Writing Books/ghostwriters


QUESTION: Hi, Iam writing a none fiction book and need the assistance of a ghostwriter. My problem is since this is the first time ever writing and using a ghostwriter, I need all the help I can get. I have decided to go with a ghostwriter who has published before.Is there anything I need to know in terms of payment, whether to pay all the money up front. Communication, for best results etc..
Thanks, sean.

ANSWER: Each ghostwriter is different, so Iíll give some general advice.

Of course you must choose a ghostwriter who has published before; otherwise, you are dealing with a novice. Check to see if he or she is self-published or traditionally published, though. Self-published authors probably will not have the credentials you need to get the job done right. If the ghostwriter attempts to hide the fact that he or she is self-published, move on to the next prospective ghostwriter.

Most ghostwriters ask for some or all the money up front, which is understandable, because once they turn the file over to you, they have no power to collect the money they are owed. I suggest you pay half in advance and half when the project is completed. If the ghostwriter wants the remainder of the money before turning over the completed project, be sure that the fee you agree have agreed to pay includes any last-minute tweaking or minor changes necessary to make the book everything you want it to be.

While we are on the subject of money, no legitimate ghostwriter I know will accept a project on the speculation that it might get published. That is, they take payment for their time and expertise and do not participate in the proceeds of the book, unless the contract is between the publisher and the ghostwriter. Legitimate ghostwriters donít have the time to spend six months or a year writing a book that may or may not get published.

As for communication, itís key to the success of your project. You may want to see the first chapter before you go further into the project, to ensure it is going in the direction you want. Some ghostwriters will share each chapter with you when it is completed. The two of you need to work out your communication style. The most important thing to give to your ghostwriter is a written description of the market you intend to reach with your book, so the ghostwriter can keep the market in mind with every chapter that gets written.

For other tips and information, subscribe to my free newsletter for writers. Go to www.zebraeditor.com, click on "Free Newsletter," check the box for The Writers Network News, and add your e-mail address.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for you previous answer.Whats to stop a ghostwriter or any other person from using your work or ideas, are there any precautions one should take?

Personal ethics, first of all, keep ghostwriters from stealing ideas from their clients, plus no legitimate ghostwriter could stay in business by stealing ideas. Next, almost all writers want to use their own ideas and wonít bother to steal. All those reasons aside, you are wise to have a legal document to ensure your hired help does not steal or reveal your ideas, and the solution is to provide a nondisclosure agreement and require the person to sign it. I found a good nondisclosure agreement you can copy and conform to fit your needs here: http://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com/2009/02/non-disclosure-agreement-ask-anne-t.

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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