How to Hire a Ghostwriter – 14 Powerful Questions to Quickly Find the Ideal Writer For Your Book

Questions you need to ask your ghostwriter

So, you’ve got a great idea and want to write a book about it, but don’t have the time or don’t have the writing skills. How do you accomplish your dream of writing a book? Don’t despair! A professional ghostwriter might be the answer. This article will help you learn how to hire a ghostwriter to do the writing for you. Don’t worry, your book is still your ideas, your concepts, and your thoughts. A good ghostwriter simply puts those into book form for you.

Are you looking for a fiction ghostwriter to write that novel that you’ve been thinking about or struggling with for ages? Or maybe you want to find an autobiography ghostwriter to get your memoirs written and published for others to read and enjoy.  Maybe you want a more specialized novel ghost writer or a technical ghostwriter, or even one that understands specific concepts such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Regardless, hiring a ghostwriter is a great move that can help you get your book, blog, social media posts, or other writing done without doing the work yourself.

As you learn more about how to hire a ghostwriter, you may be overwhelmed by the task. It can seem daunting, but it’s not as bad as you might first believe. To begin with, where do you find a ghostwriter?

Where to find ghostwriters

How to hire a ghostwriter

Once you start looking, you should be able to find ghostwriters in a variety of places both on the internet and in your local area. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

  • Ask around at local writing groups.
  • Use your favorite search engine.
  • Research co-called content mills such as Upwork and Contently.
  • Visit the web sites of ghost writer services.
  • Ask for references from other authors.
  • Search on LinkedIn and Facebook

The Ghostwriting Consultation

Once you find a ghost, schedule a free consultation to discuss your objectives and requirements. During this consultation do an interview to ask pertinent questions to determine if the ghostwriter is the right person to help you write your book. You will be working closely with them, so you want someone that’s compatible and reliable. Of course, you want a quality book written one time and within your budget.

One of the problems with ghostwriting is they often cannot give you samples of their ghostwritten works because they sign nondisclosure agreements; that’s the nature of the ghostwriting business. Their clients often don’t want people to know that they used a ghostwriter, so they’re hesitant about receiving contacts from others lest their secret gets out.

Because of this, the interview during the consultation with the ghostwriter critically importance. Virtually all ghostwriters offer a free consultation to talk about their services, the process, benefits and costs, and to give you a chance to ask questions. Be prepared in advance with a list of questions you want answered so your interview goes smoothly, and you get the information you need to make a decision.

You may get lucky and find the right ghostwriter on the first try. However, don’t be afraid of postponing the decision to give yourself time to discuss your project with other ghostwriters. Hiring a ghostwriter often requires persistence; after all, you will be listed as the author of the book, so you definitely want high quality work.

The rest of this article goes over 14 questions that you should ask while you’re interviewing a ghostwriter.

1. Have Your Books (Ghostwritten or Otherwise) Been Published?

The whole point of writing a book is to get it published, either using self-publishing or through a traditional publishing company. Many writers start writing a book or story but never finish; something comes up and they stopped making progress. In that case, no one ever gets to read the fruits of their labor. That defeats the purpose of writing a book – it doesn’t do any good sitting on a computer or stored in a desk drawer.

This happens with ghostwriters as well. Sometimes the client loses interest in the project – this is actually a fairly common occurrence. In one of my projects, the client got a job at a major company and became too busy to continue. Another client was gung-ho on getting it done quickly, but when the book was 25% complete, suddenly found himself unemployed and unable to afford any more work.

There are many reasons why a book may not be completed:

  • A client who passes away after the book has been delivered.
  • The client can’t find a traditional publisher and doesn’t want to self-publish.
  • The ghostwriter and the client don’t have a good working relationship causing them to part ways before the book is complete.
  • Something comes up in the client’s life that results in them abandoning the project.
  • The client changes the scope of the book by adding more chapters or changing direction but is unwilling to pay any additional costs for the changes.

Regardless, remember that the point of going to the trouble of writing a book is to get it published. Of course, they don’t always get completed, but it should be expected that your ghostwriter has finished one or more manuscripts that are then proceeded on to be published.

