Should you hire a ghost writer to write your book?

You want to write a book. In fact, you’ve been wanting to write a book for years now, but you just haven’t been able to make it happen.

Business has been crazy, the family keeps growing and changing and every time you think you might be able to put some time aside, something comes up. You’re starting to realise that, if you keep trying to go it alone, this book’s never going to get written.

So what can you do?

Hire a ghost writer.

What is a ghost writer?

A ghost writer is a professional writer who will write your book for you for a fee, while still letting you put your name on the cover. In other words, you’re still considered to be the author of the book, but they do the bulk of the work.

It sounds like the perfect solution, right?

The truth is… maybe.

For some entrepreneurs, hiring a ghost writer is a great way to ensure your book gets written. However, in many cases the downsides outweigh the benefits, which means some alternatives might be a better match.

What are the benefits of hiring a ghost writer?

There are a range of benefits to hiring a ghost writer rather than trying to write your book yourself. These 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, but had just never gotten around to writing it. We connected in July, and by the end of the year they’ll have a printed book in their hands. In other words, what had been a dream for years could become a reality within six months of engaging a ghost writer.
  2. It will get done faster. In many cases, a ghost writer can finish a book faster than you could on your own. Experienced ghost writers develop systems and structures to streamline the writing process, which means that when you think of your book idea, the hard work has already been done for you.
  3. It will take less of your time. How long would it take you to write and research a book yourself? In most cases, our authors spend at least 100, but sometimes 500+, hours writing, researching and revising their books. With a ghost writer, you can cut that down to anywhere between 10 and 30 hours of your time, depending on the revisions required.
  4. You don’t need to figure out how to write a book. One of the most common things our authors say is, ‘I learnt so much from writing my book!’ This can be a rewarding experience, but it’s also time consuming with a lot of trial and error, and often the real work doesn’t start until during the editing process when our authors finally get professional feedback on their book. Ghost writing skips that entire process.

What are the downsides?

Although there are a range of benefits to working with a ghost writer, there are also a number of downsides that mean this approach isn’t a match for everyone. Some of these include:

  1. The cost of ghost writing. Most people assume that ghost writing is pretty expensive… and they’d be right. So how much does a ghost writer cost? In Australia, I commonly hear of ghost writing quotes ranging from $10,000 to $25,000, with some specialist celebrity, political or CEO ghost writers charging hundreds of thousands. Check out Tucker Max’s outline of the different price tiers for ghost writers for more details (the short version is that he believes anyone charging under $15,000 probably isn’t very good). You can also learn more about the general costs of self-publishing here.
  2. There are no guarantees for quality. When you pay a ghost writer, you are often paying them a large sum of money with no idea what the end result might be. If you find a good ghost writer, you might end up with a fantastic book delivered on time. If not, you could find yourself paying a lot of money for a book that runs over time (throwing out your publishing schedule) or that is subpar. (Note that this risk can be mitigated by finding the right ghost writer.)
  3. The process will still take your time. One of the things I always tell our ghost writing clients up front is that they will need to be available to work on the book throughout the ghost writing process. This may be for interviews at the beginning of the process, answering questions during the writing process, 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 is providing the full service, you will still need to manage and pay for the rest of the process yourself.

So, should you hire a professional ghost writer?

There are a number of common worries and concerns that come up when clients enquire about ghost writing services.

Interestingly, not all of them mean that you need a ghost writer – some concerns can be addressed by working with a writing coach, and some can even be addressed by working with a good structural editor.

Consider the concerns below:

  • ‘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.

In short, being short on time and not being a natural writer are not reasons to hire a ghost writer – they are 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 realised 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.

Leave a Reply 15 comments

Rhonda Humphreys - October 18, 2016 Reply

Very helpful. I didn’t think ghost writers would be so expensive! Do you recommend fivr? particularly for “how to” books?
I was wondering how much such a session with a book coach would cost?
BOOK BLUEPRINT has helped heaps. :)

    Jacqui - October 18, 2016 Reply

    Hi Rhonda,

    I’m glad Book Blueprint’s been helpful! As far as Fiverr goes, while I think it can be a great way to get small odds and ends taken care of, or even to trial a potential freelancer, I don’t recommend it for this sort of project. If someone’s charging $5 to write (or even edit) a book, just think of how many books they’d need to be writing a month to make a decent income. This doesn’t leave a lot of time per book, which then leads to a poor quality book as a result. As a general guide, we allow 40-50 hours for a structural edit and 7-10 hours for a proofread – I doubt you could get a good structural edit anywhere for $5, and the only way you could get a proofread for $5 is if you’re outsourcing to India, or another country where the average wage and cost of living is very low.

