Could a ghostwriter write your true-life story as a bestseller?Posted: October 13, 2011
Many people, often having sold their real-life story to a newspaper and magazine through Featureworld want to write a book. But what if you’re not a writer? Well, you could employ a ghostwriter. Here, author and ghostwriter HARRY BINGHAM, who runs The Writers’ Workshop, a consultancy for first time writers, tells SellyourStoryUK how employing a ghostwriter could turn your real life story into a bestselling book …
How to work with a ghostwriter
BY HARRY BINGHAM
Every now and then we come across people with amazing stories – but without the skills or confidence to write a book. In such cases, it can make sense to get a ghostwriter involved, but if you’re to be successful you do need to know what you’re doing.
The first thing is to be sure that the story you have to tell is a book-length one. (If it’s better suited to a newspaper or magazine, then you’re on the right website already!) If you’re not sure that your story is big enough to fill a book, the easiest way to check is to buy a few (non-celebrity) biographies and read them. Your story also needs to be remarkable – literally a 1 in 100,000 story. If it’s not unique, it’ll already have been done and publishers won’t be interested.
We had one top ten bestseller which was a hard-luck story about a boy who spent several years at a violent reform school for boys in the early 1960s UK. We had another top ten bestseller about a woman who worked as a prostitute’s maid in Soho from 1948-49. Both those stories were really special, not just for the tales they told, but for their scale. You could read the whole three hundred page book and still be left wanting more. Your story needs to feel that way too.
The Writers’ Workshop can help tell you if your story is right for ghostwriting. If it is, we can supply the ghostwriter. You do need to realise that in nearly all cases, you’d need to arrange to pay the ghostwriter yourself. You’re getting a skilled person to devote possibly months of their time to this one project, so the money involved can be fairly large. On the other hand, there’s no point in taking half-measures, because publishers won’t want a badly written story – so this is something worth doing right or not at all.
Next, it is very important that your ghostwriter feels passionately about your story. We’ve had bestselling works that we’ve helped to ghostwrite … and sadly books that haven’t found a publisher at all. Nearly always, when things have gone wrong, part of the problem was the ghostwriter wasn’t truly passionate about the story. It’s very hard to fake that passion, so you want to make sure it’s authentic from the start.
And finally, when you come to market your story, you will need a UK literary agent to help you make the sale. The Writers’ Workshop can help source literary agents for you and can explain exactly what they do and why they’re so essential. Even better, it’s sometimes possible to recruit a literary agent for a project before it’s completed. For example, we have the first few chapters of one ghostwritten book currently in the hands of a literary agent right now – the agent is going to see if he can find a publisher based on the material we have. As the client, that’s really helpful because you can check to see if there’s a market for the manuscript before you have to commit to the time and expense of finishing it.
Harry Bingham is the author of six novels and four non-fiction books – including The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook Guide to Getting Published – see this book and more here: Harry’s books.
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