6 Lessons from a New York Ghost

New York writer Nancy Shulins was introduced to me recently by a mutual friend. She’s one of those people you just automatically click with. I feel as if we’ve known each other for years, even though we’ve never met in person. I asked her to share some of the lessons she’s learned from ghosting a non-fiction bestseller and an as yet unpublished novel.

Here’s her advice:

1. Get a sense of what your author brings to the party.

“Make sure you understand the kind of commitment you’ll get from your author. Some want to be true collaborators. Others expect you to go off and write the book already, because they don’t have the time. Both situations have pros and cons. If you like having creative freedom, you might not mind it if your author is uninvolved.”

2. Don’t let journalistic integrity get in the way of a good story.

“I came into ghostwriting with a journalism background, and I was used to making sure I quoted people accurately. It surprised me that I didn’t have to do this with ghostwriting. It took me a while to realize that my authors would change anything they had a problem with.”

3. Make sure you can relinquish claims without driving yourself crazy.

“I agreed to go uncredited as a ghostwriter, and I’m not sorry about it. But at the end of the process, I kind of felt like I had given birth and was giving my baby up for adoption. Ghostwritten books go on to have their own lives out there and you’re not part of them. When you hold your book in your hands for the first time, you might feel something for it that you didn’t expect to.”

4. Don’t offer unlimited rewrites.

“If you’re in a position to negotiate, agree to one rewrite in your contract and get paid extra for additional work.”

5. Lay off the gum.

“I chewed so much gum working on proposal rewrites that my tongue turned green. I thought I’d be afflicted with a fungal infection my whole life, but fortunately it went away.”

6. Expect unexpected benefits.

“My non-fiction ghosting experience gave me a relationship with an editor at a top publishing house that I would never have gotten otherwise, and that relationship led to my own book deal. My fiction experience wasn’t as financially rewarding, but it gave me the courage to write my own novel.”

Thanks Nancy!

[Photo by Tony the Misfit]