What to expect in your first call with a ghostwriter

If you’re considering working with a ghostwriter, here’s what to expect from your initial call to discuss your book project.

The first call is the opportunity for both of you to determine whether this project and this writer and you would all be a good fit for each other. Also, importantly, to discover whether you would want to work closely with each other for the months it takes to write and revise a book manuscript.

To answer those questions in her own mind, the ghostwriter will need to gather certain information from you. Here are seven things she will likely ask you about and why they’re important.

And at the end, one tip for you.

What

The ghostwriter will ask about your vision for the book.

Why it’s important

Your vision for the book sets the tone and parameters – and affects the decision making – for most of the other factors. For instance, on a practical level, let’s say you see the book as a quick handy reference. This is how that vision would affect some of the other factors:

Target readership: The broadest grouping of your target readership is going to be people who would buy that type of book. From there you would narrow by subject matter niche. This in turn will affect marketing and promotion, and perhaps also voice (the tone of the writing).

Publication options (and, potentially, cost): If you decided to go with traditional or hybrid publishing, you would target agents and publishers who have expertise with quick handy reference books. If you decided to self-publish, you would want to look for designers who understood how to use the book’s interior design to engage and hold reader interest, as well as to make sure the information you’re presenting is easy to understand and follow, and can be accessed at a glance. This could well involve graphics, which would then lead to another set of decisions and choices (and costs). Being shorter than a ‘regular’ book, a quick handy reference should cost less to print per copy, although graphics can affect publication costs.

Voice (tone): The voice of a quick handy reference is likely to be conversational and matter-of-fact, and could include humour (although, if you’re aiming at an international readership, it’s important to bear in mind that humour often doesn’t cross well into other cultures). Is this a voice the ghostwriter can inhabit in the writing?

Ghostwriting time frame and cost: Both the ghostwriter’s fee and the time frame would likely be on the lower end, because the work should require a lot less research and writing than an in-depth exploration of a topic.

On a broader level, how you envision the book affects whether the ghostwriter you’re talking with would be the right writer for this project.

 

What

The ghostwriter will ask about your goals for the book.

Why it’s important

Many of the other decisions flow from this one. And the flow is multidirectional – if your goals are unrealistic given your budget or your willingness to do promotion, for example, then you will need to adjust one or more of those factors. The writer will be able to give you guidance on this.

In terms of the writing, knowing your goals will enable the ghostwriter to assess whether she’s the right writer for this book.

 

What

The ghostwriter will ask about your time frame for getting the book published.

Why it’s important

Note that this is not the time frame for ghostwriting. The ghostwriter will want to know when you want the book to be out in the world (e.g. in time for an important conference or speaking engagement), so that she can work backwards to factor in time for the publication process (finding a publisher, design, proofreading, printing & distribution), the editorial process (review, beta readers, revision), and the research and writing. (Pro tip: for each of these stages we’re typically talking months, not weeks). If your time frame is unrealistic, then you and the ghostwriter will discuss which other decisions and goals (or desires) need to be changed.

If you have a tight deadline, the writer might not be able to take on the project because her project list is too full or she doesn’t believe she could produce a quality manuscript in that time frame.

 

What

The ghostwriter will ask about your target readership.

Why it’s important

Your target readership will affect numerous elements of the research and writing, among them the shape and tone of the writing and storytelling, the length of the book, formatting decisions (e.g. use of subheadings and bullet points), vocabulary and syntax, sentence and paragraph length.

What

The ghostwriter will ask how important it is that the writing sound exactly like you, i.e. the voice of the writing.

Why it’s important

Whether you want the writer to make you “sound better” or to stay carefully true to your voice (mode of expression, vocabulary, use of epithets, sentence length and complexity, humour, etc.), or whether you are not attached to voice at all, or anything in between, is a fundamental aspect of the writing and preparation. For instance, if you want the writing to sound exactly like you, then the writer will need time and resources (e.g. things you’ve written, recordings of you speaking) to enable her to absorb and inhabit your voice.

What

The ghostwriter will ask about which publication options you’re considering.

Why it’s important

The ghostwriter will take this into consideration when assessing whether your desired timeframe and other expectations are in line with reality.

 

What

The ghostwriter will ask about your capacity and willingness to promote the book.

Why it’s important

As with publication options, the ghostwriter will take this into consideration when assessing whether your desired timeframe and other expectations are in line with reality.

What

The ghostwriter will ask about your expectations of working with a ghostwriter.

Why it’s important

Alignment of expectations is a crucial aspect of the intangible but oh-so-important fit.

 

Which leads us to the final item . . .

What

Your gut feeling during and after the call.

Why it’s important

Working with a ghostwriter on a book is an intimate and collaborative process that requires significant trust. How do you feel? Is this someone you can enjoy working with and place your trust in for months or a year or more? Did you enjoy talking with the ghostwriter? Did she seem knowledgeable and competent? Did she gain your trust? Does she seem to be the right writer for this particular book?


Want to discuss how to shape your ideas into a book that can make a big impact? Contact me at jane@janemackay.info or book a call on my calendar: https://calendly.com/janemackay/30min

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