    The book coach question is a bit difficult, as it varies widely from coach to coach, and there are so many options available (one-off sessions, coaching as part of a larger package, etc.). I know a business book coach who charges around $500 for a one-hour session, and others who charge between $500 and $2,000 for a full day, depending on if you work with them in a group or one-on-one. I’d ask around – see if you find some people you like, and then you can start comparing!

    Zahra Cruzan - September 18, 2018 Reply

    Hey Rhonda,

    This article is pretty accurate, as far as information goes. I am a ghostwriter, so I may be able to offer some advice here. The big question is “what are you trying to have ghost written?” You mentioned a “how to” book, but are we talking eBook or traditional book? If it’s an eBook, then you may be able to get away with a platform like Writer’s work or Upwork, but you are still probably looking at $3-$5k minimum. Be smart about the samples you ask for. Anyone can copy past another’s work and present it as their own sample (sad, but it’s done all the time). Choose a super specific sample topic and pay them $100 to write 1500 words to be sure they are as good as they say they are. Do not give away your idea before they’ve signed an NDR and ask a ton of questions about their process. You will be working closely with your ghostwriter, so you want to make sure your work styles mesh well.
    My website has a few FAQ and product descriptions to that may also trigger some additional questions you may have on the process… https://brandauthor.com

John Birges - February 11, 2018 Reply

I found misspelled words in your add. REALISE is wrong REALIZE is correct.
Thanks for helping me rule you out.

    Jacqui - February 16, 2018 Reply

    Hi John, ‘realise’ is the correct spelling in UK and Australian English, and you’re reading a blog written by an Australian writer (myself) and published by an Australian publishing company (Grammar Factory). While we do work in US English when our authors request it, our blog posts are usually in Aussie English.

    Also, there’s a spelling error in your comment – ‘add’ is short for addition, whereas if you’re referring to an advertisement it should be ‘ad’.

Andrew - March 5, 2018 Reply

John Birges – apply cold water to that burn asap ;)

Also, you need a semi colon after “wrong” in your comment.

Sandra Julien - April 4, 2018 Reply

Jacqui, how can I get in contact with you?

Carlos - August 27, 2018 Reply

Hello Jacqui, I was wondering what you would think the cost would be in the U.S to use a ghostwriter. I am not very good at writing but have a book i would like to write and it is based mostly on true events. I thought because they are true events it would be easy to just write the stories the way they happened. The way i want it structured actually works very well for a continuation to the movie End of Watch. I have a very difficult time having 2 stories come together as one.

Carlos - August 27, 2018 Reply

Jacqui, sorry i forgot to mention because i am very much a beginner at writing it seems my brain moves faster than what i want to say on paper. I was wondering on writing events based on true stories what are the legalities behind it. Some of the people that i was to write about were killed in combat and one was killed in a shootout by police during a Bonnie and Clyde crime spree type of story. I was involved in all those stories but i am concerned about using real names and that sort of thing.

    Jacqui - October 29, 2018 Reply

    Hi Carlos,

    Thanks for your comments. When it comes to the cost of ghost writers in the US, I think Tucker Max’s complete guide to ghost writing gives the best outline – http://bookinabox.com/the-complete-guide-to-ghostwriting/

    For concerns about legalities, it’s always best to check with a lawyer regarding these things, as they have the most current information. It can also vary by where you choose to publish, so it would be best to start by reaching out to a lawyer who works within the market where you plan to release your book.

    As a general rule, though, I would approach those who might be affected by the book – the friends and families of those you plan to write about – to discuss your plans. If your intentions are good, that should go a long way to getting their buy in. If they are comfortable with you writing about their loved ones, I would get an agreement drafted for them to sign that prevents them from taking legal action against you in future in relation to the book. If they aren’t comfortable with the book, I would try to find out why, and see whether there’s some middle ground you can reach that will still allow you to tell this story while respecting their wishes.

    Thanks,
    Jacqui

Margo - September 7, 2018 Reply

Good morning, you should read # 2 in the downs sides.
Just looking out for you.
All the best!

    Jacqui - October 29, 2018 Reply

    Thanks for catching that, Margo – I appreciate it! All corrected, now.

Richard Lowe - September 30, 2018 Reply

Thanks for the great article. I’m a ghostwriter myself, and much of what you’ve said is spot on, especially the concerns people have about writing. It’s all true and considerations that I run into all the time.

Lavon - October 16, 2018 Reply

Thanks for finally writing about >Should you hiree a
ghost wrfiter to write your book? Discover the pros and cons
here <Loved it!

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