How to Work with a Ghostwriter on Your Company History Book

21 Dec 2021


Ghostwriting is a profession with an unfortunate name. 

There’s an air of the macabre around it, maybe even some hints of stealthy deceit, but such connotations couldn’t be farther from reality.

Plain and simple, a ghostwriter is a hired, professional writer.

Ghostwriters are paid to write whatever their employers require. The way they differ from other writers is that, when their work is done, someone else gets all the credit.

Some critics may claim that the practice of using a ghostwriter is a surreptitious move—like when certain celebrities put out best-selling autobiographies, for instance. But on the part of the ghostwriters themselves, it’s arguably quite honorable when they do all of the work for none of the glory.

There are many benefits to publishing a book about yourself or the business that you created, but not everyone has a way with words. 

Regardless of an individual’s obvious genius or their level of success as a titan of industry, many people just don’t have high-quality writing as a component in their otherwise extensive skillset.

If a published book on the history of your company or the story of your career as a business professional is in order, recruiting a ghostwriter to get the job done may be the best way to proceed.

You didn’t get to where you are today by having lots of time to spare. And it’s most likely still the case that you don’t have enough free time to write an entire book on your company’s history.

A ghostwriter would be completely dedicated to the task, and they’ll be able to complete it professionally, from an objective viewpoint, on time, and with the exact amount of artistic flair that your story requires.

However, before you begin your search, you need to make some decisions.

Four Things to Consider Before Finding Your Ghostwriter

1. What kind of book do you want to write?

The search for the perfect ghostwriter can’t begin until you nail down exactly what kind of book you intend to write.

You may have a general idea of what you want your book to look like, how you’d like it to read, or what content it will contain.

However, after some thoughtful meditation on the many options available to you, you might end up deciding to go in a completely different direction than the one in which you set out initially.

There’s a number of different questions you’ll want to answer before you begin applying filters and narrowing down your list of potential ghostwriters.

2. What genre should I choose?

Just like fiction novels, company history books have their genres. What genre is right for your situation?

Are you the founder of your company? Are you the current CEO? Will the focus of your book center mainly on the company’s origins or are you the more interesting angle?  

Will the audience be more interested in the development of your company’s products and services, or will the readers want to know more about how you yourself established your business and fostered its growth?  

If your knowledge, experience, and achievements translate well for other corporations and industries, maybe more of a how-to book is in order. 

Will your book be framed as a memoir, voiced from a vantage point at the conclusion of a storied career, or are you still very much in the game, reflecting on a relatively recent but major success?

Is your story one of redemption after numerous missteps or a considerable failure? Is it about finding success after overcoming major adversity?

Maybe you’re not the founder or the CEO, but an insider looking to shed light on the real story behind a corporate scandal that played out publicly.

It might sound far-fetched, but perhaps the circumstances inspiring your particular company history book are such that it would prove more lucrative if the project transformed into a work of spiced-up fiction instead. 

After all, countless bestsellers, blockbusters, and TV shows were based on a true story or inspired by actual events.

3. What about style and tone?

Once you’ve settled on its broader classification, you’ll have to decide how your book should read—the unified voice across its pages. 

Should your company’s story be told from a flat, unaffected, third-person perspective or should it come from your own voice acting as a guide to the history?

Will you stick to just the facts, or will you offer anecdotal asides and personal insights along the way?

What tone is most appropriate for your company history book

Should it be light-hearted and humorous, or is a somber and dramatic voice more fitting for your particular story? 

Would it be best to employ an uplifting, encouraging tone throughout the majority of it, or should it maintain a cautionary style?

4. What’s my end goal?

Lastly, you need to have a clear understanding of the purpose behind this endeavor, even if it’s simply a passion project that you’ve been dreaming about for a long time that you are determined to make into a reality. 

Are you looking to sell the reader on the company itself, or do you plan to mainly highlight its output? Is the goal to only document the company’s history, or do you also want to sell yourself as an entrepreneur?

