Eight Questions To Ask Your Prospective Ghostwriter

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The Right Questions Get You Places

You’ve done the hard part already. You have a story to tell made the decision that it’s time to write it. You’ve reached out. You’ve asked Google, How Do I Hire A Ghostwriter.

You’ve made it this far, what do you do next?

Hiring the right ghostwriter for your writing job can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. You need to know what questions to ask because chemistry is a vital aspect of getting the most out of your ghostwriter. Not only that, it’s also an important aspect of your ghostwriter getting the most out of you.

This is why I’m giving you the eight most critical questions that you need to ask when interviewing writers for your ghostwriting project.

WHAT DO YOU BASE YOUR RATES ON?

Over the years, I have heard quite a lot of clients tell me they feel as though other writers throw out a number that feels random. “They told me that they would probably be too expensive for my budget,” they say. “He said $100,000 and left it at that.”

I have bid on a lot of writing jobs. On every one, the amount of money I have quoted has been derived out of careful arithmetic (and none have been $100,000). There is nothing random in my number.

After your ghostwriter gives you a dollar figure, ask them how they came to that amount. Did they give an amount based on a “per word” estimate? Did they quote you based on hours?

WHAT KIND OF COMMUNICATION SHOULD I EXPECT?

In most arrangements, whether they are of a personal or professional nature, the expectations we bring to the table make or break our satisfaction with the results. It’s simple human economics. When we get what we expect, or more, we end up happy. Less or different, we tend toward dissatisfaction.

Writing a book is an exercise in various styles of communication. Sometimes that communication comes between client and contractor. If you feel like you need more (or less) communication from your ghostwriter in order to feel good about the process, you need to tell them.

Ask your ghostwriter to describe typical lines of communication during the different project phases. An example of this might be, you will talk two or three times a week during the interview phase, followed by less frequent monthly talks while they’re writing. You need to know those frequencies and intensities.

WHAT IS YOUR INTERVIEWING STYLE?

Believe it or not, the art of interviewing is a lot more than reading off of a stale list of questions. When tasked with writing a life story, memoir or biography, how a writer phrases their question is often the most critical aspect of getting a book-worthy answer.

Some interviewers press. Others listen. It’s like they’re not even there. Personally, my style is to let the client talk as freely as possible until its time to guide the conversation toward a narrative form.

Ask your potential ghostwriter that question. How do you interview? You may be able to determine how you’ll feel working with them based on your interview, but it is a key consideration for later on when your answers end up on-page.

WHAT KIND OF CLIENTS HAVE YOU WORKED WITH?

Over time, many of my colleagues in the writing business develop a niche. For some, it’s intentional. Others though develop a niche accidentally.

While I don’t necessarily believe you need to hire a niche writer to write your book, I think knowing what your writer has done before can be valuable. One or two military memoirs on their bookshelf doesn’t limit a writer to military memoirs, but if that is all they’ve done for a decade, maybe their focus is too narrow.

Ask your ghostwriter who they have worked with. You’re not looking for big names or sales. You’re not even looking for a perfect match. What you’re looking for is a diversity that can fit your book.

DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE SELLING BOOKS?

This is a drum that I beat constantly with my clients. You have to know this is a business.

I have been hired a few times to write family stories. These jobs amount to gathering narratives from various family members and writing them into a coherent book to share with future generations. These types of projects, by and large, are not commercial ventures.

If you’re going to hire me and commit money to your project though, you need to know it’s a business. Once your book is finished and I pass the completed manuscript back to you, it has to go elsewhere in the market in order for it to sell, whether that be an agent or publisher, or as an eBook on Amazon.

Ask your prospective ghostwriter if they have experience. If they do, you may be able to bundle service. If that ghostwriter says they don’t though, you need to understand you’ll have to go elsewhere to sell.

CAN YOU PROVIDE A SAMPLE OF YOUR WORK?

Anyone can put out a site. Putting up a Thumbtack profile is no great challenge. Anyone can look make themselves look like a writer.

It has become a taboo to ask a ghostwriter for a made-to-order writing sample. There have actually been a few scams out there where clients ask a number of separate ghostwriters to write a different sample chapter of their books for free, then knit those samples together to make a book.

Sounds crazy, I know. While I don’t normally write a sample for prospects, I do offer any one of my work samples for free. These are fiction or non-fiction chapters that I’ve worked up specifically for this purpose, or pieces of previously completed manuscripts that I have been given permission to share.

Ask for one. Ask for two. These are how you know I know what I’m doing over here.

HOW DO YOU PROTECT CLIENT INFORMATION?

Your story is classified as intellectual property. If you think that sounds a bit outlandish, perhaps you should reconsider investing money in writing the book.

I like to encourage clients to think of their story in the same way they would if they were sitting on the formula for Coca-Cola. You don’t want someone else getting their hands on that material.

Ask for a copy of their Non-Disclosure Agreement. Ask how written or digital information is stored. It’s crucial that your intellectual property is treated with respect.

CAN YOU PROVIDE REFERENCES?

This one should be easy. Any writer that you interview should be able to provide at least a few names of clients who would be happy to talk about their project.

As I mentioned above, a ghostwriter should require at least some discretion in sharing client information. I ask every one I work with, when I’m done, if they are willing to share their experience.

Ask for a reference or two. Call them. What you want to know is how the client felt they interacted with their material. Did they get the most out of it?

Do you have a ghostwriting project you want to discuss? If you’re serious about having your fiction, screenplay or non-fiction story professionally written, and you have a budget, please contact me via email, or call for a free 30-minute 1:1 consultation.  

Erick MertzEight Questions To Ask Your Prospective Ghostwriter

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