Saturday, November 21, 2009

How to Interview a Ghostwriter

Before most authors hire me, they want to talk to me over the phone. This, I think, is good protocol. After all, hiring a ghostwriter is a huge investment of time and money. It takes at least a few months and much more than a few thousand dollars to get a book written for you. You want to go into the experience knowing you’ve hired the right person.

It’s perhaps not quite as important as making sure you’ve hired the right cardiac surgeon, but it’s close. It’s definitely up there with hiring the right divorce lawyer or investment banker.

Yet, invariably, I find that I end up interviewing the authors during these calls, rather than them interviewing me. Usually the author tells me all about the project and about him or herself. I ask a lot of questions because I have a lot of questions. (More on those questions in an upcoming post).

Then a half hour or so later, I can tell that the author likes me a lot—but knows absolutely nothing about me. I know this because I’ve said little to nothing about myself. So I ask, “Is there anything you want to know about me?” Usually the author asks something innocuous, like whether I tape and transcribe my interviews.

I can only assume that most authors don’t know what to ask. That’s why I came up with this list of questions. If I were going to hire a ghostwriter, this is what I would want to know:

1. How will you capture my voice?

2. Have you ever missed a book deadline? If so, why?

3. How much time will I have to devote to this project? Will you do all of the heavy lifting, or should I be more involved?

4. How will you gather information for the book? (Note: if it’s a health book, I would ask, “Will you find the studies you cite, or do I need to supply them for you?”)

5. My agent/editor is telling me that my book/book proposal needs to be highly commercial. What does that mean and can you help me do that?

6. How do you work with authors to develop their unique message, program or hook?

7. How will you ensure that I am happy with the final product?

8. How do you usually work with authors? What generally happens?

9. How long does it take you to write a book?

10. What unique strengths do you bring to the table that other writers lack?

11. Why should I hire you over some other writer?

12. (If applicable) Other writers charge less than you do. Why should I pay more for your services?

13. How did you get into this anyway?

Coming soon: How to interview an author.

1 comment:

  1. I especially like No. 7. It's critical at this early stage that both client and ghostwriter agree on what "happy" is (in this context, of course) and what everyone is willing to do to achieve said happiness. What are the parameters of success for this project? Great question.