December 21

How to find a ghost writer

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Any guy on Fiverr is going to tell you that they are the ghostwriter for you.

Believe that, and you would find yourself down for a very, very bumpy ride.

Ghostwriting is one of the toughest content pieces to deliver because of 3 things.

As much as writing seems easy, the task itself isn’t.
As much as writing seems easy, the task itself isn’t.

Price

Let’s talk first about money. Because we know that many people don’t address that well.

Type of client Piece of work Price
Charity 1200 – 1500 word feature stories on kindness US$223
Bank 1200 – 1500 word stories on various things such as saving habits, bank accounts etc. $200
National media outlet $0.50 per word for branded advertorials $400
CEO Full book manuscript of 15 to 18k US$10,000

You might feel a little shocked seeing the rates. Especially at the fact that a full book manuscript can cost about $10,000.

You’re right. It’s not going to be cheap.

And you should be ready to spend, because the ghostwriter will have to do an incredible amount of work.

You might be wondering,

What exactly am I paying for?

Here’s what you’re paying for
Here’s what you’re paying for

Empathy

For any good ghostwriter to work well, he will need to understand you inside and out. As my speaking coach Alan Stevens once said,

Your ghostwriter will essentially be your mirror
Your ghostwriter will essentially be your mirror

a good speaker gets inside the audience’s head.

The good ghostwriter gets inside the speaker’s head.

Take for example a recent ghostwriting project we’ve taken on.

We were tasked to write the autobiography of a CEO of a logistics firm.

To do that effectively, we had to meet him face to face more than 7 times, go to his home, observe him in his company talking to his colleagues, observe his mannerisms and how he usually spoke, and talk to his business associates to build a complete picture of him.

For these observations, we had to pick out the smallest details to see how he worked. What he did when he was nervous. How he made difficult decisions.

Anyone who tells you ghostwriting is easy, is telling you bull.

Pure BS.

That’s why to choose a good ghostwriter, you need to choose someone who is able to empathise with you.

Choose someone with similar backgrounds or points of view

When we did our first ghostwriting project, we weren’t even selling ourselves as ghostwriters.

The client had read through our work online, and found that the work resonated with him. That’s why he took time to reach out and talk to us.

Eventually, he decided to book us because he felt that I shared similar experiences to him. He thought my experiences of suffering with mental distress, being socially isolated, were experiences that he could relate to.

When you choose a ghostwriter, choose someone you connect with and have an easy chemistry with. It shouldn’t be that hard.

Choose a writer writer, not a copywriter

There are broadly speaking, three types of writers.

The three type of writers we often do not differentiate
The three type of writers we often do not differentiate

The first is the copywriter, who writes to sell.

You would normally see them writing ads, sales letters, and marketing campaigns. They aren’t the people you really want ghostwriting your book. Unless you’re a salesperson, and this person gets your style. Chances are, he won’t be a good fit for you.

Some writers are more focused on selling through social media or ad copy, and may not be that well suited
Some writers are more focused on selling through social media or ad copy, and may not be that well suited

Then there are the journalistic type writers, who are journalists by training or experience, and often have worked in the newsroom, chasing down stories.

They are the ones you might want to entrust your ghostwriting project to, because they are the ones who you know will be able to dig out every shred of information so that they can present you in the most complete light.

They are also well versed in the art of interviewing, able to get to the heart of the matter through deep, probing questions with interviewees.

Don’t underestimate this skill. It’s much harder than you think it is.

Then there are the writer writers.

These are the ones who explicitly focus on writing. Their career is built on the back of projects such as:

  1. Writing opinion editorials
  2. Contributing to regular columns
  3. Writing books

Work ethic

The next thing you want to look for is work ethic.

A ghostwriting project can be incredibly large in scope. The writer will need to dig into tons of data, conduct interviews, and have a very clear process in moving the writing from ideas to an eventual manuscript.

That’s why you would want to ask your writer what his work process is.

Understand what your writer’s process is
Understand what your writer’s process is

Understand how he manages the work, especially how he manages projects. One of the ways that has helped us and our clients is in terms of

  1. Providing monthly progress updates through email about what is done, and what is outstanding, and your plan for the upcoming month
  2. Making a shared Notion kanban board to the client, so that both of us can keep track of the tasks that are ongoing, and outstanding

An important question to ask is,

How do you work when you’re out of inspiration?

The better writers have a very systematic process of creation that doesn’t just depend on feeling inspired.

Because let’s face it.

As artists and creatives, if we waited for inspiration, nothing would ever be produced.

Reliability of outcomes

As much as we would love to give opportunities to new people, we realise after a while that this is not always possible.

Earlier this year, we worked with a new writer who was an intern. He had just graduated from school. Yet despite all our coaching, he couldn’t seem to write well.

This was surprising, considering that he was from one of the most elite schools in Singapore. It made us think a lot about how we would hire in future.

This is something that you should be thinking too even as you hire your ghostwriter.

You need to be able to see an established train of work, even if it’s just for a few months. You need to be able to see a writer who’s confident of consistently putting out work, even when it’s not very special.

Choosing a ghostwriter starts with knowing what you want

Ultimately, knowing what you want matters, before you even go out and find a suitable writer.

Ultimately, you just want a writer who’s able to leave you relaxed.
Ultimately, you just want a writer who’s able to leave you relaxed.

Try the above questions in picking a writer. You might just be surprised.


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