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There’s just something about the concept of ghostwriting – much as the word suggests – that immediately captures the imagination. The first time I encountered a ghostwriter, I was immediately intrigued. At that time, I was a full-time creative copywriter, so I knew what it took to try to write with other people’s voices, but the longest ad copy I’ve ever written was a single page. What must it be like, I wondered, to be so aligned with another person’s mind and spirit that you can write an entire book with that person’s voice?
I know I’m not the only book lover to have had this thought. So, to get some answers on the art of ghostwriting – what the process entails, how it plays out in the literary world, and what the job of a ghostwriter looks like – I spoke to two experts in the craft . Angie Ransome Jones (Path to Peace: A Guide to Coping with Life After the Loss of a Loved Onelisten)) is a national bestselling author and ghostwriter; delmetria millener is a freelance writer, ghost writer, teacher and the founder of #TeenWritersProject.
The Art of Ghostwriting: What is it?
The technical definition of ghostwriting is just what it sounds like: writing for another person who is named as the author. At his websitemillener describes it this way for potential clients: “I create or transform your thoughts into words that tell your story while preserving your voice and style. »
But ghostwriting is much more than an author sitting down to write as she usually would. In addition to basic writing and storytelling skills, the art of ghostwriting requires the ability to understand and connect with people, have an ear for voice, and possess a love and willingness to help others shine.
The Art of Ghostwriting: How It Works
So what happens once a ghostwriter and a client decide to collaborate on a book? It’s a combination of building stories, managing logistics, and developing a personal connection.
Story building and logistics
Millerer and Ransome-Jones begin every ghostwriting project by spending one-on-one time with their clients. “It’s a very intensive process that requires hours, sometimes weeks of maintenance,” Ransome-Jones explained. Meanwhile, Ransome-Jones’ goal is not just to get to know his client, but also to “unpack [the] full story. After she feels she understands the gist of her client’s story, she prepares an outline, which then becomes the “road map of our interviews to guide our discussions, as well as the content of the book itself.”
Once she actually starts putting words to a page, Ransome-Jones regularly shares the manuscript in progress to make sure she “captures the essence of the story my client wants to tell.”
Ghostwriters also take on various logistical responsibilities during the writing process.
“As a ghost,” Miller assures clients on his website, “I do all the necessary interviews, readings, and research.” Both authors also work around deadlines and word counts as they complete the work. Ransome-Jones told me that because about 60% of her clients are self-publishing, over the years she’s built “an arsenal of resources in the form of cover design artists, typesetters, designers, and designers.” ‘printers, publishers, public relations representatives’ and more for its clients. .
Establishing a Client-Writer Connection
In talking with millener and Ransome-Jones, it became very clear to me that the heart of ghostwriting lies in the client-writer relationship. When it comes to telling the right story in an authentic voice, Miller told me, “First, you build trust.” This requires both quantity and quality of time, not just in the early stages of collaboration, but throughout the process.
millener typically begins building relationships with clients over the phone. Then, over a period of time, she tries to meet them in person in a variety of casual, formal and personal settings. Ransome-Jones told me that she, too, spends a lot of time on the phone with clients, “sometimes at six in the morning, depending on the schedule.” In fact, phone conversations — at least two or three times a week — make up the bulk of her time with her out-of-state clients, though she has traveled to meet with clients in their hometown or “in places where their major trauma took place.”
Both writers are dedicated to making the most of their time with their clients. millener makes a point of “listening with minimal or no talking” so she can get a true sense of who they really are. In order to avoid presenting herself “as a journalist”, she tries to eat with them, laugh with them and let her questions “flow freely and seemingly involuntarily”.
Ransome-Jones also likes to stay in the moment with her clients and told me it can get “very intense, depending on the script.”
The Art of Ghostwriting: Why It Matters
“Not everyone can write, but everyone has a story to tell,” Miller told me. Both writers told me they think many authors seek out ghostwriters because, as Ransome-Jones explained, “they aren’t comfortable with their own writing ability or because ‘they don’t have the time, energy or discipline to write a book’. .” Without the ghostwriters who, as millener said, “know how to take what [others] say it and shape it into literary art,” so many incredible stories that entertain, resonate, move and inspire us, may never be published.
The Art of Ghostwriting: What It’s Like to Do It
How do authors also become ghost book authors? In millener’s case, she said, “Ghostwriting chose me. I worked as a copywriter and had to write infomercials for CEOs, which led to speeches, which pushed me through the door of ghostwriting a book. For Ransome-Jones, it happened when the brother of one of her sorority sisters needed help writing her book. When Ransome-Jones heard her story, she was so moved by it that she took a break from writing her own book so she could work on her own.
Many ghost writers, including millener, never revealed the books they wrote. It’s common for ghostwriters to agree to complete anonymity by signing a nondisclosure agreement — in fact, millener told me that this type of anonymity often offers ghostwriters the option of charging higher rates. Although Ransome-Jones also signed nondisclosure agreements when working with some of her authors, many of her other clients have spoken about her publicly and provided testimonials about her. his website.
Ultimately, Miller and Ransome-Jones told me that ghostwriting’s greatest rewards come from seeing their clients succeed. millener told me that ghostwriting, compared to his own writing, is “a different kind of reward.” It’s not about me. Let the author shine. She sincerely cherishes the opportunity to remain anonymous, summing it up, “It sounds like a delicious secret.”
Ransome-Jones told me, “I’m in love with the art of ghostwriting and helping clients achieve their dreams.” Some of his self-published client books have been picked up by literary agents and major publishers. One of his client’s books is being adapted into a screenplay while a few other clients and their stories have been featured on TV shows including Dr Oz and 30 for 30.
Ransome-Jones described what it was like the first time she saw a client holding a copy of the book: “It’s really a loophole moment for me and very similar to childbirth in that it’s as painful whatever the process may be, the reward at the end is always worth the sacrifice of time and effort.
So, as supernatural as it may seem, the art of ghostwriting can no longer be ingrained in humanity. And yet, this intangible ability that these ghostwriters possess—to become so invisible that they can authentically channel the stories of the people who need to be told to them—might just be one of the storytelling community’s most magical gifts.
Now that you’ve got a taste of what it’s like to be a ghostwriter, keep reading more behind-the-scenes stories about writers.