Ready to Work with a Ghostwriter? Do Your Homework
We’re smack dab in the middle of rejuvenation summer. So I hope you’re taking just a short break from hanging out at the beach to read this article. You’re probably not thinking about writing your book today, but if you have a book in you, you might be thinking about hiring a ghostwriter in the near future.
And it’s not easy to find someone who gets you, gets your audience, and can get the job done to your specifications. Nor is it easy to find someone who gets these things AND is someone you trust enough to help you capture the big ideas in your head. Yes, working with a ghostwriter can make you feel vulnerable, since you’ll be sharing a lot of half-baked ideas. But a good ghostwriter will do their best to make you feel comfortable.
If you’re just learning about ghostwriting and getting used to the idea that someone else could help you write your book, you might be wondering how it works. Here, I wrote this blog article for you.
Once you’ve made up your mind to work with a ghostwriter, though, you’ve got some homework to do. But don’t worry. No one will be handing out grades. This homework is purely for you because it will make the process go more smoothly for both you and your writer. Let’s dig in!
How to Prepare to Work with a Ghostwriter:
1. Gather all of your original content materials and resources.
Have you given any presentations or talks related to your book topic? Have you written any blogs or articles that your writer could mine for content gold? When you work with a ghostwriter, they will appreciate having access to any information like this.
You might be a little shy about showing your writing to a professional writer. But fear not! The point is not to judge your writing prowess or correct your grammar (remember, no one is handing out grades here!). The point is for your ghostwriter to get a feel for your voice and wrap their minds around your book idea.
When you work with a ghostwriter, the key is to share as much of your unique angle as possible. We want to know everything we can about your big idea.
And if you don’t have any previous content to share, spend some time writing before you meet with your ghostwriter. This will also help you clarify your thoughts. There’s something magical about getting those words out of your head and onto the page, so you can look at them.
2. Locate any background resources and external references as well as sample content.
Is there background research that would help your writer get up to speed on your topic? While your writer probably hasn’t and won’t read everything you’ve read, a few representative articles or books can be very helpful. Don’t be afraid to share a long list. Your writer will appreciate the direction you’re providing.
Also, over the next few months, make note of blogs, articles, and books you read that have a style you appreciate. Perhaps you appreciate the way Dan Harris melds together research and story into a memorable narrative. Are you a fan of Esther Perel’s podcast “Where Should We Begin?” Any samples of the style you want to emulate are helpful to share with your writer.
3. Create an outline or table of contents for your book idea.
This one may be specific to me. While other ghostwriters may be happy to help you brainstorm from barely a book idea to a full table of contents, I prefer you to come to me with a working outline. I’m quite happy to help you shape and package the details of your book idea. But if all you have at the moment is a topic idea or a really catchy title, you’ll want to think a bit more about the structure of the book.
Here’s why I require a working outline to start a ghostwriting project:
- I want the book to be your idea. If I’ve done more thinking about your book than you have, neither of us will be happy with the end result. Creating the outline ensures you’ve got a solid idea.
- When you create the outline, you’re more likely to feel ownership over the book when it’s finished.
- The ideation process is separate from the writing process. While I’m happy to help shape your ideas, my main job is writing. When you’ve completed (or nearly completed) the ideation process, I’m confident that we can dive into the writing process straight away.
- I’m a writer, not an industry insider. So I need an outline to anchor my research and writing process.
Because you likely know the topic and your competition more intimately than your writer, you’re in a better position, at least in the earlier stages of the project, to know what information needs to be included and what chapters the book needs. Don’t get too hung up on organization at this point. A second set of eyes can be helpful here. Simply get all the ideas down in broad strokes.
Often what’s even more useful than knowing what pieces need to be in the book from your ghostwriter’s perspective are insights into what NOT to include. You’re writing a book because you have a unique opinion or angle to share with the world. This means you have strong views about what not to say about this topic. Your writer may not be able to see the nuances of your view until you’ve been working together for several weeks. So, help them catch up wherever you can.
4. Share your book proposal, chapter drafts, or anything else you’ve written on the book itself with your ghostwriter.
If you’ve written anything on the book itself, gather the files and prepare them to be shared. I prefer to work with Google docs, that way my client and I can look at the document together. We can also both add comments and suggestions to the manuscript throughout the process. I’ve also worked with Word docs, though they’re more cumbersome and need to be shared via email, which can lead to frustrating organizational issues. No one wants to waste time searching for files.
When you work with a ghostwriter, ask how they prefer to share documents and drafts. This is also a good test to help you figure out if you can work well with this person. If a writer can explain their process clearly and it makes sense to you, that’s a good sign.
Then, make sure to follow their instructions. Trust that they are working according to a plan that will yield the results you were promised.
5. Get your mind right.
As I mentioned in the introduction, working with a ghostwriter can make you feel vulnerable. And if you can’t accept the vulnerability, it will be an obstacle to writing the best book you can write. So once you find your ghostwriter, it’s important to put yourself in a collaborative mindset.
This means giving your ghostwriter the space they need to get the job done. If you’re a micromanager at heart, this could be the hardest part for you. Try to be flexible realizing that the creative process doesn’t always go according to our ideal plans.
Your ghostwriter should create a content calendar so you know what to expect. But feel free to check-in and make sure you’re seeing reasonable progress too. I meet with my clients weekly throughout the 16-week process. This ensures that both of us stay engaged and on the same page. It also allows for course corrections and mostly eliminates the need for total rewrites.
Finally, keep in mind that yours is likely not the only project your ghostwriter is working on. Personally, I only work on one book ghostwriting project at a time. But I also have a team and monthly content marketing clients who need my attention most weeks.
My weekly schedule will ebb and flow with your book project. Some weeks, I’ll need to devote 20+ hours to hammering out a chapter draft. Other weeks, I may be waiting on feedback from you and making edits that only require five hours of my time. Personal attention is crucial to getting a custom book written to your specifications, but your book will also benefit from me taking a break from your project to work on other things.
And just because I’m not producing thousands of words doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about your book (I’m often thinking about it in the shower, when I’m going for a walk, and before I fall asleep). I have a big brilliant brain. If you trust me to use it, it will do amazing things for you!
If you’re looking for a ghostwriter to work on your book this fall, let’s chat. Together we can make your ideas spread like wildfire.
Emily Crookston is the Owner and Decider of All Things at The Pocket PhD. She’s the ghostwriter for rebels, renegades, and mavericks. She loves helping experts who are long on ideas, but short on time write business books. Find out what type of book you should write with her Book Type Quiz.