My partner and I have been doing this for a while. If we combined the number of years of experience, it may well come to be over a century – ok, we are not THAT old but we have been writing, editing, publishing, and more, for some time now. We have even been coaching others on how to do it as well as providing them with tips on how to start their own business, consulting firms, and agencies. So, yes, we have been there and done that.
Ok, enough bragging…
It has been our experience that there are more “experts” out there who are not really experts than people who actually deliver on their service. Unfortunately, we have seen it first-hand. So, you really need to be careful to ensure that you protect yourself from being taken advantage of or scammed. It is much easier to find a scam on the internet than it is to find quality service. Granted, we view ourselves as quality service providers but anyone can say that, right? So, instead, here are some tips that we apply, ourselves, when looking for services on the internet. Specifically, these are considerations for you when trying to select the best ghostwriting agency for your needs (and wants).
Consider the following when identifying the right ghostwriting agency for your needs…
- Cost. There are so many companies and individuals out there who will solicit your business with the lowest cost available. We (Deborah and hubby Michael) have been freelancers deriving income from the internet for twenty years and in the beginning, we also went for the bright lights of the lowest cost service. Without exception, we were burned whenever we used the lowest price as the deciding factor.
Quick Story >> We also offered the lowest price for domain registrations and we were the lowest price in the world for one week, remaining the lowest price in the United States until GoDaddy came on the scene. You know what we learned? As much as we wanted to offer our clients the lowest price, even we could no longer do that. We owe GoDaddy a debt of gratitude for helping us to get out of the business of the lowest price.
Why is this the case? Let’s apply it to our writing agency…
In order to offer quality service, the writer and agency also need to be invested in the project, providing that passion that intertwines with the writing process. In order to truly invest themselves in the project, they need to have the same desire for success as the client, if not more! That is the beauty of the creative process.
It has also worked for me, Deborah, retaining the spot of #1 in Jazz in Los Angeles and often popping to #3 in Jazz in the world! In order to have that devotion, passion, and quality, you will want to look beyond the cheapest price out there and find the agency that is passionate! Granted, don’t go for the most expensive just because it is the most expensive but be cautious when thinking about the lowest price being your deciding factor. Proceed with caution, for your sake!
- Payment Arrangements. Do not opt for a service that requires full payment up front, unless they have some sort of escrow service that holds the payment and allows you the legal access for a full refund if you are not satisfied. It is usually unreasonable to expect that a writer or agency will work for free, without some sort of installment. Why? That is because the writers also need to pay for electricity and internet access and running water while they are working for you. That said, there is no reason that they should be paid the full amount before any work is done. There is a dance that goes on in the process of writing a book or any creative work and the client and provider/writer/agency need the opportunity to build that trust that is so needed.
No matter how well-intentioned a writer or agency may be it is human nature to not have as much of an incentive to work on the project if it has already been paid in full. So, the payment arrangement (installments) helps you to ensure that there is an incentive for the provider as well as providing an incentive for the provider to finish the project. More importantly, it gives both parties that opportunity to start building the trusted relationship that can continue until the finalization of the project.
- Leader of the Pack. Who is calling the shots? Since you are the client, you should have the final say. The agency and writer are consultants who can provide suggestions, based on their expertise, but the final say is up to the client.
There is an exception to this, but it is in the area of Codes of Conduct, laws of the country, etc. But, even in those cases, the agency is not there to tell the client what he or she can or cannot do with the book. Instead, it may be a case where the agency may not be able to do something that is legal in another country or not unethical (double negative intended) in another scenario. This is not common but if this is the case, it should be fully communicated before the contract is signed so that there are no surprises later.
- Experience. It is important that you find an agency that has experience. This is not only limited to the writing experience but also business experience. You may find the most awesome writer but if they do not know what they are doing as far as business practices go, your project may not get off the ground. This is where it is helpful if you deal with an agency rather than a single freelancer. However, that does not mean that you should not work with a freelancer. It is possible to find a freelance writer who has experience in business and actually serves the client in all areas of the project in a much more thorough manner than an agency. It all depends on the entities being compared, which is why it is important to understand what your freelancer or agency has to offer and what their experience is.
Quick Story >> We once came across an agency who employed a young, inexperienced person in a critical department/role, with no real oversight. While it is admirable that this young person was gaining experience, it was essential that he or she has oversight and that someone would be in a position to doublecheck anything that was sent to a client before it was sent to the client. Instead, this inexperienced person inadvertently made a mistake in a critical area and it cost the agency the contract. This critical mistake could have been avoided with proper management of the department and it could have also served as a learning opportunity for the new employee without adversely affecting the client and without losing the contract. This is an example of either a poor application of management skills or management skills that did not exist and the agency lost out, the client lost out, and so did the inexperienced employee who may have otherwise had the opportunity to learn and grow. Interview your agency or freelancer and be sure that you feel comfortable that they know what they are doing, even in such things as business practices (like management).
- Reputation (and Client Testimonials). While ghostwriters and agencies who employ ghostwriters generally have to refrain from sharing the titles of the books that they have authored (because the author is the client and not the ghostwriter), you should be able to ask for testimonials and access to portfolios of what they can share. Keep in mind that often times they cannot share what would be the most helpful because of the privacy aspect of the ghostwriting contract with any previous client(s). And, that is a good thing. If you come across a ghostwriter or agency who will not divulge private information of past clients that demonstrates that they adhere to their own contracts and protect their clients’ privacy. That is an indicator of how they will likely treat you, as well. If you come across a ghostwriter or agency who freely shares the titles of the books they have ghostwritten, you will want to reconsider. After all, you are paying the agency to ghostwrite your book, which means you get the credit as the author. If they are going around taking the credit, you have paid for something that you did not receive (your authorship).
- Rights. Continuing with the previous point, as the client, you have the rights to your book. You are the author. You may have hired a ghostwriter but it is your name listed as the author and you have the rights to the book and any derivative works. The only exception is if you decide that you want to negotiate a better price in exchange for sharing rights but be wary. Only proceed in that direction if you feel it is necessary and ensure that you involve a lawyer in that process. We recommend that you do not allow yourself to be coerced into giving up any portion of your rights.