What's it Like to Be a Ghostwriter?

Writing a book is an enormous commitment that requires a host of specialized skills. You might have a great idea for a book, but find yourself constantly putting it off due to competing commitments or a lack of confidence in your writing ability. 

Thankfully, help is available. Ghostwriting services are widely used and might just be the key to turning your book from a concept to a published reality.

If you’ve found yourself asking, “Should I hire a ghostwriter for my book?” you may find it helpful to learn a little bit about who these professionals are, how they operate, and how they are typically compensated.

What is a Ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter writes materials for someone else, with that person retaining all credit and royalties. Ghostwriters are used in many industries, from politics to entertainment. 

In music, ghostwriters are often used to write songs and lyrics for artists who do not have the time to write their own material. In television and film, ghostwriters frequently create scripts from scratch or polish existing drafts. 

In the publishing world, ghostwriters are commonly used to write books of all genres, from children’s books to textbooks and memoirs.

While some may think that being a ghostwriter means simply writing an article or book without any credit, that’s not always the case. In fact, many ghostwriters become highly sought after for their ability to capture another person’s voice and story. 

Ghostwriters come from a range of backgrounds. Some are journalists who specialize in writing for a certain niche, such as health or business. Others are English majors who have a gift for writing fiction or non-fiction stories. Still others are former executives or politicians who want to share their knowledge and experience with the world. 

No matter their background, all ghostwriters have one thing in common: they know how to write compelling content that engages readers.

Who Hires Ghostwriters?

Anyone who wants to get their story told but doesn't have the time or ability to write it themselves may hire a ghostwriter.

Celebrity memoirs are coming out left, right, and center, and often top bestseller lists. But it probably won’t surprise you to learn that for the most part, these singers, athletes, and actors are not spending hours poring over their turns of phrase. In fact, the majority of nonfiction books are now written by ghostwriters.

These are close collaborations, with the ghostwriter interviewing, or even shadowing, the credited writer, and drafting a book based on their responses. 

In some cases, the credited writer closely reviews and edits the ghostwriter’s work at regular intervals; in others, the ghostwriter is given the freedom to essentially write the book, with the credited writer simply signing off on the content at the end.

What Skills do Ghostwriters Possess?

Ghostwriting is about much more than solid writing and authorship skills. It requires being able to capture a client’s voice and produce material that sounds as if it came directly from them. The best ghostwriters have a high level of emotional intelligence, which allows them to read and anticipate their clients’ needs and preferences. 

Research is also a significant component of ghostwriting. In order to write a book or article, a ghostwriter must be able to understand the client’s story, drawing on additional information and resources that will help them tell that story in an interesting and engaging way.

In many cases, ghostwriters are also experts in a particular topic area and can provide valuable insights and perspectives that their clients may not be able to provide on their own.

Ghostwriters must also be able to work quickly and efficiently to produce high-quality work under tight deadlines. This ability develops through their highly practised writing skills and experience working with clients.

How Are Ghostwriters Paid?

Experienced, highly specialized ghostwriters can command high fees for their work, with some earning upwards of $100,000 per book. However, most ghostwriters working today earn between $10,000 and $50,000 per book. The majority of projects fall somewhere in the middle of that range.

Some ghostwriters charge a flat fee for book projects, while others are paid on a per-word or per-page basis. Still others may use a combination of these methods; for example, charging part of the fee upfront and the rest upon completion.

When working on a per-project basis, the ghostwriter and client will agree to a schedule of payments. For example, the client might pay one-third of the fee upfront, one-third upon completion of the first draft, and one-third upon completion of the final draft. 

Many ghostwriters prefer to work on an hourly basis. This can be advantageous for both the ghostwriter and the client, as it allows for a more flexible arrangement and often leads to a better finished product. Hourly rates vary depending on the ghostwriter’s experience, the type of project, and the market for the finished product. 

For the ghostwriter, working on an hourly basis provides greater security, as he or she is guaranteed to be paid for all hours worked. And if the project takes longer than expected, the ghostwriter can still earn a decent wage. Hourly rates also tend to be lower than per-project fees, which can save the client money. 

The downside of working on an hourly basis is that it can be more difficult to estimate the total cost of the project. The ghostwriter may end up working fewer hours than expected, or the project may take longer than anticipated. In either case, the client could end up paying more than he or she budgeted for.

When pricing a project, most ghostwriters will give the client a range of options to choose from. For example, a 100,000-word book might be quoted at $20,000 to $30,000. The client can then decide whether to pay the lower end of the range for a quicker turnaround time, or the higher end for a more thorough editing and revision process. 

Ultimately, the decision of how to pay a ghostwriter comes down to what makes the most sense for the project at hand. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, so it’s important to discuss all of the options with your ghostwriter before making a decision.

Should I Hire a Ghostwriter for My Book?

Whether or not to hire a ghostwriter is a very personal decision. Are you comfortable with someone else writing in your voice? And are you passionate enough about your project to invest in it and see it through?

If you decide to hire a ghostwriter, take the time to research candidates, review their portfolios to get a sense of their writing style and areas of expertise, and meet them in person before moving forward–after all, your ghostwriter should be someone you instinctively trust and feel comfortable working with. 

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