Ghostwriting takes many forms. Sometimes, it’s simple and straightforward – like hiring a writer to post original content regularly on a company blog. In cases like this, a solid freelance writer can have a great deal of leeway in terms of tone and style. The writer represents the company but does not necessarily represent one particular person.
But when someone in the public spotlight – a celebrity, a senior corporate executive, or even a politician – needs a ghostwriter, often for a book-length memoir, that person needs more than just a solid freelance writer. A ghostwriter needs to be a solid freelance writer who can speak in the client’s voice, work reliably over a long time frame with minimal oversight, and closely relate to the client on a personal level.
Any ghostwriter on a high-profile project will need some training, regardless of the writer’s skill level. A bit of up-front time investment from the client can go a long way toward ensuring excellent results and a positive, long-term relationship with the writer.
Mastering the Voice
The first and most important step in training a ghostwriter is to help the writer understand and master the client’s voice. Unlike a company blog, a CEO’s memoir needs to reflect that individual’s personality, which requires a certain degree of familiarity on the part of the writer. Ideally, a client should chat with the ghostwriter at least a few times on the phone, both to describe his or her vision for the project and to give the writer a sense of the client’s natural tone. The client should also send the ghostwriter as many samples of his or her own writing and speaking style as possible.
The client doesn’t need to self-analyze or explain the style; a good freelance writer can pick up on that from samples and conversations. But the client does need to provide those samples. Leaving a writer in the dark will inevitably result in unsatisfactory results.
A public figure should also ensure that the selected ghostwriter shares the client’s area of expertise to some degree. A celebrity news writer probably should not ghostwrite for the CEO of a pharmaceutical company. The writer, and ultimately the client, will not sound genuine or appropriately knowledgeable. A writer with an economics degree and some medical experience can articulate the client’s vision much more accurately, although such a writer probably could not write a solid celebrity memoir.
For high-profile figures, ghostwriting services are absolutely invaluable. Such people have neither the time nor the skills to produce the kind of writing they want. Good ghostwriters will do a much better job than the clients would do themselves – provided they have the proper support. Don’t leave your ghostwriter in the dark. Invest a little time talking to the writer, offer the support of your team, and be willing to take an active role up front. Building a good relationship and rapport from the beginning will help the writer understand you and the project much better and will produce results that can stand for years to come.
Adam P is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.