How a Ghostwriter Can and Cannot Help You Get Published

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By Debra Christian and David Leonhardt

Before hiring a ghostwriter, it is important to understand what services are available with the help of a particular professional. Ghostwriters expect to help you develop, write, and/or edit a manuscript with the goal of turning it into a publishable book. It is up to the client to be specific about the type of services needed for a given project.

Sometimes a client/author with a rough draft retains the services of a ghostwriter to rewrite and polish the manuscript so it will catch a publisher's eye. Other clients have a vague concept of what they want to put into print, but require the help of a professional writer to flesh out the ideas and bring the book to life. Occasionally, and most often, an author has a partially developed manuscript that seems to be headed nowhere. Perhaps the author grew bored, tired, or busy in the process of writing the book - or realized that he or she just is not as skilled a writer as had been hoped - and now seeks a ghostwriter's help to take over where the author left off.

If you have already read Are You Ready for a Ghostwriter? and Working with a Ghostwriter To Complete Your Book, you are aware of how to decide to work with a ghostwriter and how to manage the business relationship. But what about expectations for the finished manuscript? What happens next?

A ghostwriter performs many roles, from coach to partner or even critic. Much depends on what you are seeking from the relationship in the way of paid services. To adjust expectations, here are some ideas for how a ghostwriter can help to write your book.

A ghostwriter may be able to assist with tasks like the following:
  • Discuss and/or sketch a book idea.
  • Develop a plot or chapter structure.
  • Flesh out characters, scenes, settings, plots, conflicts, and finales.
  • Revise part or all of a manuscript to make it flow smoother.
  • Enhance the interest of a book for potential readers.
  • Give an opinion about the merit of an idea, manuscript, or rough draft.
  • Lengthen or shorten a manuscript.
  • Change the point of view in a plot structure.
  • Transition a book into a stage or screen script.
  • Provide "coverage" that includes detailed notes about various aspects of a book.
  • Conduct research, interviews, or surveys.
  • Edit for accuracy, flow, cogency, and other desirable qualities.
  • Suggest a genre for your book and guide its development along the conventions.
  • Proofread a manuscript for errors and consistency of style.
With helpful services like these, it is wise to keep in mind that ghostwriters cannot be all things to all authors. There are limits to what a professional writer can do and should be expected to do to get your book written and published. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
  • A ghostwriter typically does not market a manuscript for the client.
  • Ghostwriters do not serve as agents for books they help write, unless specifically contracted for this purpose.
  • Professional writers cannot perform miracles on an incomplete idea or a non-compliant client. (although some of The Happy Guy Marketing's writers have worked a few miracles like this in the past.)
  • Ghostwriters generally do not share in published books' advances, royalties, or rights. Make sure your contract is very specific on these points.
  • A ghostwriter may not have his or her own published books and works available for review. Being published is not the only measure of a writer's capabilities.
  • Ghostwriters do not work for free, on spec or for a percentage of the profits should you get your manuscript published.
  • Ghostwriting experience will vary from one professional writer to another.
  • Some ghostwriters may have received writing awards or recognition, while others who might be just as good or, more importantly, more appropriate for your particular project, might not have.
  • Ghostwriters will not automatically handle a book from A to Z. They will work with an author on specific parts or aspects of the manuscript as requested and agreed upon in the contract.
  • Professional writers cannot ensure that a book is publishable. No one can absolutely predict a book's publication except a publisher, or the author, if self-published. In most cases a manuscript is rejected at first...even best-sellers from previously unknown authors are usually rejected many, many times before they are published.
  • Ghostwriters do not share authorial credits with the client. Usually, a brief acknowledgement, along with those to other assistants or contributors, is indicated at the front of the book.
  • A ghostwriter is expected to be available for consultation with the client on a reasonable, ongoing basis.
  • Ghostwriters expect to be paid for their services, whether or not the book is published. Most request partial payments at various stages or the book's development.
  • Ghostwriters do not receive commissions for recommending certain agents or publishers.
  • A ghostwriter should be willing to stand behind the accuracy and timeliness of research conducted on behalf of the client.
As can be seen, a relationship between author and ghostwriter varies considerably. In fact, there are as many different relationships as there are authors clients and professional ghostwriters. It is up to the you, the client, to clearly state your expectations and goals for a specific manuscript with respect to the ghostwriter's assistance. Sometimes the pair can hash out the particulars of a working relationship when an author is initially uncertain about which direction the book should take. Overall, the relationship should prove mutually beneficial and rewarding.

About the Authors

Debra Christian and David Leonhardt are freelance writers with The Happy Guy Marketing. See their freelance ghostwriter services. For a free quote, call 613-448-3931, or send us an email

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