Should you hire a ghost writer to help write your book?

Should you hire a ghost writer to help write your book?

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. We're 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 should 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 (some of) your time.

We 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 cost of 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 we hear. The good thing is that you don’t need to be a writer to write a good book. In fact, our team and has worked with more than 200 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 we do to help people do in our Book Blueprint workshops. We get clear on their idea, map out their entire book in bullet points, and then they have a clear blueprint around which to write their first draft.

"I don’t have the time."

Writing a book doesn’t take as long as you think. Our Book Blueprint method streamlines the process by helping you create a blueprint so detailed your book will nearly write itself. In fact, Book Blueprint itself was written using this three days! While I don’t recommend a three-day writing spree (it's 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 whether you really do need a ghost writer

In summary, 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; 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.

Rhonda Humphreys - October 18, 2016

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 Pretty - October 18, 2016

    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

    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…

John Birges - February 11, 2018

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

    Jacqui Pretty - February 16, 2018

    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

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

Jacqui, how can I get in contact with you?

    Jacqui Pretty - April 19, 2018

    Hi Sandra, the easiest way is to head to our contact page – there you can email us and book a time to chat.

Carlos - August 27, 2018

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

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 Pretty - October 29, 2018

    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 –

    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.


Margo - September 7, 2018

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

    Jacqui Pretty - October 29, 2018

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

Richard Lowe - September 30, 2018

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

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

Cheryl - December 20, 2018

Would like to write my story x

Ethan - July 9, 2019

I am terrible at putting thoughts into words. I have a story that’s been bothering me for years. I really do just want it out of my head. I don’t want credit for it just for the story to follow my design. I don’t care if I get money for the final product or not. Should I consider a ghost writer or not.

    Jacqui Pretty - July 9, 2019

    Hi Ethan,

    It’s interesting that you say you don’t want credit for the story, as that’s a big part of the ghost writing agreement – someone else writes it, but you still get credit as the author. So if you’d like to get credit but don’t want to write it, I’d say, yes – hire a ghost writer. If you don’t want credit (or full credit), you could find a co-author who will do the writing, and both of you will be listed as authors, or you could potentially sell the idea to a writer, who will then produce it.

    I hope that helps,

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