Do You Need Help Writing a Book?

Many people have a great story idea, but need help writing a book. It takes discipline and experience to write a book that others will want to read (and can’t put down). If you’re not a professional writer, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the idea you have of sharing your story with the world. You have options:

Improve your writing skills

You’ve decided to write the book yourself. That’s wonderful! Now it is time to gain experience. Write and write and write, and then write some more. It will probably take you a few hundred thousand words to find your own voice.

What should you write?

Anything and everything!

Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Describe objects in your home or people you know. Record family stories or funny incidents that happen to you. Write a love letter to your partner. Jot down that silly bedtime story you made up for your child. The more you write, the easier you will find it to get the ideas out of your head and down on paper.

It is a good idea to read books on how to write. These will teach you basic techniques that will allow you to bring your thoughts to life.

And definitely read the works of other authors. Notice how they tackle challenging scenes. How do they approach dialogue? How do they incorporate descriptions? When you find a passage you particularly like, dissect it and see how they were able to communicate their vision to you.

Now that you have improved your writing skills, tackle that story! For more information on how to get started writing your book, check out my Ask a Ghostwriter series.

Hire a writing coach

If you want to write your own book, but feel you don’t have the experience and skill set to do so, you can hire a writing coach. This person’s job will be to provide guidance as you navigate your project. With this option, you will still do all the writing; you’ll just have a guardian angel on your shoulder.

Find a successful writer to coach you. If she has never written a book, she is unlikely to know the process and will not be able to guide you in the right direction.

It’s a good idea to lay out your writing goals early on. Share them with your coach and ask her to keep you accountable for them.

Of course, it goes without saying that you’ll need to pay them for their time. I charge $145 per hour to coach.

Hire a Ghostwriter

If you’d rather hire someone else to completely write your book then simply make comments or edits on their work, find a good ghostwriter to help you. Of course, this is the most expensive choice, but it’s also the least time consuming one. Having said that, you’ll need to put in time providing important research information in the beginning and definitely earmark time to review the work as it is written.

If you have limited time and a low budget, you might consider hiring a ghostwriter to write a novella. A novella is a shorter book, usually about 100 pages long, and will only run $25,000.

Once you have your finished book, plan to spend a little extra money on an editor to polish it up and do your proofreading. Personally, I include editing in my pricing (and always hire an outside professional to read my book with an expert eye), but not all ghostwriters do.

So, as you see, there are options for you to get help writing your book. If you need help sorting through these choices, please don’t hesitate to email me for a consultation!

Memoir or Autobiography or Biography?

Many people have something worthwhile to write. Their hard-won life lessons and perseverance can both inspire and instruct others. And let’s face it, their lives just make for an interesting read! If this describes your life, it might be time to consider writing a book to capture your personal story. Should you write a memoir, an autobiography, or a biography?

If you’re reading this and you’ve been fortunate enough (and skilled enough) to have climbed out of a gnarly hole and succeed in life, you really owe it to the world to share your story one way or another. People really need to hear about your journey and understand the steps you took to make it.

How do you tell this story? Well, you have a few choices. There are three basic genres for such a project: biography, autobiography and memoir.

An Autobiography or a Biography

We have all seen the biography or autobiography section in a library. These works are somewhat formal efforts to document the lives of notable people. These books proceed in a linear and orderly fashion through the life of the subject, cataloging their existence for the reader. It’s extremely accurate and factual.

If that description sounds a bit dry, that’s because the end product often is. After all, how many of us relished reading the biography or autobiography of a famous person in school? That’s probably the last one you read, right?

Still, there are times when this medium is correct. When a formal accounting of someone’s life needs to be understood, reach for a biography or autobiography. Get the facts and learn about that person.

A Memoir

A memoir reads more like a novel, written in the first person. It rarely starts with “I was born in New Haven, CT,” but rather sets you at the precipice of a key moment of the author’s life then carries you forward through a segment of the person’s life. You feel the emotions of the author, experience what they experience in a very realistic way.

Memoirs tend to be less formal than an autobiography or biography. Creative license can be exercised with caution. The dialogue you read is never completely accurate but is more of a best guess by the author. The story is still true, but certain elements are often embellished for the sake of the tale.

In addition, a memoir can document a specific event, focusing on the short term, rather than the entire life of the person. For instance, a famous band might focus a memoir around a specific tour or the recording of an album.

A good memoir strives to capture the voice of the author with authenticity. This helps the reader slip into the shoes of the subject, making it easier to live the life they lived for a few hours.

Which Is Best for You?

