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What Is Ghostwriting?

What is ghostwriting? This question comes up often when I discuss my services with others. As an indie publishing consultant, I serve my clients by navigating the sometimes confusing process of setting up their Amazon account, deciding on pricing for their book in Kindle and paperback formats, and uploading the formatted manuscript to the site (I’ll discuss formatting in another post, but listen to my recent interview with Matt Margolis for more info).

Whether a client hires me to edit their manuscript or ghostwrite their book, I offer the option of a full-service package that results in bringing their book to the marketplace with the best presentation possible.

What is ghostwriting?

For those who want to write and publish their story but have little time or inclination to do it themselves, ghostwriting offers an attractive alternative. A professional writer (ghostwriter) gathers information from their client, outlines the book, and writes it in their client’s voice.

That’s a basic definition.

How long does the process take from beginning to publication?

It depends. Relative to the subject matter and scope of the project, it can take anywhere from four months to several years to produce a high quality product, although in my experience, the timeline on a nonfiction book is 12-15 months. Due to the complexities and investment of time demanded by fictional books, I no longer ghostwrite them.

Why does it take so long to ghostwrite and publish a nonfiction book?

Ghostwriting requires the professional ghostwriter to write in their client’s voice. You could say that ghostwriters like me “channel” our clients when it’s time to write their story. In order to do this well and capture all pertinent information, I first put on my “investigative reporter” hat in what I call “Phase One” of the project and conduct a series of weekly recorded interviews ranging from 60 to 90 minutes. The purpose of recording is two-fold: 1. it allows me to gather all the information I need while actively listening to my client; and 2. as I play back and transcribe the interview afterward, I get a sense of how that person expresses themselves. By the end of Phase One, I have a full transcription that becomes the foundation for the book outline and an excellent understanding of how to write in that person’s voice.

With most clients, this process can take anywhere from three- to- six months to finish.

What follows Phase One in a ghostwriting project?

During Phase Two, I collaborate with my client to develop an outline and ensure they’re comfortable including certain events. For example, someone I worked with a few years back experienced a rape by a family member as a teenager. In the beginning, she felt strongly about not identifying him, which I honored and understood. But as the process unfolded, she decided to call him out. Either way, including the rape as a turning point in her life was necessary. However, my client remains in control and makes the final decisions on content, especially when dealing with sensitive topics. My job as the ghostwriter (and editor) is to make professional suggestions based on knowledge and experience.

Here’s where the logical flow and progression come into play because that’s just as important as the content itself. Even the most compelling subject matter will not hold a reader’s attention if it’s not properly organized.

What happens in Phase Three?

The manuscript undergoes several professional edits to ensure it’s the best it can possibly be. I scour it for typos, grammar, and other mistakes while keeping an eye on its pace and organization. My client remains involved in this process and makes the final decisions on what’s included. Due to the importance of editing, this phase can take up to six weeks or more before we’re ready to submit the document for formatting. Once it’s in the hands of a professional formatter (part of my all-inclusive package), we can no longer make editorial changes…only corrections to typos, misspellings, and grammar.

What can I expect with a full-service publishing package?

Early on in the process, somewhere between the first two phases, I facilitate a call with one of my professional book cover designers and my client. By then, we’ve decided on the book’s title and subtitle, so we’re ready to move forward with the design of this all-important marketing tool. Yes, readers judge books by their covers, which means you need the help of an expert designer who also understands Amazon’s requirements. Matt is my go-to guy for most of my projects because he’s also a bestselling author and interior formatter. Over the years, he’s done an amazing job not just creating book covers but also an interior design to complement them. Because it’s never too soon to start marketing your book, Matt creates branded social media banners for three platforms, usually Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Does my ghostwriter’s name remain a secret?

As the term “ghostwriter” implies, the answer is usually “yes.” However, sometimes clients prefer to include my name on the book title, as was the case with the book, To Guard My Every Neighbor: Inside the Fire. Whatever my client prefers is fine by me. This is an aspect of ghostwriting I like to discuss up-front, before we begin the cover design process.

Now that you have a better understanding of ghostwriting and how it works, you’re probably curious about how much it costs. I’ll discuss costs in a future post, but in the meantime, feel free to contact me to set up a FREE, no-obligation call to chat about your project.

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