By Molly Littman of Gotham Ghostwriters
Finding and hiring a ghostwriter can be a daunting process, and it’s hard to know where to even start.
Not only is writing and publishing a book a major project under any circumstances but the ghostwriting process is sometimes treated like an illicit secret by authors, which makes it especially hard to get a clear sense of how it works as an industry outsider.
Here we’ll break down the Who, Where, What, and How of selecting and hiring a ghostwriter in a way that hopefully makes it a little less daunting.
Who Are You Looking For?
In order to find the perfect writing partner, you first need to know what kind of writer you’re looking for. Seek a writer with whom you have aligned goals, interests, and voice, as well as good rapport.
If you’re hoping to go down the traditional publishing route and need a book proposal, you’ll want to look for a writer with proven experience crafting selling proposals. If you’re crossing your fingers for a best-selling book, you’ll improve your chances by choosing a best-selling author to write it.
That said, having a popular crime drama under their belt doesn’t mean that a writer is well-suited to write a best-selling nonfiction title, and vice versa. Find a writer who has demonstrated skill and passion for your genre of choice.
And of course, like anyone else you work with, you’ll want to get along. While good rapport shouldn’t be the only thing your writer has going for them, it is important to make sure your personalities mesh well. After all, you’ll be working closely with this person for a long time.
Where Do You Find a Ghostwriter?
Knowing where to look for a ghostwriter can be tricky, especially because ghostwriters, like their namesakes, tend to lurk in the shadows. You can start by reaching out to someone you know, like a friend in the industry, who you think could connect you to a writer.
If everyone’s only six degrees of separation away from each other, after all, this friend-of-a-friend method can be pretty effective, just so long as you’re clear about exactly what kind of writer you’re looking for.
You can also get started with an internet search for someone with the qualifications you’re looking for. We recommend using sites like LinkedIn to browse credentialed writers, and not using Craigslist or Upwork, which can be rife with scams and bargain writers.
If you’re looking for someone with experience and knowledge in a specific industry, try checking out sector-specific groups like Financial Writers Society, the Education Writers Association, and the Association of Health Care Journalists.
There are also agencies that specialize in ghostwriting, like Gotham Ghostwriters and Kevin Anderson and Associates, which can analyze your needs and match you with writers that fit your needs and budget.
What Will You Pay Them?
It’s important to decide in advance what you’re willing to spend and to align your expectations with your budget. Usually, the amount a ghostwriter charges correlates with their experience level, including how many books they’ve written and how well those books have sold.
Of course, experience is not the same thing as talent or “good” writing. Writing is subjective, and having sold a lot of copies doesn’t mean that you’ll like one person’s style or voice better than another’s.
The fees for individual ghostwriters vary significantly, but speaking generally, many credentialed writers will compose a full book for $40,000 to $60,000. Less-experienced writers, or writers taking on relatively simple projects, might work lower, asking for $30,000 and up, while top talent may quote anywhere from $80,000 into the low six figures.
We would recommend that you avoid working with any writer who offers to do a full book for less than five figures. This is a clear sign that they are not a professional and are unlikely to produce writing that will satisfy you.
We also recommend breaking up the writer’s fee into regular installments instead of paying everything up-front. Hopefully, you and your ghost are perfectly matched and it’s “love at first write,” but in case anything goes wrong, you want to make sure you don’t blow through your budget immediately.
How Do You Narrow Down Your Choices?
If the first ghostwriter you find seems like a perfect fit, keep looking. While you may end up circling back to them, it’s always best to find several qualified candidates before making your final decision. Once you’ve found some great options, you’ll have to refine your search and narrow it down to just one author.
At this point, you should revisit your “who” and make sure you focus on your priorities. Stay strong and remember that an impressive resume is not the same as an impressively good fit!
You’ll also use this time to go over fee expectations with your writers. As tempting as it may be to jump straight in and ask for a quote, we recommend raising the topic at the end of a conversation. Broach the subject by asking the writer what they have charged in the past for comparable projects.
Make sure you do a solid cross-check of your finalist’s work, ask for references, and conduct a second interview. This is a big decision, so you want to do your homework and make sure you’re picking the right partner to bring your project to life.
And finally, trust your instincts. If you’re getting bad vibes from one writer, that’s a good enough reason to focus instead on the one you hit it off with!
If you’re looking for more information about how to select and hire a ghostwriter, you can check out some of our previous articles on the Gotham Ghostwriters blog, specifically How to Find and Choose a Ghostwriter For Your Project; How to Hire a Ghostwriter; and One Writer Doesn’t Fit All Parts 1 and 2).
Good luck, and happy ghost hunting!
Gotham Ghostwriters is a ghostwriting agency with more than 3,200 editorial specialists in their network — and connections to a larger universe of 20,000 freelance pros — that has the unparalleled ability to find the right writing partner for any author’s needs and priorities. And through their extensive industry relationships with literary agents, publishers, media outlets, and PR and marketing consultants, they can also help you find the right publishing path for your stories and get the most impact for your ideas.