14 Jul 2020

14 Questions You Should Ask Your Ghostwriter


Hiring a ghostwriter is a great move that can help you get your book, blog, social media posts, or other writing done without doing the work yourself. But how do you find one?

There are many places to find ghostwriters:

  • Locally in your area
  • Online
  • So-called content mills such as Upwork and Contently
  • LinkedIn and Facebook

Once you find a ghost, it is essential that you ask pertinent questions to determine if the ghostwriter is appropriate to help you fulfill your requirements. You will be working closely with the writer so you want someone you can work with. Also, you want to receive quality work from them that is on time and within budget.

Checking references can only go so far because one of the problems with ghostwriting is they usually cannot give you samples of their ghostwritten works. They often work under nondisclosure; that’s the nature of the ghostwriting business. Their clients often don’t want people to know that they used a ghostwriter, so they’re hesitant about receiving contacts from others lest their secret gets out.

Because of this, the interview of your ghostwriter is of critical importance. You should receive a free consultation to talk about your project, what you want, how the ghostwriter operates, time frames, cost, and so forth.

The rest of this article goes over 14 questions that you should ask while you’re interviewing a ghostwriter.

1. Have Your Books (Ghostwritten or Otherwise) Been Published?

The whole point of writing a book is to get it published so they can be seen by an audience. Many writers started writing a book or story but never finished; something came up and stopped them or slowed them down. In that case, no one ever gets to read the fruits of their labor.

This happens with ghostwriters as well. Sometimes the client loses interest in the project – this is actually a fairly common occurrence. In one of my projects, the client got a job at a major company and became too busy to finish. Another client was gung ho on getting it done quickly, but at 25%  suddenly found himself unemployed and unable to afford any more work.

There are instances when a client does complete the book but decides not to continue with publication. The most obvious condition is a client who passes away after the book has been delivered. Other times the book is delivered, and the client can’t find a traditional publisher and doesn’t want to self-publish. There are many other reasons why a book may be completed but not published.

Sometimes the ghostwriter bails on the project. This might be because the scope of work changed and the client was unwilling to pay more money, or the client was hostile or created a harsh environment for the ghostwriter.

The point is that books don’t always get finished for various reasons. Your ghostwriter certainly won’t get into those details, but it should be expected that they’ve completed a few books to the point where they were published – either traditionally or self-published.

A ghostwriter who hasn’t completed and published books, either their own or for their client, hasn’t really brought a book project to completion. They may have delivered books to their client, but the real test is being published in some form.

This doesn’t mean you should reject a ghostwriter who hasn’t published out of hand. It’s simply a yellow flag, a caution, and should be one factor of the overall decision as to whether or not to proceed with that writer.

Contact The Writing King to Discuss Ghostwriting Your Book or Blog TODAY!

2. Can You Send Samples of Your Work?

Your ghostwriter should be able to send you samples of their work. They often can’t send you actual ghostwritten work because they’ve signed nondisclosure agreements with their clients. Instead, they should be able to send you copies of books that they’ve written and published under their own name or pseudonyms, or sanitized chapters from ghostwritten works. By sanitized I mean that the material has been changed so that it is not identifiable.

These samples should show different styles of writing. When I’m asked to send my portfolio, I include a couple of pages each of: fiction, nonfiction, technical, biographical, and so on. Every once in a while, I modify the portfolio to add new samples.

Look over their samples to determine if they all read more or less the same or if they feel like they were written with different voices or viewpoints. This is important because a ghostwriter needs to be able to write using your voice and your viewpoint to communicate your story and your ideas. In other words, the job of the ghostwriter is not to write their book, but to write YOUR book.

If they published books on Amazon or other platforms, you can purchase them or obtain free copies from the ghostwriter. I recommend purchasing copies for yourself as it shows support for your potential ghostwriter.

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3. What Steps Are Involved In Writing and Publishing a Book?

Writing a book is more than just a writing project. Writers don’t just sit down and type away until the book is done.

To begin, they have to interview you to find out what you want, your expectations, and your goals. Research may need to be done, especially for nonfiction or technical books.

The project must also be managed. Virtually all projects have a timeframe, a budget and milestones that need to be met from time to time. Your ghostwriter needs to be able to track time to ensure that billing is accurate, ensure that the project remains on schedule and keep you informed of the progress.

Additionally, they must manage you, the client, and ensure that your needs are met during the writing process. Sometimes clients like to be informed every day of what was accomplished during that day; others don’t want to be bothered until the book has been completed or a milestone has been met. Clients may want to review and revise what you’ve done, and that process needs to be managed. Clients tend to get busy and forgetful, and it’s important to keep them on track so that they meet their responsibilities for the project as well.