A ghostwriter is actually managing a project and must be able to move a book forward from idea to outline to completing the manuscript to handing it off to an editor or publisher. If a book has been published, you can look at it on Amazon (or other platforms) to determine its quality. this will give you a good idea of the quality of writing that you can expect from a ghostwriter.

As mentioned earlier, a ghostwriter may not be able to reference work they have done for clients for contractual reasons. However, in that case, you can ask them if they’ve published books of their own.

Don’t take this to mean That you should reject a ghostwriter who hasn’t published out of hand. It’s simply a yellow flag, a caution, and should be one factor of the overall decision as to whether or not to proceed with that writer.

2. Can You Send Samples of Your Work?

Your ghostwriter should be able to send you samples of their work. They often can’t send you actual ghostwritten works because of nondisclosure agreements with their clients. Instead, they should be able to send you copies of books that they’ve written and published under their own name or pseudonyms, or sanitized chapters from ghostwritten works. By sanitized I mean that the material has been changed so that it is not identifiable.

Ideally, the samples should show different styles of writing. When I’m asked to send my portfolio, I include a couple of pages each of: fiction, nonfiction, technical, biographical, and so on. Every once in a while, I modify the portfolio to add new samples.

Look over their samples to determine if they each read more or less the same or if they feel like they were written with different voices or viewpoints. This is important because a ghostwriter needs to be able to write using your voice and your viewpoint to communicate your story and your ideas. In other words, the job of the ghostwriter is not to write their book, but to write YOUR book.

If they published books on Amazon or other platforms, you could purchase them or obtain free copies from the ghostwriter. I recommend purchasing copies for yourself as it shows support for your potential ghostwriter.

3. What Steps Are Involved in Writing and Publishing a Book?

Writing a book is more than just writing. Writers don’t just sit down and type away until the book is done.

To begin, they have to interview you to find out what you want, your expectations, and your goals. Research may need to be done, especially for nonfiction or technical books.

The project must also be managed. Virtually all projects have a time frame, a budget and milestones that need to be met from time to time. Your ghostwriter must be able to track time to ensure that billing is accurate, ensure that the project remains on schedule, and keep you informed of the progress.

Additionally, they must manage you, the client, and ensure that your needs are met during the writing process. Sometimes clients like to be informed every day of what was accomplished during that day; others don’t want to be bothered until the book has been completed or a milestone has been met. Clients may want to review and revise what you’ve done, and that process needs to be managed. Clients tend to get busy and forgetful, and it’s important to keep them on track so that they meet their responsibilities for the project as well.

A few of the steps in writing and publishing a book are listed below:

  • Initial interview to get your goals and objectives
  • interviews to get the information from you
  • Research
  • Writing the book
  • Sending it to you for review
  • Ensuring you return the reviewed copy
  • Working with you for any changes in scope and adjusting cost and deliverables as well as the time frame if needed
  • Working with an editor if needed
  • Getting the book proofread
  • Helping come up with a cover
  • Helping to find the title, subtitle and book description
  • Publishing the book if it is self-published
  • Helping with promotional activities such as blogging and posting to social media

This is just an overview of some of the tasks needed during the book writing and publishing process. The ghostwriter may not be responsible for all these activities, but they should be able to help you with them so that you can smoothly publish and promote your book.

4. Will the Writing, Or Anything Else, Be Outsourced?

Sometimes ghostwriters will outsource some or all of the project. Outsourcing means to subcontract the work to someone else.

I remember one instance of a ghostwriter who didn’t know how to write. He came up with the idea of setting up a ghostwriting arbitrage service without telling his clients. In other words, he found other people to do the writing for him. He would’ve gotten away with it except that he hired substandard writers from a content mill (a site such as Contently or elance where services can be found at an extremely cheap rate). The customer became suspicious because the writing was of poor quality, and when confronted the ghostwriter admitted what he was doing.

