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Five Reasons Why Ghostwriters Should Shadow Their Authors

5 Reasons to Shadow Your Author

by Ed on April 2, 2010

Face to face

In today’s world, it’s easy to work with people without ever meeting them in person. I have advertising clients who I’ve worked with for years—and wouldn’t even know it if I walked by them on the street.

In researching this post, I came across an interesting presentation by Eugene Kim of Blue Oxen Associates. He claims that “physical presence in the context of collaborative processes is often overstated,” and argues persuasively that emotional bonding and the development of trust can occur just as effectively online as it can in person.

He explains that artifacts are the most important tools for building shared understanding, and that online interactions are, by definition, artifacts in and of themselves.

That being said, I still think it’s important for ghosts to meet their authors—on the author’s home turf, if possible—to kick off a successful ghostwriting project.

In an ideal scenario, I get two or three days to hang out with my author and follow him or her around. We eat together, I watch him or her interact with other people, I meet their family members, friends, and colleagues, and get a real sense of how this person “walks their walk.”

As Mr. Kim even admits, there’s a certain “power of being in another person’s presence, the power of touch. Ultimately, that’s what being human is all about.” And humanity is pretty important when you’re trying to capture an author’s vision for a wider audience.

Here are my top 5 reasons why I think it’s critical for ghosts to shadow their authors.

5. It gives your author the chance to shine.

By watching your author interact with his or her employees, advisors, etc., you see firsthand what made your author worthy of a book in the first place.

4. You get more information, especially in unguarded moments.

With time on your side during a two-day face-to-face, you can cover a lot more ground than you can in a one-hour WebEx meeting or conference call. You can also catch your author when their guard is down, maybe at their house over a glass of wine, and get some really great information you might never have had access to. The authors I’ve worked with are often surprised by the things they reveal to me, and I think it’s a function of the intensity of the initial meeting.

3. You get your author’s full attention.

As Mr. Kim suggests, “you cannot guarantee people’s presence (in the metaphysical sense) online, and that makes it hard to tackle certain types of problems. Getting that level of focused attention is possible, but the cost of doing it online is higher.”

2. Your author gets to show YOU off.

A lot of the entrepreneurs I write for get a kick out of introducing me to their friends and colleagues.

1. It makes it easier for you to write the book.

I know that this is subjective, but I like having a picture in my head of my author when I’m telling his or her story. Like a director who blocks a scene in a movie, I can picture how they would say things and create imaginary dialogues in my head as I write.

I wouldn’t turn down an assignment if I couldn’t meet an author in person, but I do think that face-to-face interaction makes the ghostwriting experience richer for author and ghost alike.

[Photo by AndYaDontStop]

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