How to Choose a Ghostwriter

Do you have an idea for a book but don’t want to write it? You’re not alone. Many people, especially celebrities, will hire a ghostwriter to write their books. This may shock you but it’s true. Some celebrities will give a ghostwriter their journals or notes but the ghostwriter is the one who turns the book into #1 Best Seller. It’s a win-win situation because celebrities connect with their fans, and the ghostwriter has the satisfaction of knowing people are reading their words.

If you want to hire a ghostwriter, make sure you know exactly what it is you want. What is the genre of your book? How many words/pages do you want? Who is your target audience? What is the turnaround time? Do you want to work with a ghostwriter who has 25 or more years experience or someone who has less experience but has a fresher perspective? If you want a book written, will it be self-published or published through a traditional publisher? Think about these questions before you contact a ghostwriter.

A ghostwriter may not live in your area. Is this important to you? If you want a ghostwriter to live in the same city/state as you, make this clear when you put an advertisement online or in a newspaper. Depending on your book, it may be necessary for you to meet face-to-face with a ghostwriter. Make sure your ghostwriter signs a confidentiality agreement because you don’t want your personal information all over the internet if your book contains information about your childhood.

Tips to choosing a ghostwriter

  1. Know the genre of your project.
  2. Select a ghostwriter that lives in your area if this makes you more comfortable.
  3. Make sure you’re clear about the target audience of your book.
  4. Ask a ghostwriter questions such as: How long have you been a ghostwriter? What was your favorite book to ghostwrite and why? How long will the project take? What is your fee? What is your payment method? May I have three references? Do you have a website?
  5. Make sure you’re comfortable with a ghostwriter. If you receive a ‘gut feeling’ that doesn’t feel right, don’t hire the ghostwriter.
  6. Select a ghostwriter that is truly interested in working with you and your idea.
  7. Choose a ghostwriter that is committed to the project.
  8. Convey the style, tone, and voice you want the ghostwriter to use. Give them samples of your writing or tell them your favorite authors and books. This will give them idea of what you want.
  9. Ask to see writing samples.
  10. Get everything in writing! You or your ghostwriter can create a contract. Usually, a ghostwriter will have a standard contract that is modified for each project.

Hiring a ghostwriter is a fast way to get your ideas published. Whether you need a ghostwriter for a book, blog, or article, make sure it’s the right fit for the both of you. When you hire a ghostwriter, you start a business relationship. It’s imperative to hire a ghostwriter who’s a professional. You don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t return your phone calls or emails. If both parties are not on the same page, the project will be over before it starts. When you find a ghostwriter that works for you, it will be the beginning of a great relationship.

Academia and Ghostwriting Don’t Mix

Every time I look at the writing gigs listed on Craigslist, I see headlines like the following:

  • “Publicity & Rewards For AMAZING Admission Essays & Personal Statements”
  • “Model Essay Writers Needed”
  • “Individuals Needed to Help Students Write and Edit Essays”
  • “Do You Love School and Writing?”
  • “Looking for help on writing essays for business school applications”

And those are just the ones from the essay factories. The ads posted by students are even less subtle: “Were you a straight-A student?” or “Write my college paper.” To add insult to injury, the students usually want the paper written overnight for little or no pay.

Selling student essays is big business, and the Internet makes cheating of this kind simple for both buyer and seller. Not that it was by any means impossible for students to cheat before the advent of the World Wide Web, but they’re no longer limited to their own classmates as sources of better writing skills.

Craigslist being what it is, a number of people have posted responses to these ads blasting the would-be cheater. (The lower the amount of money offered, the more forceful the response.) Yet someone presumably responds to them often enough to make it worthwhile for the repeat posters.

The Professor’s Perspective

I work as a ghostwriter. In most cases, I’m perfectly happy to write something that someone else gets credit for as long as I receive appropriate payment in exchange for my work.

Before I was a ghostwriter, however, I was a career scholar and a university instructor. That’s why, no matter how good the pay, I won’t write essays for students.

I can be fairly confident that my own students never paid someone else to write their essays–or at least, if they did, they didn’t get their money’s worth. (Or their beer and pizza’s worth, for that matter.) For one thing, the overall style and quality of the typed or printed papers they handed in matched the style and quality of the essays they wrote on exams where I and others were watching them. For another thing, whenever I had the option, I asked students to choose their own subjects. At the very least I would create a list of several possible themes, each specific enough that it would be difficult to find an already-written paper on the topic available for sale. And since the texts covered and the essay topics differed from year to year, students couldn’t sell successful essays. (It would in any case be a very foolish student who tried to re-use an essay from the previous year’s class of 15 people.)

