Five Essential Skills Your Ghostwriter Should Have (Aside from Writing Expertise)

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If you’re hoping to publish your life story, you want to make sure it’s done well. Your memoir represents you; it’s a snapshot of your life that will endure, and a poorly written book will reflect poorly on you. Just because a person has a great story to tell doesn’t mean they have the necessary writing skills to turn it into a best-selling book, which is why many authors rely on ghostwriters for their memoir.

A ghostwriter can craft a quality book for you in a fraction of the time it would take if you undertook that massive task yourself. They can also use their knowledge of the publishing industry to zero in on your target audience. However, when it comes to hiring a good ghostwriter, most authors don’t know where to start. Great writing skills are an obvious must-have, but what other skills should a ghostwriter possess?

If you’ve been wondering how to find a good ghostwriter for your memoir, look no further. This post highlights the essential skills (other than writing expertise) every author should look for when hiring a ghostwriter. It can be time- and energy-consuming to find the right collaborator, but this is an important investment in your book, so it’s worth it to do your research.

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Five key skills that make for a great ghostwriter

1. The ability to adjust their writing style

Memoir ghostwriting requires a specific skill set. When penning a memoir, the ghost needs not only excellent writing skills but also the ability to mirror the author’s voice. After all, your memoir has to sound like you, which means your ghostwriter should match your unique voice and style, using words and structures you favor. Ghostwriters need to be able to effortlessly mimic different styles and tones so that the memoirs they produce feel authentic.

2. The ability to do thorough research

Your ghostwriter will receive a lot of crucial information directly from you. It’s your responsibility to provide the ideas, anecdotes, and content—it’s your book, after all. However, assuming you included fact-checking in your contract, the ghostwriter will be responsible for researching the finer details—things such as dates, locations, and other particulars related to major events—to ensure maximum accuracy and avoid embarrassing mistakes. 

They may also need to conduct research to flesh out the narrative or add details you may have forgotten. You may even find that through researching and confirming events depicted in your book, the ghostwriter helps you dredge up memories that add an extra layer of richness to your memoir. However, it’s important to note about research that it must be limited to fact-checking and confirmation—all ideas and content must be your own.

3. Expertise in interviewing

Most memoirs require a lot of interviewing, not only of the author but also of other people who may feature in the book or help fill in gaps. A ghostwriter should be adept at asking the right questions to extract the necessary information. There may be untapped anecdotes and ideas that could add depth and color to your memoir, and a good ghostwriter knows which stories will fascinate your readers. It’s also important to work with a ghostwriter with whom you get along well—if you don’t click, it’ll be harder for you to open up and harder for them to relate to you.

4. Excellent organization

Writing (especially writing for someone else) requires a great deal of organization. Your ghostwriter will have endless notes to categorize and deadlines to meet. Of course, you can help by sorting your materials as best you can before your interviews, but you still want a ghostwriter who’s skilled at organizing materials themselves. 

They need to work to a schedule filled with interviews, meetings, research tasks, and dedicated writing hours, so excellent time management skills are a must as well. Perhaps most importantly, your ghostwriter should have the ability to structure all your notes and materials in a way that produces a great manuscript. Organizing jumbled and chaotic notes into a compelling, coherent narrative is one of the most important skills a ghostwriter can possess.

5. The ability to communicate clearly

There are multiple reasons why clear communication is a crucial skill for a ghostwriter. Firstly, regular effective communication is a must given all the meetings, phone calls, and emails there are to juggle. Poor communication could necessitate additional meetings, leading to a longer turnaround and eating up more of your time. Secondly, effective communication allows the ghostwriter to get to know you and ensures they have the details and your voice right, which is key to writing a book that meets your expectations and sounds authentic. Thirdly, the ghostwriter needs to request and assimilate feedback so they can make the necessary revisions to create the memoir you want. If your collaborator isn’t good at communicating, it won’t matter how brilliant a writer they are!

Trust your judgment when hiring a ghostwriter

Any ghostwriter worth their fee will have all of the above skills, so don’t be afraid to probe when interviewing a candidate for your project. Request writing samples or a portfolio, take note of how they communicate and how organized they are, and ask them to detail their experience in interviewing and researching. Above all, don’t ignore your own intuition! Even when a ghostwriter ticks all the boxes, you may not want to work with them if you don’t feel a rapport. Ghostwriting is a long and strenuous process, so make sure you pick someone with whom you want to spend a good deal of time.

Ready to hire a ghostwriter? Book a free memoir consultation and take an important step forward in your memoir-writing journey!

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