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How (and Why) to Hire a Ghostwriter

Thursday, July 11, 2019

When I tell people I'm a ghostwriter, I often hear "I've been working on a book forever." Maybe you have a great book premise, and you just need to get it written. People who hire ghostwriters have a desire to write a book, but there are two things standing in their way—time and experience writing.

Why Do Authors Hire Ghostwriters? 

Not Enough Time

Many of us have very busy lives and while the idea of writing the next bestseller is something we dream of, there are just not enough hours in a day to get it done.

What authors often realize early on in the process is that writing is not easy. It takes time in front of blank screen or piece of paper until they begin to fill it with their genius.

Not Enough Experience

The second issue is experience. It's one thing to have a great story that we can tell others; it's another to put that story into words in a book. There are few shortcuts in writing great prose.

It takes time. It takes practice. It takes some skill.

For first-time authors, it can be an overwhelming task not only to write a great book, but to handle all of the steps to get it published. Whether they decide to traditionally publish or self-publish, there are a number of steps that need to occur before they can have a book in their hand.

A ghostwriter can help with most all of these challenges. They're often experienced authors in their own right, and have the experience and expertise to write a successful book. They're professional writers, which means they have have the time to complete a book—it's their job, rather than something they do on the side.

Is It Cheating?

Is it really your book if you have a ghostwriter assist you? Absolutely. It's your story and your voice in the book. The ghostwriter is merely the pen, you are still the author. They transcribe your ideas and words to the written word.

If a pipe bursts under my sink, I have a choice. I could try to watch a video on the Internet and fake my way through it, praying that it won’t cause a flood in my house, or I can hire a professional to do it. Ghostwriting is much the same way—they are professional writers that can help you get the job done.

Many celebrities, athletes, and politicians use ghostwriters to pen their books. They neither have the time or experience to write on, and so they partner with a ghostwriter to get their message out there.

Even fiction writers use ghostwriters for their books. Once a series is created and the characters are well developed, it's easy to bring in a ghostwriter to help create new books. Haven’t you ever wondered how some of your favorite writers are coming out with a book or more every year?

What Should I Look For in Ghostwriter?

First you should know that not every ghostwriter is the right fit for every book—they're often genre specific. And it has to be a good fit personality wise, because you will be working closely with that person. You must trust them and their process.

Ghostwriters often have to sign non-disclosure agreements with other clients. This mean they cannot divulge who they have worked for in the past. They may have some samples they have permission to share. However, each of those samples should sound completely different, as the ghostwriter is capturing their author’s voice in each. Everyone has a different literary voice.

You should ask about their experience in publishing and writing, as well as their method of writing. The ghostwriter should be clear and concise on their strategies for getting the manuscript written, and even provide you a reasonable timeline. What’s reasonable? That depends on the project, but it takes time, even for a ghostwriter to write a good book. Any quotes of less than 90 days should be considered carefully.

Costs Involved

The prices can range a lot from a few thousand dollars to six digits. The difference is related to four factors:

  • Experience of the ghostwriter
  • The time in which you want the project done
  • The amount of work you're willing to do to help the project along
  • The length of the project (word count)

Some ghostwriters get paid by the word, while others by page count of by the size of project. Other ghostwriters will want to share in the royalties and advance, while others are satisfied with just getting paid and remaining anonymous.

Where Do You Find Ghostwriters?

Word of mouth referrals are often the best way to find a ghostwriter. Being able to talk to someone who used a ghostwriter and see what they produced can give you a solid sense of the ghostwriter’s writing ability and the way they work with their clients.

There are number of sources to find ghostwriters, but not all vet their writers, or produce quality work. A couple organizations that have a good track record are:

The Process

The process of working with a ghostwriter often takes two paths, and depends on how much the author wants to write.

The first scenario is that the author puts their thoughts down and writes what they can. The ghostwriter then uses that material and adds more material and shapes the text.

The other scenario is the more traditional type of ghostwriting. The ghostwriter interviews the author, then takes the material to craft the content for the book. The author then reads and comments and makes changes as needed. No matter which scenario, it's a very collaborative process.

Ghostwriting a book is not a solution for everyone. It still takes time and effort to draw the story out of your head and put it on paper in a way that reads smoothly as a book. With the right professional helping you, you can turn your idea for a good book into a great book that you'll be proud to share with the world.


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John Peragine

John Peragine is a published author of 14 books and has ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is contributor for New York Times, Reuters, and Bloomberg News. He has written for Wine Enthusiast, Grapevine Magazine, Acres USA, WineMaker magazine, and Writer’s Digest. He has been writing professionally since 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. His newest book, A History of Iowa Wine: Vines on Prairie (History Press), was released April 2019. He can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter at @johnpwriter.