Many aspiring authors wonder how to hire a ghostwriter.
Some conclude that the process is easy: Do a quick google search, jot down the names of a few writers-for-hire, have a quick chat with each on the phone, then pick the winner.
Yes, you could do it that way.
Or you can dig deeper in order to boost your odds of finding exactly the right ghostwriter for you.
Here’s a nine-step, in-depth approach to hiring a ghostwriter for a book:
Time needed to read: 9 minutes.
How To Hire a Ghostwriter – 12-Steps to Success
- Learn about ghostwriters and ghostwriting
Go online and search for book ghostwriters, then click on the links and carefully read through the ghostwriters’ websites.
Do this with as many as a dozen ghostwriter’s websites, learning all you can about ghostwriters and ghostwriting. Read some articles about how to hire a ghostwriter, as well.
Consider this to be part of your education. The more you know about ghostwriters and the business of ghostwriting, the better able you will be to select the right one.
See “Looking for a Ghostwriter” for a more detailed discussion of how to find a ghostwriter.
- Decide what you want in a ghostwriter
Not all ghosts are the same. Some specialize in a specific genre, while others are generalists, “specializing” in presenting stories and ideas in a compelling manner.
Some will work very closely with you, while others prefer to work independently.
Some enjoy helping you build your concept from scratch, while others prefer to limit themselves solely to the writing phase.
Some offer additional services above and beyond writing your manuscript, others do not.
Which of these approaches suits you best? Knowing this will help you winnow down the candidates.
- Gather names
Now that you’ve learned about ghostwriters and ghostwriting, and thought through the services you’d like, it’s time to gather names.
Your goal at this point is to make a list of 10 or 12 ghostwriters who seem more or less right for your book.
A Google search is a great way to start. But don’t just search for “ghostwriter,” for you’ll get way too many results.
Instead, narrow your search by Googling “bestselling memoir ghostwriter,” “business book ghostwriter,” “expert ghostwriter,” or something similar.
You can make your search even more specific by adding in words relating to location, price, and other matters.
There are other ways to find ghosts, including checking the acknowledgment pages in books that you like to see if a writer has been thanked, asking for recommendations from literary agents, and contacting organizations such as the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
- Consider cost
Hiring a ghostwriter to write a full-length requires a substantial investment.
You can pay very little for a writer-for-hire, but you’ll get what you pay for. Ghosts with experience, solid resumes, and the ability to handle complex projects charge more because they are worth more.
So consider cost carefully; decide what you are willing to spend. This will help you narrow the list of candidates you created in step 3.
For more on this, see “What Does It Cost To Hire a Ghostwriter?”
- Consider location
Your search will introduce you to ghostwriters from all over the country and abroad.
Depending on the type of book you are writing, you may want to hire a ghostwriter near you.
This is not necessary for most books; working via phone, Skype, and email is sufficient for most projects. We’re based in Los Angeles, and have worked with clients in New York, Seattle, Alabama, Ohio, Finland, Spain, Argentina, and other parts of the world.
But if you want to meet with your ghostwriter face-to-face more than once or twice, you’ll probably need one who lives nearby.
- Consider limitations placed on you
Some ghostwriting firms, and individual ghostwriters as well, limit the number of hours or days spent on each part of the book-creation process.
That is, a certain amount of time is allotted for interviews, the first draft will be delivered to you within a week or tens days after the interviews have been conducted, and so on.
It’s great to stick to a schedule, but some books require a lot more flexibility. We’ve found that in many cases, new ideas and avenues to explore open up during the interviews, and more discussion is necessary. We’ve also found that spending extra time bounding ideas around is helpful.
There’s no right or wrong here, but it is certainly something you should consider as you go through the process of hiring a ghostwriter.
- Make a “short list” of candidates
Get out that list of potential ghostwriters you made in step three. Go to each ghost’s website and read it carefully.
