An oral agreement should never replace a written one. Make sure you have a good ghostwriting contract before you begin a book project.
This nugget of advice is something I’ve heard from almost every successful professional. No matter what industry you are in, always be sure to have a good contract that spells out all the important details; that way there can be no room for misunderstandings later.
Recently, I spoke to a renowned serial entrepreneur who confessed to jotting down a partnership agreement on the back of a cocktail napkin in a bar. The two were friends and thought nothing could go wrong. Well, the agreement blew up after a few years. Fortunately, the two found a middle ground and were able to sort out their differences and continue, but it could have ended up much worse.
I’ve been a ghostwriter for two decades. I learned long ago that it is vital to have a good, clear ghostwriting contract. That way you and your client know what to expect, and there can’t be misunderstandings down the line.
If you’re a professional writer, I highly recommend you hire a lawyer. Ask him or her to create a good basic template, which you can adjust depending on the parameters of a particular project. It’s well worth the cost to make sure your contract says what you think it says!
While some projects are so small you might feel they don’t really require a contract. I would still advise you to put your agreements in writing in some fashion. An email can sometime suffice.
What you must include in a ghostwriter contract
When I was starting in this industry, I will admit to you I floundered on the subject of ghostwriting contracts. It took me a while to sort it all out, so I hope I can save you a little time. As you put together your contract template, here are a few basic components to consider:
The first paragraph of my contract includes my company name and the name of the client, as well as the effective date of the contract. Later, I include the four major milestones, along with their deadlines.
The four milestones I use in my ghostwriting contract are the:
Completion of the outline.
First half of the first draft.
Completion of the first draft.
This milestone approach is something I developed after nearly two decades of experience as a ghostwriter. I tried many different methods, but this is a best when it comes to ghostwriting a book for a client.
Because I use four milestones, I like to break up the payments into four parts. My policy is to be paid ahead of the writing, but really you can come to any sort of agreement that works for you.
Set the total price for the service then include the payments for each segment in your contract. For instance, if your total price is $60,000, the compensation for each segment would be $15,000 (if you use my four milestone approach).
Most ghostwriters charge on a per word basis, so the contract should specify how many words the author should expect to receive. Most clients think in terms of pages, but that just isn’t precise, because the number of words per page really depends on the font style and size chosen. I like to include the agreed-upon word count along with a rough page estimate for clarity.
It’s a good rule of thumb to consider that there are 250 words per page, so a 200 page manuscript should run about 50,000 words.
A Description of the Project
If possible, you might include the genre or a rough description of the book in the contract, along with the title. This description doesn’t need to be long. An example might be, “The life story of Mary Smith” or “A science fiction novel.”
It’s important to mention the specifics of the service you will provide. For instance, as a ghostwriter, I can’t promise that the book will be published. It is a good idea to state that concept within your contract. I also don’t create the cover design or work on layout, nor do I provide illustrations or photographs (again, I make that clear inside my contract).
My job as a ghostwriter is to create a well-written manuscript that is as error free as I can get it. I work with a few proofreaders and editors to produce an as near-perfect product as possible. I think it’s important to have a number of eyes review the final document before turning it over to the client.
Address copyright issues in your ghostwriting contract, making it clear that the client will own all the rights to the final work. They are the author and own all the right so the work. It’s always the client’s book and they can publish it in any form they desire. As a ghostwriter, I own no claim or rights at all.
It’s to be expected that the client will have revisions for the ghostwriter as pieces are submitted. However, if the number of revision requests isn’t specified, the process can be endless. Back and forth, back and forth can ruin a book.
Personally, I allow the client one set of revisions per milestone, but will of course make minor revisions along the way. Since we always work off of a detailed outline, there usually isn’t a need for any drastic changes during the revision process.
Often a client requires confidentiality because of the nature of the project. Perhaps the ideas are unique and cutting edge or the author simply doesn’t want anyone to know he or she had help writing their book. If this is the case for your project, definitely include a confidentiality clause within the contract.
Things That Could Go Wrong
Most likely everything will go smoothly throughout the process, but it’s always good to put in a clause covering what happens if one party wants to terminate the agreement prematurely.
In addition, consider limiting the damages and agreeing to arbitration to resolve all disputes.
A ghostwriting contract is something you’ll need for any large project. It shouldn’t be taken lightly as it could save you from unnecessary headaches in the future. If you have any questions or concerns, please consult a lawyer. It’s worth the investment!
If you’re serious about writing and publishing a book, and wish to hire a ghostwriter, please email me. You can check out my ghostwriting process in this article. Once we determine that I’m a good candidate for your project, I’d be happy to send you a copy of my contract to review in detail.
Self-publishing a book a good option for most authors. Finding an agent and publisher in this market can be very difficult unless you have a stellar marketing plan.
I often receive emails from prospective authors which communicate something along the lines of: “Please help me write my book. Call me. I have this amazing idea for a best-selling book that will make us both a lot of money!”
The problem is that writing a great book is only part of the equation. After talking to other successful writers, I’ve learned that the only way to gain a readership is by investing energy into marketing.
Publishing: A changing industry
In the mid to late twentieth century, an author could just be an amazing writer and sell copies with little to no effort or attention put on sales. He or she could just write up a storm and make money because the publisher would handle everything for their authors.
In those days, self-publishing was not well respected. It seemed synonymous with failure. People assumed self-publishing authors printed their own copies because they couldn’t get a traditional publisher. Self-publishing authors were pretty much resigned to selling a few hundred copies to their friends and family, if they were lucky. No profit was made. More likely, they would wind up with boxes of books in their garage collecting dust and mildew.
Then Amazon dramatically changed the self-publishing industry.
As Amazon grew, it became easier and easier for anyone to download a manuscript onto the Amazon platform and publish his or her work. Then Amazon advanced their print on demand capacity so that authors no longer had to purchase thousands of books and store them in their basements. Suddenly, customers could order copies directly through Amazon.
Today self-publishing is an acceptable, and even preferable, way for authors to release their books. Not only can they get their books into the hands of their readers quickly, but they retain all the creative control of the material and can keep most of the profits. Many authors who previously had no outlet to sell their books are now able to make a good income.
Setting yourself up for success
When self-publishing your book, there are a few things you need to create in order to have a successful release.
Create an attractive cover
It’s easy to find someone to design a cover for your book. I recently used Fiverr with success. Although this freelance marketplace got its name by offering services for five dollars, that is not the typical price any longer. Still, the price is often reasonable, and sometimes you can find a great deal. My ghostwriting logo was purchased for a little over a fiver.
Write a compelling blurb
The back cover blurb or online tease is an important tool for enticing new readers. Writing a compelling one is an art form. You can study up on different techniques to find a good way to communicate your book summary in a few lines.
Of course, if you have received any endorsements or editorial reviews, include them front and center within your Amazon description.
The importance of reviews
Before I hit the purchase button for any book or item on Amazon, I always check the reviews. I want to know what others think. I’m not alone. Most people want some reassurance that they’re spending their hard-earned dollars wisely.