A few of the steps in writing and publishing a book are listed below:

  • Initial interview to get your goals and objectives
  • interviews to get the information from you
  • Research
  • Writing the book
  • Sending it to you for review
  • Ensuring you return the reviewed copy
  • Working with you for any changes in scope and adjusting cost and deliverables as well as the timeframe if needed
  • Working with an editor if needed
  • Getting the book proofread
  • Helping come up with a cover
  • Helping to find the title, subtitle and book description
  • Publishing the book if it is self-published
  • Helping with promotional activities such as blogging and posting to social media

This is just an overview of some of the tasks that occurred during the book writing and publishing process. The ghostwriter may not be responsible for all of these activities, but they should be able to help you with them so that you can smoothly publish and promote your book.

Contact The Writing King TODAY to Discuss Ghostwriting Your Book or Blog!

4. Will The Writing, Or Anything Else, Be Outsourced?

Sometimes ghostwriters will outsource some or all of the project. Outsourcing means to subcontract the work to someone else.

I remember one instance of a ghostwriter who didn’t know how to write. He came up with the idea of setting up a ghostwriting arbitrage service without telling his clients. In other words, he found other people to do the writing for him. He would’ve gotten away with it except that he hired substandard writers from a content mill (a site such as Contently or eLance where services can be found at an extremely cheap rate). The customer became suspicious because the writing was of poor quality, and when confronted the ghostwriter admitted what he was doing.

While the example above is clearly unethical, subcontracting to others is not always an issue. There are many tasks in a writing project that can and should be subcontracted or outsourced:

  • Proofreading
  • Editing
  • Cover artist
  • Illustrator
  • Indexer
  • Depending on the subject, researchers
  • Marketing
  • Promotion
  • Publishing
  • Marketing and promotion

The key point is ghostwriters must be upfront with their clients about their use of outsourced resources.

Schedule your FREE consultation TODAY To Get Started On Your Book Project!

5. Does Your Contract Include a Non-Disclosure Agreement?

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The decision to disclose that the book was ghostwritten belongs with the client. Ethically, regardless of any contractual agreement, a ghostwriter should treat the business relationship with utmost confidentiality.

It is traditional to include a nondisclosure agreement in the ghostwriters Statement of Work or contract. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated; In fact, a simple nondisclosure is often best.

If the contract or statement of work does not include a nondisclosure agreement, then ensure that one is signed separately. You can use one that is provided by your ghostwriter, if they have one, or supply one of your own. If you use their non-disclosure be sure to review it carefully.

Do Not Delay! Contact The Writing King TODAY!

6. Do You Understand The Legal Issues Regarding My Book?

Writing a book can have many legal ramifications, depending upon the subject matter and how it’s written. Nonfiction books must be factual, well cited and avoid plagiarism. Even fiction can run into legal issues by slandering people who are recognizable. Lawsuits are common in memoirs because people may be presented in a negative light.

Low-end and inexperienced ghostwriters are generally unaware of the legalities introduced by publishing a book. I remember one ghostwriter who took on a contract to write a book for a person who had been in prison. The idea was to expose everyone who had a hand in putting him behind bars, and to go into detail about all of their negative qualities. In the book, he exposed a woman as a prostitute, a man as a drug dealer, another as a pimp, and a fourth as a smuggler. Needless to say, there were a large number of legal liability issues introduced by the book’s publication, and the author (not the ghostwriter) faced several lawsuits from people who had been slandered. The ghostwriter didn’t even change the names!

Experienced ghostwriters charge higher rates for good reason; because they’ve been at it long enough to learn the ropes. They probably have gained a better understanding of the legalities associated with publishing a book.

Regardless of the experience of your ghostwriter, you would be wise to engage the services of a lawyer specialized in these matters to get advice on the legalities of what you can and can’t write about.

Contact The Writing King TODAY to Discuss Ghostwriting Your Book or Blog!

7. Do You Understand The Subject Matter?

It’s common that a ghostwriter will not be well versed in the subject matter of your book. This should not be a cause for alarm, as competent ghostwriters understand how to perform basic research. You can expect the cost of research to be part of the quote provided by the ghostwriter. Experienced ghostwriters will include a clause limiting the number of hours that can be used for research, with a rate specified if that amount is exceeded.

In some cases, you, the client, will serve as the subject matter expert for the book. This is especially true of highly specialized or technical works. In this case, your ghostwriter will need to interview you to get the information about the subject.

Schedule your FREE consultation TODAY To Get Started On Your Book Project!

