3 Wrong Ghostwriting Expectations and Their Genuine Realities


Let’s talk about expectations. Because ghostwriting is so collaborative, the ghostwriter has the responsibility of managing a prospect or client’s expectations. If not, things can go wrong quickly.

Example: A prospect wanted me to write five high quality articles related to his business, that he could post and then share on different social media sites. He wanted 1,000 words each, me to do the research, and he wanted them all in about 15 days.

I told him $1,000 an article. He was thinking more like $100. I declined.

Sometimes, the person comes in with unreal expectations. Sometimes, the ghostwriter does a poor job of managing them. Either way, both sides have to understand where the other side is coming from and communicate what’s really going on.

Here are some expectations that need to be tempered.

Working with a ghostwriter automatically guarantees a manuscript worthy of publication and, therefore, big bucks. The reality is that can be true at times, but not always. Ghostwriters are here to stay because they’re successful enough; otherwise, they wouldn’t exist. According to book coach Nicola Kraus, publishing houses have consolidated so much that there are fewer editors and more “facilitators.” This means that the author has to make the book as close to perfect as possible before an agent or a publisher will consider it. This makes it more important to have a professional such as a ghostwriter handle the writing.

And yet, publishing is its own animal, and by no means does a ghostwritten manuscript mean publication. The story might not be a match for the publisher, there already is a glut of that type of story, or a slew of other reasons known only to the publisher.

It’s in the ghostwriter’s best interest to get the manuscript into a publishable state because it benefits the ghostwriter’s business and brand, but it’s simply not possible to promise.

As for the big bucks: According to Teena Lyons, a UK based ghostwriter, writing a book is not a get-rich quick scheme. Nor is using a ghostwriter a shortcut. And author Lee Ballentine calculated that only between 1% and .1% of published books end up profitable. Chances are a ghostwriter isn’t going to significantly change that.

So, use a ghostwriter to increase the likelihood that your manuscript will get written, but don’t expect that to mean it’s on the road to financial success.

Just a couple of hours of interviews should be enough, and the book can be written in three months. Actually, the process is very detailed and takes about a year, meaning there is A LOT more collaboration between client and ghostwriter than many clients understand. I estimate that I end up interviewing clients for between 20 hours (business books) and 100 hours (memoirs) to do their works justice.

Once, I needed only about 10 hours to complete interviews with a client, but that was because he was highly organized and knew exactly what he needed to tell me, and then I had to spend another 10-20 hours researching online to expand on what he was saying.

I finished that same client’s book in about 12 weeks, easily the fastest I ever completed a book, but that was only because the client was willing to meet every week at the same time and talk to me about the next chapter. Then I had to write the chapter in three days, send it to him for feedback, get his feedback and make the necessary fixes before moving onto the next chapter. We both were fully committed to that timeline.

Which brings me to another expectation:

Both sides have to treat this project as a priority. Too often, life gets in the way and delays happen. They didn’t with the client whose business book I completed in 12 weeks, but that’s rare.

More common is this: The ghostwriter wants to schedule a next meeting with the client, but the client dithers, delays, cancels, or reschedules, indicating it’s not as high a priority for the client.

I have this issue with a current client. He refuses to commit to the next call, instead telling me to try him on WhatsApp. When I do, he sometimes isn’t around because he’s flown off to Colorado to ski or El Salvador to surf. Fortunately, he isn’t pushing for his memoir to get done. It’s likely this project will take longer than a year.

There also could be times when the client pushes the ghostwriter to get moving faster but the ghostwriter doesn’t. That’s equally unfair. In those cases, the ghostwriter likely is trying to balance too many projects at once and isn’t giving enough attention to this project. The ghostwriter needs to limit the number of projects he’s doing at one time and tell others either “no” or “I’m busy until (date). Are you okay waiting until then?”

This is why I take on a maximum of only three projects at a time.

There are many more expectations that need to be clearly defined (and that’s for another column), but ghostwriter and client alike need to make sure they’re communicating so everyone’s on the same page. For seamless ghostwriter services, look to Lee Barnathan.

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