How to Hire a Ghostwriter
It can be difficult to hire a ghostwriter because of the confidential nature of this kind of work-for-hire. The ghostwriters’ clients – famous celebrities, politicians, business leaders, even successful “authors” – don’t want people to know they did not write their own book. If they mention their silent partner in writing at all, it may be to acknowledge them as an editor. And the ghostwriter is usually required to sign a confidentiality clause or legal agreement stating that he or she cannot share information about past work.
Because of the secretive nature of the work, people trying to find a ghostwriter often turn to a ghostwriter referral service. Lisa Tener provides professional matchmaking between writers and those looking for writers.
Lisa will interview you to gain an understanding of the nature of your book (business, self-help, health, memoir) and the writing style you want to achieve. She will provide you with a referral to one or more ghost writers whom she believes will fit your needs.
Before you make the decision to hire a ghost author, we suggest that you:
- Review the writers’ website and read any testimonials they have posted
- Ask for a sample of their work so you can get a feel for their voice and writing style. Is it similar to yours? Do keep in mind, many of the ghostwriters Lisa works with are adept at more than one style. If you don’t see your preferred style in the sample, let the ghostwriter know what you are looking for.
- Ask for the name of any books they have written (that they can legally provide). Check Amazon and read reviews that have been written about their work. Keep in mind that while people may not have loved the book due to its content – especially if it was controversial – what you don’t want to see in a review are any comments suggesting poor grammar, confusing writing style, lack of organization or lack of substance.
- Ask for references from past clients. Occasionally an author will give the ghostwriter permission to reveal in private what they do not want revealed in public.
- Ask for references from agents or publishers who have worked with them or who recommend them (this may be the case for high-end writers).
- If you feel fairly certain that you would like to hire a particular writer, consider contracting with him/her to produce a chapter as phase 1 of your project. You would pay for this chapter (and all the preliminary work that goes into it, such as book concept development, book outline, etc) but can then decide if the writing process and the product are a perfect fit for you and you wish to continue.
A word of caution
Listen to your intuition. Ghostwriters are not always reliable in sharing information about the nature of their past work and because it is confidential, it can be hard to verify. That’s often why clients prefer to work through a trusted intermediary like Lisa Tener, who knows the author and his/her work.
What you can expect from a good ghostwriter
If you’ve never hired a ghost author before, you may not know what you are looking for when interviewing writers. Here are some of the traits Lisa looks for in a successful ghostwriter:
- Does the writer capture a fitting tone for the genre of the book?
- Does the writer understand how to write for the specific audience in question (business audience, technical audience, general audience)?
- Can the writer maintain a consistent voice throughout a lengthy work?
- Does the writer ask the right questions?
- Can the writer meet deadlines?
- Is it likely that the writer and the client can develop a comfortable working relationship? Does he or she have good communication and good organizational skills?
This last one will be particularly important. After all, you will be working with this person for some time.
Working well with a ghostwriter
Once you hire a ghostwriter, we recommend drafting a work-for-hire contract that sets clear expectations up front, with benchmarks along the way. Lisa can provide you with a name of a lawyer who regularly handles ghostwriting contracts.
The two of you will need to determine the scope of the work and how you will work together.
- Do you need help writing the book proposal that will go to prospective publishers?
- Will your book require research? If you do the research, it may keep costs down. If the ghost author does the research, it may save you a lot of time and trouble. Sharing that part of the project could potentially save time and money but can be more complicated to manage and to define in a contract, because sometimes it becomes clear part-way through the process that the book requires more research than initially assumed, for example.
- How often will you meet or speak? How will you communicate with one another?
- How will material be shared?
- What deadlines need to be met?
You will want to schedule one or more face-to-face meetings, skype calls or phone calls to allow your ghost author to hear your voice and to ensure he or she understands your project and your goals. You may then choose to meet regularly, to talk on the phone/skype at determined intervals, or to email drafts back and forth. The ultimate details of your writer for hire contract are up to you.
Lisa Tener strives to help clients find their perfect match with writers for business books, health books, self-help books, memoirs, relationship books and, sometimes, novels. Contact our office to schedule an exploratory call with Lisa.