Whether it is a lack of time or ability, hiring a ghostwriter can make all the difference in completing your book (or any writing-related project). Contrary to popular belief, a ghostwriter can not write a book for you. Their expertise is in helping to write it with you. That’s because the idea lives in your head, and it would take a mind reader to extract it without having several detailed conversations with you. So, it is important to realize just how much goes into writing a book on the parts of all parties involved. Being informed and knowledgeable will be instrumental in helping to avoid making some of the most common mistakes people make when hiring a ghostwriter.
Since the ghostwriting process is not cheap or quick, this list can help set you up for a successful partnership from day one:
Only Looking at Experience
No one is saying experience doesn’t matter. You probably wouldn’t want to be the first surgery a new doctor ever performs or even the first brake job for a mechanic. But experience is only one piece of the puzzle since everyone has to start somewhere. Rookies win championships in major league sports, and new ghostwriters can write fantastic books. Writing a book is a very intimate endeavor where many of your innermost thoughts will be laid bare, so working with a writer you are comfortable with can far outweigh choosing someone with decades of experience you cannot stand.
Tying in with good personal chemistry and rapport is having compatible communication styles. While writing might seem to be the key skill needed to complete your book, the entire process is built on trust, listening, and open communication. The best person for the job is not the one who only views you as a paycheck and wants to complete the project as soon as possible; it is the person who will take the time to intimately understand what you are saying and ask as many clarifying questions as needed.
Picking an Expert in Your Field
This might be another mistake that seems counterintuitive. Why in the world wouldn’t you want an expert in your field or topic of choice doing the writing? Let’s answer that question with another question. Is the book yours or theirs? When someone knows too much about a particular topic, it becomes easy to overlook your viewpoints and insights in favor of what they already believe to be true. This isn’t necessarily done intentionally, just a product of conditioning. Think about a favorite dish you cook at home that everyone loves. It’s not likely you will openly accept advice from someone else on how to improve it.
Even if the ghostwriter is an expert capable of not infusing their own opinions into your book, there is still the chance of them not presenting the material clearly enough. That happens because they understand everything you are saying, even if you are not saying it. They will find it difficult to see the gaps in reasoning and thought processes because they already know the answer. An effective ghostwriter needs to be able to ask questions at a 5th-grade level to elicit as much detail as possible and ensure all the dots connect smoothly.
Not Speaking to Past Clients
There are so many ways to vet a service provider these days and it can feel like information overload. We can access reviews on Google, Alignable, community-specific sites, and countless websites. Some service providers have gone to the level of having clients leave video testimonials (I love this option) to save time in the interviewing process by providing a medium that takes less energy for a prospect to sift through. But none of these options are guaranteed to be accurate or even ensure the person leaving the review ever worked with the service provider.
Reviews and testimonials also cannot answer all the specific burning questions you may have about their experience. Some providers may be put off by a request to speak in real-time with a past or current client, but the good ones should have a list of names and numbers ready to go. When you know that you do top-notch work and have your clients’ full support and confidence, introducing them to potential new clients should be a no-brainer. Their excitement and satisfaction will be palpable, and a quick 15-minute conversation can not only increase the conversion ratio but also shave time off the sales process. As a potential client, there is no better way to put your mind at ease. As a service provider, there is no better way to weed out serious prospects from tire kickers.
It’s funny how some people have to have the most expensive car, watch, or electronic gadget to show off but will find ways to look for the fastest or cheapest options in areas where time and price matter more. A brand-new Honda will get you to the same places as a BMW, and a third-generation iPhone will do roughly the same things the newest version will. But will the discount painter who works alone do the same job in your kid’s bedroom as the higher-priced provider who comes equipped with a team and resources? In some cases, the answer may be yes. But when it comes to your professional credibility and brand image, is that a risk you want to take with your book?
We use the surgery example a lot, but it is too fitting not to. I cannot imagine people lining up for the brain surgeon who offers the lowest price or shortest time in surgery compared to the doctor charging their worth and setting realistic expectations. If time and money are primary concerns, it might be best to reevaluate whether you really want to hire a ghostwriter. It might not even make sense to write the book. A book written quickly and cheaply will likely hurt your image more than help it, which directly impacts your return on investment. Do not believe the hype advertised on social media above all else. Prioritize your top concerns regarding the process and do as much research as possible to find a provider who checks more boxes than the others.
Wrong Time Zones
Time zones are not the “be all, end all” of the conversation, but they are still worth mentioning. Thanks to scheduling programs such as Calendly and Accuity that automatically convert time zones when booking appointments, much of the manual guesswork has been removed from the process. And while it may be easier to set up the initial consultation or pick a standing day and time, the greater the time zone difference, the more challenging it can be for both parties to be flexible and efficient.
Communication across time zones can also cause delays and inefficiencies in the process, so it should be discussed at length prior to signing a contract. Clear expectations for cancellation windows, email response time, and policies on canceled or missed meetings need to be set early on. If the project is high urgency with tight deadlines, it may not be advisable to work with someone twelve hours away and unable to work within your schedule.
This can probably be said for most, if not all, languages, but not all English is created equally. And while a great ghostwriter should be able to adapt to different dialects and variations in speech patterns, there are some gaps that might just be insurmountable. British English differs from American English, but British English spoken in the UK can also differ from British English spoken in India or other former colonies.
Even American English varies from one region to the next or even from state to state. Regional dialects and colloquialisms do not always translate well, and it can be easy for a novice ghostwriter to overlook the differences in their speech and yours. To avoid falling into this trap, it is always a good idea to ask where a ghostwriter’s clients have historically been located in order to get a feel for whether or not they have the diversity needed to nail your voice and message.
At the end of the day, no one wants to experience buyer’s remorse. The more money wasted along the way makes the pain of regret much harder to deal with. And while there is no surefire way of guaranteeing someone is as good as they claim to be, addressing the six areas of concern we just spoke about will significantly reduce the chances of making a bad hire. But if you still have concerns about choosing the right ghostwriter, we would be happy to answer any other questions you might have about the process.