Become a Ghostwriter:
specific guidelines for successful collaborations
Did you ever complain about how hard it is to be a freelance writer, trying to adapt your style according to the tasks received? Then think about how difficult it is to create a whole book using someone else’s voice. Sometimes it seems impossible to refrain from adding a personal touch, be it an opinion or an irony. So what is there to be done? How to meet the client’s exact requirements while spicing up creativity?
st thing we need in order to answer these questions is a detailed definition of the ghostwriter concept. Thus, the ghostwriter is the person who creates texts for somebody else, who will be known as the author. The ghostwriter must be, as the name suggests it, invisible. Once paid for the services, he has no rights upon the work completed. Most of the times, the contract mentions that the ghostwriter is bound to never disclose information on the task performed. As regarding the job itself, the client is the one dictating every important aspect of the text. The ghostwriter is expected to just fill in the blanks.
Now, we know you are still wondering about the boundaries and other essential aspects of the process. So below, there are several important things ghostwriters must take into consideration. Read them carefully and only after that, get to work!
Basic rules for successful collaborations as a ghostwriter
Ghostwriters are often hired to complete large projects like books and eBooks. But nowadays, in the internet era, these persons are mostly paid to write short texts like articles, blog posts, reviews and all sorts of website content. In all cases, the key to success consists in an open collaboration. And this is the first rule of this kind of task.
Both parties must be willing to communicate efficiently
Employers should be always within reach and writers must consult them before making any major change to the project. Not to mention that first of all, the client must by all means provide a clear structure for the future text. This supposes that the instructions must include topic, number of words, number of chapters if necessary, a guiding table of contents, concepts and terms to be inserted inside the text, references, and eventually, writing style.
The writer must have all things clear in mind before starting to complete the task. If not, it is best to ask than to suppose that X means X and not Y.
Throughout the entire writing process, it must be easy to get in touch with both parties. Maybe the author wants to come up with some modifications or maybe the writer has some questions. So it is highly indicated to always communicate.
The final product is not yours!
Like any other artists, writers put passion in their work. It is amazing to see how page by page, a volume is coming to life. Just like a baby. Except it’s not yours! Always keep in mind that no matter how much you became attached to it, the final product does not belong to you! And furthermore, no one will know that it is your work.
The ghostwriter only gets the money promised and that’s all. The fame, the compliments, the reviews and the criticism belong to the author named on the cover. We agree, no money in the world can substitute pure creation, but you signed up to it!
Respect the writing style imposed by the author
Every writer, no matter how experienced or not, has a personal style characterized by a certain vocabulary, word topic, spiritual touch (funny, ironic, dramatic, etc.), and so on. Well, nobody says that you must give it all up. Clients are well aware of this aspect and they tend to choose ghostwriters with styles similar to theirs. But if the buyer asks for an optimistic approach, you must by all means refrain from bitter commentaries.
Then, if the customer has already published a book or more, things are getting complicated. As a ghostwriter, you are compelled to study his style and to read the other volumes. Respect any verbal habit he may have while writing, any recurrent expression or term. It really doesn’t matter if these pieces of text contain some language mistakes; they are vital for the authenticity of the volume and readers are used to them.
Discretion, discretion, discretion
As mentioned above, the ghostwriter must be invisible. For starters, he is not allowed to talk to others about his projects or to include them in the personal portfolio. Employees are not entitled to mention these tasks. Again, they are only left with the money and now, with the anonymity too.
Then, do not publicly talk or know the client. And in 21st century this means leave him out of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and all social media websites. Officially, you don’t exist for him and he doesn’t exist for you. It is simple as that.
Be sure to get paid
When engaged in a long term project, the risks are high. Not once, clients have changed their minds and gave it all up in the middle of the process. So the ghostwriter was left without money. As a consequence, learn this the easy way: the payment must be set for milestones. Let’s say you have completed the first two chapters. Submit them, ask for revision and wait for the payment. Then (and only then!), go on with the task.
Have a clear contract
In the end, ask for a clear contract. This one should include all the aspects mentioned above – availability for communication, the owner of the copyright, the essential features of the texts, the anonymity of the ghostwriter, the sum to be paid and the milestones.
Additionally, include deadlines and any other aspects necessary for the collaboration.
How does the ghostwriter interfere in the text?
Now, here is a short list with the aspects the ghostwriter is supposed (and free) to personally add:
- Details for the main topic – these should fill in the pages and explain the main concept;
- Additional texts – like footnotes, works cited, index if necessary;
- Arguments, examples – to back up the client’s perspective;
- Explanations – for rare concepts, terms, ideas, techniques, etc;
- A better organization of the text – usually, clients are too busy to structure every chapter, so this becomes the ghostwriter’s duty.
Prepared by Linda Craig, writing enthusiast and a professional editor. Her passions are modern British Literature and digital education tools.
Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal…check our About Us page for more. Also here is info on our On Classic Articles