What To Expect When Hiring A Ghostwriter
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 it 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 process?
I’d say that the process can be broken up into three phases:
- 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. I’ll tell you, it’s the most time-consuming part of the process. 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.
- The First Draft Phase: Once the outline is approved, I’ll write the first draft. I always send bits and pieces as I write the book, getting feedback and approval along the way. Not every ghostwriter works this way, but I find it’s a must for me. I wouldn’t want to finish the book only to realize I’d misunderstood a key element from the beginning.
- 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 working and re-working it. The client is rarely involved in this stage as I would have already received all the feedback and comments in the previous phase.
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.
To learn more about the cost of hiring a ghostwriter, please read my article, “How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?“