As an author, you need to collect reviews from readers. Remember, reviews should be honest. Never purchase a review. That’s decidedly unethical. Having said that, it is the norm to offer free copies of your book in exchange for a review.
Amazon will tag a reader who has purchased the book through them as a “Verified Purchaser.” This is important. If you collect too many reviews without that title, your collection of reviews will be flagged. Amazon might assume that you have asked your friends to post reviews without having purchased or read the book. This would be unethical.
As a side note, if you list your book on Kindle Unlimited, readers can pick it up for free. You get paid based on the number of pages they read. However, don’t think you can shortcut the system by having people pretend to read it. Yes, Amazon has an algorithm that will detect if someone just flipped through the pages quickly and will flag the review accordingly.
Also, if the self-publishing author has the same last name as the reviewer, Amazon will object. They will assume that the reviewer is a family member. Amazon doesn’t allow your close family and friends to review your books since, understandably, your mother would probably not be an objective reviewer.
Every ninety days, Amazon allows you to post your book for free for five days. That’s the time to get people to download your book for reviews. They will be considered a “Verified Purchaser.” It’s within the framework of the rules.
How to get a good number of reviews
If you were throwing a big party, how would you go about making sure the bash was a success? You’d probably start by setting a date and sending out invitations. You’d ask for RSVPs. People understand that you need to predict the number of guests to make sure you have the right amount of hors d’oeuvres and eggnog.
So, let’s say you invited fifty people and forty agreed to come. Would you expect all forty to show up without any prompting or reminding? Well, maybe if this was your first party, but you’d learn a lesson after that. If you invited them on Dec 1st for a party on the 20th and never sent any sort of follow up, you’d probably wind up with five guests on the day. If you were lucky.
In order to get a good turnout, you need to follow up a few times before the day of the event. Then it’s probably a good idea to remind everyone again two or three days before.
In sales, follow up is the key to success. I know, throwing a party doesn’t seem like a sales activity, but it is more relevant than you realize.
The importance of follow-up for self-publishing authors
Now, how does throwing a party relate to a self-publishing author getting reviews? Well, the principles discussed in the previous section definitely apply. When you set your free days for your book on Amazon, it’s a good idea to personally invite everyone you know to pick it up. Ask them for an honest review in exchange for the copy.
Then follow up. Yes, it’s a free book, but you still want to make sure they download your book during that period. Otherwise you’ll have to get them to buy it, which is much harder.
Once they have the book, there is no time limit for the review. The next step is to get them to read your book. That might take time. Two weeks is a typical expected turnaround, but keep in mind that most people are busy, and reading isn’t always high on their priority list.
Again, follow up. Ask them when they think they can read it, then mark that date on the calendar.
There is a fine line between being a follow-up expert and a nuisance, so you’ll need to judge that carefully. If your friend keeps setting dates but never begins to read your book, chances are she won’t read and review your book. That’s OK. Let it go. Maybe she will surprise you later.
When a friend says they have read your book, that’s a good time to ask them for an honest review. Make sure they know how to post a review on Amazon. If they don’t, walk them through the process. It’s easy, but it can help to have someone by your side guiding you.
So, if you’re a self-publishing author and you wish to get a good number of reviews, there is really a three-step process. You need to get people to:
Download your book
Read your book
Write an honest review
Take one step at a time and follow up. Before you know it, you’ll have dozens of reviews.
Putting a book up on Amazon without any thought to marketing is a bit like putting up a hotel on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific. No one will know you are there. No one will buy your book. It doesn’t matter how beautifully written or captivating your story might be, no one will read it.
In order to sell beyond your friends and family, you will need to find a way to promote. Here are a few ideas:
Create your own blog
It’s always a good idea to purchase the domain name of your name (or your pen name) as well as the title of your book. Even if you aren’t ready to create a website, buy the name so that it doesn’t get snapped up. There are probably a number of people with the same name, so you might have to use your middle initial.
When you are a few months away from releasing your book, start blogging about the subject matter to build interest among your readers. You might also offer a free eBook in exchange for a reader opting into your mailing list. You can create a monthly newsletter to keep in touch with these people.
Create a social media presence
There are many social media platforms. It can be overwhelming. I’d suggest starting with one site, one that you like, and expand from there. A lot of authors choose to create an author page on Facebook. Start by inviting your existing friends to follow you, then expand your followers as best you can. Post content daily. Promote your blog now and then, but not too much. People won’t follow a slew of advertisements.
Instead, share relevant content. For instance, I recently ghostwrote a book called Discovering Kindness and received a cover credit (a nice bonus for a ghostwriter). I have been working with the author to create interesting content. One thing I do is to often share videos and articles about random acts of kindness. These relate to the message of the book and uplift our followers. It’s a win-win. I also feel that humor goes a long way, so I include funny memes and cartoons on his author’s page, keeping the style of the author in mind.
There’s a lot more to marketing and selling your book on Amazon. These are just a few tips from my personal experience as a ghostwriter. You can learn more from the many resources available in the library and online, including classes you can take. You also might consider investing in Amazon ads to boost sales, but that’s a subject for another article.
Congratulations on writing your book. Now go out and market the heck out of it!
You’re not alone. So many professionals get a strong urge to publish a book that highlights their niche market expertise. If you talk to PR experts, they will confirm that having a book with your name on it is a key element to any strategic branding campaign.
However, for most busy professionals the dream stops there. Why? Because writing a book isn’t an easy task. As you can imagine, it will take a few hundred hours to complete the project.
Let’s see if we can make the process a little easier for you to tackle. And, of course, if you need help from your friendly ghostwriter, please don’t hesitate to write me.
How to begin to write a business book
Well, as Lewis Carroll said, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
While that might sound a little simplistic, there’s a measure of truth to it, because implied in that advice is a drive to complete the project. So, I’d say the first step is to make that commitment: to write a business book, no matter what.
Once you’re sure you want to embark on this adventure, here is my advice on the next steps to follow.
State your purpose
You must know why you want to write a business book if you’re going to succeed. As a ghostwriter, I always ask my clients to reveal their main drive and passion behind the project. I’ll tell you, I’m most eager to help the CEO who wants to share his or her successful actions with budding entrepreneurs. Business owners who are willing to share their advice, to open up and to confide their errors, with the ultimate goal of paving the way for other business owners to succeed, are heroes in my book.
Some people write me with the sole goal of making a million bucks. It’s hard to get behind that purpose. Readers will sense that goal and will not be inspired to read your book. After all, their goal in picking up your book will never be to make you rich. Rather, they are looking for advice and actions that will help them achieve their own goals.
The authors who truly care about their readers will succeed.
The top business books have a deeper purpose than financial gain for the author. When you can reach out to the individuals reading your words on a one-on-one basis, they will respond. Your readers will be grateful for your insight and guidance. They will recommend your book to others, and more will purchase it. Soon you may even have a best seller on your hands.
