I am a member of United Ghostwriters (www.unitedghostwriters.co.uk), a group of
experienced, bestselling ghostwriters offering a variety of services. My profile is:
http://www.unitedghostwriters.co.uk/profiles/spencerhonniball/, and the blogs I’ve written for
the site are listed below:
The Importance of a Publishers’ Proposal
In the same way that homeowners invite estate agents to produce documents that help sell
their properties, a proposal offers publishers the opportunity to peruse your story’s strengths
and consider the attractions of attaching themselves to it. In addition to outlining the story
itself, a well-executed publishers’ proposal explicates what makes it unique, while identifying
the market/s in which your title could thrive.
In an increasingly competitive market place – an overused phase, I know, but a painfully
accurate one in the writing business, as in so many others – a project needs to really stand
out in order to persuade a publisher to invest in it, especially when taking into account the
numerous competing titles it has to choose from. Even publishers which seek proposals from
agents alone are used to receiving floods of submissions, so those accepting work from
unrepresented writers are likely to consider thousands of stories each year. That’s part of the
reason they can often take so long to get back to you.
A good way of really emphasising why a publisher should invest in your manuscript is the
inclusion of a sample chapter or two in your proposal. While the cost is greater, but not
prohibitive, sample chapters give publishers a real flavour of what they could be buying into;
and, of course, are the most important part of your story – your words and the manner in
which they are woven together, your characters, and how skilfully you are able to hook your
Your opening chapters are the ones your readers will be leaping into, and it is your job to
scatter a trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow. Opening chapters also underscore the
importance of hitting the ground running – if you fail to enthuse readers in the first few
chapters, chances are they’ll bail out on you and choose another story to take them on the
kind of journey others have failed to convince them to complete. This, I believe, is especially
true of fiction, and reminds me of an analogy I read many years ago: when your readers pick
a book up and start flicking through its pages, they are metaphorically stepping into a taxi.
The meter’s ticking, the reader’s time is the currency employed, and your job is to keep them
in the cab until the journey ends.
So, if you’re thinking of approaching a publisher, seriously consider doing so via a proposal.
At United Ghostwriters, we have a variety of experienced, skilled and approachable writers
ready to help you achieve your goals and climb the authorial ladder. For more information,
The Reality of Working with a Ghostwriter
A search on the internet for ghostwriters doesn’t always yield the most flattering results.
Because while many people recognise the worth in hiring a ghost to write what they aren’t
able to, owing to time constraints or lack of expertise, others demonstrate suspicion. Some
allude to a client’s ‘cheating’ in hiring somebody else to write on their behalf, some doubt
ghosts’ skill set, in being able to echo their client’s voice or call themselves any kind of writer
at all, while others question whether ghostwriters complete the work themselves, electing
instead to outsource work to less well-established writers on a poorer rate of pay. Other
concerns include a ghostwriter acting in their own best interests, rather than their client’s,
and the cost of hiring one in the first place.
One of the most fundamental rules of being a ghostwriter is knowing that your client’s name
– not yours – will, for the most part, be on the front of the book you wrote, something some
writers don’t consider acceptable. To an extent, that’s understandable, but ghosting should
be an occupation without vanity…and, after all, if other people didn’t want us to write on their
behalf, we’d have to find other forms of writing from which to forge a career.
So is it cheating, if a book’s ‘author’ claims to have written it themselves, when a ghost was
behind it? Well, yes, in a way; but I think readers in general appreciate that the majority of,
say, celebrity offerings aren’t written by them, and that a ghostwriter was responsible for the
manuscript’s layout, if not the content…which brings me to why people who work with ghosts
have a legitimate claim to being responsible for the contents of their book.
For while a ghost shaped the manner in which text was laid down on the page, and the
manuscript’s structure, they will have spent numerous hours working with their client, in
order to convincingly capture their voice and relay to that client’s audience the message, or
story, they wish to tell. Since it is the client’s content the ghost is channelling, how is the
client not responsible for the resulting story? Unless gargantuan amounts of research are
required, it is the client’s material, albeit worded by the ghost, that is ultimately read.
As for ghostwriters outsourcing work to other writers, it’s not something I’ve personally come
across. I’m not suggesting it doesn’t happen, but any ghost worth their weight and, crucially,
reputation, wouldn’t consider something as unethical as that. Reputable ghostwriters should
always have their clients’ best interests at heart, for a bad reputation can spread like a virus
and kill their career. And while good ghostwriters don’t come cheaply, if you’re going to be
involved in anything as important as, say, writing your memoir, wouldn’t you want it executed
in the best possible manner, so that it will be a book you are proud of and has the best
possible chance of achieving success?
