What To Expect When Hiring A Ghostwriter

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I’ve been ghostwriting for over fifteen years now. I tackle fiction, business books and memoirs and strive to always capture my client’s unique voice with every word. There really isn’t any genre that I can’t write for another author.

Having said that, I’m incredibly picky about the clients and the subject matter I take on. Why? Because I’m tied closely to that person and project for a long while. A book often takes a year to eighteen months to write, and my clients often become fast friends.

Who typically hires a ghostwriter?

When someone reaches out to me asking for help with their book, I can tell that they often have no idea what to expect when hiring a ghostwriter. I understand, as mine isn’t a common vocation. In fact, most people I speak to about my profession seem surprised to learn that people will actually hire someone else to write a book for them (then put their own name on that book). It’s done more often that many seem to realize and is completely ethical.

It’s not just the celebrities and politicians who reach out to hire a ghostwriter these days. Quite a few people hire me to write their life story simply to share their adventure with their descendants. In addition, many professionals seek out a professional writer who can put in the time and energy to put their vision on the page or bring their story to life. After all, it does take hundreds of hours to write a book. How many CEOs, visionaries, and entrepreneurs have that sort of spare time on their hands? And if they do, my bet is that they’d rather devote the weekends and evenings to their families and friends. Maybe travel a bit. Take on a new hobby.

What’s the cost?

No doubt about it, hiring a ghostwriter is an investment. I charge $25,000 per 100 pages. That’s about a dollar per word. While that might seem pricey, some ghostwriters run a quarter of a million dollars or more.

Plan to put 25% down and pay the rest as the book unfolds. Never ask a ghostwriter to accept a deferred payment; they could never run a business that way.

Who gets the credit?

Most often, the ghostwriter never receives any credit. We sign a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA), swearing secrecy for the project. Now and then it might be in the best interests of the author to give the ghostwriter a writing credit (such as a “with” or a “as told to” tag on the cover). And some gracious clients will give a kind acknowledgment in the back of the book, thanking the writer for their assistance. I am always tremendously grateful for such a gift. However, I personally never expect a credit and am happy to remain the invisible ghost for the book.

How does ghostwriting work?

My clients really become new writing partners. Most will provide me with a lot of notes, which will help me form a good outline. Then we’ll chat on the phone until I have all the information I need. Each client is different, because each author has a unique story to tell and everyone has their own style. Some clients require hours of conversation, while others have very cohesive notes right from the start. The process is almost always different with each person.

What is the ghostwriting process?

When you’re hiring a ghostwriter, I’d say that the process can be broken up into three phases:

  1. The Research Phase: It’s hard to write a book without all the information upfront, so I like to dive in and immerse myself in the content before I begin writing. Once I have everything I need, I’ll write up an outline for the client. This will act as our road map for us for the entire process.
  2. The First Draft Phase: Once the outline is approved, I’ll write the first draft. I often send pages as I write the book, getting feedback and approval along the way. Not every ghostwriter works this way, but I find it works well. I wouldn’t want to finish the book only to realize I’d misunderstood a key element.
  3. The Editing Phase: After the first draft is approved by the client, I begin editing. I normally hire one or two editors to review the manuscript after I finish. The client is rarely involved in this stage as I would have already received all the feedback and comments in the previous phase.

It takes time

Hiring a ghostwriter makes writing a book simple and easy. However, I should warn you, it does require some time investment on the part of the author. Still, we’re taking dozens of hours rather than hundreds. Plan to spend a few hours a week answering questions and reviewing pages. Most clients find the process rewarding and, in the end, they always have a book with their name on it.

If you’re interested in hiring me, please email me, so we can put you on the calendar to get started as soon as possible.

Good Memoir Themes

You might be thinking, “Memoirs are just life stories. Do I need a memoir theme?” Yes, but just like with any story, your memoir should have a message. Remember, you’re not publishing a shopping list of memories. Your memoir needs to follow the same rules as any book, so you must be able to tie the threads of your tapestry together with a compelling theme.

So, what are some good themes for a memoir? Here are a few examples to consider:

Persistence always wins in the end

If you’ve lived a hard life, one with lots of obstacles to overcome, this can be a great theme if you’ve triumphed. However, if you’re still amid the battle and really don’t have anything positive to share, it isn’t the time to write. And if your real goal is to complain to your reader, it won’t make for a good read. I mean, would you want to read a book like that?

Continual courage can lead to victory

We have all experienced battles where the odds seemed against us. It’s what you do at those moments that count and can make for a good story. If your life is filled with examples of courage and integrity, that would be a great theme.

Family is important

This is a simple theme, but a good one. In this day and age, where the media reports that most marriages fail and children are growing up without the support and love of their parents, a good memoir showing the beautiful bond of family is a needed commodity. Simply recording your family history for future generations is also a great concept! That’s a popular request of a ghostwriter.

Ethical people lead better lives

If your story highlights times when you stood up and did the right thing, even when it was difficult for you, your story can set an important example for others. It isn’t always easy to keep your integrity, especially when peers are there pressuring you to do the opposite. Writing a book that shows how you succeeded by being ethical can help others make similar choices in their own lives. Perhaps someone will pick up your book when they’re at an important crossroad in their life and just need a gentle nudge to make the right decision.

Crime doesn’t pay

I actually receive a number of requests from former inmates who are eager to share their stories of reform. The ones who are passionate about this subject, who regularly go out and speak to young adults can do well with a complementary memoir. It might be rough in places and won’t always be happy-go-lucky, but the lessons learned by someone who has traveled the wrong path can be helpful to others. This theme works best if the author is presently leading a successful and ethical life.

There are many more good and valid themes to choose from. Really, you just need to look at the effect your story could have on others. If it uplifts and inspires them, go for it! Write your book! However, if you think that your story will depress people, make them less enthusiastic about life in any way, well, perhaps now isn’t quite the time to pen your memoir.

If you’re in the market for a ghostwriter, please contact me. I’d love to chat with you about your memoir project!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Questions for a Ghostwriter

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?