Know your readership
If you know who your readers are, you can accurately write to them. Consider writing your book as if you were preparing a speech for a group. Wouldn’t you craft your message differently for a gaggle of middle school students than you would for a pride of CEOs or a pod of athletes?
Never write your book for “everyone” on this planet. It will fail. Remember, you are writing to one individual at a time. You’re writing to your reader, so that individual learns and benefits from your wisdom and advice.
Determine your format
Here’s where your homework starts. You need to settle on a style for your book, and the best way to do that is to read a few other business books. It’s OK to skim them. For now, you’re just trying to find a format that appeals to you.
The good news is that you have choices! Here are a few options for you to consider:
a memoir format with lots of sage business advice sprinkled throughout
a workbook format with lots of practical exercises for the reader to do
There is no hard and fast rule here. You can pick the format that most appeals to you and will resonate with your readership. Again, get some ideas from other bestselling books out there and feel free to use that format for your business book.
Now it’s time to write a business book
Once you have the purpose, readership and format decided, it’s time to begin writing. However, there are a few more steps to take before you can begin putting words on pages.
Determine your focus
The first thing to determine is the focus of your book. Identify precisely the problem that you are trying to solve. Pick one. If you try to solve too many, your book will ramble and lose the interest of your reader.
For instance, let’s say you discovered an effective means of retaining customers in your online business. That’s the focus of your book. Or maybe you want to impart how to start and run a small restaurant in a big city. Whatever you decide, really explore the problem in depth, then present a concrete solution.
Create your idea folder
You might find it easiest to just pour out your ideas into a word processing document or a notebook. Don’t worry about order, grammar or anything but the ideas. This part should be fun.
It’s important not to stop yourself from putting a thought into your idea folder. All ideas should go into the file. You can edit them down later.
When do you stop this phase? The answer is a little like the instructions for making popcorn. There is a phase where the pan is heating up and nothing happens. Then the kernels begin to pop. They pop and pop and pop at a tremendous, almost deafening, rate. Then the popping starts to die out until you hear one pop every three seconds. That’s when you take it off the heat, right?
The same concept applies to recording your ideas. Once you allow yourself to put down ideas, they should flood onto the paper. Allow them to. Don’t stop the natural flow at all. When the new ideas dwindle to a trickle, that’s when you know to switch your attention to the next phase.
Tip: you might invest in speech recognition software or simply use your phone to translate your voice into the written word. That way, if you think of a brilliant segment for your book while you’re out, you can just email it back to yourself easily. A lot of my clients love this feature.
Organize your outline
Now that you have most of your ideas down in one document, it’s time to organize the thoughts into an outline.
There are writers who hate to outline. They prefer to write by the seat of their pants (some call them pantsers). If you’re a pantser, that might work well for fiction, but for nonfiction, it’s going to be a mess. You need an outline.
The format of your outline will depend on the format of your business book.
If you’re writing a memoir, you need to put all the incidents of your story in chronological order. That way you can start to see the flow of your story. Check out my article on Tips for Outlining a Memoir.
For most other formats you’ll create a Table of Contents with a lot of subsections. I’d advise you not to make any one segment too long. It’s best to break up each key element into easy to read sections. Once you have these down, simply put the contents of your idea folder into your Table of Contents. Everything should have a spot. If it doesn’t, create a new subhead.
Words on pages
Now that you have your completed outline, the book is practically written…in your head. That’s how it is for me! I know exactly what I’m going to say; now I just have to take the time to write it down. I need words on pages.
Don’t get overwhelmed.
It’s a good idea to set a schedule for yourself. After all, that’s probably how you got to be a successful CEO or entrepreneur. You set yourself targets and goals, then met them no matter what tried to get in your way.
Treat this project as you would any other. If you really don’t have the time, hire a ghostwriter to help you. Keep in mind that she will probably need to revisit your outline and help you flesh out the details a little more. She might also have suggestions for the format.
Whatever you do, hold yourself accountable for completing your project. Never lose your drive and passion to write a business book.
Why write a business book
I’ve written many business books over the last twenty years and love the genre. It’s exciting for me to help my clients achieve the many benefits that come from such an accomplishment. While you will certainly sell copies of your book, there are other tangible benefits in store for you when you write a business book.
If you’re a successful CEO, consider the response from your client base when they learn that you are a published author. Having a book with your name blazoned on the cover is one of the best ways to show credibility.
Think about it. Don’t people respond to published authors a little differently? Not only do new and old clients respect you, but your peers look up to you as well.
Write a business book and become an authority figure
When you have a well-written book with many book reviews and copies sold, various people will want to interview you. You will be asked to guest blog, speak at conferences, be featured on podcasts and quoted in other books and articles.
Your visibility will be catapulted into a new realm.
It’s wonderful when, year after year, new people discover your work and write fresh reviews for your book or quote you in their articles. You become a recognized expert in your niche market. This increased visibility will certainly organically increase your client base.
A feeling of peace and well-being
There is no better feeling than helping another. When you write a business book in which you share your successful actions, you might be aiding others who are just starting out and struggling through the problems you have overcome. Or you might be assisting your clients or future clients, complementing the services that you already provide.
Sharing your knowledge in a book will allow you to give advice to a large number of people that you might not be able to help on a one-on-one basis. Instead of helping dozens of people in a week, you can help hundreds or thousands. Take a moment and imagine creating that effect.
Not only will you make money each time you sell a copy of your book, but your customer base will rise exponentially as your book sales increase. As you market your book, you’ll come up with ways to collect new names and email addresses. Your readers could become new clients and be your best word-of-mouth referral sources.
For some, the money earned from increased sales far exceeds the cash received from selling the book. If you sell a high-ticket product or service, just one new client can make a huge difference.
There are many ways you can make money indirectly through your book. How you channel this resource is only limited by your creativity.
Mike Schultz, president of the Wellesley Hills Group and a well-known marketing consultant, surveyed 200 authors of business books and discovered that 96% experienced a positive impact on their business from writing a book. That doesn’t surprise me. It just makes sense!
Now is the best time to write a business book
Now that you know the value of a business book and have an inkling of how to proceed, it’s time to take the plunge. The best thing to do is to set aside a dedicated time every day when you write a business book. It may take a year to get it done, depending on the amount of time you spend on it. But like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, it’s the steady progress that will get you to your goal.
But if you find the project overwhelming or just don’t have the time (or desire) to write a business book yourself, it may be time to consider hiring a professional ghostwriter.
A ghostwriter will interview you and assist you in all aspects of creating your book. She will collect your notes from your idea folder. She will help you find your focus, determine your readership, outline your book, and then write it for you.
Keep in mind that you’ll still be a part of the project and will need to dedicate a few hours a week to it. You’ve basically hired a silent writing partner who will do all the legwork for you. Still, you’ll need to review pages, give feedback, and answer questions from time to time.
I’m passionate about helping people create an engaging book with useful information that readers can’t put down. I have a special spot in my heart for entrepreneurs as I feel they are artists.
Would you like me to help you write a business book? If so, please contact me and share your idea. I’m here to help!
