Today’s CEOs do it all. They run companies, found charities, start families, run marathons, and, more than likely, publish books. Have you ever wondered how they manage to spend hundreds of hours writing and revising while also conquering the universe?
Many of them engage ghostwriters.
With the help of a ghostwriter, becoming a published author can require as little as 40 hours of your time. But not all ghostwriters are created equal. If you’ve read a few ghosted books and noticed how many of them sound the same, you can start to appreciate the difference a good ghostwriter makes.
All ghostwriters do the heavy-lifting of interviewing and writing, but the good ones know how to take an extemporaneous conversation and turn it into polished, compelling text―without losing its voice or import.
Here are five tips for vetting ghostwriters so you can find the ideal writer to craft your unique story:
1. Review your ghostwriter’s experience
Although it’s not uncommon for ghostwriting companies to claim their work with past clients is protected by non-disclosure agreements, you should be able to see some full titles and learn about past clients in broad terms. Think: “We worked on a memoir for an athlete that became a New York Times bestseller.”
At the very least, ensure the ghostwriter has written a minimum of two books for a major publisher; that way, you know you’re considering a professional. For those who are willing to devote a little more time to vetting, read one or two of the ghostwriter’s titles. Find out how you feel about the individual’s work once you examine it closely.
2. Expect a strategic introduction
From the first phone call, the ghostwriter should take a strategic approach to your story. Ghosts who have experience will know what’s been written on your topic, what works in your category, and what would inspire curiosity from your target audience. You should feel like your ghostwriter can help you refine your idea and its promise to make it more salable.
Part of the ghost’s role is to identify what’s relevant. The experiences you want to convey in your book are like a sprawling museum with artwork on every floor. Everything feels important. Your ghostwriter should be able to provide the focus and direction that will create a cohesive, compelling tour of your museum.
3. Be open to getting vetted
Your ghostwriter may spend six months writing your book. Before making that commitment, he or she will want to vet you, too. Good ghostwriters can be selective because they’re in high demand. They won’t work on your project unless it feels like a good fit, which is partially up to you to prove.
Before your consultation call, spend some additional time thinking about the purpose of your book. Be prepared to have a discussion about why the book is meaningful to you and what you hope to achieve. If you’re speaking with the right ghostwriter, an alignment of purpose and values will become clear. Behind every good book is a mission your ghostwriter should be eager to sign up for. (I’ve even heard a ghostwriter say, “I’d give my left leg to be part of this project.”)
4. Don’t self-publish by default
Your ghostwriter or the ghostwriting company should help you make an informed decision about publishing traditionally versus self-publishing. Although publishing traditionally isn’t viable for everyone (publishers reject approximately 96 percent of proposals), expect to get advice on both options.
Many ghostwriting companies are set up to help you self-publish because it’s easier for them―and it’s a bigger investment. Self-publishing requires a full manuscript instead of the 40-page book proposal traditional publishers require, so you’re paying for a lot more writing. Although self-publishing may still be the right option for you, make sure you understand the pros and cons of both routes before you commit.
5. Include milestone reviews
Even if your ghostwriter feels like your creative soul mate, it’s not a good idea to wait until the first full draft is complete before you review your book. Instead, make sure your contract stipulates that you’ll be able to review the draft in milestones―and terminate the relationship if necessary.
The first review is generally the outline, but the second milestone should be your first chapter. You’ll be able to tell from these early pages whether the ghostwriter has captured your voice.
A framework that EO members often use when hiring is: Does a hire get it, want it and have the capacity for it?
Culled from INC