Flick over to the ‘meet the ghosts’ section of the United Ghostwriters website and you’ll find 15 highly capable, hugely experienced, friendly ghostwriters. Plug in ‘ghostwriter’ into your favourite search engine and you’ll find dozens more ghosts offering to write your book. It might all seem a little overwhelming. How do you choose between us all? Trusting another person to bring your book to life is such an important, possibly life changing, decision. You don’t want to make a mistake.
A word that is bandied around a lot in the ghosting business is ‘chemistry’, as in the ghost and author need to just ‘click’ together to make it a great collaboration. But chemistry is not always an easy thing to judge, certainly early on, when you are weighing up your choices. Also, chemistry is hard to pin down during an initial telephone call, or even email, which is how a lot of authors will approach ghostwriters in the first instance. So what are the other important clues that you are on the right track in picking your ghost?
As with any big decision, due diligence is required, and it should begin even before that initial call. Since the onus is usually on the author to find the most suitable writing partner, I would suggest that the search begins with a detailed perusal of sites like this. You will find links to our individual websites and social media feeds, and should follow through to look at individual writers in more detail.
In the hunt for the perfect ghost, previous experience is important. Most skilled ghostwriters can turn their hands to pretty much any subject, but it is helpful to delve into what they’ve done in the past. An author who has a background as a captain of industry might prefer to work with a writer who understands the business world and is comfortable with what happens during takeovers and mergers and can read a balance sheet. Someone who has a dramatic story that involves some sort of loss might want to consider a ghost who has experience in the sensitive telling of such tales. If the author is a celebrity who is very glamorous or well connected, they may well seek out a ghost who is familiar with all the names they will be dropping.
To take this one step further, let me add something from a ghost’s point of view in respect to experience. Ghosts tend to stick to the subjects they enjoy. I mainly accept commissions in the business and biography sector, because I like writing this type of book. I occasionally take on work in other areas if I feel inspired by the story, but the important part of all of this is: I will become fully immersed in the subject because I love writing about it. When a writer enjoys a story, rest assured they will be fully committed to writing the best possible book. This is why it is worth taking the time to look at a ghost’s previous work. Like many ghosts, I list a few of my books on my website. If you want to take a read, cross-check them with Amazon and use their ‘Look Inside’ feature.
Another part of the due diligence process is to consider geography. Authors and ghosts will need to meet on a regular basis for interviews, at least in the early part of the process. If the author lives in Aberdeen and the ghost in St Ives, pure logistics will be a consideration. Distance does not need to be a deal-breaker; I have done books with authors all over the world and so have my colleagues. But it does bear thinking about, not least because it will add time and expense to the project.
When author and ghost first speak, it’s useful to remember that both parties will be sounding each other out. This is not a one way process. Yes, ghosts are writers for hire, but we need to fully commit to the projects we take on, too. It can take up to six months to write a book. If a ghost isn’t interested in the subject, or doesn’t feel a connection with the author, they’re unlikely to commit to a collaboration.
During the getting-to-know-you conversation, authors should briefly outline who they are, what book they’d like to write and why they think they are the best person to put their name to this book. If the ghost feels it is something they may be able to help with, they will outline their relevant experience and explain a little about the process. This is a good time to discuss ballpark figures for the cost of completing the book. It’s impossible for any ghost to give a concrete quote there and then, since there are many variables involved that will not emerge during this tentative discussion. However, the ghost can explain that, say, the last biography they did for a similar client cost in the region of X. This part of the discussion is very important for both sides. If the ballpark figure is completely out of the question, then the author can move on to find a ghost more suited to their budget. Neither party will have wasted the other’s time.
If the conversation progresses, and begins to get into more detail, authors will begin to get a sense of whether or not they would feel comfortable telling their story to this ghost. Mutual trust is a very important part of a ghosting relationship. Authors need to weigh up whether they have complete faith that this writer really knows what they are doing. They also need to be fully satisfied their ghost can produce a book that reflects what they’ve got to say and is a compelling read too.
One more important consideration for both sides is: will it be fun? Do both parties feel the other will be interesting to work with? It’s not a lifetime commitment, but co-writers do need to spend time together and, depending upon the story, it can all be quite intense at times. It will make a big, and potentially hugely damaging, difference if either party begins to dread the moment the other one walks through the door.
Any ghostwriting collaboration involves a bit of a leap of faith from both sides. However, if everyone does their due diligence carefully, there is a lot more of a chance that the match will be good.
Teena Lyons publishes regular blogs on all things ghostly at www.professionalghost.com