When it comes to hiring a ghostwriter, the decision can be a little intimidating. Whether you’re an author looking to bring your ideas to life, a business professional in need of thought leadership content, or someone with a story to tell, finding the right ghostwriter is essential.
To clarify, a ghostwriter is a professional writer who helps individuals or businesses create written content. This article will focus on books, but ghostwriters can also help clients with articles, blog posts, speeches, etc. They work behind the scenes, bringing their client’s ideas and stories to life in a way that captures their voice and vision. Hiring a ghostwriter can be a significant investment, and the quality of their work can have a profound impact on your success. Therefore, it is crucial to know what to look for in a ghostwriter to ensure a successful collaboration.
The first and most critical aspect to consider when searching for a ghostwriter is their ability to write well. Look for a ghostwriter with a strong command of the English language. In addition, you want a writer who can communicate a message effectively and tell a story if you’re writing a memoir or novel. To assess their writing abilities, look for books they’ve authored or ghostwritten (sometimes they are given a cover credit). Pay attention to their writing style, tone, and versatility to ensure they can adapt to your specific project.
Professionalism is another crucial factor to consider. A professional ghostwriter should be reliable, adhere to deadlines, and maintain open communication throughout the project. Look for a ghostwriter who is willing to sign a contract that outlines the project’s scope, timeline, payment terms, and confidentiality agreements. This will help protect both you and the writer and ensure a clear understanding of the project’s expectations.
Note: In the early phase of the relationship, if a candidate ghostwriter misses a call or is late, this isn’t a good sign. It isn’t professional. Also, notice if the ghost really listens to you. While there should be two-way communication, a good ghostwriter doesn’t do the lion’s share of the talking.
Testimonials and Book Reviews
One of the most effective ways to assess a ghostwriter’s reliability and professionalism is by reading their client’s testimonials. In addition, research any books the ghostwriter has authored or ghostwritten. Read over the reviews on Amazon. Don’t just look at the rating number, but read what people have to say. Note: If there are only a few reviews that are all five-star, that’s not a good sign. These are probably friends.
Compatibility and Communication
Effective communication and a good working relationship are essential for a successful collaboration with a ghostwriter. Look for a ghostwriter who is not only skilled in writing but also someone you can comfortably chat with on the phone. They should be open to your ideas, receptive to feedback, and able to capture your voice and vision. Additionally, consider whether the writer’s work style aligns with your preferences. If not, find out if the ghost can adjust to your needs. For instance, I prefer to receive the initial notes in writing, if possible, Then, once I’ve studied them, I interview the client to get all the details.
Availability and Workload
Ghostwriters often work on multiple projects simultaneously. I usually have three to five projects going. When you interview a ghostwriter, discuss their availability and workload before committing to a collaboration. Determine whether they have the time and capacity to take on your project within your desired timeline. Note: I usually ask for a year to complete a book project. However, if a client needs a shorter deadline, I will always try to accommodate them.
Rates and Payment Structure
Ghostwriting fees can vary significantly. For instance, a ghost with decades of experience will charge more than one who has been writing for only a few years. In addition, the complexity of the project and the amount of research required will factor into the equation. When considering what to look for in a ghostwriter, it’s essential to discuss their rates and payment structure upfront. I always bring up the subject early on as I want to be fully transparent. I charge one dollar per word to ghostwrite but can come down from the price when the client wishes to write with me. In addition, I also coach clients if they wish to write the book on their own. I have various packages available.
Confidentiality and Ownership
When you work with a ghostwriter, you will probably share sensitive or proprietary information, so it’s crucial to establish clear terms regarding confidentiality. Ghostwriters are used to keeping your secrets. No one will know that they wrote your book for you. In addition, you should always retain ownership of the work.
Note: Make sure you have a good contract with your ghostwriter. It should address who holds the rights to the content, how the ghostwriter will handle confidential information, and whether they can use the work as part of their portfolio. Protecting your intellectual property is essential in any ghostwriting project.
Depending on the nature of your project, a ghostwriter may be required to conduct extensive research. Look for a ghostwriter who possesses strong research skills and can gather information from reputable sources. Remember, you are the main source for your book. You will need to guide your ghost as they research to make sure it aligns with your goals.
Writing Process and Collaboration
Make sure to understand the ghostwriter’s writing process and collaboration style. This will ensure a smooth working relationship. Discuss how they plan to gather information from you, create an outline, and develop drafts. Determine how they handle revisions and incorporate your feedback. A transparent and well-structured writing process can prevent misunderstandings and ensure that the project progresses smoothly.
Samples of Voice Adaptation
One of the hallmarks of a great ghostwriter is their ability to adapt to different voices and writing styles. Ask for samples that demonstrate that versatility. For example, I’ve written from the viewpoint of a homeless teen and a middle-aged victim of cancer. Each client is different with a unique voice. A good ghostwriter should be able to mimic the desired voice effectively.
Flexibility and Revisions
Revisions and changes are a common part of the writing process. Your ghost will present you with pages and you’ll provide feedback. It’s a good idea to have a reasonable revision policy in place with the contract before work starts. In addition, look for flexibility. For instance, I have a provision that allows only one major set of revisions for each project, but I’m always willing to give a little extra when needed. Basically, I’m willing to work with you until you are satisfied with the final product.
Content Ownership and Attribution
Discuss how the ghostwriter handles content ownership and attribution. If you prefer not to have your ghostwriter’s name attached to the work, make this clear from the beginning. Conversely, if you’re comfortable giving the ghost a cover credit, that can be a nice bonus. Either way, talk about it ahead of time.
Potential Red Flags
A discussion of what to look for in a ghostwriter wouldn’t be complete without a list of things that you don’t want to see. Be mindful of potential red flags.
Lack of a clear and professional online presence
Any seasoned ghost will have their own website. Watch for people with mere social media presence. It’s been my experience that “ghostwriters” who advertise on Craigslist can be scam artists. Either way, it’s a good idea to do a little research on any potential writer you hire ahead of time.
Reluctance to provide writing samples or references
Writers with little experience will not be able to provide any writing samples. If you’re hiring someone to write a book for you, you need to see various books that they’ve written. For instance, I have authored a few books and have received a cover credit from various clients. It can be challenging for some ghosts to give you references if they have only been in the business for a few years.
Inconsistent communication or unresponsiveness
Prompt communication is key to a good client/ghost relationship. Personally, I respond quickly to emails and texts. I have a 24-hour policy regarding returning communications. If a ghost takes days to get back to you, this doesn’t bode well for the project.
Promises that seem too good to be true
Look at what your ghostwriter is offering. For instance, if someone says they can write a book from scratch in a month, that doesn’t make sense when most ghosts require eight to eighteen months. Writing a book takes hundreds of hours to complete. Note: If a ghostwriter offers to write a book for you for $5,000 but wants all the money upfront, know this is a scam. The average book will run $25,000 – $75,000 to write and only 25% – 50% of the fee should be requested upfront.
When selecting your ideal ghostwriter for your book project, make an informed choice based on the factors listed above. By carefully evaluating what to look for in a ghostwriter, you can ensure a successful and rewarding collaboration that brings your ideas and stories to life with skill and finesse. Take your time, do your research, and make a well-informed decision to find the perfect ghostwriter for your needs.