The Not-So-Scary Guide to Hiring a Ghost(writer)
You’ve decided it’s time—you are ready to put your system, story, principles, or advice down in book form. But the whole idea of writing a book is daunting and overwhelming. Who has time to write a book? How does one get published? And what possible advantage could there be to releasing your story to the world?
Enter the ghostwriter.
A ghostwriter is a writer who will take your ideas and shape them into words for a fee, while you get the credit for writing the blog post, article, or book (or whatever form the ideas require). There are a variety of ways ghostwriters are credited, ranging from no credit at all to having shared credit on the front of a book. Generally, the less credit the ghostwriter receives, the higher the writer’s fee will be. Ghostwriting fees for book-length work can range from $10,000 for a short book and/or an entry-level ghostwriter all the way up to… well, the sky’s the limit. Celebrities who command high advances from publishers will generally pay their ghostwriters very high fees. Average ghostwriting fees for book-length work run in the $35,000 to $45,000 range. (For articles, ebooks, blog posts, or other written works, fees vary widely based on a number of factors, including length, amount of research involved, interview time, etc.)
Let’s be candid—if you’re thinking of paying someone thousands of dollars to write for you, you want to find someone worth that rate! So what do you look for in a ghostwriter?
A good ghostwriter:
Has written book-length material before: I’m not talking about a 20-page e-book with lots of pictures. I’m talking about something of 60,000+ words. A writer who has tackled a project of that length has a real understanding of what it takes to put that many words in a single document.
Has developed or helped develop a book on a structural level: Writing a book means more than just plunking 60,000 words or more into a document and inserting chapter headings once in a while. All books need to have an overarching structure and flow. The writer who has handled this level of book authorship will have the ability to help you find the right structure for your book.
Knows a bit about your subject matter—but not necessarily everything: Your ghostwriter should have a basic understanding of your general subject matter, but that doesn’t mean the writer needs to be an expert. A good ghostwriter can pair a basic knowledge with extensive research and intense curiosity to make your material accessible to your intended audience.
Loves to ask questions: Good ghostwriters—heck, good WRITERS—are curious. They love to ask questions, and they love to explore the answers.
Isn’t possessive about the writing—but also isn’t a doormat: Your name goes on the final product. A good ghostwriter knows that. When it comes to choosing just the right word or just the right way to form a sentence, a ghostwriter will understand that you have the final say, and she won’t be offended if you don’t like the way she wrote something. On the other hand, ghostwriters are expert writers, and they should be able to make compelling cases for structure, ideas, and writing they think communicates the best.
Makes every effort to write in YOUR voice, not her own: What is “voice”? It’s a little tough to figure out, but essentially, it’s that quality that makes your writing sound like you. A good ghostwriter will make every effort to find your voice and transfer it to the page. This process may involve hours of interviews, reading your existing writing, or listening to speeches you’ve given or videos you’ve made.
Understands the basics of the publishing world—both traditional and self-publishing/independent publishing: This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s very helpful if your ghostwriter knows basically how publishing works—when it’s best to self-publish, what the advantages and disadvantages of both forms are, and the general process of getting a book from idea to publication, whatever form that takes.
Whether you’re an idea person who just doesn’t write, a busy executive who doesn’t have time to write a book, or a professional who knows how to write, but finds the idea of producing a book completely overwhelming, a ghostwriter can help you get from idea to published. When you’re ready to see your ideas in print, give me a call to see if we might make a good team!