How a ghostwriter can help you get your book published

Want a publish-ready book manuscript? Here’s how a ghostwriter can get you ready to publish.

Some people come to us thinking that we’ll publish their book. We won’t. But we can make their manuscript publishable.

Getting published is always a challenge, unless you self publish. But even then, you need a publishable manuscript. You need a book that people will want to read.

That’s where our ghostwriters come in.

What you need from us depends on how far you’ve come along in your project.

Some people come to us with a finished manuscript that just needs proofreading. Or, more often, it needs editing (which includes proofreading, by the way).

Some come with a very rough draft, with all the pieces in place, but not all that well written. They might just need polishing, or they might need us to rewrite the manuscript.

Many times, an author comes to us with a partially developed manuscript that seems to be headed nowhere. Perhaps the author grew bored or tired. Often she just got busy or distracted by other priorities. Or she realized that she just isn’t as skilled a writer as she had hoped. So now she seeks a ghostwriter to take over where the author left off and finish the manuscript.

Others come with a well-conceived idea, with a list of chapters, well-developed character and a plot. They just need somebody to write.

Others have an idea, but don’t really know what they want to include. It might be just a vague concept, or people might have been telling them, “You oughta write a book about that.” Or they don’t know how to organize their thoughts. They need to be interviewed. Our ghostwriters need to ask questions and pull the information from them.

Occasionally we get a really simple request: “I want a book about [subject]. Umm…that could be the easiest thing we do all day. After all, that kind of gives us free reign.

Or it could be the hardest. After all, we have no clue what the client wants, so we have no way to deliver what he wants.

What a ghostwriter can do for you and your manuscript

Before hiring a ghostwriter, you need to know what you want. What are your expectations to get to that publish-ready manuscript?

A ghostwriter performs many roles, from coach to partner or even critic. Much depends on what you want and are ready to pay for. To help you set your expectations, here are some ideas for how a ghostwriter can help to write your book:

  • convert a novel into a screenplay
  • lengthen or shorten a manuscript
  • discuss and refine your book idea
  • conduct research, interviews or surveys
  • enhance the interest of a book for readers
  • change the point of view in a plot structure
  • develop a plot or chapter structure (outline)
  • convert a series of lectures or sermons into a book
  • proofread a manuscript for errors and consistency of style
  • revise part or all of a manuscript to make it flow smoother
  • flesh out characters, scenes, settings, plots, conflicts and finales
  • edit for accuracy, flow, consistency and other desirable qualities
  • give an opinion about the merit of an idea, manuscript or rough draft
  • conduct a high-level review, with recommendations to improve your manuscript
  • write your back cover blurb (we offer this free when we write a book manuscript)
  • write a query letter for literary agents (we offer this free when we write a book manuscript)

How a ghostwriter can help you get your book published

Once a ghostwriter has done some of these items, you should have a finished manuscript. It should be ready to publish. And the ghostwriter’s job is complete.

What a ghostwriter won’t do for you or your manuscript

The next steps are over to you. These are things your ghostwriter doesn’t do.

A ghostwriter might not have his or her own published books and works available for you to review. Being published is not the only measure of a writer’s skill.

Not all ghostwriters have the same experience. Some have more, some have less. Some have worked on fiction, some have not. Some have written biographies, some have not. Each brings his or her unique set of skills and experience.

Some ghostwriters might have won awards. Some might have written for the stars. They might charge more for their services, but that doesn’t make them the best fit for your project.

A ghostwriter does not work for free, on “spec” or for a percentage of publishing profits or royalties. Again, our contracts are very clear on this point.

A ghostwriter doesn’t market the manuscript or pitch literary agents.

Professional writers can’t turn a really bad idea into a best-seller-worthy manuscript (although some of our ghostwriters have been known to work a miracle here and there).

A ghostwriter can’t create a winning manuscript when the client won’t cooperate (for instance, by giving the information needed).

Don’t expect your ghostwriter to do your research for you, unless that is specified in the contract. Research can be a huge time sink, a virtual bottomless pit of work.

A ghostwriter generally doesn’t share in published books’ advances, royalties or rights. Make sure your contract is very specific on these points. All our ghostwriting contracts are very clear – you own the rights, you get all royalties in advance. We are strictly work-for-hire.

A ghostwriter is not your buddy or best friend. She will keep in periodic touch with you, especially to have you review each chapter as it is drafted and to seek input or missing information. But you will not be in daily contact.

Ghostwriting is not a start-to-finish process. They writer takes your manuscript from where you left off or from your state of organization, and takes it to a publish-ready manuscript.

A ghostwriter will edit and proofread before handing you a completed manuscript, assuming you’ve hired her to take it all the way to completion. You should still get a fresh set of eyes to proofread it.

Ghostwriters don’t get credits for writing. Usually, a brief acknowledgement is indicated at the front of the book, along with those to other assistants or contributors. Our contracts ask for this by default, but we don’t insist on it. Occasionally, an author offers co-writing credit to our ghostwriter, but that is rare.

Ghostwriters do not receive commissions for recommending certain agents or publishers. In fact, they will rarely make a recommendation, because their specialty is writing, not publishing.

Will ghostwriting guarantee publishing?

There are no publishing guarantees. There are many factors that make a book publishable, and a professional writer can only make sure the writing is up to par.

Only a publisher or a self-published author can predict with certainty that a manuscript will be published. Most manuscripts are rejected at first…even best sellers from previously unknown authors are usually rejected many, many times before they are published.

As you can see, the relationship between author and ghostwriter varies considerably. In fact, there are as many different relationships as there are author clients and professional ghostwriters.

Whatever your relationship with your ghostwriter, you stand a much better chance of getting published with a professional writer than without. Start by deciding what kind of help you need, and be prepared to feed the ghostwriter the information she needs to deliver.

About David Leonhardt

is President of The Happy Guy Marketing, a published author, a "Distinguished Toastmaster", a former consumer advocate, a social media addict and experienced with media relations and government reports.

Read more about David Leonhardt



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