The bottom line, when considering working with a ghostwriter, is do your research. Speak to
more than one ghost and, if in any doubt as to their credentials, ask to see samples of their
work, as well as referrals from previous clients. In short, vet potential ghostwriters and
ensure you find the right fit for you and your project.
At United Ghostwriters, we have a variety of highly experienced, skilled and approachable
writers ready to help you achieve your goals and climb the authorial ladder. For more
information, visit: http://www.unitedghostwriters.co.uk.
Bigging Up A Fellow Author
Authorial envy isn’t something I’ve ever really suffered from, though occasionally I come
across a piece of work so magnificent, it makes me wish I could’ve tackled the story myself.
One such story did exactly that. Rewind to August 2014, Emirates Stadium (or The Grove,
as diehards prefer), for the launch of Stuck in a Moment: the Ballad of Paul Vaessen. Having
remembered Paul from 1980, when he headed Arsenal into the Cup Winners’ Cup Final with
a priceless goal away at Juventus, his name occasionally cropped up in my mind. In days
well before the advent of social media, Paul seemed to simply fade away from the world of
football, begging the question: what the hell happened to the dark-haired boy from
Bermondsey with the world at his feet?
Stuck in a Moment answered my every curiosity in superbly illuminating fashion. From his
early days as an apprentice, through his rise to fame and, at times, horrifying descent, this
book has it all. In spite of the many inspiring stories of people overcoming addictions, Paul’s,
unfortunately, isn’t among them. Tragically, he died before the age of 40, just as he’d
predicted, a world away from the pampered excesses of today’s Premiership stars.
What helps makes Stuck in a Moment such a compelling read is author Stewart Taylor’s
ability to plant you slap, bang in the middle of Paul’s world, to share his considerable highs
and lows; though, sadly, there were far more of the latter beyond Turin.
I briefly explored the possibility of writing a book about Paul, but Stewart had already started
work on his story. I can’t imagine anybody doing a better job, with a William Hill Sports Book
of the Year longlisting and British Sports Book Awards shortlisting testament to its brilliance,
and I gladly settled for a screenplay adaptation, in the hope of bringing Paul’s life to the big
Poignantly, Stuck in a Moment will be republished in paperback on April the 23rd, to coincide
with the night that both made and, ultimately, broke Paul. It really is one of the finest stories
I’ve ever read and, as one online reviewer so correctly put it: ‘Amazon should add an extra
star for books this good’.
Rescuing a Manuscript
I’ve often been approached by aspiring authors who feel embarrassed about presenting their
manuscripts. Sometimes concerns and doubts about plot or character dominate their
thoughts, if fiction; though, more often than not, the source of anxiety is misuse of language.
Some people even apologise in advance for their perceived lack of skill before releasing
their work; when, in fact, they should be congratulating themselves for completing a
manuscript, however patchy they might regard their efforts.
Any professional, self-respecting ghostwriter will assuage such worries, possessing the
necessary skills to maximise the work’s potential, while weeding-out any mistakes. Working
with dyslexic people, for example, can, in my experience, involve a slightly different kind of
approach to, say, somebody whose punctuation alone requires attention…but the end result
is much the same: a manuscript that looks great on the page, with everything in the right
place, and content as tight as possible.
It might take a little longer to get over the finishing line in some cases, but that in itself can
be immensely rewarding; and, in any case, no jobs are ever the same. It may be comparable
to a translator who’s better at interpreting some languages than others, but who will ensure
the safe movement of words from one side of the fence to the other.
So if you’ve written a manuscript and need some help reshaping it, but feel a little coy about
approaching a ghostwriter, then head over to www.unitedghostwriters.co.uk. With an eclectic
bunch of experienced, award-winning, friendly and approachable writers to choose from,
you’ll be sure to find the right fit for you.
Working with Overseas Clients
The dawn of the internet, and applications such as Skype, bridge what are often
considerable geographical gaps, making communication cheap and easy. Indeed,
technological advance has enabled me to work with people in America, Belgium, Norway
and Singapore, and numerous others in various parts of the UK. I’ve met just one of those
people, even though it feels as if I know them all well, having spent numerous hours chatting
over internet connections that have, for the most part, provided good quality sound and
I’m inclined to agree with those who claim we spend too much time on devices such as
smart phones and computers for our amusement, but in business, as a writer, life has
become less complicated. Documents can be sent and received in a matter of seconds,
whereas in the pre-digital age the Post Office would have been relied upon to despatch hefty
manuscripts that may or may not reach their destination.
