7 Great Tips for Working with a Ghostwriter on your Company History Book
7 GREAT TIPS FOR WORKING WITH A GHOSTWRITER ON YOUR COMPANY HISTORY BOOK
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” —Woodrow Wilson
Companies with vision achieve great things. They are capable of changing the world. Great companies strive to innovate. To take everyday objects and transform people’s experience with life. Indeed, great companies can make great things happen.
When successful companies such as this emerge, there comes a time when their stories must get attention. And those stories require a medium for their dissemination. The most common medium in this case is a company history book.
However, writing a company’s history is not an easy task. It requires a skilled writing team that can encapsulate the company’s vision and spirit. Frequently, though, companies lack a writer, or team of writers, skilled enough for that purpose.
In these situations, many companies hire a ghostwriter to help bring their company history book to fruition. But how does a company go about finding a ghostwriter who’s up to the task?
Tip #1: Find the right ghostwriter
Finding the right ghostwriter can be like attempting to find a needle in a haystack. As such, the search for the right ghostwriter should not be a sprint. Instead, companies need to use a methodical approach to getting the right ghostwriter.
A great piece on Writer’s Republic offers the following advice:
“One of the key points of getting a ghostwriter is not to rush it. Remember that you will be working with the ghostwriter for months or even years, depending on the speed of your work and the overall effectiveness of the ghostwriter. And the success of your book could rest on the skills and effectiveness of the person you hire.”
Indeed, the best approach is to avoid rushing things. While there may certainly be plenty of enthusiasm behind the project, it is best to proceed cautiously.
After all, a project of this magnitude can take several months (or even years!) to complete. Consequently, the right professional will prove crucial to the book’s overall success.
When considering potential candidates, take the time to interview them thoroughly. Ensure that they share the company’s vision. Ideally, they should be familiar with the company or industry, and should be able to provide references for similar projects they’ve completed in the past.
In addition, they should be passionate about their work. Ghostwriters in it just for a paycheck may not be the most suitable candidate for the project.
Tip #2: Be clear with your ghostwriter
When interviewing candidates, be sure to state your position clearly. This position should include the project’s objectives and the company’s vision.
Those two elements must mesh together to create a suitable outcome. Any dissociation between them could lead to confusing work.
The writer’s style and voice must blend with the company’s image. For instance, a hip and edgy writer may not be the most suitable candidate for a company with a serious image.
Likewise, a formal, matter-of-fact approach may not adequately represent a fashionable brand.
Therefore, companies must know exactly what they want beforehand. In doing so, they can find the right ghostwriter to fit their vision.
A good rule of thumb is to ask for writing samples. These samples should align with the project’s vision. Samples that do not align appropriately can lead to potential issues down the road.
Moreover, some ghostwriters have material published in their names. This kind of material is a great way to determine if the writer is a good fit.
Lastly, confirm that the ghostwriter has experience with writing company history books.
Hiring inexperienced ghostwriters can be a risk. Naturally, a new and inexperienced writer may prove to be more cost-effective. However, there is no guarantee of their work.
Thus, serious, large-scale projects should not hinge on the talent of an unproven writer. Ultimately, it is better to go with a seasoned ghostwriter, even if it represents an additional cost.
Tip #3: Have your ghostwriter sign a confidentiality agreement
Working with a ghostwriter boils down to trust. After all, ghostwriters have access to company information. And sometimes this is information not intended for public release.
The question is, what information should the company share?
Generally speaking, a company history book should not involve sensitive company information.
Nevertheless, quality ghostwriters understand that confidentiality is a must. Therefore, ghostwriters must be willing to sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement.
This agreement should detail what information the ghostwriter is and is not at liberty to disclose to the public or any future clients.
Please bear in mind that the company is the sole proprietor of information and written materials. These conditions are clear to experienced ghostwriters. Thus, any ghostwriter unwilling to sign a confidentiality agreement should be dismissed immediately.
Something important to keep in mind is that ideas are not subject to copyright. In other words, companies can copyright materials, but they cannot copyright ideas. As a result, trust becomes a huge factor in the entire equation. Therefore, companies must be certain they are dealing with professional, trustworthy writers.
In the end, ghostwriters should not require access to information beyond publicly available information. Confidential data such as financial statements or employee records should be off-limits.
Moreover, interviews conducted with staff require careful selection. Preferably, interviews should be limited to company executives or employees who know the company well and can be trusted not to disclose sensitive information.
Tip #4: Do not Neglect the Review Process
Stating a clear position also entails establishing a clear review process.
The review process is a critical component of a great product. While your company may not have any in-house literary experts who can critique the writing, there are sure to be individuals in the company who can gauge the material’s feelings and vision.
As such, the most important part of the review process is to determine if it adequately represents the company’s vision. Kevin Anderson, CEO and editor-in-chief at Kevin Anderson & Associates, offers this highly useful insight:
“When we do beta testing for a full-length manuscript, we often get 20 completely different takes on the same manuscript, but then we have a single editor review, assess, and consolidate the feedback into a unified assessment based on the reviewers’ combined feedback. A similar approach is needed for giving feedback to your ghostwriter.”
