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How to Hire a Ghostwriter: 7 Tips for a Great Match

hire a ghostwriterPeople often ask me how to hire a ghostwriter–someone to make the book a bestseller, of course!

3 main areas to consider before you hire a ghostwriter are:

1. What level of involvement will work best for you? Do you want help organizing, but then write much of the first draft on your own, with a heavy edit from your ghostwriter? Or do you want the person to write the whole first draft and finished book using your research and knowledge?Do you want a ghostwriter to the do the research as well?

2. What is your budget? Andre Agassi hired  J.R. Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer to ghostwrite for him at a likely price tag of more than a million dollars. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a writer who has never written a book and wants a book under his or her belt may be willing to charge $5,000 or less, but you might not get a very high quality book at that price.  Clarity about your budget will help you determine where to look and to find the best possible match to meet your goals, which brings us to point 3.

3. What are your goals? The New York Times reported that Agassi said about his goals, “A lotghostwritten memoir of the things that have been said about me aren’t true, and a lot of the things I used to say about myself aren’t true. ” Perhaps  one of his goals was to get at the truth–for himself and his readers. Perhaps your goal is more to have a book to attract clients for your business. As such, you don’t need a Pulitzer Prize-winner, but you do need someone who has experience in writing in your genre (how-to or business) and who will be sure to polish and proofread the book that represents your business and brand.

Here are 7 tips to hire a ghostwriter–the best match for you and your project:

1. Get clear on your vision: In addition to your goals for the book, answer these questions: Who is your audience? How long is the book? What tone are you looking for? Any books you might compare it to for tone, audience, topic? How much writing and/or research do you want to do (as compared to the ghostwriter)? Are you willing to credit the ghostwriter or do you want full credit?

2. Search the web and also ask professionals, authors and friends for referrals to hire a ghostwriter with experience.

3. Interview the ghostwriter: Have they written in this genre before? For a similar audience? Are you in the same budget ballpark? Would they lower their fee if their name were on the cover? Would they take some of their payment in a share of royalties or do they want all payment up front (most experienced writers will want most or all payment up front)? What can they tell you about the process they tend to use? Do they work by interviewing you, reviewing your notes, having you do some initial writing? Do they have a specific system they use? How soon would they be available and what is the expected time frame? When you speak with the ghostwriter, pay attention to any gut instincts or red flags. Note them down in the moment–did I mention to take notes? Do that, too.

4. Examine the ghostwriter’s experience: the genres they write in, the success of their books, how much ghostwriting they’ve done vs. writing their own books.

5. Read samples: Skim books the author has ghostwritten or written.

6. Get references: Interview people they’ve ghosted for: What worked? What would they have changed? Any advice in working well with the person?

7. Clarify expectations and sign an agreement: Can you pay for developmental work and one sample chapter up front and then have the second phase (the rest of the book) be contingent on satisfaction with the first? How many revisions will they write at this price and what is the cost of additional revisions? What if the book length changes–what additional charges would you incur? Include some of the earlier questions such as authorship and time frame. Is there a penalty if one of you is not timely in meeting deadlines?

Should you hire an attorney for the ghostwriting agreement? It’s not a bad idea to have an attorney look over the agreement, particularly if the project is expensive.

Note: As a service, I do refer authors to ghostwriters. I research the writer and read samples of their books to understand their strengths and skills and do my best to ensure an excellent match. I only work with a select few ghostwriters at various price points. The ghostwriter pays a marketing referral fee so there is no fee to you.

Please ask any questions below about working with a ghostwriter or share your experience and advice on how to hire a ghostwriter below.

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Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

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  1. Kendall Everett says

    Being clear about your budget is a great way to get a ghostwriter that will work best for you. Establishing what your budget is before you begin your search would be helpful. Keeping under your budget is a good way to have money for other projects if you need it.

    • Lisa Tener says

      Establishing a budget is important. However, I would also advise not to skimp in this department. You usually get what you pay for. Of course, you can also pay lots of money for someone who isn’t a good match. That’s why I suggest the free special report so you can ask the right questions and know what red flags to look for.

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