Opinions may vary, but I’m going to suggest some things to look out for if you’re hiring a ghostwriter. I’ll tell you what makes a ghostwriter especially good to work with, and I’ll give you some pointers on making sure you find the right ghost for your book.
Finding a ghostwriter
Hiring a ghostwriter who is a good fit for your story is going to make telling that story easier and more enjoyable. It’ll make for a better book too. Biography ghostwriters may have experience of writing many different kinds of stories, but won’t necessarily represent a good fit for every book.
For example, if your story delves into difficult or unhappy territory, you may need to find someone who has proven their ability to write about difficult material in other books. Someone who won’t shirk from giving your story the kind of detail and focus it needs.
To make the job of finding a ghostwriter that little bit trickier, you don’t just need someone who’s ideally suited to your project, you need someone you’ll enjoy working with too. Are they pleasant and easy to talk to? Will you feel happy telling them your life’s story?
Before you decide which ghostwriter for hire gets your vote, I suggest you hit them with some of these questions:
Five questions to ask when you’re hiring a ghostwriter
- Why are you a good fit for the story I want to tell?
- Can you share examples of your work that demonstrate the breadth and range of your ghostwriting services and experience? (More on that below.)
- What is the best way to tell my story?
- Would you recommend publishing or self-publishing my story – and why?
- What do you think makes my story special, unique, or interesting?
Asking these sorts of questions will give you a good insight into a ghostwriter’s instincts for your story. But if you want a deeper dive into what to look for when hiring a ghostwriter, here are six suggestions to help you hire the right ghost…
Hiring an experienced ghostwriter
Assuming you’re looking for an experienced ghostwriter – some ghostwriting companies let you work with junior writers – you should investigate their previous work. Ask for samples from a range of their books to get a feel for their writing. Some ghosts may have books available on Amazon that you can dip into.
In particular, see how their writing style and tone of voice changes from book to book. Do the narrators of the books they’ve ghostwritten sound distinctive? Do they describe the events of the named authors’ lives with clarity, urgency, drama, or humour?
Hiring a ghostwriter you can trust
One of the biggest requirements of any ghostwriter-client relationship is trust. You need to feel comfortable talking to your ghostwriter about the life you’ve lived. Bear in mind they might have to ask you some probing questions, so you’ll need to be happy confiding in them.
If you’re going to be discussing life events that you haven’t spoken about before, you may feel a little bit awkward or uncomfortable at first. But, provided you trust your ghostwriter to proceed with tact, discretion, and patience, it’ll feel so much easier.
As a biography ghostwriter who has worked on many mental health memoirs, I have heard some very difficult, sad, and sensitive stories, and it is my job to make you feel safe in telling those stories.
Hiring a ghostwriter who will be open and honest about your chances of getting published
It’s important you trust your ghostwriter to do the best for your book too. If you don’t feel comfortable taking their advice, or following their recommendations, your book will suffer. So, it really helps if the two of you agree about the book you’re writing, as well as your intended audience, and your choices for publishing or self-publishing.
Their ghostwriting services may also extend to helping you with publishing or self-publishing your book. That’s something for you to clarify before you start working together. And this is no time for your ghostwriter to give you false hope…
When people ask me if their story is publication-worthy, I can usually tell someone if it is too niche, or too narrowly-focused for a wider audience. While that might come as a disappointment, it’s important to be honest from the outset. (It doesn’t mean we can’t investigate self-publishing options.)
Knowing you can ask your ghostwriter a tough question, and get an honest answer is important if you’re going to trust them with your life story. So is knowing that they’ll tell you if aspects of your story don’t fit the book they’re writing for you.
In the interests of telling a story for a wider audience, I have had to suggest that some authors downplay some of their political reflections, or moderate some of their jokes for a wider audience. But only because those authors specifically wanted to publish their books with a mainstream publisher.
So, I suggest you find a conscientious ghostwriter, one who will work hard to make to tell the very best version of your story. Even if that means saying ‘no’ to some ideas. And even if it means encouraging you to delve deeper into your feelings, or pushing you to look at old memories from new angles…
Hiring a ghostwriter with fresh ideas
If you want your memoir or biography to really move your readers, and give them something to get their teeth into, then your ghostwriter should help you find new ways of telling your stories.
Perhaps your readers will respond to a less conventional narrative approach? Or maybe they’d like to hear more of your thoughts around some of the events you describe in your book?
One of the benefits of working with a ghostwriter is that they’ll look at your story from a reader’s perspective and help you create a more immediate, accessible, and involving book.
Hiring a ghostwriter who makes the process enjoyable!
When you find a good ghostwriter, you’ll be able to enjoy the whole experience of writing your book, without having to write it yourself.
It isn’t often that most of us really allow ourselves to revel in the life we’ve led, and the process of talking it all through with a ghostwriter can be a roller-coaster ride of emotions. But more than anything else, it should feel cathartic, even joyful. Getting all of those stories out, and letting them live on the page forever is a truly wonderful thing.
I’ve worked on a very wide range of books, telling stories of love and loss, survival against the odds, and even (according to one reviewer) a book that would make a great sitcom. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with so many people who want to tell me their life stories, and I want them to enjoy it.
For most of the people I work with, getting a book written is the culmination of a long-held dream. And so, I want it to feel like something special is happening, right from the start. My approach is very laidback. I’m here to encourage you to think about those times in your life that we’re going to write about, and get to the heart of why those people, places, and events really mattered to you.
Hiring a ghostwriter who will work to your timetable
Having been in this business for a long time, I know that books can’t always be written to schedule. A good ghostwriter will certainly give you a timetable for completing your book, with various milestones along the way. An adaptable ghostwriter will do all of that, but also build in extra flexibility for you.
I’ve worked with many people who have had difficult stories to tell, and I’ve worked with others who have been going through tough times as we’ve been working on their book. In both cases, there have been times when, for their sake, we have to put the book to one side and let life take priority.
Provided you find a patient, trustworthy, and adaptable ghostwriter, you can slow things down, or put a temporary pause on the process if you need to.
How much does a ghostwriter cost?
There’s a pretty wide range of prices for ghostwriting services out there. But as this is a bigger subject than I can adequately cover here, I’ve written more about the cost of ghostwriting services to address some common questions and show you how you can bring your ghostwriting costs down.
Finding a good ghostwriter takes time…
… But finding someone who understands you, your book, and your reasons for writing it, is always going to be time well spent. If you’d like to ask me any questions about how I can help you write your book, book yourself in for a free half hour ghostwriting consultation.
Whatever you choose to do next, and whoever you work with, I hope you realise your ambition and write that book!