How to Hire a Ghostwriter
BY: DAVID LEONHARDT ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2015
But for most of your writing projects, including letters, web content, press releases, manuals and brochures, it is worth hiring a professional ghostwriter. A ghostwriter is simply a person who does the writing without signing his name.
He does the work.
He takes the pay.
He does not take the credit.
If your business is big enough, you can keep a writer on staff. But most small businesses, such as garages, restaurants, stores and consultancies, can't afford their own in-house writer, so they need to hire a ghostwriter.
So how do you hire a ghostwriter?
FIRST: The first step is to be organized. Put down in words exactly what you need.
How long does the writing have to be? At very least, set a minimum and maximum number of words so that both you and the ghostwriter have an estimated range of how much work is involved.
What information do you want included? If you can organize it into lists for long material (like a booklet, a book or a white paper), or even just one set of bullet points for something short (like a press release, a letter, a speech or a brochure), that is perfect. Even if you just ramble on for a few paragraphs, the key is that you put down exactly what you want included.
How will this be used? Make sure you have a plan that you can share with the ghostwriter. He needs to know if the brochure will be part of something bigger at a trade show, or just a stand-alone at hotel tourist pamphlet racks. He needs to know who the audience is for the article, where it will be published and what the goal is of publishing the article.
Will there be research involved? If so, give very careful thought to what research is needed. Research can be a "bottomless pit" of work, and the writer will need to have it quantified.
SECOND: Find a good ghostwriter. The most important thing is to make sure the writer can actually write well. Yes, I know. That's a du-uh moment. Ask for samples.
It's not critical that the ghostwriter has written in your niche before, but it is important that they can write in the style you want. That might be highly formal and official or fairly casual, maybe even humorous. But if the ghostwriter can show you only samples of poetry, give him a pass.
If they have not written in your niche before, make sure that they are capable of writing across multiple niches. If you need a white paper written on automotive lubricants, don't hire somebody who has written only in the health care sector, because you have no idea if he can handle a new topic area. However, if the ghostwriter has covered pet care, garden furniture, pharmaceuticals, credit cards, real estate, wind turbines, Christmas decorations and architecture, chances are he'll jump right into automotive lubricants and swim around like he's always been in them.
The one caveat to this is that if you have a project that you want written in a storytelling format, make sure the writer has done this before and that he can show samples. It is harder for a business writer to adapt to humor or storytelling than for a creative writer to adapt to business writing.
THIRD: Make sure that you will own the work. Even just get an email from the ghostwriter making it clear that he forfeits all writes to the "work for hire" as soon as the account is settled. In the case of a significant work, such as a book or screenplay, we always prepare full contracts for our clients with a complete contract that includes the following clauses:
The Draft and any derivation thereof will be copyrighted in the name of [NAME].
The Client will be solely responsible for any copyright registration of the Draft and any derivation thereof, including final finished product.
THGM or its subcontractors, consultants, or collaborators are not entitled to any credit as the writer of this book. All rights such as copyright, movie rights, electronic rights, overseas rights, serializations, subsequent similar works, exploitations, or rights not now known or hereinafter created, belong solely to Client. THGM and any subcontractors or collaborators shall remain anonymous except as expressly mentioned herein.
FOURTH: Work with the ghostwriter, not against him. That means make sure he fully understands what you want. I posted a list of writing terms to help communicate special aspects, such as bibliography or bylines.
That means feed him whatever information he needs and provide timely feedback when he asks questions.
That means provide him with whatever research he'll need, unless you have negotiated also for him to conduct the research. But in many cases, you will have access to information related to your industry that he would not even know exists, never mind where to look for it.
That especially means don't make huge changes part way through. It will frustrate the ghostwriter. It might create a lot more work, which might involve charging you more. And it will most likely mean a poorer, more disjointed product.
And if you plan to create "scope creep" in one hand, make sure there are funds to pay for it in the other hand.
These are reasons why it is so important to think out the project before approaching a ghostwriter. While the repercussions of changing your mind or adding new elements part-way are not as dire with writing as with, say, open heart surgery or chemical weapons containment, you really don't want the frustration that comes from creating disorganization in you project.
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