Over the last twenty years, I’ve talked to thousands of authors who needed help completing their book projects. Many people write me with various questions and confusions. One area that seems most perplexing is understanding who does what in the publishing industry. The bottom line becomes, ” Should I hire a ghostwriter or an editor?”
In addition, some people write me asking if I can publish their books. Others inquire if they should hire an editor to 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. Let’s clear up these different professions:
- A ghostwriter
- An editor
- A proofreader
- A publisher
So, let’s look at each one so you can know which professional you should hire.
What is a ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter is someone an author hires to write a book for them. The author pays the ghostwriter upfront and receives a completed manuscript. When the project is finished, the author owns all the rights to the book and the ghostwriter disappears into thin air as if they never existed. They become a ghost.
Although your book will be in the ghostwriter’s words, the concept for the book is yours and it should be written in your voice.
I can tell you 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 just have a vague idea for a storyline and ask me to structure the book and write it from scratch. It varies.
Know that when you hire a ghostwriter, she will need to do extensive research and then interview you to fill in any gaps. You will need to put in some time to work with her.
Cost: Ghostwriters vary widely in price. Usually, you can expect to spend somewhere between fifty cents to two dollars per word for a book.
What is an editor?
When you complete your manuscript with your ghostwriter, the next step will be to hire an editor. Some ghostwriters (myself included) will hire an outside editor to polish the book before turning it in to their client. This is a crucial step.
While a ghostwriter will always go through their own internal editing process, any book that is published must be seen by more than one professional eye. No writer can write without the assistance of an editor.
It’s worth noting that there are quite a few different kinds of editing. Please check out my article “Different Kinds of Editors” to learn more about who does what.
When you hire an editor, she will look at your book with a more critical eye. Some will focus on grammatical or spelling errors, while others will zero in on structural issues (like problems with the plot or character development).
If you end up securing a publishing contract, the publisher will hire two or three editors to review your manuscript. If you are self-publishing, please be sure to hire at least one editor.
While there can be some overlap between an editor and a ghostwriter, editors typically don’t do major rewrites. They might offer suggestions for how to improve a sentence here or there, but they wouldn’t write new passages for you. That’s under the domain of a ghostwriter.
Cost: If you hire an editor, plan to spend between two to ten cents per word, depending on how much work is needed.
What is a proofreader?
A proofreader is a type of editor, who focuses on finding any remaining typos. She reads over a completed manuscript to make sure there are no errors. Proofreaders are far less detailed than editors. They won’t pick up on continuity errors, nor will they give you style suggestions. It’s a good idea to hire a proofreader after your book has been seen by the other editors you have hired.
If you’re on a tight budget you could ask your friends to read over your manuscript and look for obvious errors. You can also run it through various software programs out there.
Hiring a proofreader is often the final step in the book-writing process. Once the book is fully proofread, it is ready to enter the publishing process. ,
Cost: Their fee can typically range from less than a penny per word to two cents per word.
What is a publisher?
A publisher is a company that takes your finished manuscript and makes it ready for sale. A mainstream publisher will run the manuscript through its own editors, do the interior design, pick a title, create the cover, and handle all the tasks involved with releasing your book.
Today there are a variety of publishers out there. Some are known as “vanity publishers.” These companies will publish anything and everything; they don’t care about content. Vanity publishers have a tarnished reputation as they will try to constantly harass their authors to purchase various packages, promising them fame and fortune, while never delivering either.
Note: If you are approached by an eager publisher to publish your book, expect them to charge a small fortune. Publishers don’t chase down authors, but require a traditional submission through the normal channels. If a “publisher” is calling you, they aren’t a real publisher and are just looking to milk you for a few thousand dollars.
There are also “hybrid publishers,” who are a cross between mainstream and vanity. These publishers are more selective about the authors they take on and will share in the marketing and publishing costs with the author. They become partners with their authors.
Some publishing outfits subcontract out to ghostwriters or have in-house writers who help clients. The big ghostwriting firms advertise packages where they can take an author from concept through to marketing. They are middlemen, charging the authors a small fortune and then paying their writers a fraction of what they collect.
Some prospective clients write me, asking if I can help them with the publishing process. While I can’t do so directly, I do know people who know can assist my clients in this area. They can help you find a publisher and prepare to market (all authors need to market their own books these days).
Cost: Vanity publishers usually run thousands of dollars, while mainstream publishers shouldn’t cost you a dime.
As a self-published author, you’ll need to hire several professionals to get your book ready for sale. Should you hire a ghostwriter or an editor? The answer is: You’ll need both! Now, if you find a traditional publisher, they will help you with the editing, but you have a much better shot at landing a publisher if you hire your own editor first. No publisher wants to wade through tons of errors.
In the end, understanding who is responsible for which tasks will help you plan your budget and time so that you can create the best book possible.
Additional articles you might find helpful: