Ghostwriting: writing somebody else's story without going nuts (continued)


Ghostwriting is a demanding profession that requires exceptional ability in interviewing, listening, research, fact-checking and writing. Your clients pay you to guide them and to write their stories.
You will be told things your client has never told anyone, not even their loved ones. And sometimes it will be your role to talk them out of including things that will damage them personally, socially or professionally. So ghostwriting is not for the meek or for those who are indecisive.
Who you are
Ghostwriting somebody else’s book is as much about you as it is about them. You have to know yourself very well and what you will or will not do. Although most ghostwriting projects, even when you disagree with your client’s ideas, are worthwhile, not every project is for you. We discuss how to know what project you should get involved in.
How to become nonjudgmental and tolerant
You can learn empathy and listening skills. We discuss how to train yourself, what courses may be available.
Estimating how long the project will take
There are so many variables in ghosting a book that making an accurate time estimate is very difficult. We discuss how to estimate the length of time the book may take when things such as client availability, research, fact-checking, funding, and so on may not be fully known or may change after the project begins.
You know what lawyers say: get it in writing. Same thing with interviewing clients for a book. But in this instance, record the conversations. Get yourself a couple of good tape recorders and attachable microphones.
Write out leading questions before the interview, but prepare to discard them if the discussion develops into interesting areas you hadn’t thought of. Some interviewers prefer a free-flowing interview without prepared questions. But if you don’t direct your clients, they can take you on a lot of fruitless tangents and waste their time and money. Take control, but be open to new areas.
We discuss how to conduct intense, sometimes emotional interviews.
We discuss how to make sure the transcriptionist knows what you want such as frequent paragraph breaks and headings. You must make the computer files searchable.
Research, permissions, fact-checking
For ghostwriters, research and fact-checking are the most important parts of a project. If a fact turns out to be wrong, the ghostwriter is at fault, even if your client insisted the fact was correct. Incorrect facts seriously affect the credibility of the book. The writing must be good, but you will live or die by the quality of your research. The ghostwriter must be right 100% of the time. Hey, no pressure. We discuss how to conduct research, fact-checking and acquire permissions.
First, Second, Third drafts
In general, you are expected to produce 3 drafts. That’s only a guideline. Some complex stories require partial or additional drafts, especially if they are long stories. We discuss the purpose of each draft and how to convey their meaning to your client. For instance, you have to alert them that the first draft will contain everything, even things you are certain will be cut later. By its nature, the first draft can be lousy writing and if your client doesn’t know this, you may end up being criticized.
Blending your client’s writing into the manuscript
Sometimes your client has already written some of the story. If the writing is not entirely hopeless, try to blend it into the writing, even if you have to rewrite it and it takes more work. This often makes the client feel more connected. At the same time, the best work happens when you interview the client and write the piece as part of the larger manuscript. How do you convince your client that you should write, rewrite or discard their precious words?
Estimating fees and expenses
Some ghostwriters charge by the project. Most find it almost impossible to come up with an accurate figure, as there are many variables, and thus charge by the hour. We discuss how to estimate a project including expenses you may incur for your client.
The contract
Yikes! The thought of it gives me the chills. But fear not. I provide you with a sample contract.
Working on spec
No, nada, never. Unless your client is George Clooney, Lady Gaga or Charles Manson.
Ghostwriting a book often means you do not get a cover credit, but not always. If you have had a book published and received good reviews, this makes your name more marketable and sometimes your client will want your name on the cover as a “with” credit. For instance, the author of Not Without My Daughter is Betty Mahmoody, who lived the story. Her ghostwriter is also listed on the cover as “with William Hoffer, co-author of Midnight Express.” Midnight Express sold millions of copies and was made into a movie. I’d sure want his name on the cover of my book. But this could backfire on you. In the workshop, we discuss the pros and cons of a cover credit.
Getting published
Today many clients wish to publish their books themselves and we discuss a number of good ways to do this. Others have hopes of working with literary agents and publishers in getting their books in bookstores. We discuss how to prepare a Book Proposal, submitting material to small publishers or major publishers and how ghostwriters work with publishers.
Question and Answer period
Time is allowed at the end of the workshop for your questions.
Writing skill level: Advanced
Prerequisite: You are an experienced, accomplished writer and researcher and have written a book, or many articles or short stories that have been published.
Without prerequisite: If you do not consider yourself experienced enough to ghostwrite just yet, but see yourself doing it in the future, please contact Allen to discuss your direction.
Focus of the workshop: We will not discuss ghosting business writing, but we will delve into the nonfiction categories of memoirs, life stories, family histories, biography, history and psychology.
Time: 9 AM-12 noon. Lunch break. 1 PM–4 PM
Cost: Free workshop

Sign up to reserve your seat!
Important Note: If you sign up, but cannot attend, please call at least two days before.
Instructor: Allen R. Kates, MFAW
Contact Information: Tucson, AZ. (520) 616-7643.

"The worshop was well thought out, organized and presented with energy and enthusiasm! Relaxed comfortable atmosphere and good student involvement."

     —Terry Price, Elgin, AZ

About the Instructor
Allen R. Kates, MFAW, is a professional book editor, writing coach, ghostwriter, and author. He has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (MFAW) degree, an Arizona Community College Teaching Certificate, is Board Certified in Emergency Crisis Response (BCECR) by the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, and has conducted many writing workshops. He is author of the bestseller, CopShock, Surviving Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); among other books, he was ghostwriter for Just Plain Dorothy, by Dorothy H. Finley, and Gifts My Father Gave Me, by Sharon Knutson-Felix.
Ghostwriting Workshop at Tucson Festival of Books
Allen is also giving a free Ghostwriting workshop at the 2012 Tucson Festival of Books. For more information, please click here.
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