8. Do You Have a Contract?

I’m consistently amazed by ghostwriters, and other business people, who do business without contracts. I’ve seen it happen over and over, and the relationships that these businesses have with their clients typically devolves into a mess relatively quickly. No one is satisfied because the terms of the agreement are not clearly understood by both parties.

The purpose of a contract, or statement of work, is to define the agreement in such a way that both parties understand what’s expected, what is to be delivered, and what happens under various conditions such as termination. Without a contract, there really is no agreement, which is why the result is frequently anger and bitterness.

When you pick a ghostwriter, they should send you a contract customized. This should explain what’s expected to be delivered, the timeframe, the costs, payment terms, arbitration (if that’s what’s needed), nondisclosure, and how the contract can be terminated. Other terms may be included as well.

In my opinion, the best contracts tend to be relatively short and to the point. Long, rambling volumes of legalese tend to just confuse everyone and worked to protect one party to the disadvantage of the other. I found this is especially true of nondisclosure agreements that are overly complicated.

If you’re ghostwriter doesn’t supply you with a decent contract that is fair and equitable to both parties, then find another ghostwriter.

Have Questions? Contact The Writing King TODAY to get them answered!

9. What Is The Rate For Your Work?

Obviously, you want to know how much you’re going to be charged to write your book or other work. On the other hand, ghostwriters cannot possibly give you a valid price until they understand you need.

Most professionals will give you a short consultation at no charge to gather the information needed to give you a quote. How can a ghostwriter can give you a price without interviewing you to get an understanding of what you need?

Pricing is always a sensitive area. The ghostwriter obviously wants to be paid fairly for the work being done. Most clients want to get the best price possible. All of that is understandable.

A low rate should be taken as a red flag or warning sign. Writing a book is not easy, especially when you consider that this usually involves interviews, research, editing, proofreading, revising, revising yet again, and then still more revisions after it’s been reviewed by somebody else.

Settle on a price that is fair and equitable to all parties involved.

Wondering About The Price? The Writing King TODAY To Find Out!

10. How Is The Rate Calculated?

Talk to your ghostwriter about what’s involved in writing your book, so that you understand how the cost is calculated.

Some questions about rates that you could ask include:

  • Is the ghostwriter charging by the word, by the hour, or by the page?
  • What is the rate?
  • Do they charge for Interviews?
  • Do they charge for research?
  • What about expenses? How are those charges calculated?
  • What happens if you decide to add a few chapters to the book – how are those charges calculated?
  • What could cause the price to go up or down during the course of the contract?

Make sure you understand everything related to rates and charges, and most importantly, ensure that any agreements, orally or otherwise, are recorded in the contract. Remember, if it’s not written down, it isn’t true.

Contact The Writing King TODAY  to Discuss Ghostwriting Your Book or Blog!

11. What Research Will You Do?

Believe it or not, there are no rules for ghostwriting. There’s no union, no training is required, there are no standards, and there’s very little coordination between different ghostwriters. With many occupations you’ll find a certificate hanging on a wall or listed on the website, but that’s not true for ghostwriting.

There are a few ghostwriting certifications, but those don’t really mean anything. Sure, the ghostwriter might have gone through a few classes about the subject, but what does that really mean? It’s not like hiring a doctor, a lawyer or seeing a pharmacist, where there are clearly defined standards, a common curriculum and levels of certifications. Ghostwriting classes are typically given by a writer or teacher based on their own experiences and knowledge.

One of the big problems with these kinds of classes is they focus on writing and are skimpy in the areas of managing a successful ghostwriting project. As I said before in this article, ghostwriters must do much more than just write – they are project managers, interviewers, researchers, client coordinators, editors, proofreaders, outliners, and other specialties depending upon the project.

Ghostwriting is different than normal writing in that a writer is taking your thoughts and ideas and creating a new document or book in your voice or point of view. Many writers don’t understand this; they become ghostwriters as a way to make money because they believe that it’s not difficult to write for someone else. In actuality, it’s very challenging to write a novel or a book pretending to be another, which is essentially what a ghostwriter has to be able to do.

Schedule your FREE consultation TODAY To Get Started On Your Book Project!

12. Are You Fluent In The Language Of My Book?

Be cautious about writers that are not fluent in the language in which your book is to be written.

There’s nothing wrong with hiring people of other cultures or countries. In fact, doing so can greatly reduce costs and can be a very effective way of getting work completed.

However, it is important that the person you hire be competent in the language of your book. Otherwise, they’re going to make grammar and spelling errors that will need to be cleaned up in the editing and proofreading stages of your project.

On the other hand, this increases the pool of writers that are available. Just be aware that you’re going to have to spend extra time ensuring the book reads well. If you go this route, you’ll probably need to hire an editor to cleanup the book.

