by Yvonne Perry
One thing we have to do as ghostwriters is put our ego aside. We may do all the grunt work and create a fantastic book that goes to market and hits number one — I’ve had that happen. A book I ghostwrote made Amazon’s bestseller list a few weeks after it was published. I even helped the author find a publisher, but I can’t even tell you the title of the book because I worked under a non-disclosure agreement. I wrote the book, but my name is nowhere to be found between the covers. A ghostwriter is invisible, behind the scenes. You won’t be given credit for any material you create as a work-for-hire writer. The copyright is turned over to the author of record as soon as payment is made to the ghostwriter. That’s one of the challenges of the business.
The name of my company reflects the mystical notion of ghostwriting and offering spiritual help. Like book angels, Writers in the Sky is hidden in the clouds helping, encouraging, and cheering authors on but we’re really not here to get our name on the front cover of your book. We do get a perk every now and then because the clients we work with are very appreciative. Some clients will give us some acknowledgment in their book as a developmental or copy editor. We appreciate it, but we know better than to expect it.
Ghostwriting is a collaborative process. We may go back and forth emailing a chapter at a time, sometimes section by section or one character to really home in on developing a book that has the author’s imprint, voice, and style. When I say “style,” I don’t mean style guides because we use Chicago Manual of Style and any book we write or edit is going to be aligned with those standards. But, an author has a writing style and we don’t want to get rid of that; but, we do want to improve it where necessary. So, what we are doing then is not only improving the book, we are also improving the writer because they are learning from the process. We act as book shepherds or mentors so the next book that author brings to us is even better.
Another challenge is the condition in which some manuscripts come to us. We’ve written books from a jumbled mess of notes written on sticky notes, menus, napkins, church bulletins, or whatever scrap paper was handy when their idea occurred on the spur of the moment. They may drop off a box and leave it up to us to create the entire book from the contents. Some authors have a great outline or a rough draft with their research well documented who say, “Write the book this way.” We take their manuscript and produce a book that has their style and voice. When writing about someone’s life, we have to get to know that person in order to assume that person’s voice.
We develop relationships with some clients who become our close friends. Even after their book is on the market, we’re still in touch with the authors because of the bond we made in our collaboration. I regularly hear from some clients I worked with years ago. I may email them to ask, “How’s our baby (book) coming along?” or “What can I do to help you with the marketing?” They may call to wish me a happy holiday or just say hello.
If you’ve got to have your name in lights and have everyone know you wrote a book, then being a ghostwriter is probably not your calling. If you enjoy helping other writers improve their writing, you may enjoy ghostwriting.
Yvonne Perry is a freelance writer and the owner of Writers in the Sky Creative Writing Services (WITS). She and her team of ghostwriters are ready to assist you with writing and editing for books, Web text, business documents, resumes, bios, articles and media releases.
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