How Does Ghostwriting Work?


ghostwriting work

Authors looking to get some help might wonder what their options might be. I get a few emails a month asking, “How does ghostwriting work?” Truthfully, no true two projects are alike because no two clients are the same. A good ghostwriter must remain flexible.

Having said that there are some commonalities. Knowing these elements can help you prepare.

A ghostwriter needs your notes

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!

The first option gives me a wealth of information, allowing me a jump start on the project. I always must do extensive research to fill in gaps, but with a good, complete set of notes, I get a good idea of the client’s needs.

The second option gives me complete creative freedom, and 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 a simple edit will rarely turn it into a book.

A ghostwriter’s fee

Different ghostwriters charge differently. My cost is straightforward to calculate. I charge a dollar per word for ghostwriting work. So a 200-300-page book, which would be 50,000 – 75,000 words, would run $50,000 – $75,000. A shorter book costs less.

Other ghostwriters may charge differently. Less experienced writers might charge as little as fifty cents per word, while those who work with celebrities can run six figures.

It takes time to write

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. I can rarely commit to completing even a mini-eBook in under half a year. 

Most books require a few hundred hours to complete. If you ever receive a quote with a promise to finish your book in under a month, be suspicious. This writer is probably plagiarizing and as the author of the book, you’ll be liable. 

You will need to invest a bit of time

time for ghostwriting work

Every author does need to be somewhat involved in their project. I warn my clients that they should plan to spend a couple of hours a week on average answering questions within emails and reviewing pages that I send.

I sometimes interview clients over the phone or through email. I always appreciate detailed written notes. To save time some 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 never matter, as long as I can understand the message.

A fast turnaround time by my clients helps me complete their books 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!

If you’d like to know more about how to hire a ghostwriter, please check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.


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