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5 Things To Know Before Hiring a Ghostwriter From a Freelance Website

In my last post, I talked about knowing what kind of editor you need before hiring from one of the many freelance platforms available on the Internet. In this one, I want to look at choosing ghostwriters. Since I’ve edited a lot of manuscripts written by ghostwriters on said platforms, I’ve seen some subpar material. Sadly, as a former writer-in-residence, my middle school students wrote better prose than some of the freelance ghostwriters I’ve read.

Let me start by reminding you that anyone, anyone, can set up an account on these sites and present themselves as a ghostwriter or editor. Yes, the sites usually rank their freelancers or score them in some way that tells you something about their qualifications, but many seem to ignore this and go for the cheapest writer they can find. I had a client give up on her dream of having a book written by a ghostwriter after I edited the first draft. The manuscript was nothing close to what she’d requested (POV, main character, genre.) The client even told me she was getting out of it because she’d already spent too much money and still had nothing to show for it.

So, how does a person find a good ghostwriter with all of this in mind? You might think that simply asking for a sample of their writing would do. I, myself, just got a gig this week by sharing three chapters from my current WIP. Unfortunately, there are scammers on these sites, so there’s no guarantee the sample you get isn’t plagiarized. I recommend you request a sample from a prompt you provide. Any ghostwriter worth hiring should be able to write 1,500 to 2,000 words from your story idea.

Obtaining a sample written from your own prompt will do several things for you and the ghostwriter both. Here are a few to consider.

1. Can they actually write? (beyond a high school English class level)

2. You get a feel for their writing style. (Hemingway or Steven King)

3. They understand and grasp what you’re looking for in your story. (voice, character arcs, theme, etc.)

4. Are they native English speakers and writers? (They don’t rely on Grammarly to correct their prose.)

5. What genres do they have experience in? (They know the difference between contemporary romance and porn.)

My goal here is not to denigrate these ghostwriters. Because everything I’ve said about these subpar manuscripts is a direct result of inexperience. Writing fiction is much more than having a story in your head and knowing proper grammar. It’s multilayered and multifaceted. So, ask your potential ghostwriter to prove their experience in those layers and facets by writing a short sample from a prompt based on your imagination.

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