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Ghostwriters 101: How to Know if Ghostwriting Is Right for You

If you’ve had a dream of writing a book but are worried about how you could execute the actual writing, you may have considered hiring a ghostwriter. Someone who could come in and artfully translate your life experience into a book as impactful as you imagine. 

It’s an intriguing option, but what does the ghostwriting process fully entail? Can a ghostwriter truly capture your authentic voice and vision? How do you even find a ghostwriter and, more importantly, how  much is it going to cost you?

Here you will find the answers to all those questions and more. At the end, we’ll also cover some ghostwriting alternatives if you discover that ghostwriting isn’t right for you.

Ghostwriting Basics

What exactly is ghostwriting? In simplest terms, it’s when one person hires a writer to author a book that will be published under someone else’s name. The hired writer crafting the book behind the scenes is considered the “ghostwriter.”

Examples of Ghostwriting

Some of the most high-profile and lucrative examples of ghostwriting at play include major celebrity memoirs and autobiographies. Think Prince Harry’s blockbuster memoir “Spare” or Michelle Obama’s record-breaking autobio “Becoming.” Ghostwriting manifests across a diverse range of genres and client types.

Celebrity Memoirs

Celebrities will frequently work with an experienced ghostwriter, most often when they want to tell their life stories. While the celebrity supplies the raw stories and materials based on their paths to fame, the ghostwriter handles shaping everything into a riveting tale. Typically only the celebrity’s name graces the cover, but in some instances, such as with Willie Nelson, a “written with” credit on the cover or copyright page will note the ghostwriter’s name.

Business Executive Books

It’s quite commonplace for a business leader looking to publish a book positioned as written by them to actually enlist a ghostwriter to do the writing. The ghostwriter crafts the ideas, lessons and anecdotes from the executive’s career into a book manuscript that executive can then claim public ownership of as the named author.

The ghostwriter typically sources the material for the book from the executive’s existing material, such as training videos, recordings, interviews, and more.

Personal Memoirs

People with powerful life experiences to share or poignant messages to deliver often team up with ghostwriters to make their memoir visions a reality. The ghostwriter thoroughly interviews the client to pull out their most impactful stories, then creates the entire memoir narrative arc while keeping the client as the published “author.”

If the individual doesn’t have an existing body of work, then they can expect to pay the ghostwriter more money so as to cover the cost of the interviewing process.

What Does a Ghostwriter Do?

So what’s the actual process when you hire a ghostwriter? While each ghostwriter is different, and the process depends on if the subject has an existing body of material that the ghostwriter can source from, here is a general overview of the main phases:

Initial Consultation

It all starts with an exploratory call to discuss the client’s vision for their book, understand their unique perspective and passion around the topic, and assess what materials they may already have available to work with.

Develop Outline

Next, informed by the initial talks, the ghostwriter digests the download to shape a preliminary content framework – including the concept, prospective chapter breakdown and coverage plans to guide creation.

Interview Sessions

This intensive phase is where the ghostwriter conducts a series of extensive interviews with the client for each chapter. Now, if the client already has an existing body of source material (such as interviews, recordings, journals, or other material), the interview process may be shorter.

During the interviews, the ghostwriter will relentlessly dig into illuminating backstories, eliciting penetrating insights and capturing distinctive stylistic flair. The goal is to extract the authentic content needed to ultimately bring the book to life.


With a mountain of interview transcripts and any supplementary resources for inspiration, the ghostwriter switches gears to writing mode. They prepare initial chapter drafts for client review, transforming all those rich talks into powerful manuscript form.

Editing and Revisions

Lastly, the client provides feedback on drafts, signaling areas for refinement and adjustments to better reflect their intended tone and messaging based on the final published book vision. Ghostwriters finesse chapters accordingly, incorporating that input towards aligning the book perfectly with what the client envisaged.

How Much Does a Ghostwriter Cost?

Ghostwriting is an extensive investment of a writer’s time and talent. So what exactly does it cost to hire a ghostwriter? A few key considerations:

Celebrity Deals Into the Millions

At the highest publishing echelons, celebrity figures and boldfaced names receive staggering million dollar advances enabling them to afford elite New York Times bestseller list ghostwriters. Top-tier ghostwriters then further participate in lucrative royalty-based backend compensation.

Celebrity memoirs have the capacity to trigger multi-million dollar payouts, especially given the explosion of streaming rights. But those rarefied compensation levels rely on star power brand names coupled with seven-figure advances providing the funding flexibility.