Contact The Writing King TODAY  to Discuss Ghostwriting Your Book or Blog!

13. Do You Offer a Discounted Rate To Be Listed On The Cover?

You have the option to list the  ghostwriter as a contributor to the book; they could be listed as a co-author, as a “writer and ghostwriter”, or in any number of other ways. For example, I’m listed on some of my ghostwritten works on the copyright page as a writing coach and as an editor.

The advantage of being listed on the cover should be obvious. The ghostwriter can then include that book in their portfolio.

You might be able to negotiate a discounted rate for putting the ghostwriter on the cover.

If you don’t want to do that but still want to give your ghostwriter some credit, include their name on the copyright page or acknowledgement section.

There Is No Time Like The Present! Contact The Writing King TODAY!

14. What Happens For Out-Of-Scope Tasks?

Projects always change from their original design. Books are no different. A book may become longer than anticipated, and in some instances may become shorter. As your book is written, you might decide to add another chapter, break one chapter up into two longer ones, or do more interviews.

Some of the common reasons why the scope of a project can change include:

  • The client decides that there’s more to be said.
  • As interviews are performed, additional information is discovered.
  • The research uncovers other areas that need to be included.
  • The client remembers additional details.
  • Chapter simply are longer than expected.

I recently performed a ghostwriting project that was contracted at 5,000 words per chapter for two chapters. By the time the chapters were finished, they were each on the order of 20,000 words. This happened because the client came to the conclusion that more words were necessary to fully document what he wanted to say. That word count was obviously an addition to the scope, and the client and I negotiated a higher rate.

Contact The Writing King TODAY  to Discuss Ghostwriting Your Book or Blog!

How do you find a good ghostwriter?

All right, given everything that we’ve talked about in this article, how do you find a good ghostwriter? Is there even such a thing or should you give up on the idea? Is it so difficult to find a writer of this nature that you should even try?

There are many good ghostwriters who will do an excellent job creating a book that you will be proud of with your name on the cover.

But how do you know?

First off, treat them like professionals and be willing to pay them a good rate. Don’t look for a cheap ghostwriter – if you insist on hiring a ghostwriter at the low-end of cost, you’re more-then-likely going to get poor quality, and it’s possible your project may not be completed at all. You should expect to pay upwards of $20,000 for a ghostwritten book of between 20,000 and 30,000 words.

Second, get samples of their work. If they can’t show you work that they’ve done for their customers, insist on being able to see things they’ve published under their own name. Look for published works as samples – even self-published books will work.

Interview your prospective ghost writer, asking some of the questions outlined in this article. Make sure they understand not just how to write, but how to manage a project as well as all the other skills needed to deliver a successful, completed book.

Insist on a well-written, equitable contract (which may be called a statement of work). The contract should include payment terms, contract amount, termination clause, an indemnity clause, an arbitration clause, and an outline of the overall project with deliverables.

Virtually all ghostwriters will ask for a nonrefundable deposit in advance of beginning work. The amount of this should not exceed 25% of the project. Split the remaining amount up into payments, and include an option for either party to terminate at any point. If the project is terminated, you won’t get a refund but at least you won’t be on the hook for any additional money. Why continue a project where things aren’t working out?

Any competent ghostwriter will be willing to give you an initial consultation at no cost to discuss your book. Take as much time as you need to go over your goals, limitations, and anything else that’s on your mind. Ask lots of questions and listen to the answers. The ghostwriter should be confident in their abilities without being arrogant, rude or cocky.

Given all that, you’ll be able to find a good ghostwriter who will deliver you an excellent book of high quality.

Richard Lowe Jr

Richard Lowe Jr

Owner and Senior Writing at The Writing King
Richard is the Owner and Senior Writer for The Writing King, a bestselling author, and ghostwriter. He's written and published 63 books, ghostwritten 40+ books, as well as hundreds of blog articles.
Richard Lowe Jr


Professional Ghostwriter, author and writing coach
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Francine Brevetti

Great questions, but I cringe at the first. I have had several clients. some of whom have finished their books and some not None has published for various reasons. So I cannot answer that truthfully.

Biplab Mahanta

Ghostwriting jobs are the highest paid writing jobs available on the internet. The ghostwriting might be a perfect job for the people who want to earn money from home. Thanks for the excellent writing.

Erik van Mechelen

Hi Richard, I really appreciate the way you’ve shared your expertise, particularly on pricing and also on research and out-of-scope tasks.

I’ll be working several of these ideas into my next contract.

Many thanks!

Kathleen L.

Brilliant ideas to ask before hiring a ghostwriter. Thanks writing this article.

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