How do you get from you deciding to work with a ghostwriter to having your very own book in your hands? What are the steps along the way, and what exactly will your ghostwriter expect of you?
While I can’t speak for every ghostwriter out there, here’s how the ghostwriting process works when you work with me…
Getting in touch with a ghostwriter
When you’ve been in touch by phone or email to express your interest in working on a book with me, I’ll schedule a more formal call so we can have an in-depth chat about the project. I’ll ask you some questions about the story you want to write, and the audience you want to appeal to. We’ll also talk about whether a memoir or an autobiography would serve your story better, and we can discuss the pros and cons of both approaches.
It helps, of course, if we both feel as if we want to work together, and this will be a good opportunity for us to start getting to know each other and find out!
Your book proposal
Based on what you’ve told me, I will come back to you with a written proposal, cost, and timescale. The proposal will usually be two or three sides of content, clarifying the approach I think will work best for your book, and exploring our initial ideas.
If you’re happy with the proposal, I’ll ask you to confirm in an email that you want to proceed with the work. I’ll issue a pre-work invoice for 30% of the project fee, which needs to be paid before work begins. Then we will book our first interview session.
One hour of interview generally yields about 4,000 words of written content, so for a 40,000-word book, I would generally recommend ten hours of interviews, to be arranged to fit your availability. One-hour or two-hour sessions work best.
In the pre-Covid days, I would have recommended meeting for a few hours to get the process started, but these days we can have a kick-off session on zoom or skype, or stick to the telephone if you prefer.
Before we have our first interview, I’ll ask you to create a very rough plan outlining the major points that you want your book to cover. This is an important step in helping you to streamline your thoughts. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be an exhaustive list. The interview process will tease out lots of other incidents and events for us to explore in your book.
Dotting i’s and crossing t’s
After several hours of interviews, I’ll have the material I need to start writing your book. But if there are any events that we haven’t covered, or any details that I need to clarify, we’ll add in an extra interview to make sure we tidy up all the loose ends.
The look of the book
What is your book going to look like? During the interview process, we’ll talk about any photos that you would like to be included in the book. We will also discuss front cover ideas. I work with a team of designers with many book credits to their name, and I can let you see some examples of their work to give you an idea of the kinds of cover images that might work for your book.
Transcribing and writing your book
Your interviews will give me the raw stuff of your story, but transcribing an interview straight onto the page won’t make a very good book. Even in a guided interview, the focus of our conversation will shift, and you’ll probably find that recollections will come to you out of sequence. So the first thing I’ll need to do is establish a narrative order.
I will transcribe your words and fashion them into a narrative. It will be my job to sequence the story so that it makes for interesting reading; that means emphasising the drama and comedy as appropriate, building chapters that work in isolation and help further the story, and ensuring the book has a dramatic arc that compels people to read your story.
Of course, it’s important that your author’s voice comes through loud and clear, so I will use your words and your turns of phrase as much as possible. It will also be necessary for me to refine some of what you’ve said so that it has maximum impact and works on the page. I may also need to add material of my own in your voice, but after spending so many hours in your company, I will ensure that it fits in seamlessly.
The first draft manuscript
Trial and error has shown me that – in most cases – it is far better to send you a complete first daft manuscript, rather than sending you groups of chapters in dribs and drabs. The piecemeal approach can work for business books, but when I’m telling your story, it will help you to be able to read the whole manuscript in one go. This will enable you to see the points of connection between different chapters, and help you feel the narrative arc play out in full.
When the first draft manuscript is ready, I will request a second payment of 40% of the project fee, and when that has been paid, I will send you the complete first draft.
The devil is in the detail
I do ask you to bear in mind that a first draft is unlikely to be perfect! There will inevitably be things that need to be corrected and details that still need to be clarified. So when you read your manuscript, you will need to make a note of any errors or points that require clarification. You may also find that reading the story in full reminds you of an incident or event we haven’t addressed. Don’t worry. The point of the edit is to refine and improve the narrative.
The second draft manuscript
The second draft will incorporate all of the changes, revisions, and amendments we have discussed. Your manuscript will now be ready for the next stage. I will now request payment of the final invoice for the remaining 30% of the project fee, so that I can engage the proofreader, the cover designer and typesetter, and the printing company.
I engage an independent proofreader to check all the manuscripts I work on. At this stage of the process, I think it’s important to have an objective eye on the job to ensure that no errors sneak through.
Letting the manuscript go…
When the manuscript has been ‘proofed,’ I will make any necessary revisions, before sending the book to the design team. They will typeset the book (that is the job of arranging the text of the book, page by page, chapter by chapter into the file the printers will use). They will also complete the front and back cover design that we have agreed. When that has all been done, the files will be sent to the printers and your book will be printed and bound. This stage of the process will probably take between one – two months.
Book delivery day
After a month or so – I’ll keep you posted on the likely timescale nearer the time – your books will be delivered to you in the agreed quantity. Cherish the moment. There’s nothing quite like the immense feeling of satisfaction and pride you’ll feel when you receive a big box of beautiful books with your name on the front cover!
Find out more about the ghostwriting process
I hope this answers any questions you might have had about the ghostwriting process, but you can give me a call on 07960 459081, or fill in the contact form if you’d like to find out more.