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  • Derya Dinç

Working with a Ghostwriter

Everyone has a story to tell, but writing a book can be a long, lonely, and challenging process. Not everyone may be ready for the demanding work conditions that may take months or years to write a book, nor may they have the necessary time, patience, experience, or education. In such cases, you can work with a ghostwriter to write your book.


Who is a Ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is a person hired to create content on behalf of someone else. The ghostwriter creates content such as blogs, speeches, short stories, or novels for their client. When the client pays the agreed fee to the ghostwriter for this content, the copyright of the prepared content passes to the client. Thus, the client is free to use these texts as if they have created them. They can publish them on any platform they want, convert them into different formats, and sell them by modifying and editing as they wish. They can negotiate with publishers for printing and sign any contracts regarding the sale of the content and the transfer of rights. All income derived from the sale and use of this content belongs entirely to the client, and the ghostwriter cannot demand any fee other than the amount agreed upon in the initial agreement.


To explain this more clearly, we can use the example of James Bond. It has been a topic of discussion in the industry for decades that Ian Fleming used a ghostwriter to write his world-famous, million-selling James Bond spy series. These books have been translated into dozens of languages around the world and have also been made into films many times. All the income from these belongs entirely to Ian Fleming and, after his death, to his legal heirs. Even the existence of contracts that the books were written by a ghostwriter does not entitle the ghostwriter to claim any rights from this income.



Who Can Be a Ghostwriter?

It may be surprising, but ghostwriters do not always come from the field of literature and writing. For example, a chef may choose to ghostwrite books about cooking. Or a graduate in engineering can use the expertise brought by their field to ghostwrite in this area. As in these examples, those who transition from distinct professional fields to ghostwriting typically serve predominantly in their areas of expertise. So, a graduate in engineering would generally focus on writing in the engineering field, rather than fictional books, poetry, or children's books.


In cases where ghostwriters do not come from the field of literature and writing, they are expected to receive external training in these areas. Even if they have an innate interest and talent in writing, ghostwriting requires more than this. For a writer creating their content, it is sufficient to specialize in a single style, category, and use of language. For example, a writer of horror stories can specialize only in this category and write all their books in a simple style using the third person. However, since ghostwriting is a professional service offered on behalf of someone else, the writer is expected to know how to use different styles. A ghostwriter should be able to write in many different categories, styles, and formats and make changes in these according to requests.


Therefore, a person wanting to be a ghostwriter can take courses in creative writing, editing, and outlining, or read books in these fields. Different training taken from successful writers in the field can help a ghostwriter write in different styles. Additionally, receiving education from different languages, cultures, and countries will also help a ghostwriter differentiate their content. Besides education, the strongest weapon of a ghostwriter is always their library. Reading different categories and styles and analyzing the best writers in the field are some of the most important things a ghostwriter can do to improve themselves. One of the most important questions a ghostwriter should ask in their initial meetings with a client is about the client's favorite authors. All writers are inevitably influenced by the authors they read and like the most in terms of style. For this purpose, the ghostwriter should also know the favorite authors of their client, study the styles and tones of these authors, and accordingly adapt and modify their own writing style.


When I start writing for a new client, one of the first things I do is to read the books of their favorite authors and the style they admire the most.

Choosing the Right Ghostwriter

You have decided to work with a ghostwriter to turn your dream book into reality, but where will you find the right ghostwriter, and how will you choose the person most suitable for your content?


The first thing to do before finding a ghostwriter is to correctly determine your needs. In which field do you want to have content written? Fiction or non-fiction? What is the desired length? A 200-300 page novel, a short story, or regular blog posts? After answering these questions, you need to determine the details of this content. Choosing a category such as horror, science fiction, fantasy, romance, or historical will help you in selecting a ghostwriter. You can also determine the style of your content. Will your content be written in the first person? For example; "I paused at the entrance of the cave, using all my strength to ignore the voice of panic inside me. My mind was constantly weighing the risks and rewards of taking this risk." Or will it be written in the third person? "Katie paused at the entrance of the cave, resisting the voice of panic inside her. Her mind was constantly weighing what she could gain and lose by taking this risk." Some ghostwriters may prefer a certain style or category, and these preferences may not always match your needs.


After determining your needs, you can find ghostwriters on freelance sites like Bionluk or research on career sites like LinkedIn. Some publishers may also recommend ghostwriters they work with. However, just finding a ghostwriter does not mean that they are the right person for your content. At this point, I recommend contacting at least 10 different ghostwriters, asking for writing samples in the chosen category and style, along with pricing information. A writer who writes beautifully in the fantasy genre may not be successful in comedy. Or that the writer's language and narrative may not suit the form you have in mind. You can only see this by having enough writing samples, comparing all these samples, and selecting the right person for you this way.



Ghostwriting Prices

In an industry where every customer's needs are so diverse, setting a standard price can be very difficult. For example, some customers come with all characters, locations, and events determined. They want a short and straightforward book. In this project, since the level of research required by the ghostwriter is minimal, a lower average price can be offered.


Some customers, however, may want more research-intensive, difficult, and long-term projects. For example, career books on corporate management, entrepreneurship, real estate development, and social media management; historical novels; and projects like works where the ghostwriter needs to create much of the content themselves will be priced higher. In these types of projects, the ghostwriter should do research, read books, and improve themselves to determine a particular style and tone for their client. Therefore, the prices for these types of projects will be higher.


