The name may be spooky, but ghostwriters don’t usually spend their time in haunted houses, tapping on a keyboard.
Our role is more akin to a professional empath, someone who tunes in to another person’s thoughts and feelings. As ghostwriters, we listen closely and work hard to channel someone else’s voice and expertise into high quality written works such as books, blog posts, op-eds, and white papers.
Ghostwriters typically remain out of sight, although some are named on an acknowledgments page under a vague title or identified using “with” or “and” in a book’s title credit.
A ghost’s style of working also varies. Some work in isolation, with virtually no input from the named author, while other ghostwriters collaborate closely. I personally prefer a dynamic partnership that allows me to draw out and support the named author’s best material.
Shhh! Where are they?
Where do you find a ghostwriter? Like any other professional service provider, they may keep an online presence, belong to organizations, or be available through a middleman gatekeeper. Ideally, you can get a referral from someone you trust.
If you’re game to hunt for a ghostwriter yourself, consider browsing the Freelance Success Writers Search or posting an ad on the ASJA Freelance Writers Search. Other alternatives include LinkedIn Profinder or Upwork, where you can post details about your project and invite responses.
How to pick the best ghostwriter
These 5 questions can help you identify the best ghostwriter for your project:
- What’s their track record? Preferably they are educated and literate, with a degree in English, creative writing, journalism, or communications. Consider whether they have worked as a staff writer or editor with a reputable firm, and if they have extensive, high-tier publication credits with their own byline or as a ghost.
- Can they write specifically to your audience? If you are writing a book for nuclear physicists, a ghostwriter with a PhD in a related discipline could be a good fit. But he or she may not be able to switch gears and write effectively to C-suite executives or general consumers.
- Do they ask savvy questions? A ghostwriter needs the mental flexibility to grasp new concepts and offer the right combination of enthusiasm, insight, and analysis. They need to pick up details and also see the big picture. A ghost who asks smart questions is looking to understand your specific goals and requirements. Their questions help reveal their thought process and suggest how well you might work together.
- Are they easy to talk to? Are you comfortable speaking with them and interacting with them at length? Do your communication styles mesh well?
- Do they really listen? Good listening skills mean the ghost is paying careful attention to what you say. Typically they will record conversations and take many notes, so they can accurately reflect your message. The final product will more closely reflect your voice if it incorporates your words verbatim wherever possible. The final product should sound like a polished version of you.