A person lives one moment after the next, in linear fashion, to be sure, but is that the best way to present the story? Perhaps. And should one include every detail, simply because it happened? Most likely there were a few moments of that life that were crucial, which might illuminate what made that person who they are today. And then there are mundane incidents that no reader needs to hear.

Most often I recommend that my clients write their memoirs rather than their autobiographies. It’s more popular and more riveting for the reader. However, there are times when a biography or autobiography is a better choice. It comes down to preference.

What are your thoughts? Which do you prefer to read?

If you wish to hire a ghostwriter and wonder what the cost might be, please check out my article on the subject.

What To Expect When Hiring A Ghostwriter

Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash

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.

Record Your Family History for Future Generations

I’ve been a ghostwriter for sixteen years and love what I do. I get to take on many different characters, such as a slothful worker in a futuristic world or a teenage rebel in Communist Hungary. I also get to share important knowledge that was once only known to an elite few.

So, it goes without saying that I’m grateful for the opportunity to help my clients write their books.

By far, the most common request I receive is to help people write their memoirs, their life stories and adventures. Each one is so different, each client with their own voice, message, and purpose for writing their book.

Zeroing in on the purpose

When I interview a potential client, one of my first tasks is to get their true motivation behind the book project. That’s important for a number of reasons.

For one thing, I want to help them achieve their goals. Honestly, my clients’ goals become mine as we form a writing team.

One of my favorite things about being a ghostwriter is that I get to become a family’s historian. It’s an honor to be allowed into each client’s inner circle, so that I can record their stories for future generations—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Record your memories

Many of my clients have no intention of ever publishing their memoirs. They have me write their stories simply out of fear their memories and lessons-learned will get lost over time, especially when they pass on. It’s a valid concern. Taking the time to write down their words, thoughts, and ideas has been not only important to them but to their families as well.

The advantage of hiring a ghostwriter to record your family history is that should you decide to have it published, you will already have a marketable book, one you can easily self-publish on Amazon.com. There’s no obligation to have the final book published, of course, but why not give yourself the option of sharing your story with others when the time is right?

Your family historian

While hiring a ghostwriter has many advantages, I understand that not everyone can afford the fee. In that case, I recommend appointing someone in your family to be the historian. Once selected, encourage and help that person interview every family member as in-depth as possible.

One tip I can offer the family historian is to capture each person’s exact words. After all, everyone has a different way of expressing themselves. There’s no right or wrong here, just jot down any idioms they might use and make a note of their mannerisms.

Don’t be a grammar police

But whatever you do, don’t correct their grammar. You’re not their seventh grade English teacher. If Grandpa says, “ain’t,” keep it that way. It’s real and it’s him, and will allow future generations a better sense of who he was. Record exactly what each person says as they say it.

Through this journey, you will likely discover that your elders have lived through some amazing times. Perhaps your great uncle fought in a war. Or your grandmother escaped a brutal dictator. Maybe various family members traveled to a variety of exotic locations you never knew about. Whatever the case, you’re bound to learn a lot about your family.

So, when should you start?

Now!

I mean it!

Time isn’t always on your side, especially if members of your family are getting on in years. So now is the perfect opportunity to talk with them. Go for it! And have fun!

If you need help, feel free to contact me. I love helping families record their history! Check out a few of my testimonials.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Questions for a Ghostwriter

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

Questions for a Ghostwriter

how much is a ghostwriterAre you interested in hiring a ghostwriter?

If so, you probably have a few questions. After all, hiring a ghostwriter isn’t an everyday activity!

Throughout the years, I’ve discussed various topics in this blog, so when appropriate I’ll refer you to those articles to help clarify some of the answers.

How much does a ghostwriter cost?

This is by far the number one question I receive. Most people honestly have no idea how much a professional writer charges. It’s a little like going to an art gallery and asking the owner for a price on a painting you like. It might only be twenty dollars or it could be twenty thousand or more, right?

I know the topic of money can be uncomfortable for some, so I’ve written a two articles about this subject:

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

A Ghostwriter’s Fee: How Do They Charge?

The simple answer is that you can expect to pay anywhere from twenty-five thousand to seventy-five thousand dollars for a hundred to three hundred page book. Anything less and you’re hiring someone with little or no experience (and please beware of plagiarized work).

How long does it take to write a book?

Ghostwriters usually budget between four months and two years to write a book. Personally, I ask for six to eight months to write a full-length book, although I might be able to complete it faster. Some projects require extra research and interviews, so I like to leave some buffer room. Having said that, if a client needs it sooner, I do what I can to accommodate their schedule.