If you’re reading this because you have a great idea for a book but aren’t sure how to go about writing it, you might need a ghostwriter.
I know quite a few people who spend a lot of time tossing around book ideas, but for one reason or another they have trouble getting started. Does this sound familiar?
If you wish to write a book, but don’t have the time or the discipline to do so, it can be frustrating on many levels. Some people aren’t a huge fan of research while others just don’t enjoy writing. Whatever the stumbling block, it doesn’t have to keep you from finishing your book. A ghostwriter can help you take your idea from conception to fruition.
Here is a handy checklist to help guide you through the steps of hiring a ghostwriter:
Decide on your budget
Before you begin searching for a writer, it’s a good idea to determine your budget. What can you comfortably afford? Don’t go into debt when hiring a ghostwriter.
Pricing for ghostwriting can span a broad range. You should know that you will get what you pay for. Some ghostwriters advertise extremely low rates, which can be appealing. However, if you’re interested in producing a high-quality book, written by an experienced author, you’ll need to pay them what a good writer is worth.
Be ready to answer basic questions
In order to get a bid from a ghostwriter, you need to be able to answer various questions. A ghostwriter will need to know:
How many words your book will be
Your publishing and marketing plans
The general subject matter or genre of the book.
It’s also wise to ask your prospective ghostwriter about their fee before you get too far in the conversation. There is no sense in pouring out your heart and story, only to learn that the writer is way out of your price range. It’s worth noting that most ghostwriters share their price on their website.
Find a good fit
It’s a good idea to do a little homework on a ghostwriter before you interview them. Start with their testimonial page. After all, it’s more important to read what others say about them than what they say about themselves. Also, review their writing samples to see if you like their style.
Once you’ve determined that they have the experience and writing expertise, It’s important to find someone who you will mesh well with throughout the ghostwriting process. Writing a book is a financial investment, but also an endeavor of the heart; there is a balance.
Pay your first installment and get started
Once you have made your momentous decision, plan to make the first payment and sign the ghostwriting contract so you begin working on the project. Any professional writer will require these. Don’t wait too long to make your decision. If you love a particular writer and know you want to hire that individual, don’t dawdle. Authors book the more popular ghostwriters quickly.
Plan the time to work with your ghostwriter
As your project unfolds, it’s important to answer your writer’s emails and phone messages promptly. After all, you and your ghostwriters are partners in this project. Your ghost needs you, assisting them to achieve your goals. For that reason, don’t allow too much time to go by without communication.
When I work with a client I love to shoot emails back and forth throughout the week. I also find myself picking up the phone to talk to him or her at least once a month.
Before you hire a ghostwriter, it is a good idea to conduct an in-depth interview with several candidates. This will be a very personal journey, so you want to make sure the writer you pick is the best ghost for you. However, please don’t stress. Interviewing a ghostwriter doesn’t have to be difficult.
Ask about her experience
While interviewing a ghostwriter, watch out for writers who are interested in cutting their teeth on your book. Unless you’re a gambler by nature, it is better to stick with a writer who has written at least a few books. Completing a full-length book takes a certain dedication, knowledge, and follow-through. Some writers aren’t cut out for it.
Ask your candidate ghostwriters to share titles of books that they’ve ghostwritten or authored. While this can be difficult for some, the writers who’ve been around the block will have a few titles that bear their name (as well as dozens they can’t share because of confidentiality agreements).
Request client testimonials
If a freelance writer has been in the business for any reasonable amount of time, he or she has probably collected a few testimonials. Reading these over will give you a feel for what others have to say about the ghostwriter’s work. Most will be signed only with initials or a first name. I’ve been fortunate over the years to have generous clients who happily gave me a testimonial including their full name.
In addition, if the ghostwriter has authored a book or two, it is probably selling on Amazon. Check out the reviews there to see how readers feel about her writing. Read the content to learn more about the ghostwriter’s abilities.
Find out what the ghostwriter enjoys writing
Not every ghostwriter excels in all genres. For instance, I have written nearly two dozen memoirs, but have never touched a historic romance novel or a true crime book. Some writers specialize in fiction, while others are business book experts.
Ideally you want to find a writer who is passionate and knowledgeable about your subject. However, this is not always necessary. When writing nonfiction, I feel I have an edge when I don’t know anything about the topic as I can easily put myself in my readers’ shoes and write to them with reality.
Talk about pricing and schedule
It’s a good plan to talk about a ghostwriter’s fee upfront. If she is out of your price range, there is really no point in continuing the conversation. The interview should be over. Having said that, it doesn’t hurt to ask the ghostwriter if she has anyone she can refer to you.
The same applies to the ghostwriter’s schedule. If you need the book done by a certain deadline, ask the ghostwriter early in the conversation if she can help you. Keep in mind that the average book takes eight to twelve months to write, depending on the content, research required, and the length of the book. If you need the book expedited, offer to pay a little more. That may encourage the ghostwriter to clear her calendar to take on your project.
Interviewing a ghostwriter will help you find a good match for your project. Find one with whom you can communicate well from the start. This road is best traveled with an experienced friend.
It is a thrilling moment when you find the perfect ghostwriter for your book project. Your dream is about to become a reality—you can already visualize your book on the shelves of your local bookstore. I understand how exciting this moment is, but don’t forget that there is also a business aspect to writing a book. It is vital to have a contract with your ghostwriter covering certain important elements.
Protect your rights
When you first sign with a professional ghostwriter, she will probably possess a contract that she’s used for years. It’s important to take the time to read over her contract word for word even if you trust her. Please make sure your rights are protected.
Retain your copyrights
As an author, you should always retain all the copyrights for your book, along with the rights for any possible future formats that might come about. For instance, let’s say Warner Brothers wishes to option your life story for a movie. Make sure the ghostwriter can’t come after you for a percentage of that deal.
Confidentiality is a cornerstone of the ghostwriter’s trade. The contract with your ghostwriter needs to spell that out specifically. The information in your book is yours and all the words the ghostwriter creates for you belong to you. She should never divulge her part in the work to your readers. You are the author; she is the ghost.
Safeguard against plagiarism
Although it may seem odd, you should have a clause in your contract protecting you from any acts of plagiarism on the part of your ghostwriter. This is really only a problem with low-budget and inexperienced writers. These ghostwriters can sometimes resort to stealing someone else’s work when the deadline is looming, and they become overwhelmed. As the author, you need to protect yourself from the financial liability that can result from this crime.
Spell out all relevant details
When you interviewed your ghostwriter, you probably went over a lot of little details and came to an arrangement. These specific agreements now need to be put in writing and included in your contract. That way there can be no misunderstanding as you move forward with your book project.
Payment schedule and deadlines
There are numerous ways to structure a payment schedule. I prefer the milestone approach to a monthly draw, as my clients will know what to expect with each increment of money they spend.
As an example, in my contract I have four milestones for each book project:
A detailed outline
The first half of the first draft
The second half of the first draft
A completed manuscript
Although these milestones might differ from writer to writer, most ghostwriters will ask you to pay before each segment. If you decide to pay your ghostwriter monthly, make sure you receive something tangible as the project progresses.
