So you’ve decided to hire a ghostwriter to write the book that’s been swirling in your mind for years now. Great.
But let’s back up a bit. Before we explore the process of how to hire a ghostwriter, let’s first explore the reasons you want to hire a ghostwriter for your book in the first place. Spending some time reflecting on the following four questions will help you make sure this is the right choice:
- Why do you believe this book needs to be in the world?
- How do you envision using this book as part of your life and/or career?
- Why do you believe hiring a ghostwriter is the best path?
- What kind of commitment are you willing to make?
Let’s break each of these down:
Why do you believe this book needs to be in the world?
The reasons here can and should be many, but I’m asking you to seriously reflect on this question—even to the point of writing down your thoughts. As you already know to some extent, the process of creating (let alone publishing) a book can be a long and difficult process. I don’t want to deter you, but it’s important to state this up front.
With this dose of realism in mind, it’s important to go deeper on your why line of questioning.
Why does the book need to see the light of day? Is it a story you believe the world (or even a targeted niche audience) needs to know about or would otherwise benefit from having access to?
Why is a book the right format to tell this story? There are of course many other ways to do so, ranging from an article like this to perhaps even presenting your story at a TEDx event.
For many people wanting to hire a ghostwriter for their book, the reasons are usually quite clear. Here are a few:
- The book will detail the story of their life in a way a particular audience will love;
- A book is simply the best medium to tell this story or convey this information;
- The book will help develop the credited author’s career.
As the latter is often the most common and compelling reason, let’s dive in:
How do you envision using this book as part of your life and/or career?
As we’ll soon explore in greater detail, hiring a ghostwriter is easy but finding the best ghostwriter for your book can be an entirely different animal. It’s important, before embarking on this journey, to know the precise reasons why and how you think this book will contribute to your personal development.
Rather than sticking to the why line of questioning, here are a few of the most common reasons I see from people who want to hire a ghostwriter for their book. Find your place in one of these, and know that it may be a sort of amalgamation of several:
Ghostwriting for thought leadership
With the continuing rise of content marketing and other related fields—including influencer marketing and social media marketing—many people in a variety of sectors want to expand their voice and truly become thought leaders in their industry. There’s often an assumption that this want is restricted to C-level executives, but the truth is that most everybody building an online reputation is looking to be a thought leader.
In the marketing department of a small software company, for example, a specialist in SEO (search engine optimization) likely has a wealth of knowledge that they use to move the company forward. But what if they also want to catapult their career opportunities and be known for SEO outside of their company, perhaps even be invited to speak at industry events? Writing a definitive book on the topic can be a powerful way to make this happen.
Ghostwriting for business executives
Busy executives in the C-suite are in a similar situation. For them, hiring a ghostwriter to write a book can have a ton of benefits. For starters, the printed book is still a widely-respected medium, and having a book to your name on the topic you’re a master in is one way to signal your mastery to others.
Coupled with this, having a book to your name can future-proof your career. Let’s be honest here, we’re all in some way part of what’s called the “gig economy.” Carving yourself out as an authority both within your company and outside of it gives you a far greater chance to pivot if/when either your current position is terminated or you are wanting to move on to another company.
Ghostwriting for athletes and entertainers
Like the business executives, athletes and entertainers are often too busy building their careers to spend the time to write a book. Likewise, they may not have the skills to write a book in a way that perfectly articulates both their story and how they want to portray themselves in the public eye.
Many athletes and entertainers feel pigeon-holed; though they benefit immensely from the massive media exposure they receive, the media also has a way of only telling snippets of their stories or certain glimpses of their personality. Hiring a ghostwriter is one way for the athlete or entertainer to convey a fuller, more nuanced story of who they are, where they come from, and how they made it this far.
Ghostwriting for personal reasons
While those first three certainly generate the most attention in the ghostwriting industry, many people have other reasons for wanting to enlist the help of a ghostwriter.
