I am often asked how the ghostwriting process actually works. What comes first? How does the book progress? Do you have a specific schedule? Although I am only one ghostwriter, I would imagine that all of them work differently. However, for all of you out there who are considering hiring a ghostwriter, this is essentially how the process works.
The Ghostwriting Process Step #1: Consultation
Your ghostwriter should ask to speak with you on the phone to have an initial consultation. During this 15-20 minute conversation, he or she will ask you various questions about the manuscript. How long should it be? What is the subject or genre? Will there be any research involved? This consultation is meant to give the ghostwriter a basic understanding of what you are looking for.
Feel free to ask as many questions as you’d like during the consultation, but answer the ghostwriter’s questions as well. This should give you both a general idea of how well you will work with each other in the future.
The Ghostwriting Process Step #1: Agreement
Once you and your ghostwriter have talked about the proposed project, it is time to make the agreement. Most ghostwriters, myself included, have a standard contract that we use for each and every project. The only specifications are the price and the deadline, which you and your ghostwriter will have to negotiate.
A word to the wise, however: most ghostwriters will not do much in the way of negotiation. The price is set by the ghostwriter’s experience and skills, and if you can’t afford to pay the asking price, you’re better off finding another writer. And as far as deadlines go, your ghostwriter will finish your manuscript as quickly as he or she possibly can. It is rare that we can pinpoint an exact date of completion.
Once you have solidified the terms, you should both sign the contract and keep a copy for your records.
The Ghostwriting Process Step #3: Research
Once the ghostwriting process has officially started, it will be time to compile all of the necessary research. This must either be provided by you (the client) or performed by the ghostwriter. You will typically pay a lower price if you are able to provide the bulk of the research to your ghostwriter.
Obviously, non-fiction ghostwriting will require substantially more research than fiction ghostwriting, though novels often require a fair bit of planning. If no research is required at all, skip ahead to the next step.
The Ghostwriting Process Step #4: Outline/Planning
Some ghostwriters (and writers in general) outline, while others don’t. I personally abhor the entire outlining process, and I never do it. If my clients offer me an outline from which to work, I won’t say no to it, but I’ve never been inclined to plan out my books in that fashion.
That said, however, planning in general is an integral part of the ghostwriting process. For example, if your ghostwriter is penning a fiction novel, he or she will want to know if you have any specifications with regard to:
Characters (i.e. names, physical descriptions, etc.)
Setting (i.e. city or town, winter or summer, etc.)
Point of View (i.e. first person omniscient, third person, etc.)
Most ghostwriters will allow you to specify as much as you want about the novel. If you know exactly how Chapter One, Chapter Two and all of the rest of the chapters will progress, feel free to give those details to your ghostwriter.
The Ghostwriting Process Step #5: First Draft
Different ghostwriters handle the first draft in different ways. Some will write the entire first draft of the script with absolutely no imput from their clients, then ask the client to review it when they are finished. Others, such as myself, will submit the first draft in small increments so that you can monitor the progress. If you have a preference, be sure to tell your ghostwriter.
Depending upon how your ghostwriter work, the first draft could take three weeks or it could take three months. Some first drafts might take up to a year with certain ghostwriters. I typically finish the first draft of a fiction manuscript within two months, then spend the subsequent month with revisions.
The Ghostwriting Process Step #6: Revisions
If your ghostwriter is worth his or her salt, free revisions will be included in the price of the manuscript. However, don’t expect to be afforded unlimited revisions. The standard is 3-5 revisions per chapter, as long as the revisions don’t significantly alter the course of the plot. For example, if your ghostwriter finishes the entire novel and you decide you want it to be set in New York City rather than San Diego, your ghostwriter is probably going to charge you for those changes.
The Ghostwriting Process Step #7: Final Draft
Once you have requested all of the revisions and made your peace with the manuscript, your ghostwriter will conduct a final read-through and make any grammatical or syntactical revisions. You will then be provided with the final draft (usually electronically, unless specified otherwise) and you can enjoy your manuscript!
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