14 Jan 48. How to Hire a Ghostwriter
Writing a book requires you to make some kind of investment.
That investment can be time, money, or some combination of the two.
Some authors have stories to tell and knowledge to share, but they don’t have much time to write–or they have no desire to do the actual writing.
That’s where ghostwriting comes in. Sometimes, the best way to get the job done is to hire someone else to do it.
In this episode, I share exactly what to look for in a ghostwriter if you decide to hire someone to write your book.
I also explain:
- the difference between co-writers and ghostwriters
- how much it costs to hire a ghostwriter
- and where you can find the right ghostwriter for you.
Mentioned in This Episode
Hey there, and welcome to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach, Candice L Davis.
One of the services I provide—besides author coaching and book editing—is ghostwriting.
Even though I use the term ghostwriting, to be clear, I’m actually talking about ghostwriting and co-writing for hire.
They’re essentially the same thing. As the writer, I get paid to help the author write her or his book. In fact, in most cases, I do all the actual writing.
The only difference is that as a ghostwriter, my participation is uncredited. You won’t see my name anywhere on the book.
As a co-writer for hire, my name appears on the book. If you’ve ever seen the author’s name on a book cover, and beneath it you’ve seen “with” and another person’s name, that with refers to the co-writer.
The first person to hire me to co-write a book was Top Chef contestant and restauranteur Antonia Lofaso.
My name is on the cover page, and there’s nothing confidential about my participation in the book.
On Patrice Washington’s latest book, Redefine Wealth for Yourself, which will be released in March of this year, 2021, my name appears on the cover.
In both cases, I’m the co-writer of the book. The ideas all belong to the author. It’s my job as the co-writer or ghostwriter to help them get those ideas on the page.
I’ve written many more books as a ghostwriter, and my name doesn’t appear on the cover or the cover page.
That’s just a different arrangement with the author, and generally, I charge significantly more for that work since I can’t use it in my portfolio.
I’m using the term ghostwriter in this episode because it’s easier to stick to one term, but just know that I’m everything I say also applies to a credited co-writer.
You can pay someone to write a very general book for you without any input for you.
For instance, if you have a weight loss business, you can hire a ghostwriter to write a book about the Paleo diet or Keto or whatever it is you teach with no input from you.
That’s not the kind of ghostwriting I’m talking about in this episode though.
It’s not the kind of ghostwriting I do.
I work with authors to capture their ideas and/or tell their stories in a book.
While I can do research for them, brainstorm ideas for them, and even help them refine and articulate their processes and philosophies and frameworks, the ideas and experiences in those books are their own.
That means we collaborate on the project. We write memoirs and subject-matter-expert books and how-to books together.
So how do you hire a ghostwriter?
First, keep in mind that ghostwriting is a premium service.
If someone is offering to write a full-length book for you for less than $10,000, you need to be suspect.
Why is the service so cheap?
Will you be writing a shorter book?
Have you already written much of the book and just need help finishing?
Is this a new ghostwriter looking to get some experience?
These are legitimate reasons for a lower price. Just keep in mind that any deal that seems too good to be true probably is.
As a side note: If you have a traditional book deal, your ghostwriter will expect to receive a percentage of your advance, so that fee doesn’t come out of your pocket. As a self-published author, you’ll be expected to pay that fee out of pocket.
Please don’t ask your ghostwriter to wait and get paid on the back end, as a percentage of sales, once you’re selling your book.
Unless you have a huge platform or a significant track record selling tens of thousands of books, you’re asking that person to take a huge risk.
If you don’t market your book well, your ghostwriter may never get paid or not get paid much at all.
And on your end, you probably don’t want the headache of tracking book sales and paying out a percentage every month. It’s a pain.
When you’re looking for a ghostwriter, I recommend you keep 3 things in mind:
First, consider the ghostwriters experience. Even if a ghostwriter hasn’t written any books yet and you’ll be her first client, she should still be able to show you samples of her published writing.
Substantial articles can show you how well the ghostwriter organizes ideas.
Ask to see their work.
Sometimes confidential ghostwriting agreements will allow the writer to share their work on a limited basis for the purpose of securing clients, so don’t be afraid to ask about that.
Also, ask about their process for working with authors and how they’ll capture your voice and make sure your book sounds like you.
Second, you have to consider the cost you’ll pay for ghostwriting.
Yes, you can expect to pay at least $10,000, but ghostwriting fees can go much higher than that, particularly when you’re dealing with more experienced writers.
How much is the fee?
How and when is it expected to be paid?
What happens if one of you needs to end the project for unforeseeable reasons?
All of these questions should be addressed in your ghostwriting or co-writing agreement.
Third, consider your connection with the ghostwriter.
Do you feel comfortable talking to him or her?
Do you feel like you can trust this person?
At some point, you’ll likely reveal private or proprietary information to this person. Information that won’t make it into the book but which you need to talk through. That means you have to establish a certain level of trust.
Do you feel comfortable showing this person the side of you that you’ll have to reveal to write your book?
That connection and comfort level are a huge deal.
So where do you find these elusive ghostwriters?
If you know someone who has worked with a ghostwriter and had a great experience, that referral can be priceless.
If not, you can look at books that have the “with” credit and check out those writers.
Keep in mind that if those books were traditionally published, the ghostwriters were likely paid a percentage of the advance and perhaps a percentage of royalties, so they may come at a higher fee.
But if you connect with them, they may be able to refer you to someone who fits your budget.
It also pays to ask within your network.
A referral that comes from someone you trust can go a long way, and you might be surprised by who the people you know have in their network or have worked with.
So look at books you love that have credited co-writers and ask around about ghostwriters within your network.
But if those avenues don’t pan out, you can always turn to the internet.
Your ghostwriter doesn’t have to be in your town or even in your country. I’ve worked with clients in Italy, England, Canada and other countries.
You can obviously do a Google search for ghostwriters with the kind of experience you’re looking for, or you can turn to sites like Upwork.com.
Some self-publishing companies, like Jera Publishing in Atlanta, also have relationships with ghostwriters and can make referrals for you.
Obviously, finding your ghostwriter through one of those avenues adds an extra layer of work. You’ll have to read their reviews and dive into their writing samples a little more deeply than you might with someone who comes as a trusted referral, but it’s worth the effort.
Keep in mind that a great ghostwriter is likely to have a busy schedule and may not be able to start on your book right away.
But if you find someone you really want to work with, it’s worth putting down a deposit and getting on their calendars.
At this point, I’m only take a few ghostwriting clients each year. Most experienced ghostwriters are in a similar position, so be willing to get on their calendar and wait a bit to get started.
Finally, make sure you have a clear written agreement of what the ghostwriting process, cost, and credit will look like.
Both you and the ghostwriter need to be protected, and the best way to do that is to get everything on paper, agreed upon, and signed off on.
The truth is most authors don’t need a ghostwriter.
If you need some help writing your book, an author coach or a program like my group coaching program, Short Books: Big Results, can provide the support you need at a much lower cost than the cost of ghostwriting.
But if you find yourself in a position where you’d rather invest less time and more money, ghostwriting might be a great option for you to write your book.
In a future episode, I’ll share exactly what the ghostwriting process looks like.
But that’s all for this episode. If you’ve found it valuable, I’d love a fantastic review from you on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. Reviews make a huge difference for the show.
Thanks for listening to Nothing but the Words. I’m your author coach, Candice L Davis. And I’ll see you next time.