The Ins and Outs of Ghostwriting: A Complete Guide


If you’re considering hiring a ghostwriter, you might have a few questions. Let’s dive in!


What Exactly is Ghostwriting?


What is ghostwriting?Ghostwriting refers to writers who author books, articles, speeches, or other content for clients without receiving a byline. The client’s name goes on the work instead.

Ghostwriters typically interview the client to understand their ideas, expertise, and voice. They then write original material on the client’s behalf. The client reviews and approves the writing, but the ghostwriter remains behind the scenes.


Ghostwriting goes far, far beyond basic transcription. Skilled ghostwriters can help shape a client’s rough concepts into an appealing narrative. They conduct research, organize structure and flow, and ensure the finished work aligns with the client’s brand and goals. In the end, the author receives a polished and professional work that they can publish.


It’s a collaborative process, with the ghostwriter doing the actual writing and the client providing direction and subject matter expertise. The division of labor varies on each project.


Why Do People Use Ghostwriters?


There are many reasons authors hire ghostwriters to collaborate on a book. If you interviewed a few dozen people, here are some popular quotes they would give to explain their rationale:


  • “I don’t have time to write myself as I am running a large company.”
  • “I have trouble translating ideas into writing.”
  • “I need writing assistance but don’t want others knowing.”
  • “I have no idea where to even start to write a book.”


Ghostwriters allow busy executives, celebrities, academics, athletes, entrepreneurs, and hard-working people, as well as stay-at-home moms and dads, to get their ideas into book form without having to write everything themselves.


Ghostwritten books will read more smoothly because they are written by professionals. For clients who are only capable of providing the core substance, ghostwriters can be instrumental.


Who Uses Ghostwriters?


Hiring ghostwriters is a common practice across many industries:


Business – Executives and entrepreneurs use ghostwriters to publish business books positioning them as industry thought leaders. Prominent examples include Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal and Lee Iacocca’s autobiography.


Celebrities – Stars often work with ghosts to write memoirs, self-help books, and other projects. Examples: Hilary Duff’s young adult novel Elixir and Prince Harry’s memoir, Spare.


Academics – Professors and scholars may collaborate with writers to turn their research into mass-market books. Example: Several of Stephen Hawking’s books were co-written with ghosts.


Athletes – Sports stars who want to share their life stories hire ghostwriters to capture their voices and help structure the narrative. It’s rare that a superstar in the sports arena would also have extensive experience as an author. A few examples of sports stars who hired help are Autobiographies by Bo Jackson, Margaret Court, and Andre Agassi.


Politicians – Public officials, candidates, and their teams use ghostwriters to craft speeches, policy papers, articles, and books. Example: Profiles in Courage, credited to John F. Kennedy.


What Kinds of Content Do Ghostwriters Create?


Ghostwriters write many different kinds of books

Ghostwriters are highly versatile and can produce all types of written material for clients. Personally, I have extensive experience writing memoirs, novels, and business books.

Here are some areas where ghostwriters can excel in helping their clients:


Nonfiction books

Business books, self-help books, health books, cookbooks, and more are often written by ghostwriters. Ghosts interview the client, conducts research, and creates an engaging book shaping the client’s expertise into chapters.



Ghostwriters can either write entire fictional works based on an author’s ideas or partner with fiction writers to help flesh out plots, add detail, enhance characters, and improve pacing and flow. When people ask me about what I do, they are most surprised to learn that I have ghostwritten about ten novels.



Ghostwriters are perfect for helping authors with their memoirs or autobiographies. These very personal deep dives into a person’s life can be difficult for authors to confront head-on. Having a friendly ghostwriter by their side lightens the load. In addition, a good ghost will know how to structure the story so that it can be quite compelling.



From blog posts to magazine features, ghosts regularly write articles for executives and professionals to be published under the client’s byline. These can easily help build an entrepreneur’s brand.



Ghosts often work with speakers to build out speech outlines based on the client’s direction and input. Ghosts will write the full speech text tailored to the audience and event goals.


White papers

Clients with specialized technical knowledge often work with ghosts to produce white paper reports, ebooks, and other B2B materials that potential customers will find valuable.


