So you're excited to get a book written either to promote your business or your ideas, or to introduce the next great novel to the world. Only ... you're not a writer and you know it. Or you just don't have the time. You know what you want to say, at least on some level, and you want someone helping you to get it down on paper.
You're looking for a ghostwriter.
But how, oh how, do you get the right person on the job? Here are my tips for finding the right ghostwriter for your next book project:
1) Determine the purpose and value of your project.
Doing this first helps you determine what kind of writer you really need. The purpose tells you what kind of knowledge the writer needs to have, or at least what he'll need to wrap his brain around. Hopefully he's even passionate about the topic and/or has experience with it.
For instance, if you're promoting your business with a book, is he experienced with business? More specifically, with your FIELD of business?
If you're promoting an idea, does he agree with that idea? Does he know about it already? Does he have a background so he knows the language that's typically used? Does he know the arguments for and against it?
If you're writing a novel, has he written any in that genre?
Once you know the value, then you know what you can afford to spend. If you're just hoping it will help to land another project or two over time and it's only worth a couple thousand dollars at most to you, set your budget. If you can't get it done for what it's worth to you, don't do it. Or look for alternatives. A short e-book is far more affordable than a full-length book. You can also consider an autoresponder series (e-mails that get sent automatically to prospects, offering them valuable content as well as some level of promotion), a video, etc.
2) Determine your other needs.
You may only need someone who can put your information or story together because you already have a handle on publishing the book (physically and/or electronically), marketing it, or pitching it to agents. On the other hand, maybe you need someone who can guide you on all these extra points so he really becomes a publishing partner. If you want your writer to have these extra skills, make sure to include these points in your search.
3) Google "ghostwriters," go to freelance bidding sites, or check me out.
Then start the real work of matching people people based on the purpose and value of your project, as well as your additional needs. Outline your project along with your budget (so you're not wasting your time or theirs) and ask prospective writers to give you a sense of their experience with its topic. Remember that most CANNOT list the projects they've worked on. Obviously some may lie about it. But if it's a non-fiction topic you know well, you'll probably be able to see the ones who really understand.
If it's fiction ... well, you might want a good liar. But really, you want good writing. If you don't know how to assess good writing from bad, get someone YOU trust to look over writing samples. (If you're not looking to me as one of your writers, I will also assess writing samples for a nominal fee. Just contact me to discuss.)
Once you narrow the field down to 2-3 writers, check out their writing online where you can verify that they have done the writing ... just to make sure they write well and appear professional at every turn. When you feel good about them, spend a little time talking by phone or at least e-mail. Get a sense of personality. This is someone who will be putting YOUR ideas to paper. You'll want to enjoy the process as much as possible.
4) Remember what rates really mean.
A rate is someone's salary, and if you're not paying someone well enough to make a living, she'll have to be doing other things as well ... and your project may linger. The ghostwriter might not be as responsive as you like in this case, and might even resent the project once she has landed it. So make sure you recognize and pay for the value you expect to receive.
Still, a high rate doesn't mean a better writer. It just means one that costs more. It's possible for an experienced pro to cost and lot and not be that good; or for a rookie to work for very little to build up credentials even though he has a natural talent for writing.
This is why, in step #3, you've assessed the person's knowledge, skills, and personality as well as you can. If more than one ghostwriter is qualified for your project and they're all within your budget, THEN AND ONLY THEN should you decide based on price (if your intuition isn't pulling you to either one).
One small tip, and this is an opinion: someone who's more philosophical will probably be able to make your writing more interesting, because he can connect the dots between concepts, drawing analogies and telling stories in a way that a literalist cannot. He will be able to bring wisdom into a topic that resonates better with the humanity that's at least in most of us.
5) Make sure you both sign a ghostwriting contract.
Don't skip this step, as it protects both parties. It lets everyone know what's expected of them, from timelines for drafts to timelines for YOUR feedback (so revisions can be made and the work can continue). It spells out payments, when they're made, and it provides penalties for work not done on time. Importantly, it lets everyone know how they can back out if needed, as well as what happens if someone becomes unable to continue the project (you ran out of money, they got sick, etc.).
At the end of the day, all of these tips really aim at one thing: to know the needs of both parties and to make sure they can both fulfill those needs. This is the key to everyone being happy and successful with the ghostwriting arrangement, and is key to you now heading out and finding the ghostwriter that's right for you.