When working with a publisher, what had been considered a pretty much completed manuscript can often be anything but. Instead of the occasional polish here and there, and perhaps slight rearrangement of text, there can be such a long list of demands that for the ghostwriter who wrote it – or author, if not employing the services of a ghost – it can feel like working on an entirely new manuscript.
That’s undoubtedly overstating it – much of the originally submitted text will remain in some form, but the requested changes affect the flow and rhythm of language on the page, and can sometimes take the story in an entirely different direction. Some of the wanted alterations can appear odd to say the least, and may need challenging, while others make perfect sense and serve to strengthen the manuscript.
It can, at times, feel like a kick in the guts, but providing the resulting book looks great, with the potential to record impressive sales, any trace of ego on either side simply has to go out of the window. It’s important to consider that, if the book is written by a ghost, there are three parties involved – the publisher, ghost and author, who will, of course, want to have some input into the process – it’s their story, after all, and when it hits the market, they will naturally want to be proud of the book with their name stamped across its front.
Sometimes compromise is required from all parties but, ultimately, it’s the publisher which will have the final say on what’s released. The publisher is the one taking the greatest risk in selecting a project out of the hundreds – perhaps even thousands – it receives each year. And as unjust as it may seem to the person whose story it is, once a manuscript has been sold, it isn’t really the client’s anymore – it becomes a shared enterprise in which both parties have an interest. And the ghostwriter is the third party, there to make sure that both author and publisher are happy.
Many people choose self-publishing over a more traditional publishing route because they won’t have to compromise their story in any way, shape or form, and will have full control over the publishing process. It can be a very good way to proceed for many; but what they’ll miss out on, if they’re lucky enough to have a good design, editorial and legal team on their side, are the benefits of a professional outfit which wants the very best outcome for all of its titles. Which is why, for all of the frustrations of seemingly endless rewrites, a traditional publishing route will, in many people’s eyes, be the way to go.
Spencer Honniball is a screenwriter, author and ghostwriter whose latest ghostwritten book, The Home, will be published by Ebury in 2019.