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  • Writer's pictureAl Desetta

Do You Need to Meet with a Ghostwriter in Person?

Is it necessary to meet with a ghostwriter in person to work on a memoir together?  Not in my view.


I’ve lost a few jobs because of that view.  Some potential clients were convinced they needed to meet face-to-face during the ghostwriting process.


Sometimes this can go to an extreme.  I read that Andre Agassi bought his ghostwriter, the renowned journalist J.R. Moehringer, a home near his so they could work in person on Agassi’s acclaimed memoir Open.  I throw this out to anyone reading: if you agree to buy me a house near yours, I might consider moving to your neck of the woods to write your memoir. 


But even then, probably not.  And it’s nothing personal.




Because being in your physical presence is a distraction rather than an aid.  When I interview you, it’s not a conversation or a chat.  We’re not shooting the bull.  It’s an interview—a very focused and intentional process of bringing back the information I need to craft your book.  And interviewing you by phone provides an objectivity and distance that works for me and most other ghostwriters.  I often use the analogy of Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air.  While she sometimes interviews her guests in the studio, the vast majority of her interviews are by phone.  And I think most people will agree that she does a very good job of getting her guests to open up.


I often meet clients via Zoom when they’re thinking of hiring at the start of the process or now and then during the course of the project.  But the heart of the process takes place by phone.


A compelling book is made up of language.  And the ghostwriter gets the necessary language through the quality and depth of his or her interviewing—the ability to react in the moment to what the client is saying, feeling, or remembering.  It is irrelevant whether I’m sitting across from you or talking by phone—it’s the quality of our exchanges that count.  And as an experienced memoir ghostwriter, I’m adept at going to the heart of your story and getting the building blocks of a good memoir—memories, sights, sounds, what you said, what the other person said.  The building blocks of scenes, dialogue, conflict, insight, and reflection.


The other issue of course is that I’ve completed memoirs for people who live in Colorado, Hawaii, Arizona, and other places far from my home in upstate New York.  If I’m doing two or three dozen interviews for your book, the inconvenience for both of us is obvious, especially if you have a busy schedule like most of my clients.  Phone interviewing allows us to touch base at your convenience, at any hour of the day, if need be.


I’m happy to meet with you in person, either for the initial consultation or for an initial interview.  But connection and trust between the author and the ghostwriter are built on how we communicate, not where.



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