While the example above is clearly unethical, subcontracting is not always an issue. There are many tasks in a writing project that can and should be subcontracted or outsourced:

  • Proofreading
  • Editing
  • Cover artist
  • Illustrator
  • Indexer
  • Depending on the subject, researchers
  • Marketing
  • Promotion
  • Publishing
  • Marketing and promotion

The key point is ghostwriters must be upfront with their clients about their use of outsourced resources.

During the initial consultation, if a ghostwriter tells you that they’ll be using others to perform tasks, ask them who is responsible for the costs associated with those people. This should also be specified in the contract.

5. Does Your Contract Include a Non-Disclosure Agreement?

The decision to disclose that the book was ghostwritten belongs with the client. Ethically, regardless of any contractual agreement, a ghostwriter should treat the business relationship with utmost confidentiality.

It is traditional to include a nondisclosure agreement in the ghostwriters Statement of Work or contract. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated; In fact, a simple nondisclosure is often best.

If the contract or statement of work does not include a nondisclosure agreement, then ensure that one is signed separately. You can use one that is provided by your ghostwriter, if they have one, or supply one of your own. If you use their non-disclosure, be sure to review it carefully or even have it reviewed by your lawyer.

6. Do You Understand the Legal Issues Regarding My Book?

Writing a book can have many legal ramifications, depending upon the subject matter and how it’s written. Nonfiction books must be factual, well cited and avoid plagiarism. Even fiction can run into legal issues by slandering people who are recognizable. Lawsuits are common with memoirs because people may be presented in a negative light.

Low-end and inexperienced ghostwriters are generally unaware of the legalities introduced by publishing a book. I remember one ghostwriter who took on a contract to write a book for a person who had been in prison. The idea was to expose everyone who had a hand in putting him behind bars, and to go into detail about all their negative qualities. In the book, he exposed a woman as a prostitute, a man as a drug dealer, another as a pimp, and a fourth as a smuggler. Needless to say, there were a large number of liability issues introduced by the book’s publication, and the author (not the ghostwriter) faced several lawsuits from people who had been slandered. The ghostwriter didn’t even change the names!

Experienced ghostwriters charge higher rates for good reason; they’ve been at it long enough to learn the ropes. They probably have gained a better understanding of the legalities associated with publishing a book.

Regardless of the experience of your ghostwriter, you would be wise to engage the services of a lawyer specialized in these matters to get advice on the legalities of what you can and can’t write about.

7. Do You Understand the Subject Matter?

It’s common that a ghostwriter will not be well versed in the subject matter of your book. This should not be a cause for alarm, as competent ghostwriters understand how to perform basic research. You can expect the cost of research to be part of the quote provided by the ghostwriter. Experienced ghostwriters will include a clause limiting the number of hours that can be used for research, with a rate specified if that amount is exceeded.

In some cases, you, the client, will serve as the subject matter expert for the book. This is especially true of highly specialized or technical works. In this case, your ghostwriter will need to interview you to get the information about the subject.

8. Do You Have a Contract?

I’m consistently amazed by ghostwriters, and other businesspeople, who do business without contracts. I’ve seen it happen over and over, and the relationships that these businesses have with their clients typically devolve into a mess relatively quickly. No one is satisfied because the terms of the agreement are not clearly understood by both parties.

The purpose of a contract, or statement of work, is to define the agreement in such a way that both parties understand what’s expected, what is to be delivered, and what happens under various conditions such as termination. Without a contract, there really is no agreement, which is why the result is frequently anger and bitterness.

When you pick a ghostwriter, they should send you a customized contract. This explains what’s expected to be delivered, the time frame, costs, payment terms, arbitration (if that’s what’s needed), nondisclosure, and how the contract can be terminated. Other terms may be included as well.

In my opinion, the best contracts tend to be relatively short and to the point. Long, rambling volumes of legalese tend to just confuse everyone and work to protect one party to the disadvantage of the other. I found this is especially true of nondisclosure agreements that are overly complicated.

If you’re ghostwriter doesn’t supply you with a decent contract that is fair and equitable to both parties, then find another ghostwriter.

Review the contract carefully, and if you have any questions or concerns communicate those with the ghostwriter or check them out with your lawyer.

