Finding a list of ghostwriters-for-hire is simple. Knowing which one to trust with your book idea is a different matter. Here are some of the questions people have asked me about which ghostwriter to choose, with my answers. (I talk about the steps to hiring a ghostwriter in other posts.)
Should you insist on hiring a bestselling ghostwriter?
Having a ghostwriter who has written a bestseller is certainly impressive, especially if the ghost has made repeat appearances on the prestigious New York Times bestseller list. But this should never be the sole determining factor when selecting a ghostwriter.
Being able to produce bestselling books suggests that the ghostwriter understands a book’s audience and is able to speak to them in a convincing, entertaining, dramatic, or otherwise appealing and appropriate manner.
While that’s important, it’s equally important for you to be able to work well with your ghostwriter and trust them to skillfully handle your story and ideas. Even though I have made multiple appearances on bestseller lists (including the NYT), I know for a fact that your relationship with your ghostwriter is every bit as critical as the ghost’s bestseller status – or lack of.
Does your ghostwriter need to be an expert in your book’s subject matter?
It certainly helps if your ghostwriter is already well-versed in business, 19th-century American history, artificial intelligence, or whatever the subject of your book may be. Such a ghost can bring both information and insight to the table right from the start.
However, simply being knowledgeable doesn’t guarantee the ghost can write a great book for your intended audience. By the same token, a lack of previous knowledge of the subject doesn’t mean a ghost cannot write a great book.
The very first book I ever wrote, which was published by Simon & Schuster, was about the painkilling properties of a common amino acid. I knew nothing of amino acids or pain mechanisms when I began. However, I was connected with a medical doctor (the book’s author) and a university researcher who gave me a solid background in the subject matter and handed me a thick stack of scientific papers to study. The book became a national bestseller, and I’m convinced it was partially because I was not an expert in the subject matter. I wrote it as a layperson speaking to “regular folk,” scores of thousands of whom bought the book and found it easy to understand.
Sometimes, you need a ghostwriter with a great deal of knowledge in a particular field. An attorney writing for attorneys, for example, will do well with a ghost who is well-versed in the law.
Other times, you may do better with a ghostwriter who can absorb and digest large amounts of information, then write for the intended audience in a way that draws them in, explains it in an understandable manner, and keeps them reading.
Should you only hire a ghostwriter whose books have been published by standard publishers?
Until recently, publishing with a standard publisher like Simon & Schuster was the way to go. Self-published books were considered inferior in writing, design, and production values, and often were terribly deficient.
But that’s all changed. Today, there’s no stigma attached to self-publishing, and self-published books can be as well written, designed, and produced as any. However, there is a difference between standard publishing and self-publishing when it comes to ghostwriters. It has to do with gatekeepers.
For a book to be published by a standard publisher, the book idea and possibly the entire manuscript must first be reviewed and approved by a literary agent, who then submits it to a publishing house. Once there, it must be given the “stamp of approval” by an editor, ensuring that the level of writing is at least “good,” if not “superior.”
With self-publishing, you bypass the agent and publishing house editor, which means you don’t have the benefit of their opinions and advice. You can hire an outside editor to review your manuscript but since you’re paying them, they are unlikely to tell you your book stinks and advise you to give it up. And even a great editor can only do so much to improve a truly terrible manuscript.
What this means is that a ghostwriter who has written numerous books published by standard publishers has been given the “stamp of approval” many times. That’s not to say that other ghostwriters are not good, only that this ghostwriter’s writing has been approved by experts in the field.
Does it matter if you like your ghostwriter?
Perhaps, perhaps not.
Some books require hardly any contact between ghosts and authors. I have ghosted several health books which required only one conversation between the author and me, and that was all about technical matters. The doctor-authors had no opinions about style and organization; they just wanted to be sure that the material was correct and the book read well. We never met in person, spoke only once or twice on the phone, and handled all questions/answers about technical health information by email. Yet we still produced excellent books. We didn’t have to be buddies.
Other books, however, require a great deal of interaction between ghost and author.
When writing a memoir or autobiography, you (the author) may need to reveal intimate information to your ghost and talk about uncomfortable subjects. And no matter what the genre may be, if you’re involved in choosing your book’s theme, creating its structure, and commenting on drafts, there may be plenty of give-and-take between you and your ghostwriter. In these cases, it really helps if you get along well.
In short, you don’t have to be good friends, but you certainly want to trust and respect your ghostwriter, feel comfortable with them, and be able to work together.
If You’d Like Help Writing Your Book…
Give us a call! We’re Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor, professional ghostwriters and authors with a long list of satisfied clients and editors at major publishing houses.
Check the Testimonials Page on our website to read their comments.
Then call us at 818-917-5362. We’d love to talk to you!