The experience and knowledge a ghostwriter brings to the table can also affect the price. Some ghostwriters write in their own style and tone and do not create a separate language for the client. Their prices may be lower. However, a ghostwriter experienced in the industry who produces content suitable for your favorite authors and writing style may charge more. Ghostwriters may want to review your writing samples, videos of your speeches, and social media posts for this. Some ghostwriters may also offer different services such as developmental editing and publishing consultancy in addition to writing services. These will also affect the final price for your project.


In the ghostwriting industry, where every customer requires a unique process, I recommend comparing the project prices you request along with writing samples to determine the most accurate price for you and choose the most suitable one. However, remember that the lowest fee may not always be the right choice, and make sure to sign a contract before making any payment.


Ghostwriter Contract

Some of the ghostwriting customers who come to me say that they paid people they found on websites to write their books, but these people later disappeared. Although sad, this is an inevitable scam in the industry, so I strongly recommend signing a ghostwriting contract to prevent this. If the ghostwriter you are trying to make a deal with does not offer you a contract, it would be useful to reconsider your choice.


This contract first outlines the obligations of the ghostwriter. Matters such as the category agreed upon for writing, the length of the work, the language, the ghostwriter writing this work personally, and the writing duration should be included in this part of the contract. One of the most important items in this section is that when the payment is completed, the ghostwriter is authorized to transfer all material and moral rights of the work to the client. Also, this section contains clauses that protect your confidentiality and content. For example, the ghostwriter not sharing any information they receive during the project without your written permission is standard in ghostwriting contracts. Another important point is the issue of references, which should also be included in this section of the contract.


If a ghostwriter comes to you with references including book and author names, you should consider that the same person may use your name and your book as a reference in the future. Ghostwriting is one of the professions that should not give references because it is based entirely on the principle of confidentiality. At the end of the project, all rights to the written work pass to you, meaning in the eyes of companies you might deal with, like publishers, and the public, you become the author of these texts. In this case, the ghostwriter using your name and the name of your work as a reference and spreading contrary information reduces both your credibility and the value of your work. Therefore, the section of the contract detailing the ghostwriter's responsibilities should also include a clause that the use of your name and the name of your work as a reference is subject to your permission.


The second part of the contract contains the client's obligations. Here, as the person hiring the ghostwriter, it includes clauses such as the total amount you will pay, payment periods, the status of previous payments in case of project cancellation, and the approval period for the texts you receive from the ghostwriter. Since ghostwriting can be a long project, payments are generally divided into three parts: at the beginning, middle, and end of the project. This section gives you the right to use the text. Additionally, the ghostwriter may also include a standard industry request of five free copies of your book upon its publication in this section of the contract.


Other sections of the contract, the final provisions, may include changes to the contract, its cancellation, notification addresses, and which court is competent in case of a dispute. I recommend requesting a signed copy of the contract at the beginning of the project, before making any payments, and keeping it after the project is completed.



Working with a Ghostwriter

You've decided what you want to be written, found a suitable ghostwriter, signed the contract, and are now ready to start. So, how do you work with a ghostwriter? What does this process entail and require?


Before starting, a ghostwriter may go through a long period of research and interviews depending on your content. The important thing here is for the ghostwriter to understand exactly what you want. To this end, they may ask about your favorite authors, the details of your story, characters, events, locations in detail. They might request videos of your speeches, your writing samples, your notes. These help the ghostwriter create a style suitable for you. The important thing is to share everything in your mind with the ghostwriter, remember that we cannot write what we do not know.


A ghostwriter starts the writing process only when they feel ready. Depending on the content of some projects, I prefer to outline, create a character database, and plan chapters or specific features of the content before starting to write. A ghostwriter starts writing the first chapter only when they feel they have enough knowledge about your career, the field you have chosen, or the fictional world you have created. The first chapter is the longest to write and goes through the most revisions. The most important thing for the client here is to be patient and allow the ghostwriter to proceed at a comfortable pace. The writing speed of the first chapter does not determine the writing speed of the rest of the book. It takes longer compared to other sections as it is necessary to establish a suitable style and set the tone. During the period from the start of writing the first chapter to its completion and refinement to your liking, the ghostwriter may have many meetings with you, and the text may go back and forth several times. All this is to ensure the text reflects what is in your mind.


Once the first chapter is approved, the process usually speeds up. At this point, the ghostwriter understands what their client wants and has laid a foundation on which to build the rest of the book. However, before continuing to write, it is important for each chapter or subsections within chapters to be approved by you to ensure a smoother and faster process. Since even the smallest revision after a book is completed can take more time, the ghostwriter may request written approval of the chapters they have completed before moving on to the next.


The ghostwriter's responsibility ends when the client approves the final chapter. At this point, the payment stipulated in the contract should be completed. Otherwise, the copyright of the book remains with the ghostwriter, and it will be impossible for the client to use and publish this text. If the client tries to publish the book without making the payment, the ghostwriter can use the contract and lack of payment to claim the revenues generated from the publication of the work and can sue the client for content theft. Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, this accusation will be a damaging process for the client and their future writing projects and publishing deals.


Working with a ghostwriter can be a very fun and enjoyable process of creating the story of your dreams and finally seeing your name on a book cover, provided that you agree with the right ghostwriter. However, to ensure this, you should not rush, make sure you have chosen the right person, and allow the processes to proceed at the necessary pace.

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