9. What Is the Rate for Your Work?

Obviously, you want to know how much you’re going to be charged to write your book or other work. On the other hand, ghostwriters cannot possibly give you a valid price until they understand the scope of your project.

Most professionals will give you a short consultation at no charge to gather the information needed to give you a quote. be cautious of any ghostwriters who claim to be able to quote a project without understanding your needs and requirements. How can They give you a price without interviewing you to get an understanding of what you need?

Pricing is always a sensitive area. The ghostwriter obviously wants to be paid fairly for the work being done. Most clients want to get the best price possible. All of that is understandable.

A low rate should be taken as a red flag or warning sign. Writing a book is not easy, especially when you consider that this usually involves interviews, research, editing, proofreading, revising, revising yet again, and then still more revisions after it’s been reviewed by somebody else.

Settle on a price that is fair and equitable to all parties involved.

Don’t settle on the low bid. You get what you pay for.

10. How Is the Rate Calculated?

Talk to your ghostwriter about what’s involved in writing your book, so that you understand how the cost is calculated.

Some questions about rates include:

  • Is the ghostwriter charging by the word, by the hour, or by the page?
  • What is the rate?
  • Do they charge for Interviews?
  • Do they charge for research?
  • What about expenses? How are those charges calculated? Must expenses be approved in advance?
  • What happens if you decide to add a few chapters to the book – how are those charges calculated?
  • What could cause the price to go up or down during the course of the contract?

Make sure you understand everything related to rates and charges, and most importantly, ensure that any agreements, orally or otherwise, are recorded in the contract. Remember, if it’s not written down, it isn’t true.

11. What Research Will You Do?

Believe it or not, there are no rules for ghostwriting. There’s no union, no training is required, there are no standards, and there’s very little coordination between different ghostwriters. With many occupations you’ll find a certificate hanging on a wall or listed on the website, but that’s not true for ghostwriting.

There are a few ghostwriting certifications, but those don’t really mean anything. Sure, the ghostwriter might have gone through a few classes about the subject, but what is that really valuable? It’s not like hiring a doctor, a lawyer, or seeing a pharmacist, where there are clearly defined standards, a common curriculum and levels of certifications. Ghostwriting classes are typically given by a writer or teacher based on their own experiences and knowledge.

One of the big problems with these kinds of classes is they focus on writing and are skimpy in the areas of managing a successful ghostwriting project. As I said before in this article, ghostwriters must do much more than just write – they are project managers, interviewers, researchers, client coordinators, editors, proofreaders, outliners, and perform other specialties depending upon the project.

Ghostwriting is different than normal writing in that a writer is taking your thoughts and ideas and creating a new document or book in your voice or point of view. Many writers don’t understand this; they become ghostwriters as a way to make money because they believe that it’s not difficult to write for someone else. In actuality, it’s very challenging to write a novel or a book pretending to be another, which is essentially what a ghostwriter has to be able to do.

12. Are You Fluent in the Language of My Book?

Be cautious about writers that are not fluent in the language in which your book is to be written.

There’s nothing wrong with hiring people of other cultures or countries. In fact, doing so can greatly reduce costs and can be a very effective way of getting work completed.

However, it is important that the person you hire be fluent in the language of your book. Otherwise, they’re going to make grammar and spelling errors that will need to be cleaned up in the editing and proofreading stages of your project.

On the other hand, this increases the pool of writers that are available. Just be aware that you’re going to have to spend extra time ensuring the book reads well. If you go this route, consider hiring an editor to check the quality of the book.

13. Do You Offer a Discounted Rate to Be Listed on the Cover?

You have the option to list the ghostwriter as a contributor to the book; they could be listed as a co-author, as a “writer and ghostwriter”, or in any number of other ways. For example, I’m listed on some of my ghostwritten works on the copyright page as a writing coach and as an editor.

The advantage of being listed on the cover should be obvious. The ghostwriter can then include that book in their portfolio.

You might be able to negotiate a discounted rate for putting the ghostwriter on the cover.

