News room: Expert Tips - What to expect from a ghostwriter by Bryony Sutherland

Expert Tips - What to expect from a ghostwriter by Bryony Sutherland by Jessica Barrah

This edition of expert tips comes from Bryony Sutherland, who explains how best to work with a ghostwriter. Bryony has ghostwritten memoirs for music and sports personalities, and how-to books in genres including pregnancy and parenting, career development, health and fitness, and interior design.

Let’s cut to the chase. You can’t write. Or rather, you can write, but you don’t have the time, patience or inclination to do so. But you have a story—a very interesting story that could entertain the masses, help a number of people, or even change lives. It’s time to get a ghost.

Ghost Hunting

Just like skeletons, many ghosts hide in closets. Literary closets, shall we say. Bound by confidentiality, they are often unwilling or unable to disclose details of previous projects. Sometimes word of mouth will lead discreetly to the right writer for you; sometimes it’s simply a case of trial and error. What matters most in this arrangement is the relationship between you. That and a rock solid contract.

First Encounters

When you first encounter your ghost, you need to rely on instinct. You’re preparing to spill your secrets or the tricks of your trade to this person, so trust has to be your top priority. Do you like the ghostwriter? Can you confide in the ghostwriter? Are you confident that he or she will be able to speak in your voice and get your message across? A good ghostwriter will spend many hours interviewing you, then later in the process you will hammer out any outstanding issues together. As well as trusting in the creative process, you need a sense that your writer is on your side, and if there is an artistic disagreement, the manuscript will be adjusted accordingly. Remember, it’s your book after all. Of course it’s not always possible to source a kindred spirit, but a dash of friendliness and a lack of ego on the writer’s side will always help.

Ghost Expectations

From your ghostwriter you should expect a professional non-disclosure agreement (NDA) covering all project details in depth, including method, schedule, payment, credit and royalties (if appropriate), copyright and confidentiality. Not all contracts run exactly to plan, so there should also be clear provision made for additional work and a termination clause should the worst come to the worst. You should expect to pay a realistic amount of money—ghostwriters who are available instantly and cheaply are less likely to be experienced or successful in their field, plus they have mortgages to pay and breakfast cereal to buy, just like you. Consequently you should expect to receive a manuscript that is professionally turned out, well written and punctual. Provisions should be made in the schedule for the editing process so any niggles can be ironed out to your satisfaction. (Equally you may want to consider employing a separate editor who is not as close to the subject.)

No Guarantees

From your ghostwriter you should not expect any form of guarantee that your book will be a bestseller. I’m sorry to state the obvious, but it’s true. A ghostwriter is not a literary agent, a publisher or a PR maven. While crossover skills may exist, the primary focus here is employing an expert writer. If you are prepared to invest in this service, you should be prepared to follow through financially when it comes to expert promotion. A ghostwriter is also not a miracle worker. If your story simply isn’t up to scratch and is unlikely to find an audience, this should become apparent certainly by the end of the interview process. Yes, artistic lines may occasionally be blurred, but bending the truth can be illegal and is out of the ghost’s remit.

Jodi Picoult once said, “Everyone has a book inside of them—but it doesn’t do any good until you pry it out.” A good ghostwriter will pry professionally and breathe life into your story, telling it the way you want it to be told.

Bryony Sutherland is an editor specialising in memoirs, how-tos and fiction…with a twist. She is also the co-author of Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide with Sarah Ratliff, and a number of celebrity biographies with Lucy Ellis. Together they have been called ‘professional storytellers’ by The Guardian, ‘very professional’ by Film Review, ‘immensely readable’ by The Beat Goes On, ‘detailed’ by Sunday Express and ‘insightful’ by OK! Magazine.

To find out more visit Bryony’s website, or check out her Amazon author site.
You can also connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Written by
Jessica Barrah
Published on
Writing, Expert tips, Ghostwriting, Self-publishing, and Publishing