring a ghostwriter because they love to write, many other would-be authors don’t really feel passionate about writing; however, they may want to produce a book either because they want to tell their stories (write their autobiography or memoir), they have information they want to share, or they feel having a book will give them the extra authority as an expert to build their business or public speaking career.
These reasons are all valid and good ones for hiring a ghostwriter. However, the wrong ghostwriter can lead to disastrous results for an author. Pick up almost any celebrity’s book and you can guarantee that it has been ghostwritten, and usually, the result is a mediocre book that may have some interest but little passion or energy to it. If you’re going to hire a ghostwriter, you want your book to be as good as possible so there’s much to consider before you spend time and energy letting someone else tell your story for you.
First, before deciding to hire a ghostwriter, consider how likely the ghostwriter will be to make your book actually sound like you. Your personality needs to show through in the book. You want the book to reflect who you truly are so when your readers meet you in public or at speaking events, they are meeting the person they met in the pages of your book. That means that your book’s tone and grammar should match how you speak, your sense of humor, and your viewpoints and opinions.
Also, consider that even if someone else is going to write the book for you, ghostwriting will still take up a great deal of your time and energy because that person needs to know a lot about you to write your book effectively. You will need to spend time discussing your vision of what the book will be, how it should be organized, what main points you want the book to convey to your readers, and you will need to provide documents or oral information to the ghostwriter for the book’s content. You may already have resources such as handouts, charts, or articles written that you can provide the ghostwriter-these will vary depending upon whether you are having your biography, autobiography, self-help, business book, or novel ghostwritten. Even so, the ghostwriter will need to spend a lot of time communicating with you on the phone and through email.
In my opinion, the best ghostwriters are willing to spend significant time talking to the author in person or on the phone. The author and ghostwriter should make regular appointments to discuss the book’s material-perhaps one phone call per book chapter. The ghostwriter can record the conversation and take notes, then write up the chapter, and give it to the author to read and then the author can make his or her own changes or later discuss possible changes with the ghostwriter. The benefit of talking with the ghostwriter throughout the process is multiple: the ghostwriter becomes familiar with how the author speaks and his or her tone so that tone carries through into the book, with the ghostwriter making the book sound the way the author would ideally write it himself. Speaking together also allows the ghostwriter to clarify immediately anything that is unclear or vague.
After the rough draft of a chapter or the entire book is written, the ghostwriter can also ask the author questions for things he forgot or realizes he doesn’t know how to explain. The process‘ first goal should be to create a rough draft of the entire book, but the ghostwriter and author should also then be willing to go back and forth in editing the book as well.
Remember that a ghostwriter is not necessarily an editor. In many ways, a ghostwriter is like an enhanced secretary who is taking dictation or piecing together information. An author may want to hire an editor once the book’s rough draft is completed so someone else not involved in the creation process can look at the book with fresh eyes. Furthermore, many ghostwriters are not really qualified to edit books because they don’t have the disciplined background to look for inconsistencies, and after spending time working with the author, the ghostwriter may no longer be looking closely at what is on the page to see whether it makes sense because he understands what the author means to say after hours of their discussing the subject together.
One of the biggest mistakes authors make with ghostwriters is to try to rush a book by hiring more than one ghostwriter to write different chapters. It’s important that a book have a consistent tone and style throughout. Not all ghostwriters are created equal. You might find one’s style and tone is closer to what you want than another’s. You might also find that your ghostwriter can’t do the job and leaves you with half a book that another ghostwriter must pick up and finish. For this reason again, you may want to hire an editor to do a consistent job of editing the book for you.
Even after the rough draft is completed, the author should do as much rewriting of the book as needed. Remember, no one is going to tell your story as well as you, and no one will care about your book as much as you do. Even if you only write a page a day, after a year, you can easily have a book written and you might be happier with the end result than if you hire someone to ghostwrite for you.
If you do decide to hire a ghostwriter, spend time interviewing the ghostwriter closely and check the person’s references to make sure he or she is qualified to do the work and will follow through on the project. Don’t be afraid to ask to see other books the person has ghostwritten. In some cases, authors may not want to acknowledge the ghostwriter so there are confidentiality issues, but the ghostwriter should still be able to provide some references. By the same token, consider whether you will credit the ghostwriter as the book’s co-author-which will reveal you are not the true or at least sole author-or whether you need the ghostwriter to sign a confidentiality notice for you.
Finally, don’t forget that all the time you would spend on writing a book is time the ghostwriter will spend, and that time needs to be compensated for adequately. You’re still going to spend a lot of time working with the ghostwriter although it will probably take you hundreds of hours less than if you wrote the book yourself. That said, if you wrote your own book, you wouldn’t have any costs for the writing. Ghostwriting a book can take several months, usually three to six for an average-sized (250-page) book. No qualified ghostwriter will quote you a full price upfront for the entire project because of how hard it is to calculate how much time it will take, so you are probably going to pay an hourly rate. Even the cheapest qualified ghostwriter is going to charge you about $ 25 an hour, and it’s rare to imagine any book worth writing taking less than several hundred hours, which means you’re looking at thousands of dollars to hire someone to ghostwrite the book, and that’s not counting later hiring someone to do the editing.
What is worth more to you? The time or the dollar investment? Will the book enhance your business enough that you can view paying the ghostwriter as an investment that will produce greater income for you down the road? Is the book going to sell enough copies to make it worth your while to pay a ghostwriter, or if you look at it another way, is the ghostwriter going to make your book more marketable so you can sell more copies, therefore, making it worth the investment?
Think long and hard before you hire a ghostwriter. You may not be a great writer, but if you can commit to the time of writing the book, an editor can help you reorganize and reshape it and save you money over what you would pay the ghostwriter. Still, a good ghostwriter can make a huge difference in the quality of your book. Don’t jump into hiring any ghostwriter, but do your research and consider all the pros and cons before you decide whether you will write your own book or have it ghostwritten.
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