A Ghostwriter‘s Point of View

1. Handling conflicts

What are some of the more common types of conflicts or problems that you encounter as a ghostwriter, and how do you handle them?

When the client micro-manages every aspect of the project, doesn’t honor the contract in terms of actions or finances, is not able to provide the information I need, or is rude—I try to talk out any problems. I also include a section in my contract that permits either one of us to terminate the relationship if things are not going well between us.

2. Echoing the author’s voice

How do you balance your own writing style against the need to create a unique “voice” for your client?

My writing style is fairly distinctive, so I have to work at this. If I talk to the author, I can usually pick up his or her rhythm and cadence. Some subject matter lends itself to a conversational style, which is easier for me; but I have written technical, business, and scientific subjects and can adapt. My biggest problem is when a client writes in passive language and I have to turn the sentences inside out to “translate” their meaning.

3. Style and grammar

How much autonomy does a ghostwriter have in issues of style and grammar?  Can the client “overrule” the ghostwriter on stylistic and grammatical issues?

I have had a great deal of autonomy on those issues. People hire a ghostwriter for many reasons, but one of them is that they don’t have confidence in their own writing. On the other hand, I have had clients who wanted to control everything, including grammar and punctuation. While I recognize that this person is the author, incorrect grammar is incorrect grammar. I look it up in the Chicago Manual of Style and read the rule out loud. Often, that does the trick.

4. Protecting yourself

What are some protections a ghostwriter needs to consider when arranging a job or contract?

  1. Be sure you understand what the client wants and that the client understands what you will do.
  2. Spell out what you and the client have agreed to in terms of tasks and payment of fees.
  3. Include an indemnification paragraph in the contract.
  4. Have your attorney read the contract, and incorporate his or her suggestions.
  5. Send a draft of the agreement, and let the client know it can be edited before it is signed.
  6. Send two final copies to the client; sign one of them.

5. Determining publishability

How do you deal with a client whose project is unpublishable? (Do clients tend to blame the ghostwriter if they can’t get published?)

I start with a client questionnaire that gives both the client and me a fairly clear ides of whether this is a viable book project. I ask the kind of questions about the book, the author, and the process that would be included in a standard book proposal. If I determine that the book has little chance of being published by a conventional publisher, I say so. However, if the client wants to self-publish, I spell out what is involved in doing so correctly. In that case, no book is truly “unpublishable.”

6. Research and fact checking

Is a ghostwriter at all responsible for conducting research or verifying a client’s facts?

I try to provide what the client wants, and every author has different needs. I do research and check facts if we agree on those requirements ahead of time. Copy editors also check facts, which is a nice back-up position. My approach is tailored to the person; if he or she wants research, I am more than willing to do it. In fact, I really enjoy conducting research.

7. People skills

What sort of “people skills” do you need to become an effective ghostwriter?

These are the same skills any writer needs but perhaps accentuated by this special relationship, which sometimes lasts for years. A ghostwriter should have a special knack for crawling inside people’s heads and understanding what they really want to say. This requires empathy and compassion, listening skills, and the ability to read nonverbal cues.

8. Pros and cons of the job

What do you consider the best part of being a ghostwriter? What’s the worst part?

The best part is knowing I played a part in making an author’s book come to life. The tangible evidence of that is receiving my signed copy, which goes in a place of honor in my bookcase. The worst part is when I finish the book, and the author drops the project and walks away. I’m not talking about the money. Even if I have been paid, having a book abandoned when it’s ready to publish is heartbreaking. I never understand why someone would do that.

Ghostwriting is a partnership between the writer and the author. Both parties share the same goal: to write and produce the best possible book.


Dear Friends and Fellow Writers,

There are two perspectives on ghostwriting: the ghostwriter’s and the author’s. A few months ago, I was interviewed for an article about both sides of the ghostwriting equation. The interview questions made me think about what I do in a whole new way. Here is what the author/client wants to know.

1. To hire or not to hire

Should I hire a ghostwriter? Why or why not?  What should I think about before taking that step?

You know your subject; you can explain it, present it, and analyze it. But you may not have the time, talent, or inclination to write. If any of these statements apply to you, you should consider hiring a professional ghostwriter. If none of the above fits your situation, you might need a book-writing coach or an editor, both of whom are less expensive than a ghostwriter.

2. What to share

What sort of information or material would I be expected to provide when working with a ghostwriter?  How much material would I need to provide?

Furnish in written or spoken form whatever is to be included in the book. If you have already written the book, send the manuscript; if not, send whatever research you have done. All of this depends on your agreement, which will be unique to you and your project. I don’t use a boilerplate agreement or process; it varies with every client.

3. Not in the job description

What are some of the things a ghostwriter WON’T do for me?

  • A ghostwriter is not an agent and won’t get your book published, though she might help you through the necessary steps to find one.
  • A ghostwriter is not a publicist and won’t promote your book, though he might work with you to develop a marketing plan if that is part of the contract.
  • A ghostwriter is not a graphic designer and will not design your book for you or get it ready for the printer.
  • A ghostwriter is not a copy editor or proofreader and will not take responsibility for the final product.
  • A ghostwriter is not a website designer or technical expert.

About Bobbi Linkemer
Bobbi Linkemer is a book coach, ghostwriter, editor, and the author of 16 books. She has been a professional writer for more than 40 years, a magazine editor, and a book-writing teacher. Visit her Website at: http://www.WriteANonfictionBook.com



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