Website content

Ghosts can create written website content that reflects a client’s brand message and value proposition, as well as optimized site copy targeted at their ideal audience.


The possibilities are nearly endless. If a client needs high-quality written content produced that they don’t have time to write from scratch themselves, a ghostwriter can help.


What Do Ghostwriters Charge?


Pricing varies based on the project, timeline, and other factors. Some typical ranges:


Book ghostwriting: $25,000-$100,000+, depending on the genre, scope, size, and other needs. The average book deal usually falls in the $50,000 – $60,000 range.

Article ghostwriting: $200-$500 is the average for short pieces and $2,000-$5,000+ for long-form articles.

Speechwriting: $200-$500 for a short speech, $1,000-$3,000 for a longer keynote-style speech

Blog ghostwriting: $200-$500 per post is the industry standard for a short article.

Website copy: $70-$150 per page would be an average quote.


Established ghostwriters will often provide free quotes after learning more about your project goals and specifications. Be wary of dirt-cheap offers, as good writing has value.


Why Choose a Professional Ghostwriter?


After hearing the price of a ghost, you might be wondering why most ghostwriters are booked throughout the year. Investing in a professional pays dividends through better writing, faster results, and less frustration. Their expertise makes all the difference. Here are some benefits of working with an experienced ghostwriter:


Expert Writing Skills


A pro ghostwriter is a skilled writer who can translate ideas into seamless, engaging prose optimized for your audience. Their writing expertise saves you time and improves the quality of the finished book or content.


Knowledge of Your Industry


Entrepreneurs especially might look for a ghostwriter familiar with their niche. Their existing knowledge helps them grasp specialized topics quickly and incorporate the right language and examples into your book or content.


Experience Structuring Stories


Professional ghosts have written many books and articles. They know how to structure compelling narratives that keep readers turning pages. Their storytelling savvy brings an author’s ideas to life.


Effective Collaboration


An experienced ghostwriter makes collaboration productive and enjoyable. They know how to elicit your expertise through interview questions and seamless workflows. The process is smooth and efficient. Plus, if you’re interested in learning about the writing process, I’m always eager to share my knowledge.


Objective Editorial Eye


A ghost provides an impartial perspective to strengthen your ideas and message. They’ll flag areas that need clarification and suggest improvements you may have overlooked.


Handles the Writing Process


A ghostwriter will manage the project from start to finish—researching, writing, editing, fact-checking, and more. They free you to focus on your core work while they handle the writing.


Gets Your Book Written Faster


Trying to write a book solo while juggling your daily workload can drag on for years. A ghostwriter can help you get it done within one year, maybe sooner. Writing your book is their priority.


How to Find the Right Ghostwriting Partner


Interview writers to find the right ghostwriting partnerSelecting the right ghostwriter is not always an easy task. It’s a bit different from picking out a dentist or plumber because the relationship with a ghost will be very close. If you’re writing a memoir, you’ll be sharing intimate details of your life with them so it’s vital that you really like the person.

When you interview a ghostwriter via email and phone, check for certain qualities to ensure a long-lasting fruitful partnership. For instance, do they:

  • Quickly understand your goals, audience, and brand voice?
  • Ask insightful questions and actively listen?
  • Make you feel comfortable sharing your stories and ideas?
  • Refrain from being too pushy, while gently guiding the process?


In addition, there are many different writers out there hanging out a ghostwriter’s shingle. Most don’t have the appropriate skills and experience. Here are tips for selecting a qualified pro:

  • Review samples of their published work in your genre.
  • Look for testimonials from past clients or reviews of their work on Amazon.
  • Discuss their specific writing process and collaboration style to be sure that will work for you.
  • Negotiate contract terms like confidentiality before officially hiring them.


Vetting your ghostwriter thoroughly upfront is wise. A good match leads to an effective partnership. Taking the time to find the right ghost sets your project up for excellence.


How to Negotiate a Strong Ghostwriting Contract


Before officially hiring a ghostwriter, it’s important to have a written contract in place. Check out my article on this subject to learn more about what should go into a good ghostwriting contract. Here are a few highlights the contract should include:

  • Clearly defined project scope and timeline.
  • Payment schedule and delivery milestones.
  • Ownership and rights – you should own the copyright.
  • Confidentiality terms.
  • Process for providing feedback and approval.
  • A contingency plan in the case that either party wishes to terminate the contract.


