The universal 20/80 rule applies to ghost material too.
20% of the ghosts you find will be delivering about 80% of what you expected
I have used a bunch of ghosts over the years. Some I found on elance/upwork, some through personal contacts, some through professional offers on forums. Here's my experience:
Even if you do extreme research and due diligence before committing, only 1 out of 5 attempts will deliver a usable result and that result will never be exactly what you envisioned, simply because noone can write what is in your had, so that's ok. But 1 hit out of 5 demands some serious thought as to if it is worth it.
There is an assumption that the higher the cost, the better the ghost. Not so. A ghost who offers to write for 1.5 cents a word may turn out to deliver a vastly better end product than a 4.5 cent ghost. The reasons are many. Very very often, the ghost is ghosting because
A) their own books aren't selling. reasons could be many, perhaps just lack of marketing... but 4 out of 5 because their material isn't good enough
B) they are noobs and need "practice" and will do so at your expense
and if A or B + they believe themselves to be better than they are and I won't work for free... then your headache is just around the corner.
Ghost C is the one you want to find.
C) ghosts because it is a guaranteed way of getting paid.. they like the aspekt of "work" about it, you get up, do the work and KNOW you are getting paid for the time. It's convenient, and safe because they don't have to do marketing, no social interaction, they don't have to wonder why they aren't ranking on amazon etc. etc. A fewer few of these C ghosts write well. This is the kind of ghost you want to find and you can find ghosts of this quality in all levels of cost. I have used C ghosts that cost 1.8 cents that delivered books that were better than my own writing. They were fine with that payment, very very fast writers. If you are super-happy and can afford it, give them a bonus when the job is done.
In all cases, you as a buyer are responsible, to yourself, for doing quality control before
you enlist the ghost. You do this by asking for samples, preferably in your genre (if they don't have samples walk away), checking reviews if they are on a ghost marketplace and by taking a second to analyze what and how they say what they say when they communicate with you.. why? because the samples may not be their own, or they may have a super sample they have polished to no end but you can tell in their emails etc that they will hurry faster than fast through your sh*t job. You do not want a ghost who considers ghosting a sh*t job. You want a ghost who has self-respect, is fine with working for pay, and who will honor the agreement.
ALWAYS give them YOUR plot. NEVER let the ghost invent the story and write it because 4 out of 5 times, it will be a copy or a slightly altered story they have already written for someone else... say hello to all sorts of problems.
ALWAYS make a payment deal with milestones. I tend to do 30% upfront at start, 30% midway, 40% on delivery. Have a good contract with exit clauses for both parties.
ALWAYS ask for the first chapters, even if they are raw. This is your last chance to see what you are getting and if cr*p abort the project at a reasonable cost. (first payment) If this happens, don't blame the ghost. You
didn't do your due diligence job somewhere along the line.
I've spent a lot more on failed ghosts than I have earned from the successful material.
These days I add another layer of control before I spend my dollars: If you can afford it, give the ghost a paid mini-assignment before you enlist them for the big job. Give them a plot for a short story, say 5000 words and pay them to write it. This does many things,
1) obviously.. you'll get a sample of their writing in relation to your story idea type.
2) you'll get an idea of what they are to work with.. did the ghost deliver on time, did ghost ask questions (they should IMHO), did they have accounts etc so that the payment went through easily etcetc.
3) the ghost will see you as a paying customer which adds trust in the relationship and may sway them towards you when deciding between 2 employers for a 3000 dollar job.
There are many ghosts who ghost because they prefer that way of creativity and many of them are very good writers. Finding these good ghosts at a reasonable price is very difficult. Don't fall for the idea that expensive ghost = high quality.
Regardless of how much you are willing to pay, the fact remains 4 out of 5 ghosts will cost you more than you will earn..
There are ghost "firms" out there that will use "critically acclaimed authors" to write you a novella for 6000 dollars. That may be true, result may be ultra-polished and super excellent writing and very plot/story/depth intricate.. but it might still not sell because it's too dry and not geared toward to market. And if nothing else, you are paying 30
cents a word. not 3 cents. thats 85 dollars A PAGE... rofl
Sounds crazy right? well, there's even worse offers out there. Very professional websites that offer this:
1-5 Pages $900-$2900
5-15 Pages $1900-$5525
25 Pages $4000-$9700
250 Pages $25000-$65000
I have never used a corporate ghosting service but I know 2 authors who have and I strongly advice against. Pure vanity creation and 0 market potential. Waste of money.
Cheap isn't good either. It's less chance of finding good writer and it isn't fair to the writer... although, a good writer will be in great demand and automatically find a different pricepoint.
ALWAYS understand that if you employ a less than good ghost, your run a (again the 20/80
) 80% chance of only getting a 20% return on your investment once you publish.
Last but no least, realize that a ghost buyer easily becomes an editor, specially if you buy from different sources to publish under the same pen-name. You'll need to tweak stuff to fall in line with reader expectations of that pen.
There, I just spent my 1000-words-a-day on this post