How do you successfully collaborate with a ghostwriter, and conversely, how should a ghostwriter best collaborate with a client who wants to write a book? Both parties need to have a shared vision for the project, and the ghostwriter needs to be able to present the book in the voice of the client as much as possible, while keeping in mind the best way to position and express the book to market it.
One of the first issues that comes up is the focus of the book. Two of the major problems that come up here is whether the client has enough to say or too much. In either case, the book needs to be shaped so it will either fit into the parameters of a book with a mainstream or traditional publisher — typically 300 to 400 pages — about 60,000-80,000 words, or it might be published as an e-book as short as 50 to 100 pages.
A client needs to consider whether he or she wants to find a traditional publisher, wants to self-publish and build a platform to later find a traditional publisher, or simply self-publish and distribute the book him or herself with little concern of whether the book finds a traditional publisher. Then, a ghostwriter can advise the client accordingly. There will be more restrictions and concerns with positioning the book for a larger market so a traditional publisher will be interest. But if the client wants to focus the book on a niche market he or she knows well, then this kind of broader positioning isn’t necessary.
Secondly, the client needs to consider if there is enough for a book on one hand or too much for a single book on the other. For example, one man who worked in construction had a near death experience after an accident on a construction site in which he was in a coma for several days and then was revived. He recalled some of the experiences, which were similar to others with such near death encounters — going through a tunnel, seeing white light, visiting angels, and then afterwards, he changed his life to be more concerned about personal relationships and he became more kind and compassionate, whereas before he was more concerned with than material things. However, while he had enough for an article, his experience didn’t merit a full book, since he had previously lived a fairly routine life and afterwards, he mainly had an attitude shift and became a nicer person. But there wasn’t enough there to sustain a full book.
On the other hand, one woman lived what could be literally three different lives — a dramatic escape from an oppressive country and home life to America; a life of poverty and near homelessness for several years, until she gained success as a businesswoman; and her extensive adventures in her business field. Perhaps all of these experiences could be combined into one book — but there was certainly enough information to turn her memoirs into several books, including a how-to inspirational book on how to stay positive and overcome a series of challenges to ultimately prevail.
Finally, another major issue is keeping the voice of the client. Sometimes this is easy to do, whether the client’s voice is clear and articulate in telling a story. Then, it might be an easy job to edit to tighten up the language, eliminate repetition, and get rid of unnecessary asides. However, the problem becomes more difficult when the client’s voice is not effective in telling the story. For example, the client may skip around, dramatize some incidents but flatly outline others, and use sentences that are vague or hard to follow. In such a case, the ghostwriter should advise the client about these problems and ideally fix them; but if a client refuses, the ghostwriter should help the client understand the consequences which may mean not finding a traditional publisher, though a client who self-publishes can publish another.
In other cases, the client’s approach may be too personal, without having a high-profile platform that would lead others to be interested in that platform. For instance, one woman hope to use her creative writings and artwork to illustrate her journey of personal growth over the years. But her creative work wasn’t very good and since she was little known in her field the book would be a hard sell to a publisher. The only hope was creating more of a self-help book showing how others might learn from her approach for their own journey. In such a case, a ghostwriter needs to share these options, so a client can decide if he or she really wants to write a book that will find a traditional publisher or simply write the book more as a form of personal expression and therapy and publish it him or herself.
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Gini Graham Scott, PhD, is the author of over 50 books and a speaker/seminar leader, specializing in social trends, work relationships, professional development, and writing and publishing books. Her latest books include THE TRUTH ABOUT LYING; WANT IT, SEE IT, GET IT!; and USING LINKEDIN TO PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS OR YOURSELF. She also helps clients write, publish, and promote their own books and find publishers and agents through Changemakers Publishing and Writing. She has a publishing company Changemakers Publishing and writes screenplays, both her own and for clients. Her Websites are at http://www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com and http://www.ginigrahamscott.com.