I did once create a sample essay, however. This was when I was a teaching assistant at the University of Michigan in the early 1990s, and after seeing some of the essays handed in by Classical Civilization 101 students, I realized that many of them, even the bright ones, knew very little about how to write this kind of a paper. So I wrote my own essay on the same topic they’d all been assigned and gave it to them–as well as to the professor I was working under and the other teaching assistants. In retrospect, it probably depressed them as much as it helped them, but there’s no way any of the professors would have believed it was actually written by a freshman.

College instructors are not stupid. If a student performs poorly in class and on exams but hands in a flawless essay, it’s going to look suspicious. And getting caught cheating is the fastest way to fail a course completely. You might get away with it at the time, but you’d better hope you never run for office, because someone will dig it up and use it to discredit you.

Why Students Need to Write for Themselves

In business, the purpose of writing is to communicate: internally, with vendors, and with customers. The important thing is the message. If a professional writer can convey that message more clearly than the CEO, then the CEO should hire a professional writer. Professional writers can also help experts get their hard-earned knowledge out to a wider audience.

In academia, the purpose of writing assignments is to help students learn about a subject and develop their critical thinking as well as their writing skills. A consultant who hires a ghostwriter to help with creating a business book already knows the material and can probably express his or her main points clearly when speaking. A student who asks someone else to write a term paper doesn’t know the material, or what to say about it, or how to say it.

Undergraduate essays rarely tell their readers anything new, at least as regards the facts. (They do sometimes include very creative interpretations of literature, however.) Their professors (or teaching assistants) aren’t reading these essays for their own edification. They want to know whether the students have understood the material and can synthesize it in support of an argument.

Twenty-page term papers are not intended to be instruments of torture. I always tried to make the topics I offered students interesting and to give them the opportunity to pick subjects they wanted to know more about. It’s true that some instructors assign the same reading materials and essentially the same essay topics year after year, but even the more obvious “compare and contrast these two characters” essays serve a pedagogical purpose.

In order to produce a satisfactory essay, the student has to read the material closely, think about it, create a thesis, and provide supporting arguments and evidence for that thesis, perhaps reading and quoting from secondary literature as well. In doing so, students develop skills they need throughout their lives. By avoiding the work of writing the essays, the cheaters are pouring their tuition money down the drain. The purpose of going to college is not to get high grades, or even to get a degree. It’s to learn.

The penalties for an honest but unsuccessful attempt are lower in college than they are anywhere else. If you screw up your first term paper, you have a chance to make up for it with the next one. You might even be able to do an extra-credit assignment and come out of the course with a good grade after all. If you screw up on the job, there are at least a dozen people waiting to replace you, and you’d better have a compelling reason why your boss shouldn’t fire you for incompetence and hire one of them. Having someone else write your school papers isn’t just dishonest. It’s wasting the opportunity of a lifetime.

Getting Help with Academic Writing

So what avenues are open to students who know their writing isn’t up to their instructors’ standards? Rather than having someone else do the writing, look for help in improving your own writing. Take classes in English composition. Read books like The Elements of Style. Pay careful attention to the comments and suggestions you get on your term papers and exams. And ask the people who are already there to help you, paid for out of your tuition fees.

Professors (or at least their teaching assistants) should be available to provide you feedback on a first draft of an essay before you hand in the final version. If your professor doesn’t do this, check to find out whether there are any student-run services to help with term papers. (When I was a student, they were called Writing Fellows, and the application process to become one was quite competitive.)

U.C. Berkeley, for instance, has an Academic Achievement Program for students from low-income families who are the first generation to go to college, in addition to the Student Learning Center writing program which offers drop-in and scheduled tutoring as well as writing workshops ( http://slc.berkeley.edu/writing/index.htm ).

If you are dyslexic, disabled, or not a native speaker of English, check with the programs for disabled students or international students. Universities will provide special accommodations (e.g. a quiet test-taking environment or extra time to complete an examination) for students with learning disabilities, psychological disabilities, and AD/HD, as well as assistive technology for those with physical disabilities.

