6 Red Flags CEOs Should Watch Out for When Hiring a Ghostwriter

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Ghostwriting is an ideal solution for busy CEOs and entrepreneurs who want to publish a memoir or business book but don’t have the time, or maybe the creative skills, to write and publish a high-quality book. Having great ideas and having the writing skills to convert them into a riveting book people want to read are entirely different domains, after all. But finding the right ghostwriter on the World Wide Web isn’t an easy task—there are tons of ghostwriters out there, and some of them are less than legitimate. The best solution is to go with a reputable ghostwriting service who can guarantee the quality of the writing and editing and who will pair you with the best ghostwriter for the job. 

If you’d like to skip right through the hiring process, just reach out to our team of expert ghostwriters for a free, no-obligation consultation. If you’re still thinking about hiring an independent ghostwriter, here are some of the red flags you should watch out for. 

1. The ghostwriter won’t provide any samples, references, or recommendations

If you’re in talks with a ghostwriter who can’t (or won’t) show you any writing samples, references, or recommendations, run. This can be a little tricky because it’s common for ghostwriters to sign NDAs or anonymity clauses with their clients, which means they might not always be able to show you a sample of their published work. But in that case, they should be able to provide either a reference or recommendation from a previous client, agent, or publisher who can vouch for their work ethic and the quality of their writing. If they refuse to provide any type of credentials, it’s probably because they don’t have any. 

Not all of a ghostwriter’s published works are necessarily protected by an NDA. They may have penned books under contracts that allowed them to take credit for their writing, or they may have independently written content under their own name that’s been published. In this case, a reputable ghostwriter will happily provide these as samples. However, it’s not a red flag for a ghostwriter to not have published works in their own name.

Samples are also important to get a good idea of the writer’s style and experience in your niche or subject matter. Writers, like any other group of professionals, can have a wide range of skills and experience in different topics and styles. You want to make sure you’re choosing someone who will know how to capture your voice and tell the story you want to tell. A ghostwriter may be skilled and reputable but simply not be the right person to tell your story—and that’s okay. 

2. The ghostwriter won’t have face-to-face interviews

The pandemic has changed a lot of things, including how we conduct business meetings. Although it’s no longer necessary to have in-person interviews, there is no excuse for refusing to have a video call so you can see your ghostwriter face to face, even if it’s through a computer or phone screen. Collaborating with a ghostwriter, especially on a memoir, is a personal experience. The same can be said for business books, which rely on your ideas, stories, and expertise for their content. You want to know you can trust the person you’re confiding in. 

You also want to make sure your ghost is who they claim to be. It’s important to verify that they’re actually the person who will write your book and that they’re not subcontracting the job to some inexperienced amateur. 

One last point to consider is time and availability. If your ghostwriter doesn’t have the time or disposition to have a face-to-face meeting with you, they probably won’t be putting much work into your book. If they can’t give their time to you, don’t give your money to them.

3. The ghostwriter doesn’t have an editor or editing team

Any professional writer can tell you that they wouldn’t be able to do what they do without their editor and editing team. Editors make books come together by giving ideas and narratives shape so that they’re more interesting, entertaining, and easy to read. In fact, professional ghostwriters usually work with a full team to ensure a manuscript is up to industry standards This team includes editors, who enhance the flow, clarity, and cohesion of the text; proofreaders, who check grammar and spelling; formatters; and cover designers. A ghostwriter who can’t tell you who will edit their work probably isn’t a professional or is inexperienced. With such a ghostwriter, you’d be left to hire an editor on your own, which is an ordeal in and of itself and can necessitate a great deal of revision.

4. The ghostwriter won’t commit to deadlines or guidelines up front 

Establish deadlines and guidelines early on in the process. This will determine the time frame the writer has to complete the manuscript, how many redrafts you can request, when payments will be made, how often you will communicate, and how involved you will be during the process. Establishing these conditions up front is an important way to keep the project on track and make the process fair for both parties. A ghostwriter who won’t commit to any deadlines or guidelines up front likely doesn’t have an established process or hasn’t ever ghostwritten a book before. 

5. The ghostwriter isn’t actually a ghostwriter

There are many kinds of writers out there, but not all of them are qualified or skilled to be ghostwriters, as ghostwriting requires a specific skill set that other writers might not possess. Journalists and nonfiction writers can easily cross over into ghostwriting, but you still want someone who already has experience and an established process within ghostwriting. Some qualities you want in a ghostwriter are interview skills, organization, and the understanding that this is your book—not theirs. They need the ability to adjust their writing style to match your unique voice, allowing you to channel your words through their fingers and deliver a manuscript that sounds just like you wrote it.

6. The ghostwriter isn’t a writer at all 

If a ghostwriter doesn’t have any books published in their name, that’s not necessarily a red flag, but they should have something published that you can find online. Again, NDAs can make it hard for ghostwriters to put together a portfolio, and even if they’ve published their own books, they might have published them under a pseudonym or pen name. But a professional, experienced writer should have published something you can read. Regardless of how well they promote themselves, you never want to hire a ghostwriter whose writing you’ve never read.

From false promises to lack of knowledge when it comes to the full cost of producing your book from start to finish, plenty of red flags can signal that a ghostwriter isn’t as experienced as they claim to be. So, be thorough during your interviews and double-check a prospective ghost’s qualifications before signing a contract or paying them any money. It can take time to find a true professional in the industry, but it’s worth it to spend the time and energy to do so.

If you’d rather avoid the minefield that is hiring an independent ghostwriter online, check out our ghostwriting services for CEOs and get a free consultation today.

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