Although it can be hard to precisely predict a book’s length, you do need to estimate a ballpark figure to determine the price. For instance, if a client wishes to write a 150-page book, I’d estimate that to cost $37,500. If it goes a little over, I wouldn’t charge extra. However, if the client later decides to increase the length to 200 pages, we’d amend the contract.
The contract with your ghostwriter should protect both you and the writer. If you have any concerns about the terms, be sure to clear them up before you sign. Once you have the paperwork done, you can focus on creating and enjoy the ghostwriting process.
Have you been wondering just how much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?
Well, you aren’t alone. This is a very popular question. Shopping for a writer is a bit like walking into a gallery with the hope of acquiring a special piece of art. As you peruse the beautiful paintings on the walls, you might just wonder about their cost. After all, the price tags can vary widely. It can be intimidating to ask the artist, because the price could be well outside your budget.
When you buy a car or a house, don’t you have a rough idea of the expense involved? Probably! However, how can you know the cost to hire a ghostwriter?
Allow me to address the question directly: I charge one dollar per word to ghostwrite.
I’ve noticed that some ghostwriters don’t like to broach this subject on their websites. Maybe they’re worried you’ll just click away when you discover the price. For me, I figure why bury my pricing in some dusty corner of my website? There really is no need to dance around the subject.
As you’ll discover, writers have different fees and some charge in different ways. For instance, some writers may charge by the hour or the page. Most charge by the word. While manuscripts vary in length, a short memoir or novella will be 25,000 words and a full-length book will be 50,000 – 75,000 words. Some clients prefer to publish mini-eBooks, which can be 5,000 – 10,000 words in length. These can be a good option to get one’s feet wet and learn the art of marketing books on Amazon.
Occasionally I’ll run into a client who actually needs a cross between an editor and a ghost, because he has already written most of the book and the first draft is in decent shape. If that’s the case with you, I’d charge much less.
Inside Secret: How to reduce the cost of a ghostwriter
There are a few factors that might help reduce a ghostwriter’s cost. Firstly, I’m always impressed when a prospective client has taken the time to really research me and find out the steps he should take to work with a ghostwriter. I know this is a client who understands me and how I work, which is a great place to start the relationship.
Here are some key ways you may persuade me to reduce the amount I charge:
Pitch me an inspiring book
While some ghostwriters will write about any subject matter, I’m rather picky. I prefer to write about uplifting subjects that help people in some way. Of course, the book doesn’t need to be happy-go-lucky throughout, but if you’re looking to get back at an ex or wish to delve into the horrors of your abusive past, I’m not the writer for you.
I’ve written a couple dozen books over the last two decades. Here are a few examples of projects I’ve completed from different genres:
The story of a man who immigrated to the United States with only a few dollars in his pocket and became a multi-millionaire
The fictional story of a deadly family feud that spans generations and worlds, highlighting the importance of family loyalty and the overcoming of seemingly impossible obstacles
The heroic journey of a man who escaped communist Hungary on foot to become an affluent businessman in Canada
There are times when someone approaches me with a story that truly appeals to me. I find that I can’t stop thinking about the project. I really want to help the author, even though he can’t pay my full price. In those cases, when he shares his budget, I’ll do my best to at least guide him in the right direction.
If you’re on a tight budget and need help, let me know what you can afford. I can almost always make suggestions to help reduce your cost. Or I might be able to set you up with a student writer and supervise her work. When I do that, I can charge less.
Be flexible with your deadline
Normally, I need eight months to a year (or more) to complete a book project. If you need a fast turnaround time, I will need to increase my price. However, if you are flexible on deadlines, I can sometimes give you a price break, as I can take on other projects.
I routinely try to come in ahead of my deadlines, but it’s nice to have some leeway if it’s needed. Flexibility is worth its weight in gold.
In addition, there are times when my clients need to take a few months off, too. I always juggle projects to accommodate authors.
Reduce your word count
Since a ghostwriter usually charges on a per word basis, you can reduce the cost to hire a ghostwriter by lowering your proposed word count. As I mentioned earlier in this article, the average length of a book is 50,000 – 75,000 words (or 200 – 300 pages), but some stories can be told in 25,000 words (or 100 pages). This is an acceptable length for a memoir. So, if a shorter book is more realistic for you, know that I can make it any length, within reason. Just be aware that we might not be able to include all the incidents that occurred.
Quality is always better than quantity in writing.
Show you communicate well
As a ghostwriter, I will require that my authors be available to review pages I send or answer questions that come up as I write. You will need to put in a two to three hours a week on your project with me.
I seek out clients who communicate well and respect my time. From experience, I know that working with these clients will be easier because they will respond to my queries and be a true partner on the project. Of course, I will always do the heavy lifting for any book project I take on, but the client’s contributions are vital to the success of the project.
On the flip side, if a client needs me to send five emails before answering a question or doesn’t make a scheduled appointment, it takes me longer to complete a project.
I will sometimes give discounts (or add words for free) to a client who communicates well and respects my time.
Three Categories of Writer
If you’re willing to pay the cost to hire a ghostwriter, it’s good to know that there are three main categories of writers:
Mid-range professional writers
High-end celebrity writers
Price range: $2,000 to $10,000
How to locate: Fiverr, Upwork, Guru or other freelance websites
Easy to find
Many writers in this category
Very low cost
You need to watch for plagiarism. It’s rampant in this category.
The writer will often have little to no prior experience. You’ll need to be patient.
Because of this writer’s lack of experience, she may miss deadlines or run into unexpected difficulties.
The writer will probably have a full-time job, which may cause delays.
Be prepared to rewrite her work.
Ask for references and contact each one.
Get writing samples. Be sure to check each using plagiarism software.
Never pay the entire fee upfront; give an industry-standard deposit of 25% down.
If you have a very small budget (and you can’t write your book on your own), a cheap writer really is your only option. Your biggest risk is that you’ll wind up with an unusable manuscript that will need to be rewritten. Also, you really need to watch for plagiarism with this class of writer.
Mid-range professional writers
Price range: $15,000 to $100,000
How to locate: Internet searches, blogs, and word-of-mouth
You will get personalized attention from a professional writer.
The process will be an enjoyable experience.
Through the interview process, you’ll probably remember new details of past incidents and might put together some interesting pieces to your life puzzle.
Your ghostwriter will have years of writing experience, with at least a few books under her belt.
You will learn a lot about how to write along the way.
The price tag is higher than a cheap writer.
Since there aren’t many ghostwriters in this category, it can be hard to get on her calendar. We book up fast.
Review the ghostwriter’s website. Look for a testimonial page and a blog, as these will tell you a lot about the writer’s experience and viewpoint.
This level of ghostwriter will make the project an enjoyable and educational experience for you. It’s a bit like hiring a limousine instead of calling an Uber. If you can afford a professional ghostwriter, you’ll wind up with a quality manuscript that you can either market and sell or pitch to an agent or publisher.