There may be a family strife, for example, and one member of the family wants to get their side of the story out there. Or the family may have an incredible history, say, of some “rags to riches” tale of making their dreams come true. In this case, hiring a ghostwriter with a journalism background can be critical for them to accurately convey both the family’s history and the overall story.
Why do you believe hiring a ghostwriter is the best path?
Again, I believe this is a question worth writing out an answer for. Seriously consider your reasons here. Will it save you time? Do you simply not have the writing skills (be honest) and want to hand over the project to a master writer? Whatever the reason(s), be sure to list them out and carefully reflect on each one.
It’s one thing to fully believe your book must be in the world; it’s another to believe a ghostwriter is necessary to help you do it.
What kind of commitment are you willing to make?
Not all ghostwriters are created equal. Some specialize in simply churning out work as quickly as possible and moving on to the next project, while elite ghostwriters are expert researchers and storytellers with experience sometimes in both the book publishing and book marketing industries.
You may be surprised by how little it costs to hire the former, and perhaps by how much it costs to hire the latter (frequently cited industry standards suggest a $35,000-$50,000 USD minimum). Either way, it’s an investment of your time and your money. And, if the project is to be successful, it’ll result in the creation of a book that may catapult your career and stand the test of time.
Before you begin your search for a ghostwriter, seriously consider the commitments of time and money you’ll need to make to create the book you have in mind.
Finding the best ghostwriter for your book
Finding comes before hiring and is, for most, the far more difficult aspect of the process. Ghostwriting is itself a highly competitive business landscape, with solo ghostwriting professionals jockeying for attention against premier ghostwriting agencies as well as the rise of freelance platforms filled with writers claiming they are ghostwriters.
And then there’s the advertisements, which often take up a significant portion of the first page in Google. Here’s what a search just revealed for me:
All of this means that it can be difficult to find the best ghostwriter for you and your book. Where to start?
Word of mouth, if you’ve had the privilege of it, is typically a great place. The ability to have a candid conversation with someone you respect who worked with a particular ghostwriter can break down certain barriers and get you on the right path.
If that’s not the case, and even if it is, it’s important to take a snapshot of everything we covered here in this post and align it with what qualities of a ghostwriter you’d most want to work with. Remember, this isn’t just about hiring a ghostwriter for your book; it’s about choosing the kind of relationship you want. For more on that, check out The Three E’s Of Ghostwriting A Book.
Three questions to think about could be:
- Does your book project require a ghostwriter with journalism experience?
- Would you rather work with an independent ghostwriter or one associated with an agency?
- Are you comfortable with hiring someone from a freelancing platform who may be working on other projects?
All of these are factors to consider.
Once you’ve compiled the skillset of what you’re looking for in a ghostwriter, start the interview process.
Schedule video calls with some prospective ghostwriters, and be sure to have questions ready. However, keep in mind that you must also take your personal connection with them seriously. Is it better to work with an elite ghostwriter you don’t think you could deal with for a few months, or a great ghostwriter who you felt an instant connection with? All of this matters and should be factored into your final decision.
How to hire a ghostwriter for your book
Once you’ve made it this far and feel you’ve found your ghostwriter, the next step is usually quite easy. If the ghostwriter is a true professional, and certainly if they are under the umbrella of one of the major ghostwriting agencies, they’ll have a detailed contract template ready to go.
They’ll tweak it accordingly based on what you asked for, and you’ll begin the back and forth process of discussing it and perhaps reviewing each new draft with your respective lawyers.
If you decide to hire a ghostwriter through one of the freelance work platforms, this process may feel a bit more loose—and it will likely be cheaper. You may also find that it’s a bit more difficult for you to gain access to the ghostwriter’s time as they are likely taking on many other clients/projects at once.
Lastly, if you’ve done the upfront work outlined here, you may be surprised by how smooth the hiring process can be. After all, if you know the details of what you want and why you want it, you’ve made work much easier for the ghostwriter you hire.