Hiring a professional ghostwriter is a popular choice for busy people. Ghostwriters also make sense if you have a strong concept, but lack the desire or skills to write. In this article, we will look at the ways in which a ghostwriter can enhance your business or project. We will also outline the important things you should consider when choosing ghostwriting services. Finally, we will share some best practice tips for prepping a project.
Why should you use a ghostwriter?
As with all processes, there are definable steps to writing. You are no doubt passionate about your subject matter. Passion does not necessarily translate into skills. Even if you love every aspect of writing, completing a project can be daunting. Many people find meticulous drafting, and editing boring. Writing through blocks is a skill in itself.
Let’s be honest, writing is a difficult process. Books, memoirs and screenplays, take time, patience and care. Most important of all, you must have a strong storyline if your project is to land well. Many brilliant concepts have fallen by the wayside due to poor narrative. Blockbuster ideas require world-class dialogue too. With so many factors to consider, quality ghostwriters are a great solution.
Reasons for using a ghostwriter.
- To maintain the quality and quantity of your output when you are busy doing other things.
- Utilising experience and knowledge within a certain field, genre or medium to complete a strong idea.
- Buying in a skill set that you lack. (Editing, story development, character development).
- Giving an authentic voice to your business or project
Is ghostwriting ethical?
People often question the morality of using ghostwriters. The answer is not straight forward and is largely opinion. As with any industry, ghostwriting has its seedy side. When I started out as a freelancer, I was approached to write a script for a betting system. I was asked to act as the owner of the company and to share my success story. Writing the narrative, and making up numbers to demonstrate the systems success rate did not sit with me. Due diligence very quickly indicated that this scheme was a con.
Every day I see dozens of people looking for writers to provide fake reviews on Amazon. There is an entire market place devoted to improving e-commerce ratings. Add to that the regular requests to write dissertations. It seems many want a qualification at any cost.
Integrity and ghostwriting in business.
The focus word here is integrity. Recently, we ghostwrote a handbook for Motocross Advice. Our writers know the subject matter intimately. We worked from Martin’s detailed brief, and the writers each have a genuine interest in the material.
The Ultimate Motocross Handbook is Martins concept. We followed his framework. Martin is a former two-times world champion rider and six-times national champion. Time constraints, language barriers and lack of in house design skills contributed to Martin’s decision to use a ghostwriter. The end result is a stunning book, which delivers far more value to the reader than it may have.
A ghostwriter should have confidence in the author’s credentials. While a ghostwriter may choose to undertake all of the research, cross-referencing and even form a narrative, the authenticity of the author is vital.
Our guidelines for Ghostwritten projects
At Joined Up Think, we have a very simple approach to this contentious subject. Our team will never undertake the following projects:
- Academic content and dissertations for students in active studies.
- Scripts, endorsements or narratives for fraudulent products or services.
- Fake reviews to boost e-commerce ratings.
Is ghostwriting fiction ethical?
Let’s draw a parallel here to the world of music. Writers and producers are the backbone for many platinum selling artists and bands. These contibutors help shape a singers voice, image and even their lyrics.
Many DJs use engineers to produce their records. Often, the same engineer is the driving force behind multiple artists. The point at which this becomes deceit is debatable.
Elton John is a national treasure. It is no secret that lyrics are the work of Bernie Taupin. Without Elton’s melodies, it is entirely possible Bernies work would not exist. Millie Vanilli is a different matter altogether.
The question that we ask is, “What is the author bringing to the party?” Hiring a professional ghostwriter might help your story, film or self-help book come to life. Does it make sense for good ideas to go to waste due to lack of a certain skillset?
Ghostwriting and academia.
When it comes to academia, things are a little more complicated. We have a superb academic writer on our team. Lance Goodman is a published author, qualified nurse, and specialises in sustainability in medicine. He has meticulous researching skills, a vast knowledge within his sphere of expertise and proveable credentials.
We have gladly undertaken ghostwriting of non-fiction which requires an academic process. In fact, Lance and I co-wrote a book which required both academic, and creative input. Anyone who is looking to produce regular scholarly articles, industry-specific academic research projects, or non-fiction can use a ghostwriter too. If however, there is a qualification or financial bursary involved then morality is an issue.
Any publication which defines the level of knowledge, experience or qualification of the author, needs to be provable. This is especially the case when readers factor in those qualifications and experience when making a life choice.
How does ghostwriting work?
Every project starts with a brief. It is a good idea to agree on a tone of voice for regular articles and blogs. Consistency is key for all written work, but especially so if the articles are to appear as your own voice. Work with your writer to set out a tone appropriate to your field.
Memoir and fiction demand more detailed briefs and extensive interviewing. Briefs need to be clear and concise. There should be an easily identifiable narrative. Everyone will approach this process in their own way.
The early stages of a book are critical for a ghostwriter.
I like to take copious notes or record interview sessions. From the recordings or notes, I will identify significant beat points. Think of beats as the stepping stones that take you across an ornamental lake. These fixed points keep things on track.
When I have enough information to make a start, I will map out the acts; Act one, Act two(a), Act two (B) and Act three. I will place my beat points under the appropriate act headings. I will look for gaping holes in the narrative. It might be that I return to the author for further interviews, or I might request more broad concepts if we are in a fictional world. I will also develop my main characters at this point, adding any secondary characters as I go.
Once I am confident that I have a solid through-line, I will write from point to point. This will produce the vomit draft. A mash of ideas, characters and rough chapters. The author and I will touch base after the vomit draft, and I will take on their notes, objections, ideas and alterations. This honing and refining continues until we have a final draft. This is an oversimplification, but you get the idea.
Horses for courses.
