What’s a would-be author to do? Does he or she just Google “ghostwriter” or “book collaborator” or similar soundbites? Sure. As in all things, a personal introduction is best. But just as the family or friends blind date has gone the way of the dinosaur, (as Match.com and eHarmony.com, Tinder and other online dating sites demonstrate) more people are entrusting their books to strangers they meet online hopefully researching them well, and hoping for the best.
I suggest you talk to all potential scribes and do a deep interview, tell that person what you’re up to, and see what kind of feedback you get. Have them send you their books, or buy and actually read them. Ask for a list of references and call those. Ask their clients questions such as: Did your writer bring your project in on time and within budget? Were there any surprises, good or bad? How was he or she to work with? How well did your book do for you? How much did the writer charge? Yes, ghostwriters are expensive, though their prices can vary depending on whether you want. Here are a few tips for managing your relationship with your ghostwriter: Set definite timelines, and be the squeaky wheel. Writers—and I am one—can be, shall we say, distracted. They may have multiple projects. Nobody wants to be a pest, but wouldn’t you rather be a bit annoying and get your manuscript done on time?
Play an active role in the research and writing process. You will have homework assignments to complete drafts or chapters to read and approve, possibly with corrections. Much of the end result depends on the quality of your engagement with these tasks.
Be specific with your objections. If you don’t like something the writer shows you, instead of just saying, “Ugh, I hate it,” tell the writer why. The more specific your feedback and criticism, the better your ghost will be able to come back to you with a new improved version of that chapter and eventually of the entire manuscript. At times my first draft falls short, but with feedback, my “master edit” carries the day, and the client is pleased with the end result—all that matters in the long run. There’s a reason a first draft is called a “rough” draft.
Cut your losses. If your ghostwriter is Ms. or Mr. Wrong, to hell with the first check, move on to another collaborator. As with dating, you don’t always know who’s absolutely right until you’ve gone a ways down the road with that person. Don’t throw good money or time after bad.
Let’s recap: To find a ghostwriter, look online, ask around, and even call other writers of a literary agent if you know one, for recommendations. Ask anyone you know that may have worked with a ghostwriter or editor for their contracts. You can also pick up a book you love and look at the acknowledgements to find a collaborator who may or may not be credited as a coauthor on the book cover. You can also put your request online in websites like LinkedIn and Facebook. Describe your book and what qualifications you’re looking for in a writer. There are literally thousands of ghostwriters, editors, other authors and journalists eager to work with someone like you. Like many of life endeavors these days, it’s all about researching and networking till you find that “match.” If you need more suggestions, contact me.