The concept of ghostwriting makes perfect sense. It allows for those who have expertise in an area, but are not the most proficient writers, to express themselves in well honed, well written books and articles. It also allows for writers to make money behind the strengths of well known names, since celebrities and experts can sell books based on their name recognition and, or, expertise in a field.
Having ghosted several books and book proposals, I have found that the essence of a good ghostwriting experience is based on the pairing of expert and writer. The best ghostwriting teams are those in which both parties define their responsibilites and take an active role in the process, while respecting what each other brings to the table.
From the writer’s perspective, I’ve found some common characteristics that you will encounter in clients should you decide to go the ghostwriting route. Thus, I have listed a few of the characters with whom you may come in contact.
The Know It All
He or she is the expert in their field and you are the expert writer, right? Wrong. The Know It All will typically compliment you and your work, and then want to rewrite everything, line by line. Often, he or she will insist that you simply add a line, a phrase or a story that just ìhas to be included,î even if it has nothing to do with the actual premise of the book. Of course, they will be very nice about it, while steamrolling over everything you do.
In one instance, after working with an expert who kept changing everything I wrote, insisting on how things had to be, I told her that I would send her version and mine to the agent who had paired us up and ask which the agent thought was better. I did so, putting no names on the two sample chapters. The agent later called, responding, ìI hope yours was number two, because the first one didn’t make very much sense.î I confirmed that I had indeed written number two and asked that she relay the response to the expert.
Try to avoid the know-it-alls, unless you have plenty of headache medicine available.
The One Chapter Wonder
While these are marvelous people with whom to write an article, the one chapter wonder is someone who is convinced that he or she has a book in them, but in reality only has a chapter, maybe two. In some cases, there may be a possible book, but you need to flush out or research a lot more information. However, in most cases, this is someone who has some wonderful material that simply does not last beyond 10,000 words at the most.
There are many one-chapter wonders out there. They think they have a wealth of material for a marvelous book, but it wears thin very quickly. You can usually discover the one-chapter wonder while working on the proposal. It is here that he or she will start of with great ideas for the book, but when pressed to flush them out, will keep returning to the same theme and the same material repeated over and over again.
Try to steer one chapter wonders to articles rather than books. Otherwise, steer clear of these non-book authors.
The Endless Author Some people want to write books, but simply do not have the time to do so. In this case, they will either leave you with the bulk of information and make themselves available whenever necessary, or they will drag the project out and become an endless author. In fact, I once worked with a brilliant psychologist, who, after nearly twenty meetings, admitted that she really enjoyed the process but would probably never complete the project.
While it’s not a crime to take a long time to complete a book, you will at some point have to meet a deadline, or at least have an end in sight. You can work with this person, but you need to set up a schedule and stick to it.
The Ideal Expert So, what should you expect from a positive expert-ghostwriter pairing? First, you should always receive some money up front. If the expert cannot commit to paying something to get you started, then he or she is not going to commit to the project.
The ideal expert is someone who knows their responsibility – provides you with material, and lets you do your thing – write. The two of you should then review the material regularly so that he or she can include or delete accordingly and offer reasonable changes to the content. However, he or she should also yield to your better judgment when it comes to writing concerns or questions. Obviously personalities should click and the project should be a collaborative effort even though your name will not appear.
Yes, it can be done. I wrote one book with a Broadway producer, another with a retirement expert and one on motivational techniques with a real estate expert. These were all situations in which they we had mutual respect for one another and turned out products that we felt very good about.
Rich Mintzer is an author of over 35 books, ghostwriter for seven others and coaches writers on putting together first-rate book proposals. He also writes business articles for AllBusiness.com and Entrepreneur.com. Rich is currently living in Mount Kisco, New York, with his wife Carol, and their two teenagers, Eric and Rebecca.