Here’s a situation I often see: A successful businessperson wants to publish a book, but they don’t have the time or desire to write it themselves, so they decide to hire a ghostwriter.
Then, one of two things happens:
- They can’t find a good one, so they give up on the idea of writing a book.
- They hire a bad one, spend a ton of money, and end up with a terrible book.
Why is this so common? Because when it’s your first time hiring a ghostwriter, you have no idea where to look to find a good one (or how to tell if they’re any good).
More importantly, you’re likely to focus on the wrong things, such as:
- Price shopping (aka looking for the cheapest options).
- Whether or not you like them as a person.
- Whether or not they were recommended to you.
Good ghostwriters are expensive. If you price shop and hire a cheap one, you’ll (usually) get a bad book. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again:
The reputational damage from publishing a bad book is worse than not publishing a book at all.
And just because you like someone or a friend recommended them, doesn’t make them a good fit for you.
Fit is what matters most when you hire a ghostwriter. You need someone who gets you—someone who can capture your voice and has a process that works for you.
If a perfectly good ghostwriter does amazing work for your friend but can’t capture your unique voice, or their working style doesn’t match your own, they’ll be a terrible fit for you.
So how do you evaluate the skill and fit of a ghostwriter and get a book that’s worth what you paid for it? That’s what this post is all about. I’ll cover:
- Where to Find Ghostwriters
- How to Tell If a Ghostwriter is Good
- How to Tell If a Ghostwriter is a Good Fit for You
- The Process for Hiring a Ghostwriter
- How to Shortcut This Process and Get a Great Ghostwriter
Note: We’ve worked with over 2,000 Authors, including bestsellers like David Goggins and Tiffany Haddish. Our proven process takes you from book idea to published book in as quickly as 9 months. And we offer a money-back guarantee. If you’re serious about writing your book, click here for more details.
Where to Find Ghostwriters for a Book Project
If you want to find a ghostwriter, the first step is to understand where to search for candidates.
When I ask book agents the best place to find ghostwriters, they always confirm what I’ve found: there is no single place to find vetted, professional ghostwriters.
In our business ghostwriting guide, I compiled a comprehensive list of the many places to find them. As far as I can tell, it’s the only list on the internet based on actual research with book agents and ghostwriters.
The list is split into 3 categories:
- Individual Search: Platforms like LinkedIn and Google where you search for individuals and their portfolio websites.
- Freelance Writer Marketplaces: Platforms like Reedsy and Mediabistro that connect professional writers with people seeking ghostwriting services.
- Ghostwriter Agencies: Third-party companies that connect Authors with ghostwriters and take a cut of the fee.
Below I’ll give a brief overview of these 3 categories and what to watch out for. But if you want the full list of sources, click here.
1. Individual Search
Searching through Google and LinkedIn is one option for compiling a list of ghostwriter candidates. Many of our Scribes say this is how people find them.
But both of these platforms have their drawbacks.
LinkedIn requires a lot of time and effort to sift through profiles. When you search “book ghostwriter,” thousands of results appear. Searching through them one by one is a terribly inefficient process.
The search filters don’t help much either. You still have to go to each writer’s website, check out what they’ve worked on, and follow the process I lay out below to see if they’re a worthy candidate.
With Google, you also have to sift through a ton of search results. The first few pages are dominated by freelance marketplaces and ghostwriter agencies (more on these below), so you have to dig deep to get to the websites of individual ghostwriters. And it’s not easy to tell who is legitimate.
I’d be wary of this path because it can easily lead you down a rabbit hole that doesn’t yield results. You’re better off starting with other sources first.
2. Freelance Writer Marketplaces
Freelance writer marketplaces are one of the richer sources of ghostwriters for hire, although you’ll still have to search through many different profiles to find good candidates.
Reedsy is the best platform I know of for hiring high-quality book ghostwriters. If I were looking for one, this is probably where I’d start.
The search filters are much more useful than LinkedIn. For example:
You can select book ghostwriting as a service. Then you can filter down to nonfiction and your preferred language and genre. If you want to write a business book, you can search for ghostwriters who specifically write in that genre.
These filters can really save you time as you search.
From there, you can view profiles to assess freelancers by their portfolios and testimonials. Like Amazon and other marketplaces, reviews can help you see who is actually credible.
3. Ghostwriter Agencies
There are a LOT of ghostwriting agencies out there, but most are scammers.
The problem is that they only make money when they connect you with a writer. They aren’t paid based on whether or not it’s a successful pairing. So they’re incentivized to create a connection as quickly as possible, regardless of how it works out.
Unlike Scribe’s services, agencies’ incentives aren’t aligned with ghostwriters or Authors. With Scribe’s model, we’re incentivized to create the right connection from the start. If we don’t, it costs us money. The amount you pay stays the same, while our costs increase to pay a second writer.
