In the age of the internet, it can seem easier than ever to find people to help with… almost anything! From laundry, to taxis, and even writing your life story, memoir or autobiography. Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing a ghostwriter for your book, it’s all too easy to make a costly mistake – especially if you are a relative newcomer.
When you’re investing in something as important as your own story, you don’t want to choose the wrong person: you could find you have to abandon the project halfway through and start again; or worse, that you get the finished product, and it bears no resemblance to what you were hoping for.
Story Terrace removes this worry by carefully vetting our pool of talented professional ghostwriters. We screen applications from writers every day – which means we’ve seen it all! Take it from us – these are 10 mistakes you should NEVER make when choosing a ghostwriter:
1. Not checking their published work
Is your writer published? Who by? A professional writer worth their salt should have some published work. If an editor won’t take a chance on them, why should you? The one exception may be a recent graduate from a prestigious literature, journalism or creative writing course – these writers may be highly talented despite a relative lack of published material.
2. Not asking for a reference, getting a trusted recommendation, or reading reviews!
So you’ve found a ‘writer’ online. But they could be anyone! You need to do your research or rely on a recommendation you can trust. Can they provide a reference from a previous client or employer? Have they been reviewed anywhere on the internet? Best of all – have they been recommended by an expert company (like Story Terrace!) that has worked with them in the past?
3. You’re not just choosing a writer – you’re choosing a ghostwriter
Ghostwriting a biography, memoir or life story is a specialised skill. Ideally, you’ll be choosing a ghostwriter who has ghostwritten before. If not, you need to make sure that they have some experience as an interviewer. You also need to make sure they can lay their ego at the door – this is your book, and it needs to be written the way you want it.
4. Not reading a relevant writing sample
Ask your writer for a relevant writing sample beforehand – something biographical or autobiographical. That way you can get a sense of his or her writing style when it comes to a project like your own.
5. No face to face interviews
Whether you’re talking to a company or an individual, you must make sure you have the option to be interviewed by your writer in person. First – this makes a huge difference to the quality of the interview experience, which will ultimately shape the content of your book. Second – you want to be sure the person you’re talking to is actually the person who will write the book. Some companies use cheap labour to perform the interviews or to write up the text. You don’t want your life story to be outsourced! After all, how can someone write your story if they’ve never met you?
Small hint: If your writer doesn’t have the time to meet you in person, you should hire someone else.
6. No editor or editing process
You might think a good writer is all you need to write a book. Not so: all journalists and authors rely on editors to get their work into shape. You would be surprised how many writers (especially old-school journalists) actually have appalling spelling and grammar! Writers also rely on editorial staff to enforce deadlines and organise all aspects of production from design to printing. Unless you want to do all of that yourself, you need an editor.
7. Drafts: Failing to find out if, when, and how often you can request changes
It’s your story, so you should be able to request changes at specified points in the process. Some kind of redrafting is usually taken for granted – but you’ll want to find out when in the process you can request changes.
8. Not setting important deadlines up front
Communication is key. Be clear about when you want your book to be finished from the beginning – and find out what will be required from you to stick to that schedule. If you need to give your input at a certain stage, make sure you put it in your diary so you don’t become the roadblock in the process! That way you can easily avoid it taking longer than initially discussed.
9. Not knowing the full cost of producing your book
You may have received a quote for writing your book. But do you know the full cost of your project, including editing, proofreading, design, printing, and delivery? It’s tempting to just look at the fee your writer is proposing, and just ignore what you will then need to do to actually produce a book you’re proud of – don’t do it! (Hint: with Story Terrace, this is all included in the price!).
10. False Promises: Don’t believe you’re going to get rich quick by publishing your book
If you want to share your story, that’s fantastic. But watch out for red flags: some writers or companies may try to show off by claiming they have ‘extensive contacts’ in big city publishing houses – or by showing amazing ‘case studies’ of previous customers who apparently have best sellers. The truth of the matter is that these contacts will not help writing your book; and for most people, the fantasy of making a lot of money from their story is just that – a fantasy. If you’re serious about recording your experiences, your ghostwriter’s experience and qualifications are more important. Don’t get distracted!
If these sound like problems you would rather avoid – just contact us, we will be able to recommend a ghostwriter you can trust.
By Büsra Nur Yürür