Should I Hire a Ghostwriter for My Memoir?

A woman contacted me to inquire about ghostwriting services for her memoir. After one phone conversation, she became my first coaching client.

It's a common misconception that if you hire a #ghostwriter to write your #book for you, you can simply hand the project over and attend to your other concerns without a second thought about it.

But that's not how it works. Especially not with a #memoir.

Consider this: how is a stranger supposed to write an entire book about some of the most personal events and encounters of your life, with all the details, dialogue, ambience, and emotion that make a book come alive–not to mention your sage reflections on all of it–all on their own?

The answer is that it's not possible. They'd need considerable input from you. This could take the form of you:

  • sitting for multiple personal interview sessions

  • handing over your journals, letters, diaries, texts, emails, blogs, and social media posts

  • arranging interviews with family members, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues

  • gathering and granting access to whatever other resources you can muster.

Depending on the focus of your memoir, you may also need to provide professional references, private records, and legal documents.

Consider, too, that many ghostwriters sign contracts that forbid the ghostwriter to ever reveal which books he or she has written. This means that the ghostwriter often cannot put together a portfolio, or list testimonials, or engage in many of the common marketing activities that most other freelance writers engage in to find new business. A ghostwriter's future income is shaky at best.

Between the extensive research necessary to undertake such a project, and the limitations on promotional opportunities, ghostwriters' fees tend to be high. Many charge a minimum of $25,000, with some charging $75,000 or more. Generally, only major celebrities and entrepreneurs are in a position to hire a ghostwriter for a full-length book, and they do so because they expect to make that money back in sales and/or high-end speaking engagements.

Now, this may sound as though I don't see any benefit in engaging a ghostwriter, but that wouldn't be true. The primary benefit of using a ghostwriter, and it's a big one, is that the actual writing and crafting process is the writer's business, and while the writer is:

  • sifting through all the notes and interview recordings

  • checking facts

  • laboring over paragraphs and chapters while attempting to capture and convey your voice and personality

you can go about your life and attend to other concerns, as long as you remain available to answer a variety of questions that are bound to arise during such a project. That's a big plus. Secondly, since the ghost is a professional writer, the final manuscript is likely to require fewer layers and rounds of editing than it might if you attempted it on your own.

Having a ghostwriter also spares you myriad hours of lonely immersion in your memories and emotions. While it's necessary for you to revisit them in order to provide the ghost with material, you don't have to sit in front of your computer every day, baring your soul, wandering down memory lane, and possibly wallowing in regrets and what-if scenarios. All of my memoir coaching clients have experienced some degree of emotional upheaval during the writing process. A few have had to take time away from writing in order to process their feelings and experiences.

Lastly, there are ghostwriters out there who will only charge $10,000 to $15,000 for their book-writing services. Some may accept even less if you find them on a freelancing site where members bid on projects. Regardless of whether you go high end or low end, if you're considering going this route, just do your research, vet your candidate, and make sure you're hiring the right ghostwriter for you. You'll be working together intimately for the duration of the project.

As expected, there are pros and cons to attempting to write a memoir all on your own.

The benefits of writing your own memoir are many. Because you're immersing yourself in your memories, you get to:

  • look at them from different perspectives

  • gain new insights

  • learn new lessons

  • release emotional baggage

  • discover or enhance a sense of personal power

  • potentially bring your experiences to the page more vividly than any stranger could

  • enjoy the immense gratification that comes from having done it yourself.

The process can feel chaotic and sometimes overwhelming, but–especially if you've gotten enough distance from the events you're writing about–it can be incredibly healing, as well. In my experience, most memoirists come out of the experience with less stress, fewer grudges, and more compassion than they had when they first walked through that door.

The path isn't always clear, and even when it is, it's not necessarily easy to tread. One of my clients thought that she'd gotten enough distance from past events, but once she started writing she realized that she had simply pushed her memories down deep, and wasn't prepared when they came flooding back in full force.

Writing a memoir requires #patience and discipline, time and energy, #resilience and #determination, self-awareness, self-care and, ideally, lots of cheering and #encouragement from your support network. You can go at your own pace. Savor your memories or power through them. Build a new relationship with the past and/or let it go.

Many people write memoirs entirely on their own, while many others seek the guidance and support of a #coach. A coach can:

  • help break the process down into small, manageable steps

  • provide structure that keeps you focused and accountable

  • prevent you from wandering off in directions that prolong and complicate the journey

  • teach you techniques that #empower you as a #writer

  • provide guidance that can help ensure that the message and delivery of your unique story reaches and resonate with your ideal readers.

A memoir coach also plays a significant role in your support network. One client told me that she'd shared things with me about her life that she hadn't told her best friend. Another said that writing me emails about her emotional meltdowns actually helped her work through them faster than she'd normally get through them.

Your coach is 100% rooting for you and your #success. Find one you trust and click with, and you'll be well on your way to becoming a self-made memoirist and author.

Whatever choice you make, know that crafting a memoir involves an investment and a commitment and, if done correctly, will prove to be transformative not only for your readers, but also for you.

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