You want to write a book. In fact, you’ve been wanting to write a book for years now. But still no book. Should you hire a ghost writer?
What is a ghost writer?
A ghost writer is a professional writer who writes your book for you for a fee. They let you put your name on the cover. You’re still the author. But they do the writing.
Perfect solution, right? Maybe.
Some entrepreneurs hire a ghost writer simply to get their book written. However, in many cases the downsides outweigh the benefits. In those cases, an alternative approach might be better.
What are the benefits if you hire a ghost writer?
The benefits of hiring a ghost writer rather than trying to write your book yourself include:
1. It will actually get done!
This is the single biggest benefit of hiring a ghost writer. I’m currently working with three co-authors who had been wanting to write a book for over three years. They just never gotten around to writing it. We connected in July, and by year's end they’ll have books in hand. What had been a dream for years could be a reality within six months of engaging a ghost writer.
2. It will get done faster.
A ghost writer can usually finish a book faster than you could on your own. Experienced ghost writers develop systems and structures to streamline the writing process. This means that when you think of your book idea, the hard work has already been done for you.
3. It takes less of your time.
How long would it take you to write and research a book yourself? Our authors often spend 100 to 500+ hours writing, researching and revising their books. With a ghost writer, you can cut that way down. How much? Anywhere between 10 and 30 hours of your time, depending on the revisions required is realistic.
4. You don’t need to figure out how to write a book.
One thing we hear a lot is, ‘I learned so much from writing my book!’ This can be a rewarding experience, but it’s also time consuming. There's a lot of trial and error. Often the real work doesn’t start until the editing process. That's when our authors finally get professional feedback on their book. Ghost writing skips that entire process.
So what's the catch when you hire a ghost writer?
Despite the benefits, there are some downsides to be aware of too:
1. The cost of ghost writing.
Most people assume that ghost writing is expensive. They’re right. How much does a ghost writer cost? The Writers' Union of Canada has established a minimum fee of $40,000 for a book in the 60,000 to 90,000 word range, and the Australia Society of Writers reports an average rate of $0.71 per word, which lands roughly in the same range. That said, there is a wide range of rates, both published and unpublished. Rates range from much lower on freelance marketplaces to much higher for high-profile, celebrity writers. They can charge well into the multiple six-figures. You can learn more about the general costs of self-publishing here.
2. Quality is not guaranteed.
When you pay a ghost writer, you often pay a large sum with no idea what the result might be. Find a good ghost writer and you might end up with a fantastic book delivered on time. If not, you may pay a lot for a book that runs over time (throwing off your schedule), or that is sub-par. You can mitigate this risk by finding the right ghost writer.
3. The process will still take your time.
I always tell our ghost writing clients that they will need to be available to work on the book throughout the process. This may be for interviews at the beginning, answering questions throughout, or reviewing and providing feedback on drafts. We try to limit this time, but if they are not available, the book won’t be as good as it could have been. And time frames can blow out as we wait for feedback.
4. You only get a manuscript.
The ghost writing process (and fee) only covers the writing of your book. It doesn’t cover design, printing, distribution or any other parts of the publishing process. Unless you’re working with an end-to-end provider who offers full service, you'll still need to manage and pay for the rest of the process yourself.
So, should you hire a ghost writer?
There are a number of common worries and concerns that come up when clients enquire about ghost writing services.
Not all of them mean that you need a ghost writer. Some concerns can be addressed by working with a writing coach. Others can even be addressed by working with a good structural editor.
‘I’m not a writer.’
This is the most common concern I hear. The good thing is that you don’t need to be a writer to write a good book. In fact, my team and I have worked with over 150 aspiring authors and only three of them had a professional writing background! Instead, as long as you have a lot of knowledge to share, the state of your first draft doesn’t really matter – a good structural editor will pull it apart and put it back together, turning your brain dump into a book that is credible, compelling and, best of all, coherent.
‘I don’t know how to get all of my ‘stuff’ out of my head.’
This is where a good writing coach could help, and this is exactly what I used to help people do in my Book Blueprint workshops – we would get clear on their idea, map out their entire book in bullet points, and they’d then have a clear blueprint to write their first draft around.
‘I don’t have the time.’
Writing a book doesn’t take as long as you think. My Book Blueprint process streamlines the process by helping you create a blueprint so detailed your book will write itself – in fact, I used this framework to write my book in three days! While I don’t recommend a three-day writing spree (between you and me, it was a bit intense), having a clear blueprint makes it easier to get your book out in a month or two, even if you only have 30 – 60 minutes a day.
‘I just want to get it done!’
So why don’t you? If it’s because you just haven’t made the time or gotten around to it yet, make the time! Start getting up an hour earlier to write, or take off a couple of weeks in a cabin in the woods to start writing. If there really is no way you can do it yourself, then I’d consider engaging a ghost writer, but remember that you’ll still need to be involved when it comes to answering questions and reviewing drafts.
Consider if you really need a ghost writer
In short, being short on time and not being a natural writer are not necessarily reasons to hire a ghost writer. They may just be reasons to get a bit of extra support around the writing process, such as a coach, a great editor or even a writing framework you can use, but a ghost writer is optional.
The main reason I’d consider engaging a ghost writer is if you’re in the position where you’ve been wanting to write a book for years and just aren’t getting it done. If you’ve realized that it’s just not going to happen if you’re on your own, then a ghost writer can turn your idea into a publishable draft.
Think a ghost writer’s right for you?
Then learn how to choose the right one with our top five questions to find the right match for your book.