Ten tips for finding a good ghostwriter

Advice from top ghostwriter, Andrew Crofts

Ten years ago virtually no-one outside the publishing industry knew that ghostwriters existed. Thanks to Robert Harris’s bestseller, The Ghost, (and the subsequent film starring Ewan McGregor), and thanks to the openness of celebrities like Katie Price, Keith Richards and the Beckhams, a lot of people now know that we exist, but there is still a great deal of confusion about what it is we actually do.

I receive two or three emails or phone calls a day from people who think they might need a ghostwriter, either for fiction or non-fiction, but who aren’t quite sure how the system works. So here are ten tips on finding a good ghostwriter.

  1. A good ghostwriter will help you assess if your story or idea will make a full-sized book and whether you are likely to be able to sell it to a traditional publisher or whether you would be better off self-publishing.
  2. A good ghostwriter will take whatever information or story you can give them and will work out a structure for the book. They will do all the necessary writing and editing work.
  3. A good ghostwriter will never judge you or criticise you. They will merely guide and advise you on the best way to get your story or ideas across to readers. It is important that you feel completely safe and comfortable in their company since you may need to tell them some of your innermost secrets – even if they don’t eventually appear in the actual book. Make sure your chosen ghost is someone you are happy to invite into your life and even your home.
  4. Although a good ghostwriter will give advice on the best way to tell, and to sell, your story, you will always have the final say over what is printed or published. The ghost is merely there to produce the book that you would write yourself if you had the time and the ability.
  5. Unless you make a specific deal for joint-ownership, the contents of the book will always belong to you. The ghost’s name can appear on the cover or flyleaf if you wish, but if you want them to be invisible that is how it will be. Good ghostwriters will always be willing to sign contracts to that effect if it makes you feel more secure.
  6. A good ghostwriter will be as discreet as a good doctor or a good lawyer. They are only there to make your book as readable and saleable as possible and will never write about or discuss your private business with anyone without your specific permission.
  7. A good ghostwriter will be able to help you in approaching publishers and agents if that is appropriate, and will also know how to help you through the self-publishing process.
  8. A good ghostwriter will never be offended if you ask for changes or criticise their work. Their job is to give you the book you want and they will be grateful for any guidance you can give them. In the absence of a tight brief from you they will use their initiative and then react to your feedback. A good ghostwriter will never object to doing re-writes.
  9. A good ghostwriter is on your side from start to finish, explaining how the publishing business works, guiding you in the right direction and making your book as good as possible. They will remain flexible and responsive to your needs at all times, as you must be to theirs.
  10. A good ghostwriter is going to be spending several months working for you and will need to make a living during that time. So you will need to work out what you can afford to pay them. Ask how much they would like to charge and then negotiate a figure that you will both be comfortable with.

Andrew Crofts has published more than eighty books, a dozen of which were Sunday Times number one bestsellers. He has also guided a number of international clients successfully through the minefield of independent publishing. His books on writing include “Ghostwriting”, (A&C Black) and “The Freelance Writer’s Handbook”, (Piatkus), which has been reprinted eight times over twenty years. Throughout his bestseller, “The Ghost”, Robert Harris quotes Andrew’s seminal book, “Ghostwriting”.  Andrew is on the Management Committee of the Society of Authors. He lectures on the subject of making a living from writing at Kingston University and frequently guests at writing workshops, literary festivals and in the media. He blogs regularly on matters pertaining to publishing, self-publishing and writing.  

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