The Ten Commandments of Ghostwriting

April 28, 2019

Thou shalt not hire the first ghostwriter you speak to:  

Shop around. Talk to several ghostwriters. Ask questions. Read samples. If your story is important to you, then due diligence is important to your story. Your book is your baby. Make sure you trust the sitter. 


Thou shalt not hire a company:


Hire an individual. An actual person. A company is a middleman, with overhead. Which means a good portion of the fee you pay to a ghostwriting factory will go to someone who will have nothing at all to do with the actual writing of your book or screenplay. The Best Ghostwriters is a small group of independent writers and editors. You work with one writer, your own personal ghostwriter. 

Bonus commandment: Thou shalt not use one of those ghostwriter referral sites, either:

They let anyone sign up as a "pro." If you don't believe me, sign up as a pro. Congratulations. You're now a "professional ghostwriter." Except you're really not. You were looking for a professional ghostwriter. Now go forth and find a real pro. 


Thou shalt make an agreement and stick to its terms: 


Make yourself available for consultations and interviews as needed, as specified in the agreement. Be good to your ghostwriter and your ghostwriter will be good to you. 


Thou shalt trust thy ghostwriter:  


After you have found your ghostwriter, let your ghostwriter work. We each know our own story best, but perspective is important. If your story has been rolling around in your head for a while, it helps to get another opinion. And in this case, it’s an opinion you’re paying for. Hopefully you’ve hired an experienced ghostwriter, one who may have an idea or two about how to make your story better. Perhaps there are elements that could be added or subtracted that you hadn’t considered. Consider them. Why hire a ghostwriter if you won’t take your ghostwriter’s advice?

You are the ultimate decision-maker since you are paying the bills, but why not take advantage of the ghostwriter’s experience and expertise? Your project is a team effort, but you need to trust your teammate. 


Thou shalt not rush art: 


Be patient. Good writing takes time, and a good ghostwriter will send you completed material as the writing progresses. But don’t call your ghostwriter every single day, expecting something to read, unless your agreement is spelled out as such beforehand. It’s perfectly acceptable to receive new writing every few weeks or so. Chapters may be drafted, put aside for a few days, and then rewritten or reworked with additional perspective. Allow the process to unfold as agreed. That said, make sure your ghostwriter is responsive to your needs. If you need to talk about the project, give your ghostwriter a call, or send an email or text, whatever works best for all. Insist on open communication. 


Thou shalt not pay to self-publish until you actually have something to publish: 


This relates to commandment number two. There are ghostwriting companies out there who claim to “do it all.” They will not only assign a ghostwriter and editor to your book, they will publish it for you, too! But publishing will cost extra, of course, and you’ll have to sign a contract and pay a deposit up front. Before you even have a finished manuscript, they want to lock you in to paying them to publish it. When your book is finished, then you can decide the best way to send it out into the world. There are even ways to publish an e-book that are virtually free. Why pay for something you might not need? Which means... 


Thou shalt consider traditional publishers: 


Before you rush to self-publish your manuscript, why not query a few literary agents? Maybe one of them will represent your book to traditional publishers, who will pay you for the privilege of publishing your work, instead of the other way around. Yes, it’s hard to get a book deal, and there are no guarantees, but why sell yourself short without even trying? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. 


Thou shalt not steal: 


Do not plagiarize material, and make sure your ghostwriter doesn’t, either. There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from other writers, just don’t take their actual words. 


Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s book: 


Don’t be jealous of your friend who’s written a book, write your own! Or hire a ghostwriter to do it for you. Everybody has a story, why not tell yours? 


Thou shalt read what you write: 


If you want to write a novel, read novels. If you want to write your memoir, read some of those. It helps to know your genre, and a well-versed client makes for a better book or screenplay. The more you know, the more help you’ll be to your ghostwriter to make your project the best it can possibly be. 

And the eleventh commandment: 

There are no rules, and exceptions to all of them. In other words, whatever works, works. 

After all, commandments aren't written in stone. So if the first ghostwriter you speak to really is the one for you, or you don't want to try for a traditional book deal, that's fine. Do what you feel is right for you. 

And if you need help with your book or screenplay, or just want to talk about your options, call The Best Ghostwriters at 323-539-7635 or send us an email. Advice is always free.