What Happens Before and After Hiring a Ghostwriter
Writing a memoir is like embarking on a great journey, and memoirists often look for some help along the way. Indeed, it’s exceedingly rare for someone to write their memoir entirely on their own. In fact, most people who publish memoirs don’t write them at all—even if they have great life stories to share, they either can’t spare the time or lack the skills to write a book all by themselves, or both.
This is why ghostwriters are invaluable in getting compelling life stories out into the world. These are professional writers who can tell your story for you—you provide them with the ideas and material, and they weave them into a gripping narrative that people will want to read. Even though you’re not putting pen to paper, you still get credited as the author since all the ideas are yours and you determine the direction of the book. If you’re about to take the leap and hire a ghostwriter, you may have questions about the initial steps of the process and what happens right after that.
This post covers what the first interview (that initial consultation before hiring a ghostwriter) entails, how to find the right ghostwriter for you, and what to expect once you’ve hired one. The world of ghostwriting may seem overwhelming at first glance, but our guide should help you navigate this exciting new territory.
Check out our memoir ghostwriting service to learn how we can assist you in getting your story out there, from preparing the outline to publishing your book.
Before hiring a ghostwriter
Before you hire a ghostwriter, you’ll have an initial interview where you get to know them and they get to know you. The ghostwriter will ask questions to determine what you need so they can decide whether they’re the right fit for the job. To ensure the interview proceeds as smoothly as possible, you’ll need to be clear about your goals and vision so you can answer those questions confidently and exhaustively.
This is also an opportunity for you to determine whether this is someone you want to work with. There’s no formula for making this decision—you either click with someone or you don’t. Trust your gut because whoever you hire will be working closely with you. You need to feel comfortable sharing deeply personal experiences with them, and they need to like you enough to be invested in your story and skillfully adapt their writing to match your unique voice.
Questions you can expect from your ghostwriter
1. What services do you need?
The ghostwriter will need to understand exactly what services you need and how much you want to be involved in the writing process. Some clients provide an outline and ideas they want included and leave the ghostwriter to flesh out the book. Others produce an entire first draft themselves and ask the ghostwriter to spruce it up, doing revisions or perhaps restructuring the content. Still others entrust all of the writing to the ghostwriter, but they do have to provide the ideas and specify what they want from their book.
Think about what will work best for you so you’ll be prepared for this question. Consider your goals, writing skills, time constraints, and the level of control you want over the process as you determine which type of collaboration is best for you.
2. What are your goals?
Different people have different reasons for writing a memoir, so consider carefully your goals. Do you want this to be a record for your family? Do you have insights that you think might be helpful to other people going through a similar experience? Are you simply eager to share an important experience with others? Has it always been a dream of yours to publish a book? Maybe it’s a combination of multiple aspirations. Think about what your memoir will look like as a published book and what you want to happen from there.
There are no wrong reasons for writing a memoir, but understanding yours will allow the ghostwriter to choose the best approach for your book and determine whether your goals align with what they can offer. Depending on your goals, the book may need to be structured differently, and some ghostwriters may be better suited for certain types of memoirs than others.
3. Who are your readers?
The ghostwriter will likely ask you what audience you have in mind for your memoir. Who do you want to read the book? Who do you think would be interested in your story? Perhaps your intended audience is your family and friends, and your memoir documents your life for them. Maybe it’s people who’ve had similar experiences to you and can benefit from your guidance. Perhaps you’re writing a travel memoir, and the readers are people who want to visit those places.
If possible, try to pin down your target demographic to an age bracket and gender as well. All of these audiences will be reading for different reasons, which will affect the style and tone of the writing. If you’re not sure who your audience might be, an experienced ghostwriter can help you figure that out, but giving the question some forethought will certainly allow you to come to a conclusion faster.
After hiring a ghostwriter
So, you’ve found the right ghostwriter for your memoir. You’ll sign a contract that stipulates the services they will provide, the fees and expenses there will be, the number of revisions they’ll do, the deadlines, and the details of the writing credit and the ghostwriter’s anonymity.
What happens next?
- Providing relevant documents
The ghostwriter will need whatever documentation you have. This might include transcripts of interviews you’ve conducted (or the raw audio or video), diaries you’ve kept, or any notes or thoughts you’ve jotted down. Any writing samples of yours will be valuable as they will help the ghostwriter mimic your voice or writing style, but don’t worry if you can’t supply any samples—the ghostwriter can still adapt to your voice simply by conversing with you.
Other documentation might include outside sources such as articles that provide additional context for a given event, time, place, or field. If in doubt, provide your ghost with more materials than necessary—this will give them greater insight into you and your background, helping them compose a well-rounded story of your life.
- Holding additional conversations
You’ll be in constant contact with your ghostwriter, and you can expect many follow-ups, which might be face-to-face meetings, phone calls, or emails. They might be lengthy conversations or quick clarifying exchanges, depending on how the project is going—either way, be sure to make room in your schedule for discussions with your ghostwriter.
These follow-ups are crucial for your collaborator to get the details right and to ensure the style and structure of the book match your expectations. The more they talk with you, the more they get to know you, and the better they know you, the better they can mimic your voice. So, if your ghostwriter is constantly contacting you with questions, don’t get annoyed—it’s all for the sake of your memoir.
- Finalizing the book
There are quite a few steps to finalizing a book. There will be revisions before you get the final manuscript—you’ll read through the draft and provide feedback, and your ghostwriter will make changes based on your remarks. Then, the book needs to be prepared for publication (e.g., formatted and proofread), whether you intend to self-publish or send it to a traditional publisher.
Some ghostwriters help with these post-writing stages and others don’t, but that will be specified in the contract. Freelance ghostwriters rarely provide these extra services, but if you work with a ghostwriting agency, it will often offer a comprehensive package.
One final piece of advice: Always be honest with your ghostwriter! It’s only natural to want to present yourself in a favorable light, but the best memoirs are those that include both the good and the bad. In the case of memoirs, honesty truly is the best policy.
First, the more honest you are with your ghostwriter, the more your memoir will feel like you. Second, honesty makes for a more compelling story because an “everything is great” narrative isn’t interesting. Finally, capturing all facets of your personality will humanize you and allow your readers to relate to you. Readers want vulnerability and raw emotion, which may be uncomfortable to share but it’s what makes for a great read. If you’ve chosen the right ghostwriter, then being honest with them will come more easily.
Are you ready to take that first step? Book a free memoir consultation, and we’ll walk you through how we can help make your book a reality.