Book Ghost Writing as a Process
By Karen Cole
It’s an interesting relationship between a book ghost writer and her client, the book author. The client has the original ideas for the work, and the ghost writer is there to bring them to full fruition. In other words, they work on the book together, with the book ghost writer being a professional who does most of the actual writing of the book, while the client only assists with the ideas.
Well, not exactly. There’s more to it than that. In fact, the client or original book author is an integral part of the process, and in fact is writing his own book through the book ghost writer. Book ghost writing is a process, which I’m going to try to break down for you my way, fine-tune experienced after over a decade of book ghost writing. It begins with the client, and is finished through the work of the ghost writer.
The client starts the process, after contacting and hiring the ghost writer, by signing a book ghost writing contract with the writer outlining everything important, such as the legal rights of both parties, who exactly keeps the copyrights, who gets the credit for the book or shares it, etc. Then the client makes a small deposit, such as $5,000 to start, for keeping the professional writer’s time open to work on the book. This can be a completely non-refundable deposit, or half of it can be refundable under certain circumstances, such as the client cancelling the project or the book ghost writer being unable to begin work on it.
Once the project begins, a great first step is for the client to create a book outline and a time line laying out the book’s contents in chronological order. These documents can be sketchy at first, worked on more and filled out later, even being expanded into a table of contents as a further guide for working on the manuscript. Each document only needs to be about one page long. They engrave nothing in concrete, and each can be altered to suit the needs of the overall project.
Next, emails containing attachments in Word or Word Perfect documents, and in my case I prefer to work in Word, are exchanged between the client and the writer. The client starts this by typing out from the beginning of the book until the end, in gradual stages as needed, the book’s contents as envisioned. This can be added to later, and fully edited and rewritten by the ghost writer. Basically, the client at least needs to lay out the ideas of the book as expressed by him, and then flesh them out somewhat for the writer to have material from which to work.
The book ghost writer can do light to heavy research and add related new material by using the resources of the Internet and the local library system. The emails and phone calls between both parties assist the professional writer in shaping, creating, editing, rewriting, proofreading and fully completing the book manuscript. Along the way, the client or book author shares ideas, tells the book ghost writer how he wants his manuscript laid out and written, gives the writer details of the book, and supplies more general ideas and guidelines about the book’s materials.
It is best if the client sends all of the actual information to be worked on with his ghost writer in several email attachments, rather than sending them over the phone or in the bodies of emails as written copy. Some background materials can be on real paper, but generally ghost writers can’t work from handwritten notes, and while some ghost writers use scanners and can scan in typed documents, it’s easier to already have the documents in electronic format. MS Word is the most common software.
Phone calls can be made on a regular basis; you can also arrange Skype conferences and IM or instant message meetings. It’s best for a book ghost writer to always have written records, albeit electronic ones, of everything, so I try to avoid phone calls except for using them for info about the project, not the project itself, or to bring each other up on what’s going on in general. I like to have everything in emails and attachments whenever possible. It’s something solid and reliable in front of me, which I can check on all throughout the project.
The client basically lays out the book’s ideas and overall structure, and the ghost writer fleshes everything out and edits it into a professional, readable, polished book, also properly formatting the manuscript and preparing it to be presented to a literary agent and then a commercial, independent, boutique or self-publisher. The book ghost writer may only ghost write the work in progress, and a separate copy editor and even a separate proof reader may be hired to go over the finished manuscript; or the ghost writer may offer included editing and proof reading services. I do this myself when I ghost write, including the price of editing and proofing the manuscript within the overall book ghost writing price. However, if you can afford this, it’s always wise to hire another outside book editor for a second set of eyes.
The client may ask questions or raise concerns with the book ghost writer at any time during the book ghost writing project. This should be encouraged by any professional writer in order to facilitate the process of creating a solid, well thought out and well written manuscript that reads smoothly, has few typographical or other errors, has been thoroughly fact checked by both parties, and is otherwise ready to present to an agent and then a publisher. The writer’s job is to help the client, the original book author, to craft a book that reads if needed as though it was written by the author client, or at least one that reads professionally well. The ghost writer may work in either the client’s voice, which should come through in the client’s original writing, or in her own voice if the book author doesn’t mind some added creativity in the process.
Also, credit for the work may be shared, with the book ghost writer’s name being featured on the cover under the famous “As told to…” method underneath the book author client’s name. Or the ghost writer can be not mentioned, with all credit, royalties and success going to the author client. In either case, the advance payment made to the professional writer is her main resource, as the thrust of writing a book for someone else is to make a living at helping you to produce your book project. The writer deserves the relatively high pay, as the book project often lasts from three to six months or longer, and the client is supposed to receive a well written, beautiful, awesome new book, one which hopefully will sell to its selected markets.
At our company, we have many resources at our disposal which involve assisting you in finding an agent and publishing your book, and methods for marketing, promoting and selling your book. We can also guide you to our partners and other networks outside our company which will assist you in arranging book advertising and sales. You may already have business or personal sources you can also use to promote sales.
One last thing: remember that you aren’t writing a book only for yourself, or even just your family and friends. You’re creating a wonderful work of art for both its readers and your long-term posterity, so you should aim for capably reaching out to its audience. Keep your readers forever in mind, trying very hard to write more for them than merely for you, your dreams and your book ghost writer.