If you don’t want to do that but still want to give your ghostwriter some credit, include their name on the copyright page or acknowledgement section. However, the choice is up to you and not the ghostwriter.

14. What Happens for Out-Of-Scope Tasks?

Projects always change from their original design. Books are no different. A book may become longer than anticipated, and in some instances may become shorter. As your book is written, you might decide to add another chapter, break one chapter up into two longer ones, or do more interviews.

Some of the common reasons why the scope of a project can change include:

  • The client decides that there’s more to be said.
  • As interviews are performed, additional information is discovered.
  • The research uncovers other areas that need to be included.
  • The client remembers additional details.
  • Chapter simply are longer than expected.

I recently performed a ghostwriting project that was contracted at 5,000 words per chapter for two chapters. By the time the chapters were finished, they each exceeded 20,000 words. This happened because the client came to the conclusion that more words were necessary to fully document what he wanted to say. That word count was obviously an addition to the scope, and the client and I negotiated a higher rate.

How to hire a ghostwriter

All right, given everything that we’ve talked about in this article, how do you find and hire a good ghostwriter? Is there even such a thing or should you give up on the idea? Is it so difficult to find a writer of this nature that you should even try?

There are many good ghostwriters who will do an excellent job creating a book that you will be proud of with your name on the cover.

But how do you know?

First off, treat them like professionals and be willing to pay them a good rate. Don’t look for a cheap ghostwriter – if you insist on hiring a ghostwriter at the low-end of cost, you’re more-then-likely going to get poor quality, and it’s possible your project may not be completed at all. You should expect to pay upwards of $40,000 for a ghostwritten book of 40,000 words ($1.00 per word) or $75 to $200 an hour if they charge for time. Some ghostwriters mix the two methods by charging for the word for the written work and by the hour for interviews and research.

Second, get samples of their work. If they can’t show you work that they’ve done for their customers, insist on being able to see things they’ve published under their own name. Look for published works as samples – self-published books are fine.

Interview your prospective ghost writer, asking some of the questions outlined in this article. Make sure they understand not just how to write, but how to manage a project as well as all the other skills needed to deliver a successful, completed book.

Insist on a well-written, equitable contract (which may be called a statement of work). The contract should include payment terms, contract amount, termination clause, an indemnity clause, an arbitration clause, and an outline of the overall project with deliverables.

Virtually all ghostwriters will ask for a nonrefundable deposit in advance of beginning work. The amount of this should not exceed 25% of the project. Split the remaining amount up into payments and include an option for either party to terminate at any point. If the project is terminated, you won’t get a refund but at least you won’t be on the hook for any additional money. Why continue a project where things aren’t working out?

Any competent ghostwriter will be willing to give you an initial consultation at no cost to discuss your book. Take as much time as you need to go over your goals, limitations, and anything else that’s on your mind. Ask lots of questions and listen to the answers. The ghostwriter should be confident in their abilities without being arrogant, rude or cocky. Don’t let your ghostwriter rush you through the consultation. generally, an hour is long enough to get a good feel for the ghostwriter’s experience, confidence, and skills as well as the cost, benefits, and the ghostwriting process. If you need more time, ask your ghostwriter to schedule a follow-on consultation.

Given all that, you’ll be able to find a good ghostwriter who will deliver you an excellent book of high quality.

If you have any questions about how to hire a ghostwriter, feel free to contact me directly.

Richard Lowe
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Francine Brevetti

Great questions, but I cringe at the first. I have had several clients. some of whom have finished their books and some not None has published for various reasons. So I cannot answer that truthfully.

Biplab Mahanta

Ghostwriting jobs are the highest paid writing jobs available on the internet. The ghostwriting might be a perfect job for the people who want to earn money from home. Thanks for the excellent writing.

Erik van Mechelen

Hi Richard, I really appreciate the way you’ve shared your expertise, particularly on pricing and also on research and out-of-scope tasks.

I’ll be working several of these ideas into my next contract.

Many thanks!

Kathleen L.

Brilliant ideas to ask before hiring a ghostwriter. Thanks writing this article.