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The Collaborative Process

Updated: Aug 15, 2021

This post discusses the process between author and ghostwriter from beginning to end in a thorough universal representation of what a healthy collaboration looks like. From this post, parties entering an agreement, can build a successful collaboration.

When someone hires a ghostwriter to write a full-length book, 40,000 (160 pages) or more words—often 80,000-100,000 words, (320 to 400 pages)—their collaboration should run similarly to the following model.

Step One The person with the idea (author) and the prospective ghostwriter talk on the phone for an hour or so about the project, where preliminary notes are made. This conversation could be a half hour to a couple of hours. It depends upon the needs of the author. Although some ghost riders may choose to The amount of time that they're willing to speak with somebody in the consultation process. The length of time that the to speak however is not crucial during this meeting. The necessary takeaway here is that the entire scope of the author’s intention is stated, and understood by the ghostwriter, that both have a good sense of what it would be like to collaborate, how long the development would take, and how much the project would cost.

Assess: If the prospective ghostwriter has the experience, ask them to demonstrate their skill. If sample work is not available on their website, ask them for a sample of their work. It comes down to agreeability. The quality of the job depends upon three things: skill, relationship, and time. If the ghost writer has the skill to complete your project, and the time to do it, assess their character and decide if they are an agreeable candidate to write your project. An agreeable relationship between the author and ghostwriter is key to a project’s success.

By the end of step one you have interviewed two to six ghostwriters and decided on the person you want to write your book.

Step Two When you get to step two, the author retains the ghostwriter for the project. The ghostwriters will have a system by which they accept money for a project. If a project is going to commence immediately, the ghostwriter may want to be retained and may ask for half of the payment up front. More often, payment for the first week or month of service is requested.

Assess: The structure of their business and how they conduct themselves in the meeting. If you like the way that they talk about your project, they asked good questions, they're optimistic, straight forward, and realistic, then paying them whatever they request is the way to go. Because who you work with matters more than how much you pay for their services or when they want to be paid.

Step Three Meet with the ghostwriter for a lengthy discussion about your project. This ought to be done in person but that remains at the discretion that you agree upon with the ghostwriter. The ghostwriter should be willing to meet with you in person if that's your wish. This may be done at the ghostwriter’s expense or your own.

Face-to-face meetings are advisable for a number of reasons:

• You have a complicated project that you are hiring someone else to emulate your own expression in its creation. In someways ghostwriting is detective work. It's finding the exact way to capture and replicate the manner in which another person expresses themselves in writing. The ghostwriter needs to know you, because so much of what you have to say comes out of things that you do not actually say.

• According to the 1971 study issued by Albert Mehrabian: 55% of our meaning is conveyed through body language, 38% is conveyed through the musicality of speech, and only 7% is attributable to what people actually say.

• Seeing each other face-to-face will give you a crystal clear platform to communicate with each other. It is absolutely only possible to get all of your ideas, and expressions out in a real life meeting. The intimacy that virtual meetings create are suitable for many conferences, but not one that will take thousands of dollars and seven plus months to complete.

• You will be interacting with this person for seven or so months and paying them a lot of money to write your book.

The length of time that you spend in this meeting is moot. It depends upon the length and complexity of your project and the questions that the ghostwriter has for you, and how well you know your project. Having a well thought out idea that has been grind it over and tweaked for years but exists only in your head is likely to take longer to impart to another person than well ordered notes for a relatable project.

Expect to spend one or two days talking about your project to get all of its details out. During this conversation the ghostwriter will take extensive notes and draft a detailed outline of your project from them, then give it back to you for your critique, and make any needed adjustments to it.

Consider: The ghostwriter needs to capture your written communication. To do this a ghostwriter will want to pour over text written (material related to the author’s project is ideal, even if it is notes rather than a content sample, but it is not necessary) by their authors, listen to and watch them speak, and get them to speak candidly on their project. A ghostwriter will draw from every facet of the author’s communication in order to write like them.

While narrative is fundamentally different from speech. Listening to someone talk will give you and understanding of their word choices, their level of depth or understanding of how something works or familiarity with a person, thing, or concept. The ghostwriter must really understand the core of the person they're writing for in order to do a great job for them. It will give you the do’s and don’ts of how to express their story in written language. This comes from listening, note taking, writing, and rewriting.

Caveat: It is possible for a ghostwriter to write a great book for an author they have not met face-to-face. The quality of the job depends upon three things: skill, relationship, and time. If the author and author have a great rapport, a quick, easy understanding of each other, and they like working together, then yes: you can skip meeting each other in person and still expect a great book from your ghostwriter. If this is the route you're leaning towards, it's important to be crystal clear about why you want to skip an in-person meeting.

Step Four Following your meeting, a schedule of when the material will be shared should be agreed upon. This is based on your need and the working style of the ghostwriter coming together harmoniously. The ghostwriter has their own process for generating material, though when you want to see your chapters is up to you, and your request should be observed by the ghostwriter. Many authors want to see installments delivered on a particular day each week, so they may see the systematic progression of their book. That’s a good practice. Often, an entire chapter can be completed in a week’s time.

Week-to-week checkpoints aren’t always desired, and they may not be the best way for the agreement to be carried out. An author may prefer their ghostwriter to write until the first draft is completed, so the ghostwriter may disappear in their work and reappear six months later with a rough draft of the entire manuscript. Regardless of what the author stipulates, writing means rewriting. It is rare for ghostwriter to iron out all of the peculiarities of their author’s voice on the first attempt. Realistically, it may take two, three, four, five tries until the voice is nailed. With each attempt getting substantially closer. You know that you're working with somebody who is paying attention and getting the job done properly. When two people are working together in this tell and perform capacity, the person giving the author OK

When an author and ghostwriter are working together for the first time, it is common for the author to not know exactly what to say to the ghostwriter to get them to produce the results they want to see. This is why it may take a half a dozen attempts until the author says: “That's it! You got it!”

Step Five The ghostwriter begins their research or commences to write your book.

Key takeaways from this article

• Following their consultation with the prospective ghostwriter, the author should know whether or not they want to retain the ghostwriter for their project.

• The ghostwriter should be willing to meet with the author in person for a full disclosure of their project.

• An in person discussion of the project is strongly recommended.

• The quality of the job depends upon three things: skill, relationship, and time.

• Agreeable responsiveness of the ghostwriter to the author is key to a winning relationship.

• Writing a book for someone else is a lengthy process, it may take time for the ghostwriter to nail the author’s voice.

Matt Peterson


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