Indeed, “reviewing by committee,” as Anderson calls it, may not yield the desired results. For example, having random employees or people outside the company review the book will be a disservice to the overall product.
Consequently, setting up a committee of C-suite executives or higher-ups in management to provide feedback is highly advisable.
However, there should be a single editor to review the finished manuscript. This editor can incorporate the recommendations and feedback from the review process.
Moreover, the company should provide feedback to their ghostwriter, especially if it plans on working with the same writer in the future.
Tip #5: Help your ghostwriter develop the right voice
When it comes to writing a company history book, sharing a common style and tone can become a complex endeavor, particularly when there are many people interviewed for the book.
Style not only entails formal writing conventions. Style also pertains to the company’s spirit, attitude, and ethics. After all, a company history book should reflect the organization’s culture at every turn.
Companies should strive to work with their ghostwriter to ensure that they appropriately reflect the company’s vision and ethos. One effective approach is to go through a chapter-by-chapter revision process.
Going through each chapter individually, especially early in the project, can help determine if the right style emanates from the surface. In contrast, waiting until the end of a completed draft may leave the company executives disappointed if the manuscript does not meet their expectations. Moreover, this situation could lead to a need for rewrites, which can be costly in both money and time.
Before jotting down a single word, there needs to be an adjustment process. This process should involve a learning experience in which the ghostwriter looks to capture the company’s voice.
The process may require a series of conversations between executives and the writer. Also, the writer may need to study public recordings or publications to get a feel for the organization’s personality.
In contrast, smaller organizations may lack this public exposure. If this is the case, the ghostwriter can sit down with company executives to get a feel for their approach to business. Ultimately, the ghostwriter can then translate this approach into the contents of the book.
Tip #6: Establish a timeline with your ghostwriter
Producing a company history book can become an arduous endeavor. After all, there are various tasks necessary to produce the final product. Therefore, getting a handle on time is a crucial factor in a successful project.
The main reason for hiring a ghostwriter is the lack of time company members may have for a substantial writing project. As such, executives must be cognizant of their time management. Hence, developing a clear timeline is a significant factor in ensuring the project comes to fruition.
Author Alice Osborn recommends a timeline of roughly six months to get a project through to the end. However, this is an aggressive timeline. After all, there are potential drawbacks throughout the entire process.
In Osborn’s words, “create a timeline and work backward.”
Working backward entails setting reasonable deadlines from start to finish. In doing so, company executives can make their ghostwriters aware of their expectations.
A cardinal sin of a company history book project is not being clear about deadlines. While deadlines can be flexible to a certain extent, they should not be moving targets. Otherwise, the project will never get through to the end.
Nevertheless, professional ghostwriters are well aware that deadlines are a crucial element of any writing project. As a result, they will strive to meet deadlines.
Furthermore, a professional ghostwriter will communicate from the start whether they are capable of meeting expected deadlines. If not, then it may be necessary to find another ghostwriter.
Tip #7: Budget, Budget, Budget
Costs are the Achilles’ heel of many writing projects. Unfortunately, company executives often underestimate how much writing a company history book may cost. The truth is that costs may vary widely. In particular, ghostwriter fees are the main issue to consider when budgeting.
According to most experts, a ghostwritten book can run anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000 and higher, depending on the book’s length, its complexity, and the amount of time needed to complete it.
Nevertheless, ghostwriters’ fees can fluctuate significantly. A good rule of thumb is to follow the axiom, “You get what you pay for.” After all, highly qualified ghostwriters are never cheap. Therefore, they will command a higher rate than lower-tier ones.
Additionally, it is wise to hire a reputable editor. Good editors also command higher rates. As with ghostwriters, editor fees vary. Companies can expect to spend anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 on a thorough editing job.
This approximate cost not only includes standard proofreading but revisions such as an editorial assessment. A solid editorial assessment can help ghostwriters visualize the direction they are taking. A professional ghostwriter will take a good editorial assessment in stride. Consequently, the finished product would yield better-than-expected results.
It is important to note that some ghostwriters include editing in their services. This is especially true when you are hiring a ghostwriting firm, and not just a single writer. Be sure to discuss editing with your ghostwriter during the initial interview process.
Producing a company history book is a wonderful endeavor that can cement a company’s legacy. And hiring a ghostwriter may be a necessary step in the process.
Great ghostwriters can produce excellent books. Nevertheless, not all ghostwriters are equal. Therefore, executives must take the time to find a suitable candidate.
Ultimately, there are various factors to consider when hiring a ghostwriter. Mainly, the right ghostwriter must be capable of replicating the company’s voice and vision.
Once a candidate is in tow, setting clear expectations will ensure the project’s success. In the end, the project’s success hinges on trust and fluid communication.
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