Will you merely hand out the finished product to a limited list of friends, family, and associates, or do you plan on sending copies, free of charge, to each of your regular customers with every shipment that leaves the warehouse?

Is your story worthy of the bigger leagues? Will you be seeking publication, distribution, and wide-ranging sales?

When you’ve considered all of these possibilities and have come to a decision on the best genre, tone, and purpose for your company history book, you’re ready to begin the search for the ideal ghostwriter to write it for you.

Finding Your Ghostwriter

Step 1

Probably the biggest influence on your choice of ghostwriter is the overall budget for your company history book project.

The fees that different ghostwriters charge for their services can vary quite a bit. How they charge for them can vary as well.

Some ghostwriters charge by the hour, by the page, by the word, or by the project.

If you have an estimate for the projected length of your finished book, determine a price range for the grand total you’d be willing to spend on its development and let that figure guide you towards ghostwriters in the appropriate price range.

Compare the portfolios of the ghostwriters on your shortlist and reduce it further by focusing on the individuals who have produced work that is aligned with the vision you have for your own project.

Thoroughly read through their reviews and ratings if they have them. If possible, reach out to the reviewers who have worked with your prospective ghostwriters in the past. Ask them for more details and clarification if you have any questions regarding their testimonials.

Step 2

The next step would be to prepare a proposal for your company history book. The process of securing the best ghostwriter for your project is not a one-way street. You’ll have to sell them on your idea as well. 

Create a short pitch for your book that outlines the goals you have for it in regards to its genre, length, tone, and purpose. You’ll want the ghostwriter you end up working with to be completely on board with these terms.

Step 3

At this point in the process, you should begin conducting your interviews.

Reach out to the ghostwriters whose abilities and experiences line up with your expectations and ask each of them a few key questions.

Inquire as to how many books they’ve written and judge how closely those books resemble the kind of book that you’re looking to produce.

Ask them about their favorite genres.

What styles of writing excite them the most? What kind of projects are they most eager to work on?

If testimonials for their work weren’t readily available online, ask them if they could provide you with any themselves.

Check if it would be possible for them to connect you with any clients they have worked with in the past.

Step 4

Another factor to take into consideration at this stage is scheduling. On average, ghostwriters may need anywhere from six months to a year and a half to complete a commissioned company history book.

If time is of the essence for your project, a ghostwriter’s current workload can be of major consequence to your decision to work with them. Be sure to ask them if they work on multiple projects at once or if they fully commit to only one project at a time. Try to get a confident estimate of how long they would need to complete a project like yours.

Just as it should be with run-of-the-mill job interviews, ghostwriter interviews should flow both ways. Take note of the questions the ghostwriter you’re conversing with is asking you. Are they thought-provoking? Is he or she bringing up topics and angles that you haven’t considered yourself?

Generally, a fun and friendly back-and-forth in the conversation that opens up exciting new avenues is a positive signal for a potentially great working relationship in the future. 

You should be on the lookout for any red flags in the discussion as well. When you elaborate on your ideas for your book, are many of them quickly knocked down? Conversely, is the ghostwriter not pushing back at all? 

Both of these scenarios could spell trouble for you in a future writing partnership. Employing a ghostwriter who is either too dismissive or too agreeable will most likely lead to a regrettable outcome.

Step 5

As a final step in your interview process, request a sample of their writing to gauge how they would write for you over the course of the larger project.

Ghostwriters definitely don’t like to work for free, so don’t expect them to. Offer to pay them their going rate for just a few pages of material covering a particular portion of your company history. Give them a subject or an anecdote to work with and see what they come up with.

Be sure to assign a deadline for this initial test as well. It’s a good opportunity to gauge how the ghostwriter will regard any other deadlines for your project going forward. However, a missed deadline is not necessarily a deal-breaker. Did they check in with you prior to missing it?

Did they eventually turn in an absolutely stellar writing sample? The quality of a particular ghostwriter’s work might be so high that it’s worth overlooking a few of their other shortcomings.

However this process plays out for you, there’s a good chance that at least one of the samples that are returned to you will have a spark to it that is right along the lines of what you had in mind for your book. You’ll know for sure if you’ve found the one or if you should keep looking.

