Monday, August 23, 2021

How to Ghostwrite a Book for Your Client


Blog post updated 25/08/21

You've been handed the outline by your client.

Now what?

How to Use the Outline to Write a Book

What is an outline?

You could liken the outline to that of a journey, the outline is the direction you will take to get to where you want to be.  This usually comprises a breakdown of each chapter, the synopsis, plot summary, character biographies, and plot development.  The plot points and arcs are well covered in the outline, along with the stakes and arcs of the story.  This goes along with what the secondary characters are to the principal character.  A summary of each chapter will show what follows in order for the story to move forward.  Developments and key features of the story draw you further in to help you build the world your client is imagining.

Why You Should Always Follow the Client's Outline

It's not your job to completely rewrite the story the way you see it, but rather create the book that's in keeping with your client's wishes.  The more information you have about each character and plot the easier it will be to revise it the way your client wants it to be.

It's usually in the client's best interest that they keep you informed of all points and characters within the story.

The Ghostwriting Process of Writing a Book

Researching the Book

If you're writing a novel you'll need to do some of your own research to understand the time the story is set during.  Research can be done through many different kinds of mediums such as listening to music, watching movies, or reading a good old fashioned book.  Immerse yourself as much as possible to give a sense of where you need to be, and how things should feel to the reader, helping you set the right atmosphere and mood.

Nonfiction books often require more research because you need to think about what kind of questions the audience might be asking.   You'll probably find that most authors have plenty of information for you to look at, but there's no harm in doing a little extra.

If you're already an expert in something you can make a good living ghostwriting other like-minded author's books.


The plot becomes more vivid when the characters come into light in the story.  If you know what each character is doing you can write more authentic interactions between each player.  

Oftentimes you'll find you're lacking in information about your characters, so it's  up to you to fill in the blanks with your client's approval.  This doesn't mean that you change the characters altogether, but that you create a more gripping story for the hero or protagonist of the story, to help bring them to life. 

Keep Track of Your Vocabulary

Your toolbox as a writer will be filled with all kinds of things, but one of the biggest is words.  You need to start listening to the words your client is using and less of the words you would use.  Most people have favourite words and phrases they use and are familiar with, so start including them in the manuscript.

Don't overuse these words, but instead sprinkle them here and there, because there's an art to not using the same word over and over again.

Tips for Creating a Great Book Title

Finding the right book title can be hard at the best of times.  

Here are some basic points to consider before you choose your book title:

  • Get your reader's attention with a promise
  • Find the solution to a problem
  • Create a clear cut title
  • Be specific with your title, and make it snappy
  • Make your title visual
  • Make it easy to express
  • Make sure your title covers these three points: mood, theme and type
  • Envisage your title the same you would a headline
  • A good headline always sticks in your mind
  • Pick out key phrases that you may have used already
  • Some titles can be a play on words
  • Always put your point across, don't be too vague with your book title

How to Sound Like the Author

The whole idea of being a ghostwriter is to write like someone that isn't you.  This means taking on different voices such as slangy, conversational or casual, either way you need to listen to the way your client talks to understand which tone you should take.  Some people come across as being quite witty, and humorous, while others may use more symbolic language in the way they speak.

The objective is to take on the mind of the author as flawlessly as possible.

Sometimes you're left guessing as to what the client actually sounds like, if you're not given an outline to work with.  This is where you need to develop your own outline and create a voice with the author's approval, but this doesn't happen that often.

Often a client will specify a particular author they want to sound like, somebody like J.K. Rowling or John Grisham maybe.  

Sounding like someone else will stretch and exercise your writing muscles, try not to get lost in someone else's voice.  Have a break and do your own writing projects every now and again, this will keep your voice active without being totally drowned out.

Always Ask for a Full Interview with the Client Where Possible

This is to get to know the person either at home or somewhere neutral to give you a greater insight.  Meeting someone on their own home turf can be pretty revealing, and can be more beneficial than meeting them for coffee or lunch somewhere.  Your aim is to pull together as much information as possible about the person you're writing for.

Pay Attention to All Feedback

Ghostwriting is a skill that takes time to learn, and you can be sure there'll be mistakes made along the way.  If the author asks you to fix the book, that's exactly what you need to do.  Don't take offence to it, it just means you need to take care of the things you may have missed.

Ghostwriting Preparation Tips:

  • If you doubt the ghostwriting project don't do it.
  • Every ghostwriting project you do takes time, make sure you have enough of it in your own writing schedule before you take on any extra work.
  • Take recording equipment with you and make sure it's working and your batteries aren't low.
  • Use questions that will draw out deeper answers that will really connect with the readers.
  • Inspire the author to pass on their own stories and anecdotes.
  • Unless emotion is directed at you, take it as a sign of trust between you and the author.
  • Keep the author up-to-date with drafts, so any changes can be done early on instead of at the last minute.
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