“Prospective authors need to decide why they are writing a book and what they want to accomplish before they launch the project.”
~ Debra Hilton
Finding the right ghostwriter for your business book is an important process. Most experienced ghostwriters are just as anxious to confirm that they are a good fit for you, as they are to confirm that you are a good fit for them. Unless you are extremely well-known, the ghostwriter who says confidently without any further ado, “I would love to write your book, here’s the contract!” without much other discussion is probably desperate for work. The reality is that ghostwriting an influential book is both time and energy intensive so there needs to be a decent level of connection and interest as well as experience.
Last year I wrote an article about two business books I ghostwrote, both of which achieved the goals for which they were intended. You can read that article here A Tale of Two Business Books. Your intended outcome is the most important factor you should consider when you are selecting a ghostwriter for your business book!
What Do You Want Your Book to Achieve?
If your ghostwriter doesn’t ask a variation on this question in your preliminary contact with them, then you should be extremely wary. The answer to this question affects the length and form of your book, whether you are self-publishing or seeking a traditional publisher, and has an impact on many other aspects of the writing and marketing strategy.
Even when a ghostwriter is explicit about who they work with and what objectives they fulfill on their website and in their other collateral they will usually confirm that prospects actually understand this either in an introductory free discussion, or in a paid scoping session. Your objectives determine the timing, pricing, and many other fundamental aspects of your book and experienced ghost-writers will use your answers to determine whether you and they are a good fit.
What Kind of Business Book Are You Writing?
Once you know the intended outcome of your book, you can talk about what it needs to look like and how to publish it. Some common types of business book include:
- The ‘process manual’ kind of book that helps you attract, qualify, and onboard new clients more easily;
- Books that provide inspiration and encouragement to people who face a particular challenge;
- Leadership and change initiation books that might revolutionise attitudes, practices, or thinking around a particular problem or issue;
- ‘Awareness’ books that highlight problems many people regard as either irrelevant or insoluble and try to sweep under the carpet;
- ‘Authority’ books that demonstrate the depth and breadth of your expertise…
Do I Need to Acknowledge My Ghostwriter?
Last year, two of my authors demanded that I be totally anonymous and invisible because they felt that was important for their credibility. Very few of my authors care about that level of secrecy, but for these two people it was important to be 100% confident that every word in their books sounded like their own, and that I would not give any hint of their identity.
You may not need that level of confidentiality or authentic personality in your book, but if you do, you need to discuss this with any prospective writers at the outset. Not all ghostwriters will strive to write in your voice, and very few will agree to total anonymity as this has an impact on their marketing and self-promotion.
How Much Time and Interaction Do You Want with Your Ghostwriter?
Some ghostwriters take the brief, interview the client, and you don’t hear from them again until they deliver the first draft as scheduled. Others will have weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, sessions of various lengths. Some ghostwriters will send you 2-3 versions of a chapter for you to select your preferred voice, then proceed to complete the draft on the basis of your choice.
It’s often a matter of negotiation based on your availability, the complexity and uniqueness of the material, and the process of the ghostwriter, but it’s important to discuss these expectations in advance. My own experience is that too many meetings slow the writing down and have other negative ramifications. You should ask yourself whether your need for long, frequent meetings is because you lack confidence in the ghostwriter you have chosen: maybe this is a warning sign.
Urgency and Priority: “Writer-Sharing”
Ghostwriters work at different speeds and have different processes. Some ghostwriters work on several books at a time and may start 2-3 books per month, others work on a single book at a time, … there are almost as many different processes as there are ghostwriters and there are rational justifications for most of these permutations.
No single way of operating works for every ghostwriter, but you, as client, may have a preference for how you want your book to be treated. Of course, you need to remember that your ghostwriter is also running a business so if you are paying your project in installments it’s fair to think about how much additional money they need to pay their business expenses each month and remember that you don’t (usually) ‘own’ them for the entire length of project.
Experienced ghostwriters can usually give you a ballpark estimate of the number of months to final draft immediately and a precise one once they have scoped the project with you and defined your turnaround times. Some ghostwriters are booked up months or years ahead and have a long waiting list of prospects, but there may be unexpected openings so if you find someone you want to work with it’s worth getting on their waiting list. Last year, I had a magical client whose first draft was so close to perfect that a six-month, 100,000 word book project was completed and sent to the publisher in 10 weeks, leaving me space to fit in an additional book.
How I Do “Writer-Sharing”
My usual policy is only to work on a single first book draft at a time. I may be polishing one or two other manuscripts or creating an outline, but I find that once I get inside a person’s head and start writing in their voice, it’s most effective if I stick to that project. Occasionally, that’s a challenge like when I was working on a book for parents of children with autism. The nature of the author’s journey was understandably tough and emotional and it was a challenge to spend too much time in her head (being there really increased my respect and admiration for any parent who deals with a special needs diagnosis for their children, not to mention the daily challenges of their life). However, rather than work on another first draft at the same time, I did other direct response copywriting projects.