6 Questions to Ask a Prospective Ghostwriter: A Hiring Guide for CEOs

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Talk With a Ghostwriter

Few people have the time to sit and write a book, which is why successful CEOs and entrepreneurs turn to ghostwriters when they want to publish their memoirs and business books. This is the perfect solution for anyone with great ideas but no time, energy, or writing skills to turn them into the book they envision. CEOs understand that a high-quality book published under their name isn’t good for business alone—it’s also a great way to build their personal brand, which is a must in today’s world for anyone keen to establish their professional credibility and expertise. In addition, it opens the door to new opportunities, including speaking engagements and book tours, potentially taking a person’s career in new directions.

While this sounds great, how do you go about choosing the right ghostwriter? 

As for most other positions in your company, you’ll have to interview multiple candidates to find the right match. If you want to save your time and energy, contact our end-to-end ghostwriting service for CEOs—we will match you with the right partner so you can rest assured you’ll get the book you want. 

If you’re set on finding a ghostwriter on your own, here are some of the questions you should ask yourself about the candidates before you sign a contract. 

1. Does the ghostwriter like your idea? 

This is a key question to ask your ghostwriter during your first interview. You want to work with someone who likes your idea, who’s interested in what you’re trying to say, and who generally agrees with (or at least understands) your point of view. That’s because you don’t want personal opinions, disagreements, or a lack of interest on their part to get in the way of producing high-quality work. 

You’ll also want to consider how the two of you connect on a personal level since you’ll be working closely with this person and divulging your deepest thoughts to them. Make sure you can have open, honest discussions with your ghost about your ideas to see where they stand because it’s imperative that the writing sounds authentic. Otherwise, the readers will pick up on it and your book (along with your reputation) will suffer. Not only that, but the creative process will also be stressful if you don’t like your ghostwriter.

2. Does the ghostwriter understand the subject matter?

Your potential collaborator shouldn’t just like your idea—they must also understand the subject matter. Even if they’re not deeply familiar with it, they should at least have a basic understanding or a working knowledge of it so the entire process—from the first time they interview you to the actual writing—flows more smoothly, easily, and naturally. If you’re looking to publish a more technical book, it’s imperative to choose a ghostwriter who truly understands the subject matter; otherwise, there will be inappropriately used jargon and misunderstandings galore.

Ghostwriters expect to do some research and fact-checking—after all, it’s your expertise and knowledge that will ultimately go into the book, and it’s their job to make sure everything is coherent and factually correct. However, they should understand enough to know what questions to ask and how to write about the subject. In a sense, their interview and research skills are more important than their knowledge on the subject, but the more familiar they are with it, the better. For example, existing knowledge will mean they can use the terminology of your field accurately and understand the research they do to fact-check your claims.

3. Does the ghostwriter have previous experience?

One of the most important things to establish during the hiring process is your ghostwriter’s experience. Have they already been through the process of interviewing and ghostwriting a book for someone else? Was it a similar subject matter? Was the book successful? Do they know how to capture and replicate someone else’s voice in a believable, natural way? 

Ghostwriting requires a set of skills that combines the basics of journalism with the intricacies of writing a book. Your ghost should understand this and have an established process so they can write a book that best presents your knowledge and experience. This means you shouldn’t just hire a fiction author, a journalist, or another type of professional writer without specific ghostwriting experience—it’s an entirely different beast of a project, and you want someone who’s already well-versed in this type of work. 

4. Has the ghostwriter published books of their own? 

Not all ghostwriters are published authors themselves, but many are and may publish under a pen name. If they focus exclusively on ghostwriting, you should be more concerned with the success of the books they’ve ghostwritten than whether or not they’ve published their own work (although it’s definitely a point in their favor if they have). The problem with vetting a ghostwriter’s previous works is that these professionals often sign NDAs that prevent them from disclosing what books they’ve ghostwritten. Work with what you can—independently published works, ghostwritten books they’re allowed to take credit for, and reviews and endorsements from previous clients or publishers.

The reason you should inquire about what a ghostwriter has published or worked on is twofold. First, you want to know that they can complete a book, and second, you can request a sample of their work. However, you must keep in mind that some NDAs and confidentiality clauses in certain contracts might not allow them to reveal that they’re the ghostwriter behind a published book. At the same time, you never want to hire a ghostwriter without first reading something they’ve produced, so be sure to get some sort of writing sample from them.

5. What are the ghostwriter’s outsourcing policies? 

You definitely want a clear answer on the ghostwriter’s outsourcing policies, so make sure to bring it up during your first interview. Some ghostwriters will subcontract the work to someone else, likely with less experience, which is far from an ideal situation. You’re hiring the ghostwriter to produce a book for you, so you want a guarantee that they’re indeed the one writing it. Make it clear from the beginning who the writer will be and insist that there only be one writer for the entirety of the project so the style and voice don’t suddenly change halfway through your book. These details should all be included in your contract. 

Outsourcing other services—such as editing, proofreading, and cover art—is another matter since they require different skills, and your ghostwriter might not possess them. It’s better to entrust these services to professionals who specialize in them. Make sure the specifics are clearly stipulated in your contract before you start working together so you know exactly what the process will entail and where your money is going.

6. Will the ghostwriter guarantee confidentiality? 

Confidentiality and anonymity are crucial for many CEOs and entrepreneurs whose books have been ghostwritten. Including non-disclosure clauses in the contract is a key requirement for many authors, and the terms should apply to everyone else who works on the book, such as editors or cover designers hired by the ghostwriter. 

Some ghostwriters may insist on sharing the writing credit, which is clearly something that must be discussed and agreed upon before the contract is signed. The contract must also state whether the ghostwriter can use a sample of your book for their portfolio. If you don’t want to share the writing credit, you don’t have to—most ghostwriters don’t expect it. In exchange, they usually ask for more money, but there are no ethical issues with taking all the writing credit yourself if your collaborator is happy with the contract.

Finding the right ghostwriter for your book is seldom an easy process, but these six questions should give you a good idea of what to look for in prospective hires. Pick someone who values their own work and charges accordingly, who has experience and an established process, and who is a good communicator and understands what you, your brand, and your book are all about. Don’t be afraid to spend a bit more on a talented ghostwriter—it’s an investment that can advance your career in a multitude of ways.

If you would rather avoid the hassle of the hiring process and talk directly to a team of professionals, check out our ghostwriting services for CEOs and get a free consultation today. 

Talk With a Ghostwriter