Business Books Around $25,000 to $50,000

For business leaders, subject matter experts and CEOs seeking ghostwriting partnerships, typical fees range between $25,000 to $50,000. The client and ghostwriter will collaborate extensively through recorded sessions over weeks and months to deliver the finished professional manuscript the executive can leverage as their own thought leadership asset.

Cost Considerations

Whether celebrity status or a seven-figure corporate speaker, a range of cost considerations influence ghostwriting fees; the client’s existing materials and audience equity to draw upon, the accessibility level they provide the ghostwriter throughout creation, the required speed, and importantly, the experience level of the writer themselves.

For example, if you are a coach who already has pre-recorded courses, your ghostwriter might cost less than if your ghostwriter would need to spend forty hours interviewing you to get that information.

Top ghostwriters with proven bestselling co-author credits can justify higher charges, while amateur ghostwriters may underprice their efforts striving to build portfolio pieces. Ghostwriting requires immense time and skill, making rates largely commensurate with expertise. But those possessing both high visibility and budgets to spare reap huge scaling opportunities should their book widely resonate.

Is Ghostwriting Right For Me?

When assessing whether to pursue ghostwriting for your book, the three core considerations are time availability, budget, and quality expectations.

If You Don’t Have the Time or Writing Skills

Lack of time is one of the top reasons people opt to work with ghostwriters rather than pen books themselves. High-achieving executives, celebrities and entrepreneurs often lack genuine or quality writing experience. Even for naturally gifted writers, scheduling consistent unbroken hours needed to concentrate on drafting a manuscript proves challenging.

This time crunch combined with writing aptitude concerns leads many with important messages to share to conclude collaborating with a seasoned ghostwriting partner represents the most efficient path to completing their book.

If You Have a Sizable Budget

Top ghostwriters are highly sought after wordsmithing pros. They command substantial fees ranging from $25k on up to properly reward their efforts orchestrating an engaging book requiring deep client immersion to get right. While deals at the high end involve celebrities, nearly all ghostwriting agreements are funded by those possessing expansive budgets.

If You Want High Quality

One key motivator underpinning the decision to hire a ghostwriter is prioritizing quality – the assurance that your book as critical personal or professional communications vehicle meets elevated standards, skillfully crafted to resonate with readers. Skilled ghostwriters provide this quality safety net through adept style and narrative shaping. They draw out your best content then refine into precise copy that powerfully lands. For many, this talent access guarantees excellence.

Things to Consider When Hiring a Ghostwriter

When evaluating potential ghostwriters, two central considerations should drive your decision process:

Capturing Your Voice and Essence

The best ghostwriting experiences happen through relationship building and shared creative exploration over longer engagements. The ghostwriter almost functions as your communications alter-ego, intimately infusing your quintessential rhythms and perspectives into the prose.

So assess ghostwriter compatibility around deeply grasping your vibe to translates it authentically. Shortchange that resonance fit and you may feel your book ghostwritten rather than co-created.

Protecting Your Idea

Idea theft by ghostwriters is exceedingly rare, but have potential ghostwriters sign NDAs for added legal protection around your concept if concerned. Just don’t let overblown idea security worries prevent you from productive manuscript progress. Your concept likely only feels irresistible to you, while ghostwriters stay focused on client work paying their bills versus speculative personal projects.

Alternatives to Ghostwriting

While ghostwriting delivers hands-off, quality-focused convenience, viable alternatives exist allowing more author participation and ownership.

Writing Coaching

Investing in dedicated writing coaching allows you to skill-build around outlining, writing consistency, craft refinement and author voice development with an experienced mentor guiding your progress. You still access pro-level expertise while retaining control over expressing your own perspectives.

Difference Press Custom Approach

As an alternative model, boutique publishers like Difference Press fuse high-touch guidance through all publishing stages with intensive writing instruction at the outset ensuring you acquire core abilities to sustainably articulate concepts in book form and beyond. Their hands-on methodologies lead authors to polished prose while building lasting skills.

Depending on your goals around authorship and thought leadership, coaching and custom models may complement ghostwriting as means to author empowerment.

Is Ghostwriting Right for You?

Ghostwriting brings books to life by pairing ambitious ideas with skilled writing execution. Celebrities, executives and thought leaders often use this route to authorship, weighing factors of budget, time and control against their publishing aspirations.

Ultimately, prospective ghostwriting clients should weigh pros (skilled execution of your thoughts) with cons (cost, time, and lackluster execution) to determine if ghostwriting is right for you.

If you know you need help writing your book, but know a ghostwriter isn’t for you, consider hiring a writing coach or working with a boutique publisher that offers individualized writing assistance.

Define your optimal balance between independence and collaboration, then start crafting, one authentic page at a time.

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