High-end celebrity writers
These ghostwriters are usually hired by actors, politicians, musicians and other famous personalities who will sell books just by virtue of their names. The writers for these celebrities are well-established ghostwriters and authors, who have a lot of experience in this area.
The price tag for a celebrity hiring a ghostwriter is six or seven figures.
Which category is right for you?
Most people recognize that they would like a mid-ranged professional writer. And, honestly, the cost to hire a ghostwriter is actually reasonable when you consider that a lot of time, energy and hard work goes into writing a book. An excellent professional writer will often spend up to a year or two researching, writing, and editing a book for you.
As you can see, the cost to hire a ghostwriter fluctuates greatly from writer to writer.
Bottom line: you get what you pay for!
Tip: Give your ghostwriter a trial run
If you’re uncertain about the cost to hire a ghostwriter and are nervous about plunking down a large deposit, propose a trial run. Of course, you’ll need to pay for the service. If you don’t pay her, she will have to fit it in around her paid work and won’t be able to grant it the proper importance. Also, if you pay for the piece, you’ll own the rights to it and can use it anytime.
This trial run will allow you to find out how well the writer meets the agreed-upon deadline and you can really determine the quality of her work. At the end, you will have a good idea of what to expect if you hire her.
Now, some people get the “bright idea” that they can piece together a manuscript by asking many different ghostwriters to provide samples for free. This won’t work. Trust me, it will look more like a patchwork quilt than a book. This is not a good way to get around the cost to hire a ghostwriter.
When I do a trial phase, I allow my client to pick the word count, then I charge my standard dollar-per-word fee. If someone is writing his memoir, I select a story from his past to write. If I’m trying out for a nonfiction piece, I usually write an essay or a blog article. These few pages give the new client a good idea of what to expect from our budding relationship.
A Little Warning
Have you received a lowball offer to write your book?
While it might sound attractive, it rarely works out for you in the end. I have received calls from a number of prospective clients who made “excellent” deals hoping to save money, only to find they had to shell out a lot more cash to have everything re-written. It’s frustrating for the author, as well as for the ghostwriter who must now take over the project.
If you’re paying a fraction of the usual price, you often get a fraction of the quality.
Writing a book requires a certain advanced skill set, and the complexity involved with ghostwriting is even greater. A ghost needs to capture the style and voice of our authors, while meeting the goals of the client. That’s why the price tag should never be cheap.
If you have questions and need help, don’t hesitate to contact me! Check out my testimonial page to see what my clients have to say about me and my work.
“When my partner and I decided to write a book, we interviewed many ghost writers. Some were very inexpensive, while others were too pricey for our budget. Laura wasn’t the least expensive writer, but we chose her because she was so passionate about writing. Laura went above and beyond our expectations. I am very pleased with all her work and will continue to use her for my future writing needs.” Edwin Carrion
If you’re searching the internet, looking for a ghostwriter to help you write your book, you are probably curious about the cost. What is a ghostwriter’s fee? How do they charge?
There seems to be a bit of mystery and confusion surrounding a ghostwriter’s fee. I get it. Allow me to tackle this subject for you, upfront and head on. That way you can be armed with knowledge before reaching out to interview a ghostwriter.
How to calculate a ghostwriter’s fee
As you will quickly discover, each ghostwriter charges differently. Not only do fees vary from writer to writer, but the way they calculate their fees will differ as well.
There are four basic ways a ghostwriter’s fees are calculated:
When you interview with a high-end ghostwriter, she will almost always bid on a per project basis. Check out my article How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter to learn more about the bids you might expect to receive from the different classes of writer. To summarize, there are:
Cheap ghostwriters who charge anywhere from $2,000 – $15,000 to write a book. They are very easy to find, but, as you can imagine, will be less reliable. Watch out for scam artists if the price tag seems too good to be true. Also, you’ll need to invest in good plagiarism software to make sure the manuscript you purchase doesn’t, in fact, belong to someone else.
Mid-range professional ghostwriters will cost more. Their fees will range from $15,000 to $100,000 depending upon the size of the project. These writers are very experienced and reliable but are harder to find. With this class of writer, you’ll learn a lot about the writing process and get a high-quality product.
Celebrity ghostwriters are really reserved for those who have a household name and can afford the Learjet prices (six to seven figures) of this class of writer.
Honestly, when I first started out twenty years ago, I tried a variety of methods and quickly settled on this one. It’s very precise and, as the client, you will know exactly what to expect. This makes it by far the most popular method to calculate the overall cost of a book project for mid- to high-end professional ghostwriters.
My research shows that these mid- to high-end professional writers charge $0.50 to $2 per word (sometimes more). Personally, I charge one dollar per word.
When I began seriously pursuing a professional writing career about twenty years ago, I started by charging by the hour. Through experience I discovered that most clients are hesitant to enter into a contract with a writer on an hourly agreement. After all, who knows how long it will really take to complete a book!
I’d say that the average full-length book takes me two hundred hours to write. However, if there is extensive research or interviewing required, that estimate might be doubled.
Nowadays, the only time I bill by the hour is when I consult. My rate is $145 per hour.
Over the years I’ve noticed that clients usually think in terms of page count for the length of a book, whereas writers think in terms of word count. I always specify both in a contract to make sure the author has a clear idea of my intention.
I’ve never charged on a per page basis but know that some writers bill this way. I feel this fee is difficult to calculate because the word count per page really depends on a number of factors:
Font size and style
The spacing of the text
Margins, line spacing and other similar factors
For instance, a single page of text that is dialogue driven and double spaced in 12-point Courier New font might be 150 words, while a nonfiction piece with long paragraphs in a different font might exceed 350 words. That’s a significant difference.
I consider that there is an average of 250 words per page, but that’s just an estimate. If I were asked to give a per page bid for a project, I’d charge $250 per page. A realistic range for professional writers charging this way would be $125 – $500 per page.
Cost for a book proposal
If you plan to engage an agent and submit your story to a book publisher, you will need to prepare a standard book proposal. This is a specialized document containing a lot of information about your book. Book proposals vary in length and need to be tailor made for each submission. In most cases, proposals run 50 – 80 pages, though some can be longer.
A typical book proposal contains the following components:
An overview of the book that should be one or two pages in length
A description of your target audience
A short author biography
A list of book titles of published works comparable to your proposed project
A strong marketing plan
The book’s table of contents
Two sample chapters
If you are going this route and plan to hire a ghostwriter to write your book, you’ll want to first engage her to write the proposal. After all, she will outline your book and write two chapters as part of this process. So she will already be well on the way to getting your book done.
For in-depth tips and tricks on how to write a book proposal, you can read my blog article on the subject.
A ghostwriter’s fee for a quality book proposal will run somewhere between $10,000 – $15,000. However, this price should be factored into the overall price, if you hire that ghostwriter to write your book.
Incentives to offer a ghostwriter
If you’re looking for a cheap ghostwriter on Guru or Upwork, you’ll discover that many will vie for your attention like fish seeking breadcrumbs. However, the tide shifts a bit when you seek a high-end professional ghostwriter. You may find that she isn’t as desperate for work.