Any professional ghostwriter will have a detailed contract covering these points and more. Be sure to negotiate any concerns before signing. For example, many ghosts request partial payment (usually about 25%) upfront before starting. This helps lock you into their calendar, covering their time if you cancel.


A solid contract prevents misunderstandings down the road and sets clear expectations. Though ghostwriting operates on trust, it’s still a business transaction.


What to Avoid in a Bad Ghostwriting Partner


The internet is full of people willing to promise you the sun, moon, and stars. It’s important to do your own independent research. Dig a little. There are some red flags to watch out for. Be wary if the ghostwriter:

  • Is unable to provide client references or samples.
  • Says they can complete an entire book in an impossibly short timeframe. I ask for a year, but it would be possible to complete a book within six months. One month is a red flag.
  • Can’t explain their specific writing process easily. This shows a lack of experience.
  • Gives vague answers to questions or gets defensive.
  • Requests the entire fee upfront (unless it is a small project).
  • Is hesitant to sign a contract.


While there are many talented ghosts, there are unfortunately a lot of scam artists out there as well. Avoid potential headaches by vetting carefully.


Rushing the process or hiring the cheapest option often leads to disappointment. Take time to find a ghost who understands your goals and has proven experience in your genre.


The Risks of Hiring Cheap Ghostwriters


New or inexperienced ghostwriters sometimes offer bargain basement pricing to build their portfolio. This can be tempting, but it can also lead to problems. Most newbie ghosts have no idea what is involved in writing a book. They will get lost and have trouble meeting your deadlines.


Deep expertise and skill take time to build. Inexpensive ghosts are often still honing their craft. They are looking to do so with your project. In addition, keep in mind that many cheap ghostwriters are solo freelancers without strong project management systems in place.


Expect severe communication challenges with inexpensive overseas writers. They will have a few language barriers as English is their second language. Some will panic when hit with a deadline and might resort to plagiarism.


While cost is a factor, it’s usually worth investing in a more experienced ghostwriter, especially for full-length book projects. This reduces risks and leads to higher-quality outcomes.


Ghostwriting Trends and the Future


Ghostwriting has grown significantly in recent years. More celebrities, executives, and thought leaders now see the value in working with professional writers. New opportunities are also emerging as content publishing expands.


Here are some top trends shaping the future of ghostwriting:


Rise of Self-PublishingSelf-publishing used to have a vanity press stigma. But with platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, it’s now mainstream. This provides new opportunities for non-writer experts to hire ghosts to help them self-publish books.


Growth of Blogs/Newsletters – Professionals are launching blogs and newsletters to share insights with their audience. Ghostwriters can generate ongoing content for these channels easily and effortlessly, saving the CEO a lot of time.


Brand Building – In a crowded market, personal or company branding is more important than ever. Well-written books by ghostwriters can help a budding or well-established entrepreneur build their thought leadership brand.


Corporate Storytelling – Companies are investing more in narrative-driven marketing content. This appeals to a growing readership and helps bring new clients to their front door.


As demand for quality content continues rising, ghostwriting will keep growing as a creative, collaborative service that allows more stories and ideas to be shared with the world.


Ghostwriting Offers a Win-Win Collaboration


Ghostwriting has evolved from a hidden practice to an acceptable collaboration strategy. It enables experts, executives, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders to work with seasoned writing professionals to produce quality books, articles, speeches, and other content quickly and effectively.


This allows clients to share their knowledge with the world without having to become professional writers themselves. And it gives ghostwriters the opportunity to use their skills to help create material that informs and inspires readers.


Rather than being seen as scandalous, most view ghostwriting as a win-win partnership today. Clients get to publish content under their name, while ghostwriters feel the satisfaction of supporting impactful ideas.

Of course, ghostwriting won’t be the right fit for every client or every project. But when an expert has critical knowledge to share and a ghostwriter can help transform it into an audience-friendly book, it can be a rewarding collaboration for all involved.


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