5 Things You Need to Know Before You Hire a Ghost Writer

You want to write non-fiction — maybe a memoir? — because your story is fascinating and you want to inspire people by sharing it. Or you may have an idea for thought leadership articles because you have a vision for the how the world should be, not as it is. Or you need a writer for a content marketing project that involves creating a series blog posts or other marketing content that showcases your company.

Why hire a ghost writer?

People and businesses hire ghost writers for a whole lot of different reasons. You might not have time to sit down and put fingers to keyboard, especially if you are a CEO running a company. It could be that you don’t enjoy writing, and that’s ok — lots of people don’t. English may not be your native language, and you are worried about capturing the nuances and technicalities. Or that you are worried that your written English isn’t perfect and that your credibility may suffer if your writing is picked apart grammar Nazis.

How do you know if you’ve hired the right ghostwriter?

So. You know you want to hire a ghost writer, but how do you know you’ve hired the right one? What questions do you need to ask before you hire a ghost writer so you can make sure your project is a success? Use my guide to help you choose the write ghostwriter for your project.

1. Time

Depending on the scope of your project, it may take more time than you thought. You will need to be patient because ghostwriting is labour intensive. The information has to be extracted, recorded and then possibly transcribed. The structure needs to be planned and outlined. Research and interviews may be required. Then the first draft has to be written, then reviewed, then edited. And edited again. A book could take upwards of six months, thought leadership articles and blog content less, but you need to factor in a time frame that is realistic.

Questions to ask your ghost writer:

  • Given the scope of the project, what is the expected timeline for completion?
  • Do you anticipate any issues in completing the project to the timeline?
  • How soon can you start the project?
  • What do you need from me to start work?

2. Budget

Ghost writing is not cheap, and most ghostwriters charge around US$1 per word, some slightly more, some slightly less depending on experience, genre, scope and timeline of the project. A 60,000 word memoir would, therefore, cost an average US$60,000. A series of 10 thought leadership articles at say 1000 words will be priced at $10,000. Blog content may be less. Most ghost writers — if not all — will ask for a deposit, typically one third up front, and invoice at intervals. Some may give a significant discount for up front payment. The service agreement will also likely stipulate that final files won’t be handed over until payment on the last invoice is received.

Questions to ask your ghost writer:

  • What is your service fee for completing this project?
  • Is there any wriggle room with these charges?
  • Is a deposit required to start work and how will you invoice?
  • Is this a guaranteed price?
  • How many edits/reviews are included?

3. Process

The approach to the project for each ghost writer may vary, but essentially it’s these seven stages:

  1. Plan the project
  2. Collect the source information
  3. Complete first draft
  4. Review first draft and edit
  5. Complete second draft
  6. Review and edit second draft
  7. Handover to client.

Generally two rounds of (reasonable) reviews are included in the price; however, any reviews over and above the included edits will incur extra charges, often at an hourly rate. Some ghost writers don’t include final editing and proofreading. Others may handle the graphic design, book layout and printing, but you shouldn’t assume this is the case — make sure you to clarify production when discussing scope of work. You can help the process by having a clear creative brief for your ghost writer.

Questions to ask your ghost writer:

  • What is your process for completing this project?
  • Can you outline all the stages so I know what to expect?
  • How long do you think each stage will take?
  • How will you collect the source information?
  • Will you schedule weekly or fortnightly review meetings?
  • How will the first draft be reviewed?

4. Expertise

Every writer comes with their own particular skill set and preferences for the type of projects they like to work on. Not every writer enjoys — or is good at — technical writing or SEO copywriting, and not every writer is suited to ghost writing. This genre of writing needs a combination of people skills, curiosity, vision, confidence and leadership. The ghostwriter you choose must be skilled in English — and ensuring your vision and source information translates into a compelling narrative.

Questions to ask your ghost writer:

  • Have you worked on ghost writing projects before? What kind?
  • What is your history and experience as a writer?
  • What are your qualifications?
  • What would you say are the qualities that would make me want to hire you?
  • What is it that you like about ghost writing?

5. Fit

Your ghostwriter may tick all the right boxes, but that doesn’t mean you should hire them on spot. You need to consider fit — can you work together successfully. If you’ve not hired a ghost writer before, you may need someone who is patient and comfortable explaining things every step of the way. You need to share a vision for the project, and because ghostwriting is about trust, you’ll need to ensure that you can both take feedback on board and resolve conflict — because it will happen — in a productive way. Not least, you should make sure that your voice and the tone of your project is accurately represented.

Questions to ask your ghost writer:

  • What does your gut tell you about the ghost writer?
  • Does the ghost writer raise any red flags?
  • How will you both manage conflict?
  • If this is your first project, how patient does the ghost writer seem?
  • Do you share a similar vision for the project?
  • What would past clients say about what it’s like to work with you?

Summing up…

Hiring a ghost writer is an investment that doesn’t come cheap. It will cost you time and money, and if it’s not done well, it could cost you your reputation. You want people to be wowed by your project, so you want to make sure it’s done properly and reflects you and your voice. After all, it’s your legacy.

If you’d like to talk to me about your ghost writing project, simply email me to book a free, no-obligation chat.

Image credit: Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay

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