1 Frustrating Ghostwriting Secret: Hurry Up and Wait


Before ghostwriting, I was a sportswriter, and one lesson I quickly learned was hurry up and wait.

When I covered any college or professional game, there was a mandatory cooling-off period afterwards when the press had to wait before gaining access to the teams.

This often extended to before the game, too. I remember covering a professional baseball game the day a player was busted for cocaine possession. I literally spent hours waiting outside the clubhouse for the team representatives to comment (the player, unsurprisingly, was unavailable).

Waiting around was one of least glamorous parts of sportswriting. When I went into ghostwriting, I had no idea that I would once again find myself living the hurry-up-and-wait lifestyle.

It’s not widely written about, but it’s nonetheless true about ghostwriting.

For one thing, life gets in the way. A client gets sick, goes on vacation, or gets busy, and the time for ghostwriter and client to meet gets pushed back, often numerous times.

Here are some examples from my ghostwriting career.

1. After a client signed the contract and sent me the first payment to secure my ghostwriting services, we scheduled another meeting the next month to give him time to collect his thoughts and stories so we could next meet and start outlining.

When that date arrived, he hadn’t done the work yet, so we used our meeting to nail down the dates and times he would do the work so we could meet and be productive the next time.

That’s one month of inactivity. Hurry up and wait.

2. One former client approached me in June and asked if I wanted to do a second book with him. I said yes. We met and discussed it, but then he ran into money problems, so we delayed. We scheduled two follow-up appointments, but he cancelled them because he had nothing new to report.

Finally, in December, we met on Zoom. It was really nice to visit with him, but he said his priorities had changed and he was delaying the next book indefinitely. Between his original reaching out and his priority shift, it was six months of hurry up and wait.

3. Another ghostwriting job I got was put on hold because the client was expanding his business, so his representatives said he should be ready to start in January or February, four months down the road.

Last month, his people told me it’s more like April or May now. That’s nine months of inactivity.

On one hand, they’re keeping me in the loop, so that’s good. On the other hand, it’s hurry up and wait.

4. There was a ghostwriting prospect who wanted to start but never seemed to have the money. He signed the contract but didn’t provide the first payment, making the contract meaningless. 

I told him I would honor the original price until Dec. 31. He did nothing, so that was sixteen months of hurry up and wait.

And so it goes.

I understand that life happens, and this is part of the job. I also know that a 2022 online article from Entrepreneur said that at least 95% of people who want to write a book never start. If even a small percentage of those 95% reach out to a ghostwriter and delay for any reason, no matter how valid, that’s going to be a lot of hurrying up and waiting for the ghostwriter.

The solution is easy, but implementing it isn’t.

The client and ghostwriter need to agree on how high a priority the book will be. Then they need to behave like it is that much of a priority. They have to resist temptation and distraction and remain focused.

It is doable. The guy who approached me to write a second book with him? We completed the first book, about 200 pages and 50,000 words, in about ten weeks. Last summer, a client and I churned out eight chapters in three months.

In both cases, the clients and I were equally committed to getting it done.

I’ll hurry up and wait when I have to. I also know I don’t always have to.

For more information or to hire a ghostwriter, contact Lee today.

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