If you asked the average person in the street, ‘What is a ghostwriter?’ they’d probably look at you blankly.
Certainly that’s the reaction I get when I tell people I’m a ghostwriter.
Part of the reason for this lack of public awareness is that ghostwriters, by the very nature of their work, have to fly under the radar.
They are commissioned to write for a flat fee, but receive no credit for their work.
Once it’s published, the client is attributed as the author and there is usually a non-disclosure clause in the contract.
This means the ghostwriter is forbidden to disclose his or her authorship.
Occasionally the client is happy for the ghostwriter to receive some recognition.
This is when you will see on the cover or inside title page, the name of the client as the author and then underneath it ‘with’ and the ghostwriter’s name.
Sometimes the ghostwriter can be credited in the acknowledgments as an editor, contributor or research assistant.
Here's an example of a book I ghostwrote and was accredited for.
Why Hire A Ghostwriter?
You can hire a ghostwriter for any type of writing, from blog posts, business articles and speeches to memoirs, non-fiction books and novels.
It’s a much more common practice than is acknowledged and there are many reasons why people hire a professional writer rather than do it themselves.
Firstly, they may have a low standard of education or no talent for writing.
If you don’t enjoy writing, it’s a drudge and it shows in the quality of the work.
Secondly, English is not their first language and they are not confident enough in its use to write anything of substance
Thirdly, they don’t have the time or the energy.
This is often the case with business executives, who can’t take the time from their busy schedules to write.
Many business owners are aware of the advantage of writing a book on the subject of their expertise.
It establishes them as an expert in their field.
Plus it gives them something tangible to sell or give away at conferences and seminars.
Some people, like promoter Mike Koenigs, have developed entire businesses that teach business people how to write, or get books ghostwritten for them.
Is it Ethical To Hire A Paid Writer?
That’s a matter of personal opinion.
Some people think it’s unethical to be credited as the author of a book when someone else wrote it.
However, ghostwriting is legal and has been practised for centuries, not only for books but also for other creative arts.
Mozart was paid to ghostwrite music for wealthy patrons.
And there are pop music ghostwriters who write songs in the style of the accredited musician.
In the visual arts, it is not unusual for projects to be credited to a single artist when there have been many contributors.
Andy Warhol did this for his silk screen artwork.
It’s very common for celebrities in all fields, from sportsmen and politicians to actors, to hire ghostwriters to write their memoirs or autobiographies.
If you’ve ever read one, unless the person is an author themselves, there’s a good chance it was ghostwritten.
Although most contracts stipulate that the ghostwriter receives no royalties from the sale of the book, this is open to negotiation.
In the case of memoirs of famous people that are expected to sell well, the ghostwriter may be able to negotiate a smaller fee in return for a percentage of the royalties.
What Qualifications Does A Ghostwriter Need?
A ghostwriter doesn’t need any formal qualifications, though some will have degrees in communication, journalism or creative writing.
A ghostwriter’s most valuable asset is experience in interviewing and writing.
Many have experience in freelance writing, which is a good basis for the skills needed to produce quality work.
Such as, asking the right questions of the client, using reliable sources to obtain relevant information and being able to write on a variety of topics.
Creative writing skills are also important.
You need these for novel writing, but also for writing memoirs and life stories.
The same storytelling concepts that you use to write a compelling novel also make for a captivating life story.
How Long Does It Take To Have A Book Ghostwritten?
The process of having your book ghostwritten can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years.
It depends on how long the book will be and how much research the writer needs to do.
Once you’ve agreed on the terms of the contract, the ghostwriter will create an outline and synopsis of the book to indicate that they understand your requirements.
They will then use a variety of methods to obtain the necessary information, depending on the type of book it is. For example:
1. Interviewing you and other relevant people
2. Research from relevant agencies
3. Historical documents and;
4. Books already published.
Once they start writing, the ghostwriter will usually send you regular excerpts of the work in progress.
You would then make comments and suggest changes or expand on ideas.
When the ghostwriter has finished the final draft, they will submit it to you for a final review and approval.
For more information on this process read my post 7 Steps For Writing Your Life Story
What Happens After A Book Is Written?
This depends on what your plans are for the book.
Some people who commission life stories only want them written for the immediate family and not for general publication.
However, most people who hire a ghostwriter want their book published.
Unless this is included in the contract, the ghostwriter does not help you to publish the book - that’s up to you.
Often the ghostwriter can help you get started by referring you to publishers or literary agents they know.
They can also suggest professionals who can help you if you intend to self-publish.
Sometimes the ghostwriter is willing, for an extra charge, to arrange the publishing for you. (This is one service that I offer).
Once your book is published, regardless of how you do it, you own the copyright and receive all the royalties from sales.
And after that, comes the real hard work, and that's promoting your book.
Click the link above to get a good overview of the process and some tips to follow.
Where Do I Find A Ghostwriter?
A simple internet search is the best way to start.
Type the word ‘ghostwriter’ and then the area you live in into your search engine and see what comes up.
Ghostwriters tend to specialize in different fields.
For example, some only write business material, others may only write fiction or memoirs and life stories.
So you need to find someone who writes in your niche or can expound on your idea.
If you can’t find a ghostwriter in your local area, try further afield.
Although it’s nice to meet your ghostwriter in person, it’s not necessary in these times of video calls with apps such as Skype and Zoom.
Be careful of sites such as Upworks and Fiverr. Do in-depth research.
While the prices quoted by ghostwriters are cheap, you get what you pay for.
For a full length 250 page book, a reputable ghostwriter will not charge any less than $15,000 and it will often be a lot more.
The cost depends on how much research and interviewing is required.
Something small could cost $3,000, right up to commercial works at $100,000.
A good place to start in your search for professional, high quality ghostwriters is the Association of Ghostwriters.
A local one for Australians is Life Stories Australia.
Write The Story That's Inside You
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Click the button below to find out more about having your story ghostwritten and to book an appointment with me.
Most ghostwriters are happy to meet you in person or by video for an obligation-free interview so you can both ascertain whether you are a good fit for each other.
You will likely be spending months in regular contact so you need to be able to communicate well and work together.
So if you’re thinking of hiring a ghostwriter, take the plunge.
Seeing the book you’ve had in your head for so long, finally in print in your hand, will be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life.