So you want to write a book—but you’re so busy that you need to have it ghostwritten to get it done. You have some money set aside, so you ask around, do some web searching and start talking to a few people. You might even be thinking that once you hire the ghostwriter, you can hand them an outline—maybe direct them to your blog and a few other resources and they can just run with it. Pony up the money, hand over some written material, and in a few months you’ll get your book done, right? Not so fast.
The Vulcan Mind Meld from Star Trek hasn’t been perfected yet, so having someone else translate the vague ideas in your head into readable prose isn’t that simple. With the right chemistry, however, great things can happen! You just have to make sure that you have the correct ingredients. In my years as a ghostwriter, both for blogs and books, I’ve found that the right mix between ghostwriter and author is comprised of three essential elements: Connection, Collaboration and Commitment, and they should apply equally to both parties. So let’s dive in and explore them.
Connection: It will be virtually impossible to get a true representation of your vision in book form unless you have some skin in the game (and no, I’m not just talking about paying someone). You really need to develop a rapport with that person—hence the first “C” in my book-writing formula, Connection.
I’ve known some authors who have gone through nightmares with ghostwriters—trying several (and wasting lots of time and money) before either giving up or settling on the “right” one. There are a few things you need to think about when searching for a great match.
Start with your circle of influence
A good ghostwriter is like a writing partner—and when you’re looking for someone to partner with, the last place you want to look is the Yellow Pages, right? Many publishers offer ghostwriting as part of their packages, and you could do well to research there, but ask around your circle of influence first. Ask for some recommendations, because you’ll want to get an idea of the kind of experience others have had with a writer. Don’t know any peers who have written books? Do some research on LinkedIn and reach out to authors in your niche to ask them for ideas.
Ask the right questions
It pays to do a deep dive once you find a few recommendations—and that goes beyond looking for examples of what the writer has written. What kind of experience do they have writing in your particular area of expertise? When you talk to them about your project, do you get a sense that you think alike? What exterior/peer connections do you share? Do your due diligence and get to know the person. You’ll be working closely with them for a few months, so it will pay to know that they’re on the same page with you and understand your vision.
Collaboration: Establishing connection is just the first part of the process. The lynchpin, in my opinion is a collaborative mindset. If you’ve never written a book before, it’s important that you value the writing effort and the process your partner will be putting into the project. And this is a two-way street. They need to understand your strengths and what you’re bringing to the table as well. Both of you need to be clear when it comes to identifying your audience, what each party is responsible for and laying out your time schedule or the whole arrangement falls apart.
Getting these things clear up front and working them into your agreement will save time and aggravation—but also understand that stuff happens. Monkey wrenches have a habit of hopping into big writing projects, so be aware that you’ll need to stay flexible.
Commitment: Collaboration might be the lynchpin of this formula, but only commitment on both your part and your writer’s will see your project through to publication. In my mind, commitment comes at every stage of the book. That means committing to:
- Your audience: Both of you need to understand your audience well enough to ensure that what you’re writing will resonate with them and engage them. Work together to create “ideal reader personas” for your main audience segments. This will help you target your writing and also your marketing.
- The cost: First-time authors often underestimate how much it will cost to get your book written, but agreement on price isn’t everything. Both of you need to commit the time necessary to see your project through. As an author, keep in mind that you also need to factor in your marketing costs before, during and after publication.
- Your schedule: Both of you are essentially committing to each other for this project; but due to those monkey wrenches I mentioned earlier, it’s easy for your ideal schedule to get blown. However, don’t let that discourage you. Commit to getting it done, and work through the hurdles (collaboration comes in handy here!). Work out your timeline, and carve out the time you need to stick to that schedule. In fact, get ahead of it as often as you can and “bank” time for those unexpected emergencies.
Partnering with someone to ghostwrite your book is a bit like marriage. It requires concentrated dedication by both parties, and a “meeting of the minds” to be successful—like any great relationship! But if you keep those 3 Cs in mind, you’ll have a much better chance of success with your book, and you’ll build a strong partnership that could be fruitful for years to come.