Finding the Ghost Who's Right For You


Do you have a great idea but can't get the words down? It may be that you have a story to tell, a memory to share, an idea to spread or a message to persuade but you are stumped as to where to start.

If that sounds like you, have you considered working with a ghostwriter? Celebrities, entrepreneurs, academics, sports stars, business movers and shakers - they've all hired ghosts to write their stories for them.  Some of the biggest names in fiction have worked with or hired ghosts for their projects.

The process is simple,  The author finds the ghost, hires them, tells them their story and waits for a well-polished manuscript to land glowingly on their desk.

Sounds easy doesn't it? But although the process is relatively simple, the relationship between the ghost and author needs to be properly negotiated.  After all, the author might be sharing their innermost secrets with the ghost - so they must be comfortable and confident in their chosen ghostwriter's discretion.

Therefore, finding the ghost who's right for you is paramount.

Today, ghostwriters are sometimes called collaborators, editors or helpers, but they are part of a team that helps bring a great writing project to fruition. Sometimes the ghost is credited in the book, sometimes they are not. But it will be your (the author's) name that appears on the cover of the book. Authors hire a ghost for several reasons:

·       Perhaps they are an adequate writer but just don't want to write the book.

·       Perhaps the author realises that good writing requires expertise and is often better when done by a professional writer.

·       Perhaps the author may not have the skills nor the talent to write.

·       Or maybe they just don't have the time or the stamina.

What about the ghost? What skills do they need to have?

·       Better than average writing skills.

·       First-rate people skills.

The match between ghost and author should work seamlessly and it's all in the 'voice'.  Capturing the author's voice starts with the way the ghost listens.  The ghost must be able to translate your voice into words that reflect your style, flair, phrases, unusual slang, witticisms and other elements that make you unique. The ghost must be able to duplicate your speech/word  patterns so that  the writing is authentic.

·       If you are a business person writing a serious business title, you may talk in elongated statistical sentences.

·       If you are authoring chicklit, you may talk n short, sharp, snappy sentences.

If you decide to hire a ghost to write for you, there are a number of things to consider and questions to ask.  You should be prepared to ask them:

·       If they like the idea of the project?

·       What their background and writing experience is?

·       When they are available?

·       When they expect to complete the project?

·       What the cost of the whole project will be?

The relationship goes 2-way and the ghostwriter will also be checking to see if they can work with you.  They will expect:

·       To ask you lots of questions.

·       You to stay on topic.

·       You to tell them all the details and be honest.

·       You to remember that their time is valuable

·       You to pay them.

You should also be prepared to answer some of the ghost's questions, which could include things like:

·       Your reason for hiring a ghost? 

·       Your goals for the project?

·       Your intended readership?

·       Where you are in the writing process?

·       What exactly you expect from them?

·       Your budget?

There is no set fee for hiring a ghost writer.  We set our own fees and determine our own worth, so you may find that fees fluctuate wildly.  Most ghosts calculate how much to charge by the amount of work required and the length of time it will take to complete the project to everyone's satisfaction.

The relationship between author and ghostwriter should be joyful and respectful. The best recommendation for a professional ghost who writes well, understands your project and works to agreed deadlines is via word of mouth.

A version of this article by Sandra Cain first appeared in Self Publishing Magazine, Issue 32, Autumn 2014.