I’ve written that partnering with a ghostwriter is great when your story is too important to leave to someone who isn’t professionally trained. It’s also extremely important to partner with a ghostwriter who gets you.
Colloquially, I mean, hire a ghostwriter who clicks with you.
But what does “click with” mean? Historically, it’s from the Dutch word klikken to indicate the sound a clock makes. Since the 1900s, it has figuratively meant “to get along very well and very quickly with someone,” and that applies here.
In ghostwriting, here are four areas to consider.
Relatability — Even if you and you ghostwriter live miles away and never meet face-to-face, a congenial connection between you and the ghostwriter is essential. Before you make the decision to hire a writer, determine if this person is a really good listener, asks you pertinent and probing questions about your project, and “gets” who you are and what you hope to offer your readers. The relatability factor can mean the difference between a smooth and not-so-smooth author-writer relationship (and yes, you should look at this as a relationship because a ghostwriting project takes months or years to complete). This can usually be determined in initial phone or online conversations.
However, the ghostwriter needs to resist the urge to relate too much, i.e, show you that the ghostwriter’s personal experience matches. A ghostwriter can’t make it about them. It’s always about you.
Philosophy — There are a wide variety of ghostwriters and a wide variety of clients, all of whom bring a wide variety of philosophies into the relationship. Therefore, for you and a ghostwriter to click, you need to agree on a set of beliefs.
For example, how much will be written in your voice versus the ghostwriter’s? If your story is nonfiction, how accurate and truthful will you agree to make it, versus how much artistic license will you agree to take? Do you agree on a how long the project will take?
Most importantly, will the you understand, consent, and agree that the client has the experience and the ghostwriter has the writing skills?
Encouragement and candor — You’re going to want to choose a ghostwriter who will be supportive but will not hold back in offering their forthright professional opinions and advice regarding your concepts and ideas for the book. The collaborative process between you and the ghostwriter works most effectively when they are able to balance encouragement and honesty. You need to be comfortable showing vulnerability, and the ghostwriter needs to give permission, encourage, accept and appreciate the vulnerability — and then treat the information associated with that vulnerability with the decency, respect and care it deserves.
Enthusiasm — While you can’t expect a ghostwriter to feel the same degree of passion for your book project as you do, it’s important that you sense their genuine enthusiasm. Granted, ghostwriters are writers for hire and will be signing on to your project because this is what they do for a living. But their authentic interest in the subject and themes of your book will enhance their commitment to the project, as well as to your working relationship.
These are just some of the factors a client and ghostwriter need to consider. When it works, you two feel like you’re in sync, the work flows smoothly, and a deep emotional connection is built and nurtured (it’s one reason why a client often returns to the same ghostwriter for subsequent projects). When it doesn’t work, it’s a nightmare.
That’s why it’s so important to partner with someone who gets you — whatever you decide that means to you and your ghostwriter.
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