hiring

5 Questions to Ask Your Ghostwriter

So, you’re thinking about hiring a ghostwriter. Whether you go with Cider Spoon Stories or any other company/individual, there are five things you’ll want to ask your prospective hire.

1. What’s your experience?

At time of writing, Jess has ghostwritten dozens of memoirs, two hands’ worth of self-help/business books, six novels (her own just came out from Cinestate), and as many screenplays. She’s also edited more than that in each category. With a masters of fine arts degree in creative writing, she’s taught writing at the university and community levels and has run Cider Spoon Stories full-time since December 2014.

Bottom line: Make sure the person has at least some experience in the field. If you’re their first client (and thus, their grand experiment), don’t be afraid to ask that the price reflects entry-level work. By the same token, don’t ask a ghostwriter with many years’ experience to lower his/her pricing. Most of us have more clients than we can take on as it is, and you’ll end up being kindly dismissed.

2. How do you charge?

Any ghostwriter worth her salt will charge by the project or the word count—not the page. Why? Page count means literally nothing in this field, as there are far too many variables. What’s a page? 8.5”x11” or 6”x9”? Times New Roman or Arial? 11 pt font or 12? Single or double spacing? Microsoft Word or Apple Pages? Raw file or laid out text?

Bottom line: Anyone who quotes you by the page will screw you, or screw themselves, and someone will end up unhappy. Word count, on the other hand, is unarguable—it is what it is. Project pricing may be more fair for longer-term relationships.

3. How long will it take?

Jess Hagemann, Austin-based ghostwriter and editor.

Jess Hagemann, Austin-based ghostwriter and editor.

Jess schedules her clients for 6-12 months out, so everyone can plan accordingly. Once we start, it takes 3-6 months to write, edit, polish, lay out, and print your book. The exact timeline depends on book length and specs. Do you want a 5,000-word digital ebook, no printing? That won’t take more than a month. A 75,000-word memoir? Now we’re talking closer to 9 months when all is said and done.

Bottom line: This goes hand-in-hand with experience, as more experienced ghostwriters will be able to tell you with more accuracy how long your proposed project should take depending on factors like book length and how fancy/involved your final (printed) product will be.

4. Who owns the rights?

At Cider Spoon Stories, the copyright remains 100% in your name at all times. If you go on to sell hundreds of copies of your self-published book, or strike a deal with a commercial publisher, you keep every penny of the proceeds. The flip side is that Jess always gets her fee upfront (because the amount of work she puts in doesn’t change either way) and never writes on commission or for royalties.

Bottom line: Every ghostwriter has a different business model. Think about what will work best for you according to your goals for the book.

5. Who else is involved?

Jess is a writer. It’s what she loves most and she’s good at it. She has less experience in (and less love for) graphic design and printing—so she subcontracts those parts of your project to trusted professionals. If those are your area of expertise, then you can even do them yourself! She’ll get you the file types you need to preserve any formatting in the translation to print.

Bottom line: Confidentiality—and a great product—are key in ghostwriting. Make sure your contract reflects that, and that the business you hire values integrity and hard work in its primary employees and subcontractors.