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Hiring a GHOST WRITER: 10 Questions You MUST Ask Before Hiring a Wordsmith!
 by: Corey Blake

When it comes to hiring a ghost writer, you need to be incredibly strategic about who you choose to pen your piece. Writers, like everyone, see the world from their own unique perspective, and their voice is going to come through loud and clear in your work. So how do you go about selecting the perfect ghost writer to string together the words that will attract your customers, speak your mind, communicate your knowledge, tighten a relationship, or spark a romance? Here is a list of 10 questions that should be asked and answered when interviewing ghost writer candidates.

1. WHAT ARE YOUR CORE VALUES? Your core values are the guiding principles that help you make decisions on a daily basis and define what you stand for as a person or a business. For example, Walt Disney’s core values are imagination and wholesomeness. The U.S. Air Force’s core values are integrity, service, and excellence.

Let me start by telling you ours, and maybe they can attract some ideas for you.

• Integrity — Holding ourselves accountable to the highest standards in everything we do AND creating an environment where those around us are inspired to do the same.

• Brilliance — Nurturing an atmosphere where brilliance is the natural result.

• Joy — Having fun and enjoying the game of building the business by delivering a unique voice on behalf of each and every client.

• Synergy — Taking the best assets of the client, the writer, and the project manager and fusing them together as this team moves towards a common goal.

• Creativity — Encouraging everyone who is part of our culture to use their hearts and minds to create outside the box by constantly sparking thoughts, generating ideas, and stretching our cumulative brain.

We use these core values to guide our decisions in ALL matters as often as possible. In fact, we do everything we can to live by them! Once you determine your own core values, you can start looking for a ghost writer who shares them. Why? Because a ghost writer who reflects your core values is a ghost writer who looks at the world from a similar perspective. Choosing a ghost writer with similar core values is going to make writing on your behalf SO MUCH EASIER!

2. HAVE YOU DETERMINED YOUR PREFERRED WRITING STYLE? Different ghost writers have different styles in which they excel. If you want to create really personal writing that emotionally grabs people but you hire someone who has an academic style, you’re going to spend a lot of time pulling your hair out and wondering why your ghost writer isn’t producing in a style that appeals to you. So when interviewing potential ghost writers, make sure you ask for samples that are written in the style you’re after! Various styles include personable, dramatic, inspirational, academic, factual, scientific, fun, humorous, intellectual, romantic, and technical.

3. WHAT TYPE OF EXPERTISE DO YOU NEED? Just because you’ve found a ghost writer who pens excellent articles doesn’t mean you’ve found someone who can write exceptional brochure copy, sales letters, business plans, or fiction. Besides asking a ghost writer to discuss their core values and writing styles, make sure they show you examples of previous work that reflect their expertise in exactly the type of written work that you need!

4. WHAT’S IT GOING TO COST YOU? When discussing price with a new ghost writer, ask if they charge by the word, by the page, or by the hour. Be wary of ghost writers who charge by the hour, as your costs can be driven up quickly. If they charge by the word or the page, tell them what your ceiling is and ask them to contact you before exceeding that limit. If you do not want to go over budget, be very clear with your new ghost writer up front, letting them know that they need to stick to the agreed upon page count/word count.

5. WHAT DELIVERABLES SHOULD YOU EXPECT? Is the ghost writer going to handle research, prepare an outline, provide multiple drafts, and hire a proofreader to verify that the document is error-free? (Forget spell-check; using an outside and objective proofreader is imperative!) Be VERY specific about your expectations when negotiating your contract. Also, in case you request additional revisions, this is the time to predetermine the cost. Know exactly what you’re getting for your money!

6. ON WHAT TIMELINE IS YOUR GHOST WRITER GOING TO DELIVER MATERIAL? It’s important that you establish deadlines and that your ghost writer meets them. Set specific dates for when you expect each deliverable — from drafts to a final proofread version. Your contract should also outline what penalty will occur if the ghost writer is not able to meet these deadlines.

7. WILL THE GHOST WRITER PROVIDE ADDITIONAL WRITING SERVICES? If they are working on your manuscript, are they also going to help you write your marketing copy, query letters, book proposal, etc? It is imperative that your “voice” remain consistent throughout your materials. If you have one ghost writer putting together your manuscript and another putting together your marketing copy — you risk confusing your potential customers/readers.

8. WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIPS DOES YOUR GHOST WRITER HAVE? Other than handling the creative side of your writing, does your ghost writer have business relationships and strategic ideas that are going to help you use your writing to generate revenue if that is what you are after? When it comes to writing a manuscript or a screenplay, it is especially advantageous to hire a ghost writer who has legitimate contacts in Los Angeles and New York that can get you where you want to go.

9. WILL YOU OWN YOUR COPYRIGHT? Make sure that your contract (even for small writing assignments) states that, upon final payment, the copyright of the work done on your behalf is transferred to you. Be VERY clear about this point! An oversight here might cause you a BIG headache later.

10. DOES YOUR GHOST WRITER HAVE STRONG REFERENCES? Speak to people who have worked with the person you are considering. Ask them to share their perspective of this ghost writer’s greatest assets and weaknesses so you are aware of what they do well and can plan how you’ll fill the gap in areas where they don’t excel. Any good ghost writer has previous customers willing to talk to you for 15 minutes!

At the end of the day, so many factors need to be considered. But you’ve spent a long time developing your idea, and deserve the perfect writer to breathe life into it. Determining the answers to these 10 questions will help you make a solid decision about the ghost writer who will represent your voice.

Here’s to better business and a better life!

About The Author

Corey Blake the co-author of EDGE! A Leadership Story (Morgan James, 2008), is President of Writers of the Round Table, Inc., a strategic literary development company that assists authors, directors, executives, and publishers to generate writing content of substantial quality and bring it to market. Visit us at to request a consultation to discuss your writing needs. We put the words in your mouth!


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