The 7 Biggest Mistakes When Hiring a Business Ghostwriter

You’re thinking of writing a book. You’re a business owner, manager, professional or entrepreneur who genuinely wants to share your journey to success, or share your expertise. To make your book-writing journey profitable and pleasurable, just make sure you avoid these 7 big mistakes:


  1. Not hiring a ghostwriter with a business background

“Business ghostwriters specialize in one area.” Ghostwriters come in all shapes and sizes, just like people do. But there is an important difference between ghostwriters. Generalist ghostwriters tackle everything from novels to family histories to memoirs and everything in between. Business ghostwriters specialize in one area: business. Experienced business ghostwriters understand how to channel the client’s business story or expertise into an informative, articulate and compelling page turner, while still preserving the client’s authentic voice. Business ghostwriters bring prior knowledge and business perspective to the process and know how to connect the dots that bring the most value.

  1. Hiring a business ghostwriter who doesn’t “get” your situation or story deeply enough

“If you’re a good fit, your ghost and you will often start to think about old things in fresh new ways.” As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s important that you and your business ghostwriter are a good fit because writing a book takes months to complete. Even if you leave much of the work to your ghostwriter, writing a book is a very personal endeavour and during those months you’ll be in regular contact with your ghost. If you’re a good fit, your ghost and you will often start to think about old things in fresh new ways. Your business ghostwriter should be interested in you and curious about your subject from the very beginning and remain constantly curious about your subject and your thoughts weeks and months later. For your part, you need to be as honest and transparent as possible, because a good collaborator asks questions, lots of questions.

  1. Not checking references or testimonials

“If references aren’t available, the best option is to stay away.” This may seem obvious, but it is amazing how many times clients will just barge ahead with someone they know through a friend without fully checking out their credentials and references. LinkedIn is a good and very quick source for references in the form of testimonials. Another good source is (or should be) the business ghostwriter’s website. The website should be a comprehensive and easy to read presentation of the tools of the trade (his or her writing). If not, the low risk option is to stay away.

  1. Not hiring a business ghostwriter who digs deep enough

Even subject matter experts need an extra pair of eyes: Business ghostwriters use their creative flair to write wonderful books. They take client interviews, transcribe the contents and transform it into lovely prose. But to create a superlative business book often takes more than creative flair. It requires a willingness to dig deeper through intensive research that never contradicts but rather complements and deepens the client’s ability to project their knowledge and expertise.

  1. Chasing a “bestseller” instead of a world class book

“The odds of any book being a bestseller are slim.” The good news? You don’t need a bestseller. This is a tricky one to understand at first. After all, you pay good money to a business ghostwriter because you want a world class book. But there is a vast difference between a world class book and a bestseller. No, they are not mutually exclusive, but the reality is, the odds of any book being a best seller are slim, in the same way that the odds of a film being a commercial hit are slim – even those developed by high-powered movie producers with Hollywood film stars attached. To accomplish your goals, you don’t need a bestseller. What you need is a world class book. Whether your goal is to gain exposure for your business, to share your knowledge or expertise with a wider readership, or to take readers on a unique business journey, a superlatively written book will more than do the job. Keep in mind, there is also a vast difference between a superlative business book and a second-rate one—and it is a far bigger gulf than many people realize.

  1. Being afraid to brainstorm ideas

“Dead ends are actually the secret to success.” Mistake #6 is also a tricky one because business authors are supposed to be the experts. But writing a business book is not just about recording your thoughts and ideas. It’s about building an argument that begins by asking the often unasked questions—questions that lead to new creative directions. Most people don’t realize that brainstorming isn’t a skill or a methodology. It’s an attitude[ii]. Anyone can learn to engage in it very quickly and can do it without risk if they are willing to let go of preconceived notions about what works and what doesn’t work.[iii] Brainstorming can lead to “dead ends” and most people don’t like dead ends, but they are the secret to success. Thomas Edison’s 10,000 dead ends—his failed experiments—led to his invention of the light bulb. If you are anxious about brainstorming, it may be because you want to avoid feeling foolish. Don’t be. Being open to noodling new ideas (and fine tuning current ideas) is the secret to a great collaboration.

  1. Choosing a ghostwriter with divided loyalties

“Ghostwriters with multiple projects on the go are usually spread too thin.” If you are writing a full length business book and there is any kind of deadline (when isn’t there one?), your business ghostwriter should be singularly focused on your book, and no one else’s. That does not mean your writer can’t be engaged in blogging, consulting or other small projects. But writing more than one world class book at a time (assuming it needs to be finished this decade) is seldom feasible or professional, and when a deadline approaches there is no guarantee that your book will get top priority. The bulk of the ghostwriter’s attention should and must be focused on your book and no one else’s. When interviewing a ghostwriter, it is quite appropriate to ask if they are going to devote the vast majority of their time to your book, and yours alone.


When hiring a business ghostwriter, it pays to find someone with business expertise, a singular focus (on you), and the ability to ask the right questions. Collaborating with a top flight business ghostwriter is good business because the book you develop together will build your brand (and build other business opportunities) for years to come. Experienced business ghostwriters are worth every penny because they hit the ground running, dig deeper, and offer insights that will make the book richer. Of course I’m a bit biased, but when you work deep in the mines you learn to separate the gold from the ore. Ghostwriters come in all shapes and sizes, so look around before you hire someone. Sure, check with friends and family first. But then check professional sites like LinkedIn and look for in-depth profiles that show a real commitment to the process. The time you spend looking will pay off in spades.

Choosing the right partner to help you write your business book is important because you will spend months collaborating with that person, so they must be a good fit. If you avoid these 7 mistakes when hiring a business ghostwriter you will be rewarded with a brand-building book of which you can be immensely proud.




[ii] “We go for two things in a brainstorm: fluency and flexibility. Fluency is a very rapid flow of ideas, so there’s never more than a moment of silence. Flexibility is approaching the same idea from different viewpoints.” – excerpted from a Fast Company interview with Tom Kelley, author of The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from Ideo, America’s Leading Design Firm (Doubleday, 2001) and general manager of Ideo Product Development.

[iii] When it comes to generating truly innovative ideas, deep expertise in a field can actually be a drawback. “In a brainstorm, we’re looking for breadth,” Kelley says. Cross-pollination from seemingly unrelated fields can lead to authentic breakthroughs.

For a free 30-minute consultation about your book and how the ghostwriting process works, just fill in the form below:
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