A writer in this category is often quite picky about the projects she takes on and will be interviewing you even as you interview her.
If you are eager to engage a popular ghostwriter and sense that she might be able to sign with only one or two new clients when you contact her, it might be wise to consider offering a few incentives to entice her to sign a contract with you.
Here are a few inducements you might consider:
A percentage of the back end
While it would never be proper to ask a professional ghostwriter to work solely for a percentage of the back end (royalties), it can be a nice bonus to a ghostwriter’s fee. This incentive has the added benefit of including the writer in the marketing of the project. She will be invested in ensuring that the book sells well.
Some ghostwriters won’t be able to do much to help you with sales, while others are well versed in that area. If your prospective writer is great at marketing, it doesn’t hurt to bring her in as a marketing partner from the start.
A cover credit
For a ghostwriter who is starting out, a cover credit is worth a lot, because he can add it to his portfolio and resume. An open credit will help him gain future clients. Most authors don’t want to share with their readers that they had help in writing the book. That is always fine with me. It’s part of the job. You’re the author; I’m the ghost. However, if you’re willing to share credit, it can be a lovely enticement.
This is the way it would work: The front cover would read by Your Name, then underneath it would read “with” or “as told to” Ghostwriter’s Name. The author still gets the recognition as the creator of the book, but the ghostwriter gets her name associated with the project.
As I mentioned, most authors don’t like to spill the beans that they actually didn’t write their book themselves. However, many will find a way to pay homage to and thank their ghost in the acknowledgment section of their books. Over the last twenty years, I’d say half my clients gave me such a gift. It’s always appreciated by me.
Write a testimonial
When you are finished with your book, it would be nice to offer to write a testimonial for your ghostwriter. This allows him to share your success story with other potential clients in the future.
I have been very fortunate to have gathered quite a collection of testimonials. Some authors sign with just their initials, as they wish to keep their anonymity, while others proudly share their full name.
Make sure to sign a legal contract
As I stated in my article What You Need in a Ghostwriting Contract, “An oral agreement should never replace a written one.” It’s too easy to have misunderstandings between an author and a ghostwriter if there is not a firm contract in place.
Please don’t sign an agreement on the back of a cocktail napkin (yes, it’s happened). To fully protect yourself, you want to sign a formal contract. A professional ghostwriter will have hired a lawyer to help her draft the document because she knows a good contract is well worth the cost.
Key points for a contract
When you review a ghostwriter’s contract, be on the lookout for these elements:
The deadlines for each milestone of the project. Smaller projects might only have one date of completion, but most full-length books have more. I have four milestones in my contract.
The overall price clearly stated. The contract should specify the ghostwriter’s fee, as well as the payment plan for the project. In my contract I break up the total cost into four payments, to be paid at the beginning of each segment.
The expected length of the book. As stated above, a professional writer will specify a word count, not a page count. However, in my contract I provide both. For instance, I might state, “50,000 words (or 200 pages).” I do this because my clients usually think it terms of pages.
The services expected of the ghostwriter. It’s a good idea to spell out what the ghostwriter will or will not do for you. For instance, will the writer help you with the publishing process? If so, make sure those services are well defined so that there are no surprises later.
The number of revisions allowed. Make sure you know how many revisions your ghostwriter will allow. For example, I specify one set per milestone, but always plan to make minor adjustments along the way.
Confidentiality and copyrights. It’s important that you retain the rights to the book. In addition, be sure there is a good non-disclosure agreement (NDA) within the contract.
With a good understanding of the elements of a contract and the ghostwriter’s fee associated with the project, you can make an informed and educated decision and find the best ghostwriter for you.
Additional articles that you might find helpful are:
Many writers wish to earn a living through their craft. Some choose to write their own books and sell them, while others prefer to become freelance writers who sell their wordsmithing services to others while still receiving credit for their work. If you enjoy helping others share their ideas with the world through the written word, perhaps you might wish to become a ghostwriter.
A ghostwriter is someone who writes for another and receives no author credit. If you’re a professional writer who wishes to become a ghostwriter, you should know that although there are some similarities between authoring and ghosting, a ghostwriter flexes different muscles.
I have been a ghostwriter for twenty years. During this time hundreds of experienced writers have emailed me, asking what it takes to venture into this world. I’m ever eager to encourage others to explore this unique writing opportunity. At the same time, I always caution that this move isn’t right for everyone.
A few drawbacks
I love being a ghostwriter. There’s nothing more rewarding than helping an author write a book. However, there are some aspects of the trade you might not like. It’s good to be aware of these before entering the field.
A ghostwriter works for someone else
As an author, you’re the boss. You decide what to write, how to communicate your ideas, and ultimately how the book turns out. When you’re ghostwriting, you give up this control. For example, if you’re building a world in a sci-fi story and want to develop the main character into a strong independent woman, but your client wants her to be less so, that’s how she’ll be.
I always tell my clients, “I’ll tell you what I honestly think, but in the end you’re the boss and I’ll follow your wishes. After all, it’s your book.” And I mean it. My job is to educate my client on the process and guide him to the best-possible book. It’s not my job to push a particular agenda. You need to be okay with the idea of following the course set by another if you want to become a ghostwriter.
You can’t share what you’ve written
Everything you write as a ghostwriter is protected by a confidentiality agreement. Although some clients are extremely generous and allow me to share portions of their books as writing samples, it was not always so. In the beginning, people had to hire me on faith or simply based on my blog or short stories. I can tell you from experience, it’s not always easy to encourage someone to take this kind of leap of faith. Lack of writing samples makes getting a new client difficult for new writers in the industry. Even now, after having written over two dozen books, I still can’t share the titles with others.
In addition, if your friends ask you about the projects you’re working on, you won’t be able to discuss the details of the book. So, when I’m delving into the history of a new cryptocurrency or uncovering the secret remedy for a disease, I can’t share much with my friends and family. And they know not to ask. Unfortunately, this can make for awkward silences when people are talking about their day around the dinner table.
Bottom line, you must be willing to keep mum about your work and find ways to promote your writing skill without samples if you want to become a ghostwriter.
Your name won’t be on the cover of the book you wrote
I think this is the toughest pill to swallow for most writers. Being a ghostwriter is a bit like being a surrogate parent. Once you finish the manuscript, your baby is out of your hands. The completed book rightly belongs to the author who hired you. This can be emotionally rough. For many this is a deal breaker.
After spending a year creating a masterpiece, you must be willing to hand over the project and disavow having played any part in its creation. You must be willing to silently step back and allow someone else to claim full credit. I honestly don’t mind this, but many do.
Having laid out all the drawbacks, I must say there are many perks for ghostwriters. Aside from the financial rewards, it’s an emotionally rich and satisfying career. We get to walk in the footsteps of many different people, learn their crafts, feel their emotions, and then share their experiences with the world. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
Skills required to become a ghostwriter
If you’re a writer who wishes to become a ghostwriter, you might need to develop a few skills. These will set you apart from a solo writer.
