Of course I’m going to say, “If you’re looking for the best ghostwriter, look no further.” But let’s think about how to pick the right writer for the job. First and foremost, you want someone who’s going to listen. You want someone who knows how to ask the right questions. You want someone who knows how to frame a message in an engaging way. Most of all, you want someone who knows how to write.

1. Blah, Blah, Blah

The last thing anybody needs when they’re hiring a ghostwriter is someone who loves the sound of his or her own voice. What you really want is the opposite: someone who can find the excitement in other people’s ideas. Ghostwriting clients are not cookie-cutter clones with the exact same needs and the exact same goals. One client might want his ghostwriter to write in a certain voice. Another might need help adding color and emotion to her words. Another has a ton of useful information but isn’t sure where to start. A good ghostwriter knows how to listen, listen, listen. That’s the only way to figure out how the client is comfortable working, what the client knows, what the client wants the book to be like and a million other little details that add up to success.

2. What’s that Brown Stuff?

There’s a great scene in the movie My Cousin Vinnie where Joe Pesci’s character asks a lot of seemingly inane questions of a group of witnesses. It’s only later that we learn he’s actually been building up an airtight court case. Asking questions doesn’t necessarily translate to interview skills. A skilled interviewer will be able to draw out his subject’s expertise and knowledge quickly. Solid interview skills mean knowing what you don’t know, knowing what to ask for, knowing when to challenge the subject and knowing when to shut up and listen and take notes. I’ve been conducting knowledge-gathering interviews professionally for over fifteen years.

3. Horse, Meet Cart

Interview skills and knowing how to listen are important. Ultimately, they’re kind of like tapping maple trees, then collecting all the sap in buckets. At some point, all that liquid gold has to be boiled down. When deciding on a ghostwriter, make sure she or he knows how to do that. Can she spot redundancies and pick out a pair of ideas that go together? Does she obsessively rearrange and rearrange until the story falls into place in such a way that any reader gets pulled right through it almost automatically? Make sure your ghostwriter knows how to organize a vast collection of thoughts into a logical and pleasing order.

4. A Few Years Ago I Couldn’t Spell Ghostwriter. Now I Are One.

Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, once said that writing is easy. All you have to do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until you begin to sweat beads of blood out of your forehead. Most writers feel like that at one point or another, and untrained writers feel that way more often than not. A good ghostwriter should have the tools and experience to keep your job moving. He should have a full complement of processes and protocols for getting the work unstuck and flowing. When a job stalls, it’s almost always because something is missing or something hasn’t been constructed correctly. Make sure your ghostwriter has the experience of writing lots and lots and lots of words. That kind of ghostwriter not only gets the work done fast, he also invariably delivers a finished product that is pleasing to the mind.

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