Ten tips for finding a good ghostwriter

Advice from top ghostwriter, Andrew Crofts

Picture of Andrew Crofts

Photo from Petteri Kokkonen

Ten years ago virtually no-one outside the publishing industry knew that ghostwriters existed. Thanks to Robert Harris’s bestseller, The Ghost, (and the subsequent film starring Ewan McGregor), and thanks to the openness of celebrities like Katie Price, Keith Richards and the Beckhams, a lot of people now know that we exist, but there is still a great deal of confusion about what it is we actually do.

I receive two or three emails or phone calls a day from people who think they might need a ghostwriter, either for fiction or non-fiction, but who aren’t quite sure how the system works. So here are ten tips on finding a good ghostwriter.

  1. A good ghostwriter will help you assess if your story or idea will make a full-sized book and whether you are likely to be able to sell it to a traditional publisher or whether you would be better off self-publishing.
  2. A good ghostwriter will take whatever information or story you can give them and will work out a structure for the book. They will do all the necessary writing and editing work.
  3. A good ghostwriter will never judge you or criticise you. They will merely guide and advise you on the best way to get your story or ideas across to readers. It is important that you feel completely safe and comfortable in their company since you may need to tell them some of your innermost secrets – even if they don’t eventually appear in the actual book. Make sure your chosen ghost is someone you are happy to invite into your life and even your home.
  4. Although a good ghostwriter will give advice on the best way to tell, and to sell, your story, you will always have the final say over what is printed or published. The ghost is merely there to produce the book that you would write yourself if you had the time and the ability.
  5. Unless you make a specific deal for joint-ownership, the contents of the book will always belong to you. The ghost’s name can appear on the cover or flyleaf if you wish, but if you want them to be invisible that is how it will be. Good ghostwriters will always be willing to sign contracts to that effect if it makes you feel more secure.
  6. A good ghostwriter will be as discreet as a good doctor or a good lawyer. They are only there to make your book as readable and saleable as possible and will never write about or discuss your private business with anyone without your specific permission.
  7. A good ghostwriter will be able to help you in approaching publishers and agents if that is appropriate, and will also know how to help you through the self-publishing process.
  8. A good ghostwriter will never be offended if you ask for changes or criticise their work. Their job is to give you the book you want and they will be grateful for any guidance you can give them. In the absence of a tight brief from you they will use their initiative and then react to your feedback. A good ghostwriter will never object to doing re-writes.
  9. A good ghostwriter is on your side from start to finish, explaining how the publishing business works, guiding you in the right direction and making your book as good as possible. They will remain flexible and responsive to your needs at all times, as you must be to theirs.
  10. A good ghostwriter is going to be spending several months working for you and will need to make a living during that time. So you will need to work out what you can afford to pay them. Ask how much they would like to charge and then negotiate a figure that you will both be comfortable with.
Photo of Andrew Crofts

Photographer Toby Phillips

Andrew Crofts has published more than eighty books, a dozen of which were Sunday Times number one bestsellers. He has also guided a number of international clients successfully through the minefield of independent publishing. His books on writing include “Ghostwriting”, (A&C Black) and “The Freelance Writer’s Handbook”, (Piatkus), which has been reprinted eight times over twenty years. Throughout his bestseller, “The Ghost”, Robert Harris quotes Andrew’s seminal book, “Ghostwriting”.  Andrew is on the Management Committee of the Society of Authors. He lectures on the subject of making a living from writing at Kingston University and frequently guests at writing workshops, literary festivals and in the media. He blogs regularly on matters pertaining to publishing, self-publishing and writing.  

11 thoughts on “Ten tips for finding a good ghostwriter

  1. Greg Strandberg

    You certainly want your employer to pay you. If you’re going to be sitting down for a month or longer to write out a novel or some such, well, you’ve got to have a clean plate.

    This means no silly copywriting jobs, no editing on the side – you’ve really got to devote yourself to creating this world. Most employers I’ve worked for don’t have much more than an idea, so it’s really up to you as the writer to dedicate a lot of your conscious thinking to this story.

    Pay, therefore, is quite high on my list, and should be gotten out of the way as soon as possible.

  2. Tim Gasper

    Thank you for your article on finding ghost writers. It was very informative and helpful. I am a disabled veteran and my problem is I can not really afford to hire a ghost-writer. I am already a published author, but with the other books I have already started found that I am having writer’s block. I have the info in my head and know what I want to say, I just keep losing focus. The one book I have the most problem with is the book of what I experienced in Vietnam and upon my return. Is there anyone you can think of who works for payment after profits come in from the books’ success? Or perhaps you might know some ghost-writers who work for very low rates or for monthly payments? The other books i am working on – one is a romance and another a follow-up to the first book. I appreciate your help so far and hope you can give more advice if possible. Have a nice day and thank you again.

    Tim Gasper TJR

    1. Andrew Crofts

      Hi, Tim,

      Sorry for the delay in replying. I’m afraid I don’t know any ghosts who work just for royalties any more, unless there is already a publisher on board. Have you tried writing the whole thing as a letter to a long lost friend, telling them everything that happened in a conversational tone, just to get through the block?

      Best of luck,

      Andrew Crofts,

  3. Andrew Crofts

    Hi, Chris,

    I would suggest that you start by dropping a line to all the likely publishers and literary agents with a one page synopsis of the book, telling them that you would be happy to work with a ghost. That way you will get an idea of whether you are likely to find a home for the book once it is written. Then you will be in a better position to approach ghostwriters.

    Best of luck,

    Andrew Crofts

  4. Patti Kimble

    Mr. Crofts,
    I am seeking the service of a ghostwriter for a Christian book and desire that writer be a Christian. Anyone that you can recommend will be appreciated.
    Patti

  5. Corey

    Andrew,

    I have been working on a story/book for months now, and finally have a complete outline to include character profiles, a complete storyboard, backstories, the ending, the layout, and once I got there I finally starter writing. I got about 6 chapters into it, maybe 10k words, and havent done anything for a full month. A friend recommended that I look into hiring a ghostwriter.

    I was hoping you could tell me what the basic dynamic would be in this scenario since I have the entire story mapped out already. Would the Ghostwriter come in and learn what they can of the current story so far, and work with me to finish it?

  6. Jevin

    I have always longed to write a fantasy book. Ive been told a have amazing talent when it comes to writing. The problem (among others) is i have huge issues with focusing, organizing, and making decisions and sticking with them. .I exhaust myself with obsessive insecurity and always try to find better ways of saying the same thing. I waste so much energy and time going in circles I habitually give up. I have so many ideas It’s liek writers jam.

    I recently inherited a nice sum of money and would love to produce a book. I want a ghost writer/co-author who will also act as a project manager, a coach, and a mentor. I want to be involved creatively and find ways to infuse my own writing and creative talents into the book. I want to find someone that will take what I write (a scene or chapter at a time) and basically edit/rewrite it as they see fit. Where would I even begin to find someone like that?

    1. admin Post author

      As you have a talent for writing and you want to write fantasy, you’ll probably find a good editor more useful than a ghostwriter. Personally, I never let an editor rewrite as they see fit. I find it works better if they tell me what they think is wrong and I fix it. But many editors are happy to rewrite if you want them too.

  7. Alex

    I have been living a true life story similar to the book/movie Gone Girl. I have documented everything in a journal and am currently at 312 pages. It is in the form of a journal and other documentation, including letters, texts, and Facebook messages. Would a ghost writer be able to convert to a novel?

  8. Lernice Parker

    Hi, Im a new writer and Im just writing as if I am writing to a friend but I have had lots of experiences which Id like to share with the world. Where do you find ghost writers?

    x

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