Does a ghostwriter publish books? Do they edit?

The main job of a ghostwriter is to write your book, in your voice and style, with your information and ideas. While some ghostwriters do edit, not all are trained editors. For instance, I’m not. And most ghostwriters and editors are not publishers.

Here is an article I wrote that breaks down the jobs of writing professionals in detail:

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

Do ghostwriters ever work for a percentage of the sales of the book (royalties)?

No. Professional writers are always paid upfront.

Does it upset you that, even though you wrote the book, someone else gets all the credit?

Over the years, I have been asked this a lot. My answer is no, it really doesn’t bother me at all. That seems to surprise some people.

In reality, I see the book as my client’s baby. That would make me the midwife. Yes, I work hard to deliver the book, but the author is the one who came up with the idea, who provided all the information. It really is their book.

I love writing books for other people, helping them fulfill their lifelong dream!

Sometimes people ask me if the whole concept of ghostwriting is ethical. I wouldn’t be in this business if I felt it was wrong. Here’s an article I wrote about that subject:

Is Ghostwriting Ethical?

What kind of books do you write?

I love writing most genres and have written quite a few prescriptive nonfiction books (how-to books), novels, and memoirs. Having said that, I specialize in uplifting books that help, inspire, or teach others.

For an example of prescriptive nonfiction, check out my book, Chess Is Child’s Play: Teaching Techniques That Work.

For an example of a memoir I ghostwrote, please review, Joshua’s Missing Peace.

How do you get the information needed to write a book for a client?

Every client is different. That’s part of the fun! I often get hundreds of pages of notes, which can be in the form of a very rough draft. Although the book needs to be completely rewritten, the notes are very helpful.

Sometimes a client doesn’t like to write or research, so I need to interview the person extensively. This usually requires about thirty to fifty hours.

In addition, I always double and triple check everything using the internet, the library, and book stores. It’s important to verify information.

I hope this article has helped answer some of the questions you may have had about ghostwriters. If you still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me and let me know. I’ll do my best to answer them!

Additional articles you might find helpful:

Writing Nonfiction – A Niche Area of Expertise

Seven Tips For Writing A Great Memoir

Why Should I Hire a Ghostwriter?

When You Shouldn’t Write Your Memoir

Working With A Ghostwriter – What Steps Should You Take?

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

 

What Is a Ghostwriter?

what is a ghostwriter

What is a ghostwriter?

I’ve learned it is a rather unusual concept for many people, so I wanted to clarify a few points.

Let’s start with a basic definition: Ghostwriters are professional writers who write for other people.

Who hires a ghostwriter?

Most of my clients are business men and women who don’t have the time to write a book themselves, but have something important to share. Many want to share their personal life story, while others want a business book to teach others what they know. Sometimes people want to write a best-selling novel and need a little help.

Who owns the book in the end?

Ghostwriters hand over the rights to the book when the project is completed and become a “ghost.” Sometimes, we get a “with” credit on the cover or an acknowledgement inside, but other times we are sworn to secrecy.

What do ghostwriters write?

I have been hired to write many books and articles. Sometimes, people need help with blog articles, too. I enjoy helping my clients find their writer’s voice!

It might surprise you the varied requests I receive. One client hired me to write a letter to an older gentleman who was on his death bed, while another asked me to pen a letter to the editor regarding a highly controversial subject.

Ghostwriters are most often asked to write books. Some specialize in a particular genre, while others write books in many different genres. I have written fiction, memoirs and prescriptive nonfiction (which are typically how-to books).

Isn’t it unethical to take credit for a book written by a ghostwriter?

No, not at all! It would be if you stole my work (that is, if you took my words without my permission). That’s plagiarism. This is different, because they are your ideas and you’re hiring a ghostwriter to present them.

My clients and I usually have a contract, where we spell out the details of the relationship. It’s always very clear that the book goes to the author, the person hiring the ghostwriter. Yes, you ARE the author. Without you, there would be no book.

Are some of the bestselling books really ghostwritten?

Yes! I just read a figure that states an estimated forty percent of published books are ghostwritten. It makes sense. Most people either don’t have the time to write a book, since they take hundreds of hours a piece to write!

Okay, now for a pop quiz…

What is a ghostwriter?

A. A writer who writes scary stories.

B. A recently deceased writer who completes a book postmortem.

C. A person who writes for someone else.

D. Casper!

If you have an answer E, please email me and let me know!

Find out more about ghostwriting services here.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

How to Find a Ghostwriter

Pricing  a Ghostwriter

Working with a Ghostwriter – What steps should you take?