Ghostwriting: How to Qualify a Ghostwriter

Posted on: November 15, 2010

How to Find the Right Ghostwriter for Your Project

How to Find the Right Ghostwriter for Your Project

So you’ve decided to work with a ghostwriter. You’re in good company, as ghosting is one of the best-kept secrets in the worlds of business, publishing and technology. Chances are you know someone who has worked with a ghostwriter.

Speeches, books, textbooks, scripts, web content, even social media … you name it, ghostwriters write it. If you could look behind much of what you read, see and hear across all media, you would spy a ghostly presence hovering in the background.

Now that you want your own ghost, what should you look for? What matters most?

Remember that your overarching goal is to find a writer who is a kindred spirit and who can work with you to make your project a roaring success.

Specifically, you want someone who can capture and express your vision and your ideas in your own authentic voice. You want someone who can bring your style and personality to life in the book, or speech, or whatever media your project involves. In all cases, you want the material to read and sound as though you wrote it.

With that in mind, then, here are the top qualifications to look for in your ghostwriter:

  • Must be able to write. Ask to see some samples in order to judge for yourself. Does the writing appeal to you? You will have to live with the results, so be sure you like the writer’s style. Some ghostwriters may have one or more clients willing to give references, so inquire whether any are available—but understand that, in most cases, clients do not want anyone to know that their books, speeches and other materials were actually created by a ghostwriter. After all, that’s why they hired one, and they expect their secrets to be kept.
  • Must be able to work with you. In general, look for the type of writer who is able to work with CEOs, top executives, business owners, celebrities, and other exceptional people. Once you have several candidates who fulfill this requirement, meet with each of them to see whether the two of you are compatible. Is there a personality fit? Do you like this person? Can you trust this person? As you winnow your prospects, remember my motto: “The project is way too long, and life is way too short, to work with anyone other than someone who is compatible.”
  • Must be proficient in the subject matter. While this does not mean the writer must necessarily be an expert, it does mean the writer’s background and other qualifications should be relevant and relatable to your subject area. In addition, since every project presents new material and requires research, look for a ghostwriter who is intellectually curious, and a quick and thorough study.
  • Must understand “work for hire. Experienced ghostwriters should understand this, but do not assume. Since you will of course have a contract, be sure one or more clauses address “work for hire” and exactly what it entails for your project. Note that the best writers will typically have a standard contract ready to discuss with you, and it will include this issue.
  • Must work in a businesslike manner. Look for “business competency”: professionalism, integrity, prompt communication, respect, and a customer-centric viewpoint. After all, professional writers earn their living from writing, and expect to work with you just like a business partner.
  • Must guarantee excellent work. Look for a ghostwriter who can deliver, on time and on budget. This type of writer will arrive with a game plan, the right questions, and will expect to send you a detailed proposal that outlines the scope of the project, as well as time and cost estimates based on the scope. Pay careful attention to all of this, because the contract you sign will be based on the proposal. Do you like what you see in the proposal?

When all these pieces fit together to your satisfaction, you have probably found the ghostwriter who is well qualified to work with you.

Have you ever worked with a ghostwriter? If so, how did you select that writer? Were you happy with the results? What else would you recommend adding to my list of qualifications?

Are you a ghostwriter? What are your experiences in working with clients?

Please share your thoughts.  Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas


1 Response to "Ghostwriting: How to Qualify a Ghostwriter"

As a ghostwriter, I commend you for your list, which I find accurate and fairly complete. From my POV, I would like those who hire ghostwriters to realize that writing a book is no small feat, and deserves to be well compensated. While rates are all over the map, if a ghostwriter meets the criteria on your list, he or she is a professional, and the price quoted is fair for the job. Too many people who want to hire writers, I have found, greatly underestimate the work involved, and offer rates that would be laughably low if they didn’t make me cry.

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