Learn to listen
A ghostwriter is a great listener.
She not only listens to the words her clients speak or write, but she also listens to their messages, themes, and writing goals. A ghostwriter breathes with her client, gets in sync with him and does her best to fulfill all of his intentions and purposes for the book.
For instance, when I interview a client and discover she wishes to write a memoir chronicling how she became a successful entrepreneur, I’m jazzed. Not only can I help her share her life story, but I can help her help others follow in her footsteps. Now, if her goal for the book is also to gain new clients, that’s important to know, as I’ll need to write her book with that in mind. Since her readership will include her future client base, these people will be interested in how specific aspects of her business might benefit them.
If you wish to become a ghostwriter, but are concerned that listening is a weak point for you, don’t worry. It’s a skill anyone can learn. It just takes some practice.
A little exercise
Start with your friends.
Listen to them.
After they leave, write down what they said.
Can you recount what they said in the way they said it? Keep in mind, you’re not only listening to the content of what they’re communicating, but you’re observing the nuances of their language. Everyone has a different way of speaking. You need to hear how they put words together.
If you find yourself drifting off as your friends speak, that’s not good. You need to quit that bad habit. It’s like biting your nails. How would you handle that? Yes, you can just quit doing it.
Rein yourself in and really listen to what your friends are saying. Work on improving the accuracy of your perception of the conversation until you capture the full content and tone of it.
You also need to become adept at hearing what people don’t say. If you’re writing a memoir, you are hired by your client to get at the truth. When he says something that begs a question, bring out your inner journalist and ask for details. Or if you sense that he is hiding a pertinent fact, pry a little. Of course, he has a right to his secrets, but his memoir will fail if he doesn’t open up to his public. They will be able to tell if he’s not being genuine.
A good ghostwriter will find a way to get her answer. Interviewing clients is another necessary skill to become a ghostwriter. That sounds like a good topic for another blog article!
Become a good writer
It goes without saying that in order to be a ghostwriter, you must first be a writer: a competent, compelling, and confident writer. Writing comes from experience; you don’t need a college degree, nor must you be a published author. While both could help, neither is absolutely necessary.
Having said that, I believe it would be difficult to ghostwrite a book if you’ve never completed one yourself. There are lessons one learns simply by seeing a project through to completion. For instance, how do you overcome writer’s block? Are you able to edit out a cherished character that just doesn’t quite fit in? Every time you conquer an obstacle, you learn a lot. This helps you write a better book for your client.
I believe it will be helpful to you if you develop your own writing style and voice before you embark on the grand adventure of helping your client develop his.
Learn to capture another’s voice and style
One of the signature skills of a ghostwriter is to discover and bring out the voice and style of your clients. In order to do that, you’ll need to take a lot of notes and study all their current written work. Some clients will give you pages of a diary or blog articles they’ve written. You need to pick out the phrases they use, hone in on their style of communicating, and create a voice that will accurately portray them.
While you wouldn’t want to pass on the grammatical errors of your clients, you want their unique speech patterns and mannerisms to shine through. For instance, one client might use endearments for everyone around her, while another pauses dramatically between meaningful thoughts. You want to be sure to weave these into your book.
On the other hand, if your client has a lisp or stutter, you wouldn’t pass a speech impediment on to his character. Find the qualities that highlight who he is without amplifying the negative characteristics.
A little exercise
Capturing someone else’s style and voice is another skill you can practice. Jump on the internet and find a prolific writer who blogs. See if you can pick out her voice. What makes her uniquely her? Find those nuances.
Zero in on any cultural references. For instance, if the author is from the UK, he might use some colorful phrases unique to his region. “Blimey” or “dodgy” might be sprinkled into his dialogue.
As a ghostwriter, when you capture the author’s dialogue, you can even drop a few foreign words here and there, as long as their meaning is clear.
“Guten Tag, Herr Schmidt!” helps us know the character is of German origin.
When the foreign word’s meaning isn’t completely clear, define it within the text.
“She handed out the Stollen to her family. The buttery fruitcake was enjoyed by all.”
Ultimately, there are many ways a person communicates his thoughts and ideas. If you want to become a ghostwriter, know that it’s your job to spot these and create your client’s voice using their distinct style.
Capture your client’s viewpoints
People have a unique take on things; they see things from their particular point of view. Some will tell you outright how they feel and what they believe, while others won’t. For those who don’t, you’ll need to glean their viewpoints using interview questions. You must be able to identify these so you can help the reader see things from the author’s standpoint.
Recognizing the viewpoints of others is another skill that can be learned. You can start by observing others around you. Slip into their shoes and really see things from their perspective. Their point of view might not be yours. That’s OK. Simply understand how they feel and think about things.
In order to be a great writer, you must be able to adopt the various viewpoints of your characters. That’s one way they come to be three-dimensional (and beloved).
Another tip to differentiate characters in a book is to observe how different people react to the same situation. For instance, one friend might shriek when surprised, while another will do his best to suppress his reaction. Then there is the person who will laugh hysterically. These little details go a long way to creating believable characters.
The Business Side of Ghostwriting
One of the chief differences between being an author and being a ghostwriter is that when you’re a ghostwriter you’re running a business. That means that you’re in charge of everything—all aspects of the enterprise. You must:
Procure new clients
Complete all projects on time
Collect testimonials from existing clients
Write the entire book yourself
Ask for payments from your clients
Hire outside team members to help when needed
It’s important to be highly organized, to keep track of all your deadlines and to answer emails and texts from clients as quickly as possible. I have a policy of answering all incoming emails within 24 hours, but usually do so within hours of receiving them.
As with any business venture, you must be professional in all aspects of the business. Of course, you should never deliver any piece late; in fact, I recommend being early. Exceed expectations.
And above all, respect the confidentiality agreement as if you were a secret agent. Your word is your bond.
Always work with a contract
Don’t try to go into business without a good professional contract. Trust me, if you work on a handshake basis, it can become a disaster. Part of running a successful business is making sure to provide the services you promised your clients. In order to do that, you need to be clear about what your services are.
I outline all the pertinent details for a good ghostwriting contract in another blog article, but here is a summary of what a good contract should contain:
A confidentiality agreement
The rough word count of the book. Note: Word count is much more accurate than page count.
The deadlines for all the major milestones. This would include:
Confirmation that the copyright of the book belongs to the client
The number of revisions included in the price
While you can find decent contract templates on the internet, I highly recommend that you hire a lawyer who can draft one to fit your particular needs. An ambiguously worded agreement will cause you and your client trouble down the line in the event of a disagreement.
I find being a ghostwriter a very rewarding experience. Over the last twenty years I’ve worked on ten novels, eight nonfiction how-to books, and seventeen memoirs (along with a few children’s books and screenplays). I enjoy the diversity: getting to know all different kinds of people and stretching my writing muscles in a variety of genres. I have learned so much from each project and have found fulfillment in helping others meet their goal of creating a book. If you’re a writer who wants to become a ghostwriter, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions. I’m here to help!