Another writer in our stable uses a completely different approach. They will start by talking through the potential narrative, scenes and possible characters. Their interviewing and mulling over takes a lot longer than my approach. Once finished, they write draft one in freeflow, allowing the story to unfold. Only once they have a complete draft will they start rearranging the story into beats and acts. This approach blows my mind, but the end result is the same. Structure, narrative, strong characters, and engaging dialogue.
How to pick the right ghostwriter.
For smaller projects, having one writer is less important than having a strong branding guideline. Blogs, articles and comparisons can be written by multiple writers. Having one editor does make sense though. JUT has clients which use up to four writers. In this instance, we always ensure the client’s dedicated editor produces the final draft.
Make sure your writer is willing to provide a structured service which includes ammendments. For blogs, whitepapers, essays and articles, we offer a three-stage solution.
- Research and preparation (SEO and keyword strategy if applicable)
- First draft.
- Publish copy (editing), with images and post-production).
Writing a book, film or memoir can be considerably more draining. Expect to get into situations where emotions run high. Look at the great creative tensions of times past. Dave Gilmour and Roger Walters make OK music on their own, but they create magic together, even when they are barely on speaking terms. John and Paul were notoriously volatile as friends and in the studio. Oasis anyone? Creative tension is a good thing, but can be uncomfortable if you do not get on with your ghostwriter.
Creative processes are emotional, and at times highly charged. Pick your partner carefully! Get it right and magic will happen for you too. Get it wrong, and your project may stall.
Finally, carry out your due diligence. Although many projects that a ghostwriter has written will be subject to an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), some sample chapters or their own body of work will not. We have a USP at Joined Up Think. We are successful writers in our personal lives. Every one of us can show you sample content, awards and published content already available in the real world.
If your ghostwriter has little or no content for you to read, then you have to wonder what they have been doing with their lives. Writers love to write; fact. Ask for NDA free samples and check them with plagiarism software. Any results should present the author they were working for unless it is original work when it will appear as their own work.
How much does a ghostwriter cost?
Again, there is no definitive answer here. We have a standard rate of 15p per word. In reality, we charge a variety of rates depending on the deal.
Some authors are happy to have the ghostwriter retain a percentage interest in the project. Shared ownership will yield lower rates. Some clients want exclusive ownership and sole rights. These agreements will cost more. If you want graphic design, publishing and PR, we change the scale again.
I have a saying; “Good writers cost money. Exceptional writers who understand narrative are priceless”.
You must find a ghostwriting service that suits your budget. That said, you are not going to get a decent 25,000+ word e-book out of a UK based writer for $150.00, which is a request that I see in my inbox daily. Be sensible about the budget. If you want award-winning, previously published writers, backed up by world-class research, editing and marketing, $150 is not going to cut it.
So, what’s your story?
Everyone has a book in them, or so the saying goes; the trick is getting the book out of you, only then can the world hear your story. We are ready to help you find yours.
Here are our top five tips for preparing for your ghostwriter.
Get your idea straight on paper
Before you contact your prospective ghostwriters, get your pitch down on paper. It doesn’t have to be more than an elevator pitch at this point. A working title helps. You should be able to pitch your story or concept in thirty words and a title. From that pitch, the ghostwriter, (and publisher, financer, producer or director for that matter), should be able to see the story in their mind.
Example: One Foot In The Rave
A disillusioned 23-year-old Jehovahs Witness is kicked out of the controlling cult, landing straight on the ecstasy fuelled dancefloors of nineties clubland. He is not prepared for what lies ahead.
Can you see the story? What are the potential problems, and how are they likely to manifest? Is there the promise of drama and tension?
This first point is Blake Snyders logline theory, from “Save The Cat” – and it works!
The very talented Jessica Brody has written a version called “Save The Cat Writes A Novel” which you should read. You may even discover you do not need a ghostwriter after all!
Have a reference point.
Tone, direction and target audience are much easier to work towards when you have a reference point. A screenplay we are writing has the following reference point from the client:
“I want it to have the caper of Snatch, with the grittiness of Trainspotting”
The screenplay is not like either of these films, but we immediately understand what the client means by this. If not, then we can watch the films to find out.
Be honest about your expectations.
If you just want a vanity project to share with your friends and family, then make this clear. At the other end of the scale, if you are expecting a blockbuster and will not rest until the book is on every best-seller list, you need to make that clear also.
Each of these expectations demands a comletely different level of investment, time and management. Also, one is highly achievable and the other is impossible to guarantee. Everyone needs to be on the same page.
Pre-empt the interviews and research stages.
If you know that you will need to share details of your past, you can start recording audio. Interview yourself, or get a friend to interview you. This will save you time and money in the early stages. Also, you may find fresh inspiration in the process and find valuable narrative ideas. The more you bring to the table, the better the end result will be.
We recently engaged with a client for a book. He had never written before, and yet still managed to write an incredible 80,000 word draft of all of his anecdotes. Although it lacks a narrative and bears little resemblance to the final product, we have a treasure trove of backdrop information. The anecdotes are all handy devices, and our character development has been much easier.
Finally, be prepared to go to difficult places.
If your story is a memoir or autobiography, then prepare yourself for uncomfortable moments. If you find self reflection difficult, you may want to start meditation, yoga or even speak to a life coach. Unlocking your past can be awkward, traumatic even.
Fiction is largely based on our own perceptions of the world. Be open to hearing another viewpoint when it comes to storylines, character roles and the arcs each goes through.
Tension is an important part of drama and intrigue. Audiences need tension, and so do readers if pages are to keep turning. Be flexible and open to change.
“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
― William Faulkner
Joined Up Think offer ghostwriting, editing, story consultancy, graphic design and marketing services to authors and film makers. Our team are industry people with verifiable experience.