At some point in your initial conversation(s) with a potential client, you’ll be asked to explain the process of ghostwriting. Before you answer the question, make sure he or she understands the difference between how you ghostwrite a book and under what conditions the book will be written.
This is my process for crossing a stream:
Walk to the edge of the land, where the water meets the shore.
Place one foot on the stone closest to the water’s edge.
Push off the land with my other foot until both feet are on the rock peeking above water.
Do the same thing with the next stone, working my way across the river to the other side.
Be careful not to step in the water.
Before putting my full weight on the rock, test it to make sure it’s not too slippery.
When I know trust the rock to hold me, securely, place a foot on the next stone.
Repeat until I’m on the other side.
It’s important to understand that this is my process for crossing a stream.
There are many similarities between how I cross a river and how other professional river-crossers do so. Of course, there are many differences as well. It’s not important for me to explain how or why I’m different from others, just so long as you understand that there are differences. What I want the potential client to come away with is a general understanding of the basics of river-crossing techniques. If she hires me to cross her river, then later we will determine precisely, and under what conditions, I will cross the river.
The scope of my river crossing ventures varies from client to client. Because no two clients are the same, no two river-crossing expeditions will be the same. Before I’ll walk to the edge and approach the water, I need to know the scope for this particular client:
How fast does the client want me to get to the other side?
Who gets the credit for me crossing the river?
How much will I charge to cross the river?
What are the penalties for falling into the water?
Who owns my river-crossing experience?
Don’t get wet
The process of ghostwriting and the agreement for ghostwriting are different.
It seems so obvious when you’ve been ghostwriting a while. Likely not so obvious, I suspect, for the beginning ghostwriter. For your next first-timer client it’s always brand new.
When a potential client doesn’t understand the difference, you’ll think they’re negotiating to adjust your process when in fact they’re blending it with the agreement. They’re just trying to work out the best deal based on what they know about how things work in the ghostwriting world. Sometimes, you may not know for sure if the potential client knows the difference or not. When that’s the case, you may over-saturate them with information, thinking that’s what they really need/want, when in fact, they’re just trying to negotiate terms.
When both parties don’t know where the other party stands on the differences, things get really messy. And by ‘messy’, I mean quiet. Most people won’t tell you they’re feeling overwhelmed by your heavy doses of information overload. Most people just stop contacting you. Ah, the silent mess. You may not remember what it’s called, but you’ll remember how it feels.
Every once in a while, a potential client will voice his concern: “You’re immensely qualified. You’ve been published. You obviously know what you’re doing. But we’re afraid that you’re going to drown us in information if we hire you to write our book.”
Should that happen, count yourself fortunate. Then make make sure that future client knows the difference between the process of ghostwriting and an agreement for ghostwriting. You’re not sure? It’s simple. Just ask. Politely explain that the process is how you cross the stream and the agreement/contract is under what conditions you’ll cross the stream and what their obligations are along the way.
If you don’t get it clear from the very beginning, you’ll be underwater soon and wondering why you’re having trouble breathing. Not for you? Ah, then your feet are in the air and you’re about to land on your butt.