Plus, we have world-class ghostwriters working with us, and we’re dedicated to keeping them happy.
If you decide to hire a ghostwriter agency, choose the established ones that have a long track record of success. They’re the ones who have proven they care about reputation and doing a good job.
How to Tell If a Ghostwriter Is Good or Not
Regardless of the channel you use to search for ghostwriters, you need to separate the good ones from the pack. Whether or not a writer is a good fit for you won’t matter if they aren’t any good. So this is where you need to start.
Unlike nonfiction writing coaches, you don’t need to work with a ghostwriter to know if they’re good. You can tell by evaluating their:
- Reputation and Experience
- Book Writing Ability
In the same way you wouldn’t put your life in the hands of a cheap doctor or lawyer, you shouldn’t put your book (and reputation) in the hands of a cheap ghostwriter.
It’s best to think about ghostwriters as high-end service providers.
Ghostwriters range vastly in price. For a 100-300 page nonfiction book, prices and quality break down like this:
- $1,000-$14,000: You should automatically rule out anyone charging less than $15k. This is the bottom of the barrel, and it will result in a bad book. If you can’t afford more than $15k, I’d keep saving until you can (or question hiring a ghostwriter at all).
- $15,000-$75,000: This is the range where you begin to find great ghostwriters with credits and reputations. But there are substantial quality differences in this price range.
- $100,000-$250,000+: This is a much smaller pool of elite ghostwriters (many of whom have written bestsellers and published books under their own name). Quality in this price range is almost guaranteed to be high.
In general, a reliable ghostwriter with good references will charge at least $40k. You can use this as a rule of thumb for determining the quality of candidates.
2. Reputation and Experience
This part is easy. You can evaluate a ghostwriter’s reputation and experience based on:
- How many books they’ve done.
- What level of book they have done (meaning the status, reputation and quality of the books they have done).
- What level of Author they’ve worked with.
For most ghostwriters, this information will be listed on their website and social media profiles.
Experienced and reliable ghostwriters will (usually) have written a minimum of 5 books.
They’ll have worked with Authors who are significant in their industry or niche (subject matter experts, thought leaders, etc.). And books they’ve written will have strong reviews and generally be considered well written.
If a ghostwriter doesn’t have these things, they’re probably lower quality. If they do, they’re worth keeping on your list.
3. Book Writing Experience and Ability
The last way to tell if a ghostwriter is good is to read their work and evaluate their writing ability.
If your budget is at the lower end of the acceptable price range, this is especially important because the candidates will have less of a reputation to judge them off of.
When you read a ghostwriter’s work, the questions you should ask are:
How well do they capture the Author’s voice?
The best ghostwriters know how to get the ideas and voice of the Author on the page with absolute fidelity. And the true test is whether or not the Author’s voice remains consistent throughout the entire book.
For example, it’s easy for ghostwriters to capture an Author’s voice when writing a story the Author told them. But it’s much more difficult to fill the gaps in between stories with that same voice.
If the voice feels authentic in some parts of the book and inauthentic in others, the writer didn’t do their job. If it feels authentic throughout, that’s a sign of an experienced ghostwriter.
Take Tiffany Haddish’s book The Last Black Unicorn. It was ghostwritten through Scribe, and it reads exactly like she wrote it. Not just the stories she told us, but the gaps in between too. She did not write a word of that, but every word feels like her.
How engaged are you when you read?
The tell-tale sign of good writing is: how engaged are you? How much do you want to keep reading?
Great storytelling makes a book engaging. If you’re falling asleep while reading, the writer is probably a bad storyteller (and you shouldn’t hire them to write your book).
If you have a hard time putting the book down and you’re very engaged, the writer is probably a great storyteller. These are the ghostwriters you want.
Is it easy to follow along?
The best books make it easy for readers to follow the story. If you’re reading a ghostwriter’s work and you find yourself lost, it’s a sign the writer failed to structure the story properly.
When a great structurist writes a book, you’re never lost or confused about where you are in the story. This is not to be mistaken with being confused with the book’s ideas.
For example, if you’re reading David Deutsch or Nassim Taleb, the ideas can be complex and confusing. But that’s different from being confused about where you are in the context of the story and the rest of the book.
When you’re creating your list of good candidates, you should stick to writers who are good at both engaging you and making it easy to follow along.
How to Tell If a Ghostwriter Is a Good Fit for You
Once you’ve created a list of quality ghostwriters, you can begin the process of figuring out who is actually a good fit for you.
Remember: This is the most crucial step that people miss.But you can’t skip this if you want your ghostwriting project to work out.
Many of the quality ghostwriters out there will be a bad fit for you. To see who could be a good fit, you should focus on 2 things:
- Will their process and working style work for you?
- Do you feel they truly get you and the message you want to deliver to your audience?
