James Patterson. Clive Cussler. Tom Clancy. Some of the bestselling and best known authors increase their catalog by hiring ghostwriters to do their rough drafts for them. The key to doing this successfully is to form the right team and ensure everyone has the same expectations.
The most successful ghostwriting teams build on author brands that are already well-known, either in fiction or non-fiction. It works best in genre fiction, but can be successful in other types of writing. Once the foundation is built, you can add on any number of ghostwriters to create new titles in your existing series. Here are some tips for using ghostwriters successfully.
1. Create a Formula
Have you ever noticed how all James Patterson books have very short paragraphs, or all the James Bond books have the same basic plot? That's because the creators build a winning formula and gave it to their ghostwriters to follow. From Nancy Drew to Richard Castle, authors write multiple books in the same voice. Think Harlequin romance or Star Trek science fiction. Once you build the framework, it's easier to fit ghostwriters into the mix.
2. Use a Contract
You may not want to worry about all the financial details and are eager to get down to the creative part of the work, but you and your ghostwriters will be thankful later if you have all the money questions spelled out before anyone writes a word. Are they working for a flat rate or per word payment? Will your ghostwriter get any part of your royalties at any time? Will you hold all the rights to the work, or will it revert back to the ghostwriter after a time? Spell all these details out and make sure everyone is clear on all the details.
3. Don't Back Down on Expectations
Make a list of every qualification you need in a ghostwriter, and don't compromise on these issues. Does English have to be her first language? British, Canadian or American English? Will the ghostwriter have to send you chapters or pages on a regular schedule? How much writing experience do you require before hiring him? How many editing rounds are you both willing to do? Do you insist on absolute secrecy, or will you add your ghostwriter's name on the cover of your book. Every author will answer these questions differently, but only you can decide what's right for your career.
Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!