Have you been trying to write a book for months, years, or decades? Perhaps you’ve begun and are stuck. Or maybe you have the concept of what you wish to write but have no idea how to start. Or perhaps you have a completed first draft and know it isn’t quite right but don’t know how to fix it. This is the point where many people seek help from a ghostwriter. But how do you find the right ghostwriter for you?
I can’t tell you how many people routinely write to me asking for help with their manuscripts. Budding authors are eager to complete their books, but can’t do it on their own. If you find yourself in this boat, it might be time to hire help. After all, if you haven’t found the hundreds of hours required to write a book in the last few years, chances are you won’t have the time today…or tomorrow.
If you’re in the market for a ghostwriter, here are some steps I recommend that you take:
Research candidate ghostwriters
You can easily determine whether a candidate writer might be the right ghostwriter for you by researching them. Any qualified professional ghostwriter will have a website with testimonials. You can also throw their name into a search engine and see what you find. It’s a good idea to verify how reputable they are by checking them out on Google. Are their bad reviews? Do people rave about them?
For instance, try typing “Laura Sherman Ghostwriter” into Google and see what you find. The first page will have various entries from my blog, but you’ll also see mentions of me from other professional writers. Some have quoted me, while others may have interviewed me regarding a variety of subjects to do with writing and ghostwriting.
You can also type in various keywords that interest you and see what pops up. If you search for subjects like “memoir themes,” “help writing a book,” or “ghostwriting contract,” you’ll find a variety of writers that show up (myself included). That’s because we blog and guest blog a lot about these topics and have experience in these fields.
Now, it’s worth noting that a ghostwriter doesn’t need to rank well on Google to be a good match for you. However, a reputable ghostwriter should have some kind of web presence (other than social media).
Nail down pricing early
When you begin searching for the right ghostwriter for you, there are different ways to narrow the field. I suggest that you determine your budget before you start interviewing. Some ghostwriters won’t post their rates, while others are upfront about their fees on their websites. If you can, ask for the rate before you begin the interview process. It will save you a lot of time and aggravation.
For instance, if your budget is $5,000 for an average-sized book, I wouldn’t be a good candidate for you. I charge one dollar per word (or $50,000 for a 200-page book). No matter how much I fall in love with your project’s concept, I can’t take a 90% pay cut.
If you have a small budget, I’d recommend that you scour one of the many freelancer websites to find someone within your price range. Just please be warned: you will get what you pay for.
Professional ghostwriters usually charge somewhere between fifty cents and two dollars per word.
Discover the ghostwriter’s preferred genre
Once you find a ghostwriter within your price range, you’ll need to make sure your story is one they are able to write. The genre should be within the ghostwriter’s wheelhouse. Keep in mind that writers often specialize.
For instance, I write memoirs, business books, and novels, but I will only take on projects that are uplifting, inspirational, or educational. Other writers don’t have such constraints on topic, while some only write books in a specific genre. For instance, I’ve seen certain ghosts who only write romantic comedies, how-to books, or screenplays.
The right ghostwriter for you should have prior experience writing a book similar to yours. So, if you’re writing a memoir, I wouldn’t recommend a writer who has only done scientific textbooks or who specializes in cookbooks.
Read up on the ghostwriter to discover their area of expertise. If you have trouble finding this information online, simply ask the ghostwriter about their preferences in an email or during the initial conversation.
Summarize your story for the ghostwriter
A ghostwriter doesn’t need all the details of your story to determine if they are the right ghostwriter for you. The broad strokes are enough for them to make a decision. With this in mind, don’t download your entire story to the writer in the initial conversation. Instead, find a way to summarize it in a few paragraphs. I recommend that you prepare this before you contact a prospective ghostwriter.
I can tell you that after twenty years in the industry, I can quickly determine if I can do justice to a client’s story.
For example, here are two excerpts from recent requests:
- “My husband of 25 years abandoned me and our children to take up with another woman. I want to write a book to get back at him and her.”
- “I’m a successful real estate investor and businessman. I want to share my story of how I overcame various challenges to inspire others to follow their dreams.”
Both wanted memoirs written, but each had a very different purpose. Since I specialize in uplifting stories, I knew I wasn’t the best ghostwriter for the first person and told her this immediately. However, the second project was well within my wheelhouse and I was chomping at the bit to start writing that book. I didn’t need all the details to be interested.
Communicate with your ghostwriter
One secret to finding the right ghostwriter is to invest some time and really communicate with them before you sign a contract. This should include two-way communication. If they are the only one to talk, that isn’t good. Likewise, if you must drive the conversation, that won’t work. There needs to be a good balance.
In addition to talking with them on the phone, it is vital that you test their ability to communicate via email as that will be a medium you will probably use a lot.
Here are a few things to look for:
- Do they answer your emails within 24 hours?
- Does their enthusiasm for the project match yours?
- Are they interested in hearing what you have to say?
- Do they keep all appointments once made?
In addition, of course, be on the lookout for red flags. Although there are many, here are a few warning signs:
- Any untruths or half-truths that you uncover.
- Critical thoughts about previous clients.
- The ghostwriter shows Irritation with you on any level.
- They are condescending and make you feel inferior.
- You don’t get clear answers to your questions.
Overall, your conversations with a ghostwriter should be pleasurable. You should walk away feeling energized about the project. Conversations with the right ghostwriter will be akin to talking to a good and trustworthy friend. Keep your standards high.
Hire the right ghostwriter for you
Following these guidelines, you can quickly narrow down the candidates who could potentially be the right ghostwriter for you. Once you’ve done this homework, set up a time to talk to the writer about your story. You want to be sure that you can communicate easily and that there is an immediate and budding chemistry between you two about the project. That’s important as this will be a long-term relationship.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to find the right ghostwriter, check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.