The Gostwriting Process

I have no preference whether an author self publishes or pursues getting a commercial publisher. I have worked with those who have gone in both directions. If the author wants to pursue the commercial publishing route, I will write a book proposal for a fee.

Nonfiction books are typically sold via a proposal, which includes one to three sample chapters. It allows the author to market the book idea without having to write the entire book before knowing if it will be sold. The author uses the proposal to find an agent who then uses the proposal to market the book to commercial publishers.

We will first draw up a written contract that specifies timeframes, pay for reaching certain benchmarks such as word count, your responsibilities as the author and mine as the ghost. If you want your name alone on the cover without mine, that can be negotiated. In the end, the book is your property and you own the copyright.

The next step is to create a detailed outline organized by chapters. This is essential before we begin to write. With the outline in hand, we will start the writing process. In the Roman Polanski film, The Ghost Writer, the author asks the ghostwriter, "So, how do we go about this?" To which the ghost responds, "I interview you and turn your answers into prose." When I am your ghost, this is essentially how we will work.

Likely, we will not spend much time in face-to-face meetings. In fact, I've written books where I never met the author in person – all communication was via the phone and email. If it is inconvenient for us to meet personally, that will not affect our ability to work together.

We will proceed chapter-by-chapter. I interview you on the phone, write what we discussed using your "voice," your personality, and within a specified period send you the chapter. Then, you respond within a specified time period with suggested changes. We might go back and forth a couple of times until the chapter largely is finished, and repeat this process with succeeding chapters.

If you already have background information (articles, statistics, interviews, notes), I will incorporate them into the book and, if needed, augment your knowledge with research.

Do not think you can hire me, disengage from the project, and have the book magically appear. We must collaborate. You are the expert, not me. I significantly reduce the time and effort you invest in the book, but by no means do I eliminate them.

If you do not stay involved, the book is unlikely to be well written, may not even be completed and could perhaps include statements contrary to what you believe, witness the priceless disclaimer of basketball player Charles Barkley that he was "misquoted" in, of all things, his own autobiography.