Ghost Writing: Making Your Book Idea a Reality
Sometimes, you know you have something to say but may not know the best way to say it. Not everyone with ideas to share with the world has time or skills to express them in a way that will engage readers. In fact, those with the least time for writing are often those who could benefit the most from publishing a book, such as entrepreneurs, business owners, and other experts in their field.
Often they’re too busy doing what they’re best at to sit down and write a book. And sometimes, the skills that make you an expert don’t have anything to do with writing skills. Not every doctor, innovator, or expert is also a great writer.
That’s where ghost writing comes in. If you lack the time or skill to write a book that effectively communicates your ideas, but have some money to invest in the project, ghost writing is a great option.
Credit where credit is due
There’s some stigma around using someone else’s words to express your ideas, and some would-be authors might worry that it seems inauthentic. This is based on some misconceptions around what it means to hire a ghostwriter. First, it’s important to remember you have something to offer your readers, and that’s why you’re publishing a book. Many of the professionals with the most to offer also have the least amount of free time to sit down and write a book.
For their readers, the language on the page will be less of a draw than the ideas, advice, stories, and experience you can provide. A ghostwriter’s job is really about making those ideas easy and enjoyable to read.
And while the ghostwriter will do the work of choosing those words and putting them on a page, you’ll build the ideas, help organize them, and give the writer a sense of your voice. It will still be an investment of effort on your part, just one that is somewhat easier to fit into a busy schedule. Most importantly, the ideas will be your own.
One way to think of it is that you’ll be the architect, while the writer will do the time-consuming grunt work of actually constructing the building, brick by brick. This doesn’t mean there’s no work involved for you — communicating these ideas can be challenging, and the quality of your book hinges on it.
And finally, if you’re not comfortable taking exclusive credit as the book’s author, you can credit the writer using “with” or “as told to” on your book cover. Offering to give some credit can also reduce the cost of hiring a writer, which as we’ll discuss next, can be substantial.
Investing in a ghostwriter
Hiring a writer is an investment, and even if you don’t earn it back in book sales, the boost to your credibility and name recognition will often pay for itself and then some. In your search for clients, speaking engagements and other opportunities, it pays to say you’ve “written the book” on your area of expertise. But it does mean that ghost writing is best suited for those that have a clear path to earning back the investment. This can mean going into the project with an established platform and ways to monetize your credibility boost, as well as a willingness to build an effective marketing plan for your book itself.
And when looking for bargains, bear in mind, you often get what you pay for. According to Entrepeneur.com, the bottom rung of ghostwriters will charge between $1,000 and $14,000. In a best-case scenario, these writers will be new to the field and are offering their services cheaply to build a portfolio. But more concerning, they may lack the necessary skills entirely or even be subcontracting the work. Entrepeneur.com recommends against hiring ghostwriter if you can’t afford to spend $15,000 or more.
Normally, hiring a writer will run between $15,000 and $75,000 with experienced ghostwriters often charging at least $40,000. And a handful of respected, best-selling authors could charge as much as $250,000, though this is generally reserved for traditionally published titles from big name authors. The total cost will also depend on the length and depth of the book you’re aiming to publish.
Most writers will expect to be paid in three to four payments over the course of writing, and you should not expect to pay them your full fee up-front in advance. But keep in mind, ghostwriters that charge hourly will bill for the time they spend interviewing in addition to writing. Clearly communicating your ideas will help reduce the time this takes, and ultimately reduce your cost when paying hourly.
Interviewing for ghost writing
And it’s this interview portion where your own efforts will really have a tangible effect on the quality of the final product. It’s your ability to communicate your ideas, experience, or advice that will allow the ghostwriter to put it into words successfully. Even the most skilled writer won’t be able to create a great book without the right kind of input.
Your participation will come in several stages, including an initial phone or video-chat meeting before both parties commit, a series of interviews (ideally in-person), and feedback once your writer offers a first draft. You will still need to invest some time in the book process, but you’ll save yourself the bulk of hours you would have spent actually writing the book.
Throughout the process, a good writer should submit a proposal, several outlines, and at least one draft to offer you the chance to make sure you’re on the same page.
A skilled ghostwriter will not only use this time to learn about the content you have in mind for your book, but also to become familiar with your voice. It’s not just a matter of putting your ideas into words, it’s a matter of putting those ideas into your voice as well.
Finding a ghostwriter
Due to the nature of not taking credit for their work, it can be tough to track down and vet a ghostwriter. You may find them through writer’s groups on Facebook or LinkedIn, or by posting on job sites like Upwork, Indeed, or Guru.com. But the best strategy is to speak directly to publishing professionals or other experienced authors for recommendations.
It also helps to determine your vision for your book before searching for a ghostwriter, so you can find one with specialized experience crafting the kind of book you want to publish. A ghostwriter with experience writing memoirs might not be the best choice for your book of business advice and vice versa.
Ultimately, your budget, subject matter, and resources available to find a writer will all play a role in ultimately choosing one. Using a publishing service that can connect you directly to industry professionals is a great way to give yourself the best selection possible.
Ghost writing isn’t for everyone. If you have the skills and the time to write the book yourself, it will certainly save you some money and give you control over every detail of your book. But if you have don’t have the time or writing abilities, and you have reason to believe your book is a worthwhile investment, ghost writing is a great solution.