Earning a B+ is a much greater achievement than buying an A+, and the value of it will last you far longer. Even if you pay someone else to write every word that comes out of you after you graduate, do your own writing while you’re in school. You’ll be glad you did.

2005 Sallie Goetsch

How to Avoid Costly Mistakes When Hiring Freelance Writers, Editors, and Ghostwriters

When you hire a freelance writer, editor, or ghostwriter, an element of risk is involved. If you hire wisely, you’ll accomplish your goals and save valuable time. But if you choose the wrong writer, you could end up missing deadlines, falling short of your goals, and damaging your credibility.

How can you avoid a costly mistake? What qualities should you look for when hiring a freelance writer, editor, or ghostwriter?

I believe that outstanding professional writers are characterized by the five key qualities listed below. When you know what to look for, you’ll make better hiring decisions.

The Five Key Qualities:

o Quality #1 – Proficiency

Whenever you put something in writing, your image is on the line. A proficient writer will enhance your reputation. A mediocre writer can hurt your image and undermine your efforts to achieve your goals.

While searching the Web recently for information about colleges for my son, I came across the following sentence on a university’s website:

“Our walking campus tour does not include a residence hall, however the Department of University Housing is proud to offer a special tour of one of our newest residential complex, Eagle Village.”

Did you spot the two grammatical errors in this sentence? First, this is what English teachers disdainfully call a “run-on sentence.” The word however is an adverb, not a conjunction. It should be replaced by the conjunction but. Alternatively, one could place a semicolon or a period after the word hall and a comma after the word however.

The second grammatical error is that the word complex should be plural.

After reading this website, I am less inclined to send my son to this university. Poor writing is worse than no writing at all. Review writing samples so you can be sure you’re investing in a writer who is proficient at his craft.

o Quality #2 – Efficiency

You are successful because you are talented at what you do. A competent professional writer will free up your time so you can concentrate on what you do best. An inexperienced, disorganized writer will suck up your time and energy and distract you from your more important priorities.

Writing projects are often complex, with tight time constraints. A missed deadline can be very costly…and embarrassing. Choose a writer who routinely finishes assignments on or ahead of schedule.

Your time is valuable. Hire an experienced professional who will save you time by managing your projects efficiently.

o Quality #3 – Creativity

Lots of writers do a fair job of putting pen to paper, but far fewer bring a strong creative element into the writing process. A creative writer will make your communication piece stand out from the pack. People will be more likely to read it and remember it.

For example, when writing about a dramatic management turnaround at a hospital, I increased the impact of the book by structuring it as if the hospital were a patient. The book’s title – Healing A Hospital – and the chapter titles – “Alarming Symptoms,” A Sober Diagnosis,” “Intensive Care,” “Fiscal Therapy,” “A Rapid Recovery” – carried out the hospital-as-patient theme.

Creativity increases impact. Look for a creative writer, not just a wordsmith.

o Quality #4 – Productivity

The most productive writer is not the one who charges the lowest fees, but the one who produces the greatest return on investment.

I’m always encouraged when my clients give me feedback like the following:

“Writing a book has been the one of the best moves I’ve made at this stage in my career. Before the first copy was in my hands, it had already brought in two new consulting contracts that more than paid for its cost.”              
A Business Consultant and Coach

“Our new book has been a terrific marketing tool. This week alone two new donors called because they had read it. One wants to give $8 million to Christian charities!”                           
A National Charitable Organization

A well-written book works hour after hour, day after day, year after year to increase your visibility, credibility, profitability.

When evaluating writers, consider the benefits you expect to receive as well as the costs you expect to incur. Don’t simply try to minimize fees; aim to maximize your return on investment. Focus on value, not price.

o Quality #5 – Reliability

Look for a professional writer you can rely on to deliver top-quality communication products that are on target, on time, and on budget. When your deadlines are at stake and your image in on the line, reliability is critical.

You can count on a reliable writer to write precisely, edit diligently, communicate honestly, relate cooperatively, respond promptly, and serve cheerfully. He makes it his goal to accomplish your goals.

A writer who thinks conceptually and gives you honest feedback based on his knowledge and experience adds tremendous value to your project. The results you achieve together will far exceed anything you could have accomplished alone.

Before you hire a writer, be sure to check references. Hire a reliable writer who will meet your deadlines and surpass your expectations.