How do you know if it’s time to seek out a ghostwriter to help you complete your book? And what all is involved in the process of ghostwriting, anyway? Is it really any different from detailed copyediting?
If you’re asking these questions, I hope what I write here will help to answer at least a few of them.
As with any writing venture, ghostwriting is a unique experience that presents unique challenges in addition to unique benefits. You won’t ever find me pretending otherwise, just as you won’t find me beating around the bush when it comes to recommending a thorough and professional edit of your manuscript once it’s been written––and just as I held no punches when I worked to draw a dividing line between copyediting and proofreading in my blog post two weeks ago.
So, what is ghostwriting? It is, according to the “Publishing” page on About.com, “the practice of writing for and in the name of someone else. It is most commonly associated with book publishing, but today it is also widely used in public relations, corporate communications, social media, and many other industries and fields that are producing greater and greater amounts of written content.” Many of our most prolific “superstar” genre specialists, like John Grisham and Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts (and so on and so on to infinity) employ a combination of understudies, assistants or secondary writers, and ghostwriters. They are called upon to generate, quite simply, too much material for a single human being to keep pace. But many if not most niche storytellers––whether famous or indie, traditionally published or self-publishing––lead hectic and busy lives that keep them from writing the books that they want to. We just can’t ignore the fact that self-publishing authors deserve to know that there is another option out there for them!
The process is relatively simple: most ghostwriters work on a contract or freelance basis for companies like Outskirts Press, so the fastest way to get yourself set up with an accomplished and expert ghostwriter is to go through one of these established websites. Perhaps the best reason of all to go with someone who has been vetted and proven trustworthy is this: ghostwriting is, at its core, a collaborative venture between you (the author) and your ghostwriter. How you choose to work depends more on you and what your vision for a piece demands than it does on time constraints, or one hopes for such a truth in a perfect universe. (Being too rushed for time to go it alone is a wholly valid reason to hire a ghostwriter!)
Ghostwriting has been around awhile. Long enough, in fact, that industry supergiants like Forbes have taken a look at it––and, circling back to my comment about collaboration: In this article for Forbes, contributor Sydney LeBlanc writes that “you can turn [your] entire book project over to the writer (research and writing) or you can provide research, notes, periodicals, etc that will help the writer.” That’s one option, but “You can also have regular ‘interviews’ with the writer who will take notes or record conversations with you about the topic. The writer will write draft chapters for you to review, edit, or make suggestions.” LeBlanc says that, ultimately, “There are many ways to work with a ghostwriter; it all depends on what is convenient or best for you and what is in your budget.” (Emphasis mine.)
Hopefully this is enough to convince you that seeking out a ghostwriter is a simple and easy thing to do, and that therefore we can move past one of several possible obstacles to taking that course of action!
(PERSONAL ASIDE & RANT: Enough with the stigma, already! Everyone’s writing method looks different, anyway, so why do we feel guilty over choosing to bring someone else in on the process? Let’s celebrate diversification through collaboration rather than taking ghostwriting as a marker of a lack of creativity!)
So, how do you know it’s time to start researching ghostwriting as a viable option for your book? Well, here’s a simple rule of thumb: if you can answer all or even most of the following questions with “yes,” then it might be time:
- Are you overworked, overstressed, or overcommitted?
- Do you have a story to share?
- Do you need a little help developing your ideas beyond the outline or draft stage?
- Do you believe in artistic collaboration?
- Can you trust the ghostwriter you pick to do justice to your vision?
Here’s where ghostwriting diverges from that other industry-specific term, “copyediting” : a copyeditor’s job is to take a finished draft and polish it up for final publication. A thorough copyedit involves more than just shuffling commas around, but it won’t substantially change the core content of a piece. Ghostwriting, on the other hand, involves the conceptualization and generation of a great deal of new material. Your ghostwriter becomes your collaborator and your partner in crime, your sounding board and scribe. Ghostwriters become folded into your stories, and it is in their best interest as paid professionals to deliver the best service they can––but if you’re both lucky, your ghostwriter might even become your ally and friend. And what could be better than that? Writing can be such an isolating experience, but I’d like to assure you as I do each and every week:
You’re not alone. ♣︎
||ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.