Did you know that we provide ghostwriting now?! It’s true! Our present endeavour is a super-secret project with a Hollywood-based client...we promise to tell you more when we can.
In the meantime, if you’re looking to outsource your next novel or project, then you’re probably filled with questions about what to look for in a ghostwriter, so we’re giving you some industry insight into seven of the best qualities to look for in ghostwriter. Although we tend to associate ghostwriters with celebrity memoirs and political speeches, author-commissioned ghostwriting is much more common than you would think, and the process doesn’t have to be shrouded in mystery and confusion. Just like with any other business transaction, you want to make sure you’re hiring the right person for the job. And when it comes to your future ghost’s resumé, you’ll want to make sure these seven skills are amongst their collection.
One of the most important components to look for in a ghostwriter is good organizational skills. Because projects tend to run from anywhere between six months to over one year, a ghostwriter must be able to manage your hefty project—and likely others—over an extended period of time with ease. Furthermore, they must be able to handle and organize huge amounts of information and documentation to work with and refer back to throughout the writing process. And let’s not forget, good organizational skills translate to meeting deadlines—an absolute must when it comes to ghostwriting (and writing in general, tbh).
Another major component to hiring a proficient ghostwriter is their ability to communicate with the client. In order to be satisfied with the end result—what you’re paying your hard earned money for—a good ghostwriter should be a wiz at making sure that the expectations are crystal clear and that any change of circumstances is acknowledged explicitly. And if you don’t understand one another in emails, how will you understand each other during intensive interviews, or while discussing emotional or challenging subjects? Do they ask good questions? Can they keep you in the loop during the writing process? Can they provide regular scheduled updates? These are just some of the questions you should be asking during your first interactions with a potential ghostwriter; they answers will provide you a direct reflection of how easy or difficult it will be to work with them. The more involved, interested, and accessible they are, the better!
We would love to think that writers are empathetic by nature, what with the whole summarizing-abstract-emotions-and-feelings-into-words thing, but it’s not always the case. Empathy is a HUGE asset when looking for a ghostwriter, especially if the book you’re co-writing happens to be a memoir or an autobiography. But more generally, a writer’s ability to empathize with their client means that they’re much more likely to do a better job writing in their voice, understanding their motivations, and where necessary, intuiting their intentions. Looking for empathy and understanding in a potential ghostwriter is absolutely key to a good end result; someone that doesn’t understand your motivations, intentions, and experiences irl certainly won’t be able to convey these truths in writing.
While many ghostwriters’ projects will not be available to share since the nature of the work demands that their involvement is not acknowledged, writing samples should be provided, whether in the form of their own creative or nonfiction writing, or even in blogs, reviews, and short fiction—anything that can give you a good sense of the clarity and deftness of their writing skills. This should also help you deduce whether they’re able to adapt to different voices, styles, and platforms; a portfolio written entirely in one voice is a direct indication of their qualifications or lack thereof.
An important, and often overlooked, component of ghostwriting is whether or not they possess industry knowledge. While it’s one thing to write a book, are they able to help you sell it to publishers, or to write it—even pitch it—with that goal in mind? If not, then they are already at a deficit. The best ghosts are familiar with the ins and outs of both indie and traditional publishing, can advise you on your options, and can write according to your goals. They will know how to write all of the important components of pitching and marketing a book, including the proposal, query letter, and blurb, as well as the book itself. Industry knowledge is also key to ensuring that the book will be written with the desired audience and market front-of-mind: an invaluable component of becoming a published author.
The basis of any good ghostwriter is actual talent! While it’s hard to believe, many experienced—even expensive—ghostwriters are not great writers. Their writing requires drastic amounts and levels of editing (we speak from experience!), which amounts to thousands more dollars to invest in the writing process down the line. A talented writer will write several drafts, yes, but in the end, unless the book is inherently complex, they will submit a manuscript to you that requires a copy edit and final proofread, nothing more.
[When you work with Kate and JEC on your ghostwritten book, the copy edit is included in the quoted price, so that your final draft is ready to go to print or to pitch right away.]
Finally, if you don’t have good chemistry with your ghost, you’re simply not going to achieve your best work. While it’s up to them to compile interviews and documents into a well-written, cohesive book, it’s also up to you as the client and named author to make sure you’re providing them with enough information to work with. If the chemistry between you isn’t there, there’s a good chance you’ll hold back—and that’s a no-no when it comes to ghostwriting. As teammates on this project, you need to feel a sense of mutual trust and mutual respect. Simply put: you need to like one another!
And there you have it, seven things to look for in a ghostwriter!
If you’re looking for a ghostwriter and you feel that Kate and the JEC team might be a good fit, send us a message and let’s get the conversation started!
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Editor, Writer & Founder of JEC. She's inspired, most often, to write about writing and how women (writers) can fix the world. She has a lot of opinions, actually.
Hayley is Copy Editor/ Editing Ninja for JEC. She is also an arts journalist for several online publications including Scene 360 and Illusion Magazine.
Georgia is JEC's Content Writer, a published poet, and past Poetry Editor for This Side of West, Modern and Contemporary Genre Editor for TheAlbatross, and Contributing Writer for The Martlet and Saltern Magazine.
Jaime is a Research Curator at Royal Roads University and as such knows a thing or two re: communications. She is JEC's Communications Specialist.