What Is the Difference Between a Ghostwriter, an Editor, a Proofreader, and a Publisher?

Having talked to nearly a thousand prospective clients each year, I’ve noticed consistent confusions about who does what in the writing industry. People sometimes ask me if ghostwriters publish books. Others inquire if an editor can write the last few chapters of a book.

I can see how this area can be confusing, so I’d like to clarify a bit.

Here are various professions in the writing industry you might encounter:

  • A proofreader
  • An editor
  • A ghostwriter
  • A publisher

A proofreader

A proofreader reads over a completed manuscript to make sure there are no errors. They are looking for typos, grammatical issues, etc. and are far less detailed than an editor. Hiring a proofreader is often the final step in the book writing process, right before the book goes to publication. Typically, you’d hire both an editor and a proofreader.

Cost: Their fee can typically range from less than a penny per word to two cents per word.

An editor

An editor looks at a book with a more critical eye. They will fix errors in grammar and spelling, but will also look for structural problems. You’ll find that editors will comment on more complex issues, suggesting that you delete or add sections, combine thoughts or expand on a point made.

Publishers will sometimes hire more than one editor to review a manuscript. If you are self-publishing, you will definitely need to budget to hire at least one editor.

Some editors will also do minor rewrites, if needed, but that usually brings a higher price tag.

Cost: An editor usually charges somewhere between two and ten cents per word, depending on how much work is needed.

A ghostwriter

A ghostwriter writes the entire book for you. Although your book will be in their words, it’s written in your voice. When the work is done, you’ll have all the rights to the book.

As a ghostwriter, I often get many pages of notes from my clients. Sometimes it comes in as a rough draft, which needs a complete rewrite. Some clients send me transcripts from prior interviews. It varies. Either way, know that a ghostwriter needs all the information from you in order to craft your book.

Ghostwriters will also need to interview you to fill in any gaps. In addition, they must research any subject needed, which relates to your book.

Cost: Ghostwriters vary widely in price. Usually, you can expect to spend somewhere between a quarter to two dollars per word for a book. 

A publisher

A publisher takes a finished manuscript, cleans it up, creates the cover, and handles all the tasks involved with printing. They usually have a staff of editors to make sure your book is as error free as possible before printing. Sometimes they have in-house writers as well.

Ghostwriters are not publishers themselves, but might have connections to publishers.

Cost: Publishers shouldn’t cost you a dime, unless you’re self-publishing.

As a self-published author, you’ll need to hire a number of professionals to get your book ready for sale. If you find a traditional publisher, they will take most of these tasks off your plate. Either way, it’s good to know who’s responsible for which tasks so you can plan accordingly to create the best book possible.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

It’s Good Business to Write a Book

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

What Do I Need to Start with a Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Eight Reasons Why You Should Write a Book

 

Laura Sherman (97 Posts)

Laura Sherman, a.k.a. “Laura the Friendly Ghostwriter,” is a professional ghostwriter and author. She enjoys writing fiction and nonfiction and is happiest when juggling multiple projects. She recently authored “Chess Is Child’s Play” to introduce the next generation to the game of kings and queens. As a parent of three, and one of the top 50 women chess players in the United States, Laura wrote this book to teach any parent to teach any child, of any age, to play chess.