The only way to know this is to talk to them and their past clients.
Before Reaching Out to Ghostwriters and Their Past Clients
Before you reach out and talk to anyone, you need to begin with being upfront with yourself about what you need and want.
How do you want to work?
What time of day do you want to take calls?
Do you need to work with the ghostwriter in person, or are you okay working with them remotely?
You won’t know if someone is a good fit if you haven’t gotten clear on what you really want and need. Once you are, then you can interview ghostwriters and their past clients to learn if you’re aligned with them.
Questions to Ask Their Past Clients
When you talk to ghostwriters, they’re going to try to tell you what you want to hear. By talking to previous clients of a ghostwriter, you can get first-hand insight into what it’s actually like to work with them.
To do this, start by getting a list of books they’ve ghostwritten. You can ask the ghostwriter for this, but I would try to get the list from their website or portfolio. Then, reach out directly to the Authors. This way, you can ensure the ghostwriter isn’t sending you only to people who’ve had a great experience.
Whether you connect with the Authors on a call or through email is up to you. The important thing is to ask the right questions.
You can ask basic questions like:
- What were they like to work with?
- Did you enjoy the process?
But the best questions to aid your decision are:
- What was your favorite thing about working with them?
- What was your least favorite thing about working with them?
- If I work with them, what problems or issues should I look out for?
These questions will help to draw out more telling details from the references. For example, let’s say you’re talking to a reference who liked the ghostwriter. If you ask them what problems or issues you should watch out for, they might say:
“Well, she was kind of flaky on calls. She was always late. On the last zoom, she was 10 minutes late. It doesn’t bother me because I’m often late too, but that’s something you should watch out for.”
Now you have valuable insight into the writer’s working style. If you’re someone who can’t stand when people are late, you know this writer isn’t a great fit for you (despite this otherwise rave review).
Note: You should also ask how much they charged. The same ghostwriter can charge $50k to one client and $30k to another for a similar project. So asking about what they charged can give you an accurate gauge of their pricing (and some leverage in negotiating price).
Questions to Ask Ghostwriters
Just like when you talk to their past clients, you should come prepared with specific questions that will help you see if they’re a good fit.
But before I cover questions to ask, it’s important that you know what not to do.
Don’t ask them leading questions about yourself. For example, don’t say, “Hey, are you okay with early morning calls?”. Remember, they want your business. They’re going to say yes.
Instead, ask them, “What time of day do you like to take calls?”. And let them tell you what their preferences are. If they say they hate morning calls and that’s your preferred time of day to meet, then you’ve gained useful insight into whether or not they’re a good fit.
Questions that are important to ask are:
- What’s your method of working with clients?
- What are your client pet peeves?
- What questions do you have for me?
Asking about their method and pet peeves will give you deeper insight into their process and preferences. These need to match up with your own to be a good fit.
The last question, “What questions do you have for me?”, is essential. This is the question that will reveal if a writer gets you.
The more questions they have—the more engaged they are with you and the topic you want them to ghostwrite about—the more likely it is that they get you and the message you want to deliver through your book.
For many interviews, this will be the key question, the one where you see if the ghostwriter gets you, cares about you, and is going to be a fit.
A Process for Hiring Ghostwriters
When you’ve gone through the process of finding a proven ghostwriter who seems like a good fit, the final step is to hire them. The steps to hire a ghostwriter break down like this:
- Set Price and Payment Terms: Get clear on how much you are paying and when those payments are due.
- Set Deliverables: Determine the total length, word count, and revisions the ghostwriter will deliver.
- Agree on Rights and Royalties: Make sure you retain 100% of the rights to your book. Do not let any ghostwriter try to keep these, ever.
- Set Termination Rights: If you should terminate the contract for any reason, you should still maintain the rights to your book.
- Determine Anonymity: This isn’t mandatory, but if you want their work on the book to be anonymous, have them sign an NDA.
We covered these steps at length in our business ghostwriting guide. If you’re planning to hire a ghostwriter yourself, be sure to read that for more details on the hiring process.
How to Shortcut This Entire Process and Get a Great Ghostwriter
As you now know, finding and hiring a great ghostwriter is a long, arduous process. There are a ton of ghostwriters to sift through to find the right one, and there are no guarantees along the way.
This was part of the inspiration behind creating Scribe Professional (one of our ghostwriting services). We wanted to create a system that would make it easy for people to have a high-quality book ghostwritten and published, without the hassles, bad experiences, and failed attempts that are so common.
We attract world-class ghostwriters. To write for us, you must have a decade of writing experience and have published a minimum of 3 nonfiction books. Our acceptance rate is less than 1% (that’s lower than Harvard and Stanford).
Once we connect you with the right ghostwriter, we take you all the way through to self-publishing and marketing your own book.