Daily Dispatch

Get to the Point!

How to Work With a Ghost (Writer)

By | Oct.29.15 | Communicating, Daily Dispatch, Get to the Point, Legal Marketing

Get to the Point

You don’t have to be afraid of ghosts this Halloween. In fact, you might consider these five thoughts about working with one.

1. Why would I want to work with a ghostwriter? Most lawyers tend to write, well, like lawyers. A skilled ghostwriter can help you turn out more effective prose for any purpose. Delegating part of a writing task can help you make the best use of your time.

2. What does a ghostwriter do? Ghosts are vague, shadowy or evanescent forms. Similarly, a ghostwriter has no public substance relating to the work the ghost produces. Under your command, a ghostwriter will produce the work product you request. This could range from an article for a journal, to editing a brief, to creating social media and blog posts. Supposedly, ghostwriters are writing a large percentage of popular books. (That’s how your favorite author brings out a thriller every month, and every presidential candidate creates a well-written memoir.) A ghostwriter’s product will appear under your name alone. You own the copyright. A typical ghostwriting contract includes a confidentiality provision preventing the ghost from claiming authorship.

3. How do I find a ghostwriter? You may not want to ask around, as the whole point of using a ghost is to keep your use of this helper confidential. Perhaps you already know a potential ghost. Do you know excellent writers who are no longer practicing law but might have time for a project? This could be a retired lawyer or stay-at-home parent. Don’t know anyone? An Internet search for “Freelance writers legal” produces numerous resources. Make sure you know who is really doing the work. Will you feel confident if your ghost is in a foreign country? If you are working on an article for publication, you want someone who has experience with that type of project. The perfect ghost may have already placed articles in the publication where the article will appear.

4. How do you start? Carefully define the job. Be as specific as possible. Some ghosts can start with as little as an assigned topic; your only job is to approve the finished product. For most 1000+ word projects you will provide the ideas for what you want to say and resource material for the ghost to rely on. For example, a ghost may be the ideal person to turn your work on a recent case into an article publicizing your expertise. The ghost may even be able to suggest appropriate media focused on your target market. Pass along records of your work; redact any confidential or privileged text.

Set a deadline for the ghost sufficiently in advance of your own deadline so you have time to review the work. If your ghost is posting on social media for you, make sure you and your ghost are clear on what your goal is and the direction to take to get there. An experienced ghostwriter should be able to suggest post topics. Expect to pay more for a ghost who creates content from scratch compared to one who listens to you talk and turns it into copy. Ghost work is typically priced according to length and frequency.

5. What about revisions? Your initial agreement should spell out what revisions you can request. Promptly review material from the ghost — don’t wait until you’re up against your own deadline. Think twice before revising the work yourself or asking the ghost to do it. Is this revision really necessary? Certainly you must fix any errors. Never forget you are responsible for work in your name. However, the biggest mistake ghostwriters’ clients make is to hire an excellent writer and then revise the work to turn good writing into bad.

You may have trouble hearing your own “voice” as you read another person’s writing. But just as you expect clients to rely on your professional expertise, rely on the professional writer’s skill to get out your message.

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates workers compensation cases throughout California. She is also available for legal freelance writing assignments. An attorney since 1977, she has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and the author of four books published by the American Bar Association, including "Women Rainmakers' Best Marketing Tips, 3rd Edition." Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at WCMediator.com and on Twitter @WCMediator.

Catch up on past “Get to the Point” columns here.

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