There are hundreds of us, all over the world, lots with impressive CVs and credits to our names. How do you even begin to decide which to approach about your book?
I think the first useful thing most authors can do is to think about the kind of book they want to publish: are there books you’ve seen or read that you think are good models in terms of tone, market, presentation, length or formats? Having some rough ideas about how your book might look and the level of readership you’re aiming for are excellent starting points.
A Google search of ‘ghostwriter’ will throw up pages of candidates but most ghosts have areas that they are particularly proficient or experienced in. The areas can be broad (business books, memoir, non-fiction, fiction) but adding to the search the category of book you’re interested in writing will certainly help bring up a more selective list.
Then it’s a case of going through websites and seeing if there are books that the ghost can acknowledge (many are hidden by Non-Disclosure Agreements) that are in the same area as your own.
One other important thing to know when you embark on your search is that all experienced and professional ghosts know that this isn’t just about landing a job – it’s about finding a good match. Approaching and chatting to a number of potential collaborators on your book is exactly what we expect you to do. So don’t be shy about saying that you’re researching a number of potential collaborators: it’s what we’d expect.
Ghostwriting a successful book is a partnership and like all good partnerships there has to be a lot of trust, an immediate sense of shared goals and that elusive quality that people talk about in relationships, ‘chemistry’.
The process of writing a book – whether you write it yourself or have someone else help you do it – is intense. If the book is a memoir or autobiography, working through your life’s thoughts, experiences and actions is to undergo a form of psychological examination few people put themselves through.
If you’re going to take on the task with the help of someone who is essentially a stranger, above all you need to trust that person. You’ll be opening up and articulating thoughts that you may have shared only with the people closest to you – if you have uttered them aloud at all.
So the person who you’re talking to has to inspire confidence that the thoughts will be handled and discussed respectfully and professionally. In practical terms this is being sure in the knowledge that if you decide not to include the story, anecdote or observation, it is as secure as if it had never been articulated.
One way to assess whether the ghostwriter you’re thinking of hiring is a good fit, is whether you seem to share the same aim for your book. This absolutely does not mean ‘Top of the Amazon best-seller lists’ (though perhaps one in a million collaborations do come to that!) What it means is understanding what you want to achieve by writing it. A good ghost will also help define these goals using their experience of the book market to help position your book in the best place to make it a success.
So if you are looking to embark on that particular mission, you need someone you feel comfortable with, someone you can talk freely to and above all, someone you feel you can trust.
Meeting, preferably in person, but given the current constraints, via FaceTime, Zoom or Skype and chatting about both the practicalities of collaboration as well as the business end – money, timing, how the book is produced – are essential topics to cover. No questions or coyness about any aspects of the book should be off the table. After all, if you’re going to be discussing the kind of project that brings you together for at least fifteen hours, you’ll need to be able to be open and clear with each other.
And then, having spoken to a few candidates, it’s time to make up your mind. Who best fits the book professionally, who did you feel you could open up to, who asked questions that made you think creatively about your ideas, whose quote matches your budget? All of these factors are considerations.
And then agree a contract – the ghost will have a standard one that can be adapted to your needs – and start work.