3 Secrets to Successful Collaboration on Your Memoir

Man and woman collaborating while looking at laptop


Finding the right ghostwriter to write your memoir for you may sound like your dream come true.

But if this your first time collaborating, would you like to know how to keep your working relationship strong? It’s all about three secrets— three commitments. See if you can recognize them in the true story below, as an author-to-be learned collaboration depended on both his ghostwriter and him.


Is Ghostwriting Magic?

The gentleman dialed up a ghostwriter and launched into an enthusiastic overview of his whole life story.

What a memoir this would be!, the ghostwriter thought. Narrow escapes, surprise reunions, loss, grief, recovery… Listening carefully, she detected a powerful theme to give his book structure. It sounded like they were rolling smoothly toward a collaborative book project.

Then they hit a speed bump.

The ghostwriter asked how they might spend time getting the story from his head into hers. Did the author prefer in-person interviews? Skype or Zoom meetings?

The author’s answers grew hesitant. Apparently, whatever magical data-transfer method he had imagined, it did not involve time spent telling his story.

Then the ghostwriter touched on the subject of her fees.

“Fees?” the gentleman gasped. “For what?” More back-pedaling followed.

And understandably so. This was the author’s first introduction to the ghostwriting process. Words like “interviews” and “drafts” and “feedback” and “revision” hit him like an avalanche. He quickly realized he would need to commit to “co-laboring” to complete the project. And that was not something he had reckoned on.

Fortunately, the phone call ended on a friendly note. The would-be author would reconsider collaborating in the future, now that he knew what he would be getting into.

Did you pick up on the three secrets of good collaborating? They involved three kinds of commitment you’ll want to make to your ghostwriter.

Three kinds of commitment are needed for successful collaboration.


Secret 1: Commit to Communicating

Any successful team effort requires effective communication. To tell your story for you, your ghostwriter needs you to communicate all essential information.


Be up-front about your expectations for your working relationship. (Your ghostwriter should do the same.) Make sure you start with a clear contract you both agree on.

Express your intentions for your memoir, too. What audience are you writing for? How do you intend to publish your book: self-publishing or traditional? What are your dreams for this memoir?


Allow plenty of time to relate the pertinent events of your life. At the same time, supply your ghostwriter with plenty of sensory and emotional details. Give your ghostwriter the context that will equip her to craft scenes that engross your readers.


Your ghostwriter will submit drafted chapters to you for review and feedback. Your timelyhonest, and constructive criticism will help her revise the text until you’re both pleased with it.


Secret 2: Commit to Compensating

It should go without saying that paying your ghostwriter for her professional services is an excellent way to keep your working relationship a happy one. Yet, as the earlier story shows, not everyone knows this secret.

Perhaps it is not common knowledge that ghostwriters, like other professionals, obtain training and experience in order to serve their clients. Yet consider the range of services a ghostwriter may provide you:

  • Author interviews
  • Thesis development
  • Structural outlining
  • Project management
  • Manuscript writing
  • Graphics/illustration design
  • Research
  • Manuscript review and revision with the author (and an editor?)
  • Manuscript formatting for publication
  • Referrals to other professionals in their network

If these services are valuable to you, your ghostwriter’s compensation will reflect that. You two will start your relationship with an agreement that honors the contributions you both make to this project.


Secret 3: Commit to Completing

Before you even begin, make sure that you have your own resources in place to finish the project. Your ghostwriter is counting on you.


Create space in your schedule for the chunks of time needed for telling your story to your ghostwriter. Budget some time to locate photos or other historical tidbits in your files. Look ahead to reserve time for reviewing manuscript drafts and discussing revisions. Keep your ghostwriter apprised of travel plans or other commitments that will affect your availability.


Don’t let your ghostwriter’s invoices catch you off-guard. Dedicate that funding in advance, according to your agreed-upon payment schedule.


Resolve to cooperate on the project until it’s done. (Yes, unforeseen circumstances can occur. But you and your ghostwriter can include an “early exit” clause in your contract to handle those concerns.)

If these three commitments strike you as both workable and reasonable, you will be the kind of author a ghostwriter would be happy to serve. Your commitment to collaboration increases the chances that your teamwork will leave both of you satisfied and successful.

For more ideas on how to make the most of collaboration with a writer, download my free guide, Hiring a Writer: How to Streamline Your Process, here, or in the top right corner above.

Feel free to contact me with further questions.

I’d love to hear about the story you’re hoping to tell.

Start working with Karen today

Today could be the day your load gets lighter.
Ask Karen Ingle to make that happen.

The Woman Behind Karen Ingle Freelance
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