So, How Does Ghostwriting Work, Anyway?

You are the author

I get a few emails a month asking how the standard ghostwriting arrangement works. While there are some commonalities, the truth is, no true two projects are alike, because no two clients are the same. There really isn’t a “standard ghostwriting” deal.

How to present your notes to a ghostwriter

Different clients present me with notes in different ways. Some clients will drop 60,000 words in my lap and ask me to write a book. Others will give me a rough concept of a story or nonfiction book and let me “have at it.”

Which do I prefer?

I love both!

Both also offer their own challenges. The first option gives me a wealth of information and I begin the project with a good idea of what the client wants. I always still need to do extensive research in order to fill in gaps and be sure I have a complete understanding of the material, but with a good set of notes a lot of the initial homework has been done.

The second option gives me complete creative freedom, and, I’ll admit, there’s something very appealing about that!

Either way, I’ll need to write the actual book from scratch, as the notes need to be sculpted into the proper form required for a memoir, novel, or business book. Sometimes the notes are presented to me as a manuscript, but it’s rare that a simple edit will turn it into a book.

Cost of hiring a ghostwriter

My cost is very straightforward and easy to calculate. I charge a dollar per word for standard ghostwriting (for either method discussed above). So, a 200-300-page book, which would be 50,000 – 75,000 words, would run $50,000 – $75,000. I’m flexible on the payment plan but would need to be paid before I begin the work. Please email me for specific details on how you and I could work together.

The time I need to complete a book

The standard ghostwriting contract gives me eight to eighteen months to complete a full-length book project. Even a short, 100-page book, requires a lot of research. It’s rare that I can commit to completing even a mini-eBook in under a half a year. However, if that is important to you, I can sometimes move things around; however, in that case, the price would need to be adjusted.

Sometimes a client will ask me to write a book in a few months. I can do that, but I pretty much have to drop everything, kiss my husband and children goodbye, and rent a cabin in the woods to get it done. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but there is a nugget of truth to my hyperbole.

The time required by the client

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

Some authors are happy to sit back and let me write their book with little input, while others prefer to see the pages unfold and comment on them regularly. I will never just take a client’s money and write the entire book on my own in a vacuum. That is a recipe for disaster, on many levels. After all, their name will be on the cover and my client will need to answer for each and every word.

The first thing I do is outline the story and run it by the client. Once they sign off on the summary or outline, I begin writing the chapters of the book. During the early stages, I’ll send a few pages at a time for them to review. Then, as we really establish the style and voice, I’ll send larger chunks.

So, as you can see, every author does need to be somewhat involved in the project. My clients should plan to spend a couple hours a week on average answering emails. The feedback they provide doesn’t need to be polished. Many clients use speech recognition software, so they can send me notes on the road or from their balcony as they sip Chardonnay. Punctuation and spelling don’t matter, as long as I can understand the message.

A fast turnaround time by my clients helps me complete the project faster.

One of the things I love about ghostwriting is that I get to work with many different people on many different projects. Each relationship is truly unique, and the process is always fun and challenging!

Laura Sherman (116 Posts)

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