Got a great tale to tell, but don't want to write it yourself?
Hire me to do all the work. Personal memoirs. Family or business history.
For commercial publication or private circulation.
Everyone has a book in them, so the saying goes. The remarkable story of your life. The fascinating history of your family. The inspiring chronicle of your business. But however much you itch to get it down on paper, there are often obstacles. Your schedule is hectic and you just haven't got the time. Or you're not too sure of your writing skills. Or you're not confident of having the staying-power to complete such a daunting task.
Yet becoming the author of a book would, without a doubt, be one of your most important and satisfying achievements. Whether you're a celebrity wanting to raise your profile to an even higher level, a business leader looking for a prestigious marketing tool or just someone who wants to leave a portrait of your life and times as a unique gift for your family and friends.
So that's the objective, those are the obstacles, what's the solution? Hire a ghostwriter, that's what.
So what exactly does the ghostwriter do?
First and foremost, the ghostwriter listens. As you tell me your tale, I'll be asking you lots of carefully-judged questions designed to gently prise out the essence of the story. And though it's not fiction, it's not too different from planning a novel. While you talk, I'll be identifying the main characters, the dramatic peaks, the way to structure the 'plot' and the many other elements that go together to make a story vibrant, compelling and worth the time you're asking people to spend reading it. Once that's done, I'll go away and transcribe our tape-recorded conversations into a fat pile of notes which are then used as the foundation for the first draft of the book. After that, I'll revise and redraft until I'm happy that I've really captured your 'voice' and that the manuscript reads as if it's you talking. Essentially, that's how it works. And in addition, I'll be there to advise and guide you at all stages of the journey towards printing and publication.
What does the subject have to do?
As described above, you just talk. You simply sit in a comfy chair in your own sitting-room or some other congenial place, drink a few cups of coffee, eat a lot of biscuits and spin me your yarn. We'll probably need somewhere between five and ten interview sessions, each one lasting around two to three hours. Even if you feel a bit shy at first, most people soon find the experience easy, highly enjoyable, even therapeutic. After all, it's always rather nice to talk about oneself. Later on, you'll obviously want to comment on what's been written and liaise with me on any necessary changes and corrections. And, from your perspective, that's about it.
How does my book get published?
Broadly speaking, there are two routes:
a) If you're already a household name or if you've been involved in some remarkable event that's hit the media, we would certainly try to interest a publisher, probably through a literary agent. To try and land a publisher, it's necessary to create what's called a submission, usually a detailed chapter breakdown that outlines the whole story plus two or three sample chapters to show the style of the writing. Getting a publisher is not always easy and success certainly can't be promised, but publishers are often encouraged to know that a ghostwriter is involved because it means a high level of skill and professionalism is going into the project.
b) The second way is to self-publish. This is your likely route if you're writing a personal memoir that's mostly for your family and friends or if it's the story of your business which is maybe designed to be a promotional tool for the company. These days, self-publishing is a highly respectable and easy way of seeing your book in print or online (many novelists too are now turning to this option). Standards of design and production are higher than ever, so you can be sure your book will grace any bookshelf.
So who exactly is the 'author'?
You are. It's your book, not mine. It will be your name on the front cover. Of course, a ghost always appreciates some form of acknowledgement, but it's not compulsory. At all stages of the process you're in complete control. You decide what does, or doesn't, go into the finished manuscript. All tape recordings will be returned to you and you can rely on my total confidentiality both during and after the writing of the book.
What if I've already done some writing myself?
That's great. It shows you're really committed to idea of doing the book. Although I most often write the complete manuscript from scratch, I'm equally happy to comment on or polish up what's been written, to suggest on how it might be made more readable or attractive to a publisher and, if requested, to take over the task of completing the book from the existing foundations.
How much will it cost me?
Like bespoke tailoring, ghost written projects are rarely identical. How long is the book going to be? How many interviews are necessary? Is any background research needed to tell the tale in the most compelling way? All these issues dictate the cost. Once again though, your expenditure depends on what sort of publication you're aiming for.
a) If you're lucky enough to get a publishing contract, the publisher will pay all the costs (and carry all the risks) of producing the book. In other words, you don't fork out anything. An advance against prospective sales will normally be paid and the main part of my fee will come out of that advance. However I will charge you a fee for preparing the submission to prospective publishers, though this would be deducted from the advance paid if and when a publisher is secured.
b) If the book is self-published for private circulation only, then you the author bear all the costs. My fees are flexible and negotiable but, as mentioned above, are usually based on the likely length of the book and the time required to complete the job. Normally, I ask for an initial payment to cover the work involved in conducting our interviews and transcribing the tapes, then a residual fee for the actual writing of the book.
Why choose me as your ghost?
I'm a talented writer who has worked across several different disciplines. This makes me an equally excellent choice for celebrity, corporate or personal, 'real life' stories.
As a successful novelist, I know how to craft and structure the telling of a story and the quality of my writing has been highly praised ('Alan Clark couldn't write a bad book' Sue Townsend )
As a freelance journalist, I have experience of interviewing all sorts of people. These range from the very famous like Sir John Mills, Petula Clark, Sir Donald Sinden, Sue Townsend and many others (you can read the articles on the journalist page of this website) to all shapes and sizes of so-called 'ordinary' people (though I've yet to meet anyone who truly fitted that description).
As an award-winning copywriter and creative director in the advertising industry, I'm used to working with business leaders from the highest echelon of British and international commerce including Martini, Bird's Eye, Nestle, Sun Alliance and lots more (see the copywriter page of this website for further details).
Camera Girl (published by Mirror Books 2016) is the autobiography of Doreen Spooner, the first and only female staff photographer on a Fleet Street tabloid. In a dazzling 40-year career, Doreen's camera captured thousands of the most famous faces of the 20th century from The Queen, Churchill, Albert Einstein and The Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Christine Keeler, Twiggy, Freddie Mercury and Spandau Ballet. Doreen's personal story, as a working mother in a man's world during a pre-feminist age, is equally riveting. With its cast of world-famous celebrities and a gallery of superb photographs, the book has recently been featured on the ITV News, BBC Newsnight, BBC World Service and Radio London, The Guardian, Daily Express and other print media.
'I really enjoyed working with Alan on my life story. I was a bit nervous at first, but he made the whole thing easy, relaxed and even good fun. I wasn't sure my career merited a whole book but my family nagged me and now I'm hugely proud of having done it. But it certainly wouldn't have happened without Alan's skill, kindness and patience. I'll always be enormously grateful to him.' Doreen Spooner, photographer
Plucking The Moon From The Bottom Of The Sea is the memoir of Audrey Winter, an ordinary girl from Bristol who unexpectedly found herself as a memsahib on a remote Indian tea plantation in the last years of the British Raj. It is both a fascinating chronicle of a lost time and place and a delightful love story that spans almost seventy years. For private publication only, the book was commissioned by Audrey's family as a celebration of her life and was an opportunity to display a historic collection of family photographs
'Alan Clark in a series of interviews which I greatly enjoyed, extracted my memories, opinions and feelings.' Audrey Winter.
Running With The Baton is the story of the late Joe Gaggero CBE, a prominent business leader and President of The Bland Group of Companies. Founded over two hundred years ago in Gibraltar, Bland was one of the great merchant dynasties of the 19th century Mediterranean, eventually growing to become an international enterprise involved in the aviation, tourism and maritime industries. The book, a careful weaving-together of the life of a remarkable man and the history of an equally impressive business, was sold in local bookshops as well as being circulated privately and was very well-received.
'Alan Clark's approach to ghost writing my father's autobiography was infinitely patient, good-humoured and sensitive. His skilled craftsmanship and vivid turns of phrase ensured every element of the story, both personal and professional, was told in a lively, charming and wonderfully pleasing manner.' James Gaggero, Chairman of The Bland Group of Companies.
So where do we go from here?
If you'd like to find out more about how I can help you, let's have an informal chat. There's no cost and absolutely no commitment.
Either email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07960 829949.
At this first contact, it's always helpful if you can tell me as much as possible about your story and what you're hoping to achieve so we can both consider if a face-to-face meeting would be a worthwhile next step.
I'm based in central London but am happy to travel further afield in the UK and possibly abroad. Modern technology (such as Skype) makes long-range collaboration perfectly possible, though the interview sessions really do need to be in person. Arrangements and expenses for any necessary long-distance travel would have to be discussed.
So let's talk. If there really is a book in you, I promise to get it out.