Tips on working with a ghost
I was recently asked to contribute to a blog on five golden rules for successfully working with a ghostwriter and thought it might be quite helpful to reproduce it here. So, with little fanfare, my top rules would be:
– Be choosy. Those who are thinking of working with ghosts should think very carefully about the chemistry between them and their co-writer. An 80,000-word relationship can seem like a lifetime if the connection is not there. More importantly, if your ghost doesn’t really buy into what you are saying, the end result probably won’t hold together terribly well either.
– Plan, plan and plan. I am a great believer in getting a really firm chapter-by-chapter plan in place at the earliest opportunity. Things may change as the process progresses and they usually do, but if there is a plan in place, everyone will know what is expected of them and will arrive at interviews fully primed and prepared.
– Be sure to commit enough time. As a ghost, I have spent my fair share of time waiting around for delayed interviews, or even climbing straight back onto trains after a last minute cancellation. That’s fine now and again and goes with the territory of working with subjects who are in demand. However, I would always recommend that my co-authors consider very carefully whether they have enough time for a book project. Ideally, I need at least 25 to 30 hours of a subject’s time to get the full story.
– Face-to-face is best. Secondary to the above point, I much prefer to conduct interviews on a face-to-face basis. I have done some book interviews over the phone, or via Skype, but it is not ideal. Capturing a person’s voice is one of the most important aspects of successful ghosting and interviews via electronic media add an unnecessary layer of detachment.
– Read it. Ghosting is collaboration and it is really helpful if a co-author reads the copy which his or her ghost will regularly send over for review. It can make for a very messy end to a project if at the 11th hour the named author goes through the book with a fine toothcomb and decides that they don’t really like any of the anecdotes. Often it is simply a case of cold feet at the thought of seeing their confessions in black and white, but it is really helpful if this can be thrashed out earlier.
This blog first appeared on www.andrewlownie.co.uk