They say everybody has a story to tell. The problem is in the telling. Let’s face it. Some of us can string words together into decent, readable sentences, and others of us cannot. The former sometime go on to string words together professionally, helping out the latter, and getting paid for it in the process. And it’s no shame to admit that, although you’ve got a super nice keyboard, the latest word processing program, spell-check, punctuation-check, grammar-check, and all kinds of other checks, you’re just not able to write something that reads the way you’ve got it in your head.
That’s the problem with writing. It seems easy. The materials are cheap enough. (You can use a pencil and a notepad, for crying out loud.) You know the alphabet. You’ve got a decent vocabulary. And you’ve got a great idea. Unfortunately, there’s a significant gap that stretches from mind to paper. It’s a long ways to go. From the time most people ride their idea from their brains all the way down to their fingertips to push the letters on their keyboards, something invariably gets lost. And what they end up reading on the screen in front of them is nothing like what they had imagined it would be. Worse, some people can’t even get past the idea stage and don’t even know how to get started, let alone see their efforts materialize on paper.
If this sounds like you, then maybe you need somebody to help you with your writing. Maybe you need a ghostwriter. What can a ghostwriter help you with? Anything from an article to a book. Want a little publicity for your business? How about writing an article about what you do for publication in your local paper? It’s a good way to become an expert in the eyes of your potential customer base. Have an idea that you’re sure will be a bestseller? Write a book! Don’t let your ideas go to waste just because you’re having trouble putting them on paper. That’s what ghostwriters are for.
Ghostwriters can either write from scratch, or edit and rewrite something you’ve already written. If you have any writing talent at all, the second way is obviously a cheaper route. But if you’re completely stuck and can’t even get started, a good ghostwriter is worth his or her weight in gold.
An effective ghostwriter will talk to you and, more importantly, listen to you. He or she will be skilled in the interviewing process, making sure to get all the information you have so that it can be translated to the written word. A good ghostwriter will get into your head and become a natural extension of your thoughts. He or she will bridge that gap from mind to paper.
It’s a partnership, the relationship between writer and client, and, depending on the size of the project, it can be a long one. Therefore, it’s important to choose your ghostwriter carefully. First and foremost, make sure you’re comfortable with the writer. Make sure you feel as though the ghostwriter is a person with whom you can communicate. This is somebody you’re going to spend some significant time with so you’d better feel a healthy level of trust.
Secondly, especially in the case of a book you hope to get published, the writer ought to have some rudimentary knowledge of the publishing industry. No ghostwriter can guarantee publication (run screaming from one who does), but they should at least be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to finding an agent or a publisher. They should be able to help you write a book proposal that summarizes your work (most agents and publishers will prefer to see this first, rather than the whole book), as well as help you with a query letter, a letter sent to agents and publishers to get them interested in the book proposal in the first place.
Naturally, of course, you also need to work with a writer that can deliver within your budget. Be aware, though. Good ghostwriters do not come cheap. A book might take several months to write. Don’t expect a writer to basically put his or her business on hold for that period of time to write your book, for mere peanuts. A decent ghostwriter might charge anywhere from $50 to $200 per page. Those who charge on the lesser end sometimes look for compensation by taking a percentage of the book’s potential royalties, sometimes up to 50%, while those charging on the upper end might take nothing at all.
It might be wise to look for somebody in between. I personally like the idea of giving the ghostwriter an incentive to finish the book by giving him or her some percentage of the royalties (even ten or fifteen percent). This makes the writer just a little more invested in the book’s outcome.
Terms of your deal with the ghostwriter should be spelled out in advance. Make sure there is mention of a timetable. And your payment to the writer should be split over this time frame. If it’s going to take four months to write the book, then your payment ought to be split in quarters.
Other terms include an understanding of how the ghostwriter is to receive your information, the fact that the work will belong to you and appear to the outside world as though it was written by you and not the ghostwriter, and a note on non-disclosure to ensure the writer will not divulge your story to anybody without your approval.
Do you have a story to tell? Don’t let it just sit there in your head. Find the right person to put it into printed words and get it out there for the world to see.
Copyright 2009, Jerry Payne
by Jerry Payne