Get It in Writing

Once you’ve chosen your preferred ghostwriter, the next stage is to draw up a detailed contract with them.

A ghostwriter may come prepared with a pre-arranged contract of their own. Before you sign it, make sure that it is 100 percent in alignment with your expectations. If it isn’t, ask if any stipulations can be added or amended.

A ghostwriter who isn’t willing to budge on an issue that you consider important to your book project might not be the right candidate in the end.

Other ghostwriters might offer to write for you without a concrete agreement at all.  Regardless, do not let them get to work without one.

There are numerous important line items you should consider adding to your contract to prevent disagreements down the road:

  • Overall book length
  • Deadlines for chapters
  • Payment schedule, amounts, and conditions
  • Provisions for disputes and revision requests

An agreement regarding authorship should be determined at this time as well.

The very definition of ghostwriter implies that they should be perfectly comfortable with their name not appearing on the cover of your book or anywhere at all for that matter. In fact, a ghostwriter should be willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement promising to never reveal that they ever worked on your book at all.

On the other hand, you might be very proud of having worked with your particular ghostwriter.  You could offer them co-authorship and permission to include your book in their portfolio.  They may be willing to accept a lower overall fee in exchange for this agreement, or it could remain a simple gesture of good-will, but none of these conditions will be legally binding unless they sign on the proverbial dotted line.

A Little Research of Your Own

Once your contract is established and signed, it’s time to get to work, but don’t expect your ghostwriter to do all the heavy lifting.

You’re going to have to do your part as well.

The quality of your finished company history book will only be as good as the material you give your ghostwriter to work with.

Be sure to provide them with whatever source material you think will add to the story you want to tell.

Make sure they are aware of all the websites associated with your company. Provide them with any written company histories that already exist.

Hand over any newspaper clippings or magazine articles that your organization has appeared in over the years.

If there are any that you don’t have in your possession, make sure your ghostwriter is aware of them so they can find them for themselves.

Your ghostwriter should have access to any historical photos and videos related to your company. If you have any personal notes or foundational documents that could enrich the development of your company history book, provide them to your ghostwriter as well.

It may be in your best interest to compose at least a small portion of your book yourself.  Consider it only temporary and expect it to evolve, but a list of potential chapter titles or an outline of your company’s history from your own perspective would be beneficial to your ghostwriter as they could use it as a template for building out the larger story.

The Interview Process

At this point, your ghostwriter might ride off into the sunset for a while. Depending on your arrangements with them, you might not hear from them again until they begin to send you their first samples, but they may still need a lot of information from you.

A protocol for interviews should be established beforehand. Set dates and mark off exact times for long-form conversations. 

Be candid with them and own up to whatever mistakes you may have made along the way. An honest and open air between you and your ghostwriter during these interviews will likely lead to a more comprehensive and higher quality publication, but make sure to establish what information you divulge is on the record and what’s definitely off of it!

Make sure your ghostwriter has a clear understanding of your schedule and give them permission to call if they ever need a quick clarification on a matter.

You may not even be the best point-person for certain topics. If a certain subordinate is more suited to answering questions that your ghostwriter may have, assign them as a contact and let them know the best times for making inquiries when they arise.

Writing and Editing

The writing and editing phase of your company history book’s evolution will undoubtedly be the longest. 

If deadlines are not set in stone beforehand, a lot of time might pass before you see any of your book’s progress taking shape. 

It’s important to come to such agreements in advance.

An agreed-upon timeline of expectations will prevent a lot of worried hand-wringing and miscommunication for both parties involved.

When you do receive the samples from your ghostwriter, it is of utmost importance that you keep up your end of the bargain as well.

Returning their calls and responding to them with your edits and revisions in a timely manner will foster a healthy and productive working relationship.

Following all of the suggestions outlined above will help you attract the right creator to your project and together you’ll find yourselves in the ideal position for producing the high-quality history book that your company deserves.

Peter Albrecht 

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