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Are you the perfect client?

One of the questions I get asked most is, “how can I find the best ghostwriter for me?” An excellent question, and one that I addressed in a previous post here.

But what about you – are you ready to launch into the writing process? Have you got all your ducks in a row? Are you ready to be the perfect client for your ideal ghostwriter?

Over at the Jenkins Group’s book ghostwriting blog, you can read an excellent post that sums up what makes the perfect client. It lists six qualities of the ideal client:

  1. A clear vision
  2. Organization
  3. A realistic schedule
  4. Availability
  5. Good feedback
  6. Compatibility

As part of your vision for your book, you could put together a sample chapter, as this post suggests. Or you could assemble a mood board. Include books, writers, articles, magazines, and films that capture an element of the voice you want to convey, or an attitude or style that you feel aligned with. Mood boards are traditionally visual, but you could write your ideas in a brainstorm-style list.

In your schedule for the book-writing process, build in time up front for the writer to digest your ideas and materials, and time at the end for the manuscript to “percolate”. Don’t expect a first chapter to hit your in-tray days after you start working together. I always recommend that writers put their manuscript in a drawer for a month before reviewing it one last time and submitting it to a publisher. I try to abide by that principle myself: sometimes my month shrinks to a week, but even that much “percolating time” makes a huge difference to the maturity of the final work.

When you give feedback to your writer, avoid the temptation to be ironic or sarcastic. Questions and suggestions work well: “I think this paragraph would read better if it started with xxx, what do you think?” is constructive and collaborative. “This section is boring” doesn’t give your writer much to go on.

When you consider your working style, think about your weaknesses. In choosing your ghostwriter, you have an opportunity to balance those flaws. Are you unable to let go of a project? Find someone who is clear and decisive. Do you have a tendency to rush things? Look for a writer who is meticulous and careful. Polar opposites can be uncomfortable, so make sure there is enough common ground between you to make the partnership work.

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Your perfect (writing) partner

This week a motivational speaker asked me, “How do I find a ghostwriter who can capture my voice?”

She went on to explain that she had worked with writers before who seemed hellbent on cleaning her up. “I’m very opinionated and sometimes my language is pretty colorful. I don’t want anyone to change that – it’s who I am.”

Here are three tips for finding a writer who will catch your voice on the page.

  1. Don’t look for a writer who is your mirror image. A natural tendency is to look for a writer who is similar to you. If you’re a male sports coach from Michigan, you might think your perfect match will also be an athletic male from the Midwest. Not necessarily so. A good ghostwriter will be able to catch your voice regardless of how similar it is to their own “natural” voice. They will do it by being an attentive listener, working with transcripts or videos of your talks or your own writing pieces. I’d even go so far as to say that you may be better off with a writer whose background and style is quite different to your own. That way, you’re going to know pretty quickly whether it’s your voice or theirs coming through in the draft chapters.
  2. Check your writer’s track record. Can they show you some writing samples that demonstrate a range of styles, so that you can be confident of their ability to switch it up?
  3. Make sure that you agree on what your writing voice should sound like. Most of the people I work with don’t have a writing voice at all. They have a speaking voice, which is what they use when they act, or do public speaking, or give interviews. From that speaking voice I synthesize a written voice, and part of my process for working with a client is agreeing up front what that written voice is. Some people want their style tightened up and made more formal, while others – like my motivational speaker friend – want to keep a lively, loose style in their written work.

I’d love to hear about your experiences of working with a writing partner – has it been easy to get the voice right, or has it been a struggle?