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Different Roads to Publication: Ghostwriting

No ghosts were harmed during this interview
Ready to have your socks scared off? Next up in our series of Different Roads to Publication we've nabbed spectral sensation Dawn Miller for an inside look at the somewhat secretive business of ghostwriting. (Okay, yeah, ghostwriting doesn't have anything to do with ghosts ;) For any readers unfamiliar with the term, a ghostwriter is someone paid to write books that are officially credited to another person.)

How did you stumble into ghostwriting?

My agent, Kathleen Ortiz, approached me about doing a work-for-hire job. I wasn't exactly sure what it would entail, but I thought it sounded interesting and agreed to send sample pages of my work. At that time, I knew nothing about the project except that it was YA and a third-person past tense sample was needed.

Can you discuss a little of the process for us? Do you receive an outline and character list to follow? 

 I'm not sure what a typical ghostwriting job is because we're a secretive bunch. However, my experience has been that I'm given a detailed synopsis (we're talking ten - fifteen pages) and any supporting materials (such as previous books in a series, character lists, & important settings). I'm given the freedom to flesh out characters and veer slightly from the synopsis as long as every thing ends up where it needs to be. Obviously, I'm not killing characters or changing major plot points without permission.

Once I've completed a draft, I send it to my agent and she suggests edits. I can't use beta readers and that's probably the toughest part. I'll do another round or two of revisions based on my agent's feedback before she sends it to the publisher. From there, it takes a normal path.

Is it hard picking up the voice of a character or style of a story that you didn't create?

I think ghostwriters are mimics by nature. We have to be flexible if we want to work. After I spend enough time with a character - either by reading and re-reading the synopsis or writing the first few chapters - it comes very easy. Actually, I think it may be easier than when I'm working on a character of my own invention. With ghostwriting, it's all laid out for me. I can check the style sheet and make sure I'm hitting the right notes. Can't do that with my own work.

What are some pros and cons to ghostwriting in your opinion?

I love ghostwriting. Until my first job, I'd always written first person present tense and mostly fantasy or dystopians. Now, I have experience writing in different genres and tenses which makes my writing stronger.

I won't lie, ghostwriting is paid work. And getting paid is a very, very good thing.

As for cons, I think the toughest thing is tight deadlines. I'm a fast drafter, but having a publisher deadline that's three months out is insane. Doable, but insane. I've developed a nasty case of carpal tunnel pounding out drafts.

I've been asked if it bothers me no one will ever know the books I worked on. Honestly, no. Unlike writing for myself, I don't form an all-consuming attachment to these books. It's a lot like a nine-five job. I can turn it off-and-on, and don't spend all night wondering if I should do X,Y,Z. When the book is gone, out of my hands, that's that. I tend to think of myself as the nanny, bringing it up properly, and then returning it to its parents. I'm totally fine with that.

If you could ghostwrite a sequel to any book in the world, which one would it be?

Oh, man. That's tough. So many of my favorite books are series or trilogies already. I think writing a "supporting character" book staring John Green's Colonel, Hassan, Lacey, and Tiny Cooper would be hilarious. I can only imagine how perplexed they'd be by one another.

But I'd never, ever want to touch John Green's work. I'd go all Wayne's World, "I'm not worthy" on it. 

Thanks Dawn!!

Dawn Miller is represented by Kathleen Ortiz of Nancy Coffey Literary. To learn more about Dawn and her writing check out her personal blog, And also be sure to stop by her new group blog, YAcurator.

Part one of the Different Roads to Publication: Self-publishing available here.
Amanda Hannah

Amanda grew up on a big farm in a small town with one stoplight, one school, and a handful of imaginary friends.She would’ve gone to college forever, but eight years and five majors tested her advisor’s patience. So she moved to Germany to explore creepy castles before landing in Spain where she’s perfecting her Flamenco.

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  1. This was a FABULOUS interview. Great look into a side of publishing we don't often hear about.

    Also, I totally laughed at the Wayne's World reference. Love it.

  2. That was interesting! I've always wanted to know more about ghostwriting, but it does strike me as sort of a hush-hush thing. I've always wondered what it would be like to do as well. The challenge and tight deadlines appeal, and like you said, it sounds like there are things to learn from it too.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great interview, Dawn!!! It's been very cool hearing about your process and the pros and cons. Can't wait to read your own book, Larkstorm!!

  4. Great interview. This is such an interesting subject and I love hearing Dawn's take on it.

  5. So fascinating! Thanks for letting us see behind the curtain! I loved the nanny analogy, by the way. It makes perfect sense. Good luck with both this project and Larkstorm, Dawn!

  6. Wonderful interview. Really cool to hear about ghostwriting...I've always wondered!

    Is there any way to find out if a book was ghostwritten?

  7. Hey guys, I'm happy to answer questions. However, some things I won't be able to share due to the contracts I sign.

  8. @Amie McCracken - not really. Most contracts are vows of silence. However, sometimes people talk. If you look on wikipedia, you can find more of the well-known ghostwritten books. Like The Babysitters Club and some *ahem* well-known adult authors.

  9. Great Interview! I know a few ghostwriters and there work is very secretive. A lot of respect goes out to you.

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  11. Fabulous interview, Dawn! I sure do wish that I knew what the title was. :)

  12. @angie. Yeah. No. Not going to happen :D

  13. I've always wondered about ghostwriting ever since hearing about L.J. Smith! You definitely don't hear about that side of publishing much..

    Informative post! Thanks :)

    -Sarah (Inklings Read)

  14. Very cool interview! I've always been curious about how ghostwriting works. Also looking forward to Larkstorm ;)

  15. Love the comparison to bringing up a child and returning it to its parents :) You go, Dawn!


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Item Reviewed: Different Roads to Publication: Ghostwriting Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Amanda Hannah