When interviewing ghostwriters, it’s important to determine the “ghostwriter expertise” of each candidate. Be sure and ask the right questions — the information below should help.
No doubt, it can be scary to trust your story to a total stranger. So when interviewing ghostwriters (and you should interview several), don’t hold back. Get to know them and discover how they propose to work with you.
Good questions to ask:
- What is the ghostwriter’s background and experience?
- What training has the ghostwriter undertaken?
- How many books has the ghostwriter written?
- What makes a ghostwriter an expert (level of industry knowledge)?
- What is the cost of hiring an expert ghostwriter?
I delve into the nuts and bolts of ghostwriter expertise below.
Ghostwriter Expertise — Background and Experience
How do you determine a ghostwriter’s background and level of expertise? Start by asking how long a ghostwriter has worked with clients. How many years have they spent in the industry? You deserve a ghostwriter who is highly experienced in your genre, whether that be legacy books, memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, historic fiction, corporate books, or even fiction novels.
You also deserve a ghostwriter who can give you insights into the world of traditional publishing and/or self-publishing, and help with your literary agent search if you opt for the traditional publishing route.
In my case, I’ve worked in the world of words for more than thirty-five years and continuously train in industry best practices for print and digital projects (see below). I’ve ghostwritten twenty-five books, have edited many hundreds of manuscripts and articles, and continue to oversee numerous writing projects. This includes query letters and literary agent searches, as well as pointing self-publishing authors to book formatters, cover designers, etc.
In short, ghostwriter expertise includes earning the confidence of multiple clients and providing resources to help authors on their publishing journeys.
What Training has the Ghostwriter Undertaken?
Does the ghostwriter have a proven background in English and journalism? At the very least, an expert ghostwriter should have studied literature for years and earned a degree in a writing field.
Ghostwriter expertise accumulates through projects and staying up-to-date in the publishing industry as well. For this reason, ask what organizations the ghostwriter belongs to.
In my case, I earned an English degree and am halfway through a much later-in-life master’s degree in digital media, simply because so many of my author clients are self-publishing. I also belong and/or contribute to the following organizations:
- Lifetime Member Society of Professional Journalists
- Member Sundance Institute
- Member Editorial Freelancer’s Association (EFA)
- Member Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (UK)
- Member Authors Guild
- Member Writers Guild of Texas
- Member Houston Writers Guild
- Member Social Media Association
- Member of IMDb Pro (Publicist)
- Wikipedia Editor
How Many Books has the Ghostwriter Written?
You are investing a great amount of money and effort in having your book written. Therefore, it’s reasonable to expect that ghostwriting candidates have many projects under their belts. They should be able to state how many books they’ve ghostwritten, but as a general rule, they cannot divulge their author clients or book titles. Ghostwriters, in the majority of cases, are prohibited from sharing samples of past projects as well.
As the title implies, ghostwriters are just that — “ghosts.” They are anonymous. Their names do not appear anywhere on a book cover or in the front matter, unless they receive a “with” credit from the author. More often than not, authors prefer the full credit, and this has been my experience. This arrangement is spelled out in the ghostwriting contract, often involving attorneys to preserve confidentiality and ensure the ethics of the ghostwriter.
If ghostwriters divulge names and titles, feel free to question their ethics. Ask if they have permission to discuss ghostwriting names and titles. Ask about their contract wording and non-disclosure agreements. Ask if they will namedrop your book in the future, basically “outing” your book as a ghostwritten project without your consent.
What makes a ghostwriter an expert?
What a great question to ask a ghostwriter candidate!
Yes, a volume of work is important, just as continuing education in the field is important. But so is the ability to craft together a great manuscript. That is the essence of ghostwriter expertise — the uncanny ability to piece together a story arc in the most compelling manner. The writing should be masterful, yet told in your voice.
Documenting life events is one thing, but the skill that connects readers to your manuscript is another. The books we write should do just that — resonate with readers and take them on a journey. The narrative, the point of view, the people involved, the challenges, the victories, and the hills and valleys of emotion — all are “musts.” Your book deserves no less.
What is the cost of hiring an expert ghostwriter?
Visit this Writers Market SlideShare to get an idea of the low, average and high rates for all types of projects, including ghostwriting projects.
The cost is a sizeable investment, and author clients should be educated about project dynamics and the cost involved. You are paying for ghostwriter expertise — the more expertise, the better. I do not recommend ghostwriting enterprises that parcel your project out to a stable of ghostwriters. I do recommend that you talk to individual ghostwriters who work full-time on projects and can devote themselves to your manuscript.
More Questions about Ghostwriter Expertise?
Best wishes in your ghostwriting journey! I’m here to help.