Look for objective items such as books they’ve worked on, testimonials from clients, and how long they generally take to write a book. You can also look for cost, location, and limitations, and strike names accordingly.
Equally important is the subjective “feel” of the website.
Does the ghostwriter seem professional and worthy of your trust? Is the site amateurish, or is it so slick that it doesn’t seem like there’s a real person behind it? It’s hard to explain exactly what to look for, but if something doesn’t feel right, move on.
Once you’ve studied their websites, make a short list of the three to five ghosts who seem best suited for your book.
- Interview the “short-listers”
Contact those who made it on to your short list via phone or Skype, or see them in person, if possible. Ask them about:
• their approaches to writing a book
• how they handle difficulties that may arise between ghostwriter and client
• whether or not they are available
• the fee and how it is paid
Yes, you already know the answers to some of these items because you studied their websites. But you want to hear how they explain it, so you get a feel for them, the person behind the website.
- Dig into each ghost’s working style
Find out who provides the initial information and who gathers the rest.
Will working sessions take place in person, via phone or Skype, or through emails? Will the ghostwriter send you rough drafts of chapters as they are produced, or will you receive the nearly-completed manuscript all at once?
Make sure you are comfortable with the ghost’s style and fully understand what your responsibilities will be.
For more, see “How Does Ghostwriting Work? Here are 5 Ways.”
- Probe to get a sense of how he views his relationship with you
You want a ghostwriter who feels comfortable enough to challenge you and politely tell you that your idea is not going to work or your favorite anecdote doesn’t fit into this part of the book—or maybe not into any part!
Collaborating on a book is a give-and-take process. A “Yes, sir!” ghostwriter who just does everything you want does not serve you well.
- Beware the “samples trap”
Many aspiring authors ask ghostwriters for samples of their work, which seems like a reasonable request. But don’t be surprised if they turn you down.
Ghostwriting is a secretive business. Many clients don’t want anyone to know they hired a ghost, so ghostwriters are often contractually prohibited from showing samples of their best work or even talking about books they’ve worked on.
If you do get samples from a ghostwriter, it’s important to remember that the style for your book has not yet been created.
Unless you want a cookie-cutter book, the tone of your book will be unique and will probably emerge during the writing process.
A ghostwriter may not produce a sample that has the exact tone you imagine is right for your book, but that doesn’t mean he or she will be unable to do your book justice.
So look for a ghostwriter who is adept at handling a variety of styles.
- The ultimate “how to hire a ghostwriter” secret: Wait for the “click”
You’ve narrowed your list down to a small group of talented ghostwriters, any one of whom would do a very good job on your memoir.
How do you choose?
Go for the one you feel most comfortable with, the one who “gets” you, the one with whom you feel a personality “click.”
You’re entrusting your story and your thoughts to a person you have only recently met, who is going to be working closely with you for quite a while.
Make sure you see eye-to-eye and the two of you respect the other’s ideas and approaches.
You don’t have to become best buddies, but the more you can trust and respect your ghostwriter and the more comfortable you feel with him or her, the better.
Some people, especially busy executives, assign this task to an assistant.
What you’re really looking for in this initial conversation is a “click,” a feeling that you and the ghostwriter understand and trust each other. Naturally, you won’t know if there’s a “click” if your assistant made the call.
Time spent looking for the “click” is a valuable investment in your book.
What matters most?
All nine steps are important; don’t skip any.
They’re all important because when taken together, they help you answer that essential question: Can I trust this ghostwriter with my idea or story? Has she got the know-how, experience, and professionalism, plus that hard-to-define “wow factor,” necessary to turn my idea into a great book?
That’s what the whole “how do you hire a ghostwriter” quest comes down to: Do you genuinely believe this person has what it takes?
IF YOU’D LIKE HELP WRITING YOUR BOOK…
Contact us! 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 out our Testimonials Page to read their comments.
Then call us at 818-917-5362, or use our contact form to send an email. We’d love to talk to you about your exciting book project!