Nowadays, I can conduct interviews sitting at my desk, while the other person might talk to
me from the comfort of their own home, a park, café, pub, railway station or some of the
numerous other places clients have chatted to me from. A few or thousands of miles might
separate us, yet it matters not a jot. Entire books, as well as other, shorter projects, have
been completed via Skype and email exchanges; and while nostalgia occasionally reminds
me of what sometimes feel like simpler, less distracting times, as a ghostwriter I appreciate
the ease with which I can work with people from all around the world.
So if you are considering embarking on a ghostwriting collaboration, but harbour concerns
about the validity of such an arrangement, especially if based outside of the UK, fear not – it
really couldn’t be easier. And at United Ghostwriters, we have a wide range of writers to help
you make the very best of your story, whatever that happens to be, and wherever you
happen to live.
A Writer’s Snag List
If you’ve ever had your home redecorated, you’ll be familiar with a snag list. It might include
a poorly painted windowsill, a chipped radiator or, more seriously, a trickle of water suddenly
appearing following some heavy-duty construction work. A good builder will resolve all
issues they were responsible for, leaving your home safe, dry and comfortable.
For all self-respecting writers, a snag list is an essential part of our work. We don’t always
get things right first time and, since no style suits all clients, adaptability is key. In the
overwhelming majority of cases, my clients and I read from the same page (pardon the pun),
reaching a mutually agreed conclusion of their project. They’ll make a number of
suggestions, as will I, and between us we produce content that we are both proud of.
In a writer’s line of work, a snag list doesn’t necessarily correlate with mistakes/typos –
certain words might be favoured over others; some revelations made in earlier drafts of, say,
a memoir might, after careful consideration, require removal for reasons of privacy, not
wishing to hurt others’ feelings, or be legally contentious; or perhaps a story’s conclusion
might require revision, if something isn’t quite working.
This is all absolutely fine and completely expected. We ghosts operate without vanity and,
personally, I view a snag, or corrections, list as little more than an exchange of words; an
opportunity to enhance text. I don’t always agree with a client’s suggestions but, ultimately,
that’s irrelevant, given that the client’s word is final (at least until a publisher is brought into
the mix – they invariably have suggestions of their own, which the ghost/client will be
expected to adhere to).
So, if you’re already working with a ghostwriter, or are considering doing so, don’t fear
presenting your collaborator with anything you’re unhappy with, or think could be improved
upon. A good ghost is much like a translator, acting as a medium through which your story
will be told with as much skill, sensitivity and endeavour as possible. Yes, we are there to
guide as well, but corrections should never be viewed as a blow to one’s ego. Providing
realistic expectations are in play, a snag list can trigger the polish that will make your project
complete, ready to be dispatched with confidence and excitement into the wider world.
Rewriting the Rewrites
When working with a publisher, what had been considered a pretty much completed
manuscript can often be anything but. Instead of the occasional polish here and there, and
perhaps slight rearrangement of text, there can be such a long list of demands that for the
ghostwriter who wrote it – or author, if not employing the services of a ghost – it can feel like
working on an entirely new manuscript.
That’s undoubtedly overstating it – much of the originally submitted text will remain in some
form, but the requested changes affect the flow and rhythm of language on the page, and
can sometimes take the story in an entirely different direction. Some of the wanted
alterations can appear odd to say the least, and may need challenging, while others make
perfect sense and serve to strengthen the manuscript.
It can, at times, feel like a kick in the guts, but providing the resulting book looks great, with
the potential to record impressive sales, any trace of ego on either side simply has to go out
of the window. It’s important to consider that, if the book is written by a ghost, there are three
parties involved – the publisher, ghost and author, who will, of course, want to have some
input into the process – it’s their story, after all, and when it hits the market, they will naturally
want to be proud of the book with their name stamped across its front.
Sometimes compromise is required from all parties but, ultimately, it’s the publisher which
will have the final say on what’s released. The publisher is the one taking the greatest risk in
selecting a project out of the hundreds – perhaps even thousands – it receives each year.
And as unjust as it may seem to the person whose story it is, once a manuscript has been
sold, it isn’t really the client’s anymore – it becomes a shared enterprise in which both parties
have an interest. And the ghostwriter is the third party, there to make sure that both author
and publisher are happy.
Many people choose self-publishing over a more traditional publishing route because they
won’t have to compromise their story in any way, shape or form, and will have full control
over the publishing process. It can be a very good way to proceed for many; but what they’ll
miss out on, if they’re lucky enough to have a good design, editorial and legal team on their
side, are the benefits of a professional outfit which wants the very best outcome for all of its
titles. Which is why, for all of the frustrations of seemingly endless rewrites, a traditional
publishing route will, in many people’s eyes, be the way to go.