What Is A Ghostwriter and How Much Should I Pay for One?
As stated in my bio here and at Writestream Publishing, I am an experienced ghostwriter of several books, including:
Oddly enough, it had never crossed my mind to use my writing skills to create books for other people, but a year after meeting Shlomo Attia at a book signing for the first edition of Water Signs, he called me with a special offer. With firm conviction, he said he had a book that needed to be written and I was the only person who could help him. Although skeptical that I could 1.) write a full-length book for another person, particularly one for whom English was a second language, and 2.) integrate his high-level concepts into an entertaining and thought-provoking story, his confidence was contagious. The rest, as they say, is history.
I kept writing books and am now the sole ghostwriter at Writestream Publishing LLC.
What is Ghostwriting?
As I’ve posted at Writestream Publishing.com:
Ghostwriting is a service whereby someone entrusts their concept for a fictional story or the facts of their own life and experiences (in the case of a nonfiction memoir, self-help book, etc.) to a professional ghostwriter. The ghostwriter then gathers information from their client, outlines the book accordingly, and writes it in their client’s voice.
That’s a basic starting point. Depending on the scope of the project, it can take anywhere from four months to several years to produce a high quality product. In my experience as a ghostwriter of fiction and nonfiction books, nonfiction is faster and easier to complete.
Once I have the information from my client, it’s a matter of deciding what’s important to include (based on the purpose of the book and other factors), arranging the content in a logical manner, then writing it on their behalf.
Whenever I consult with a potential new client on their ghostwriting project, I describe in detail how the process works:
- Investigation – we set up a weekly recorded call where I act as an investigative reporter and ask questions. Why recorded? To make it easier to capture information I’ll need later on and the client’s manner of speaking; in essence, their voice. This ensures that when I sit down to write, I’ll be writing as the client — not as me. Depending upon the scope of the story, the investigative part of the process can take a few weeks or a few months.
- Collaboration – from there, I collaborate with the client to offer suggestions in terms of content and ensure they’re comfortable including certain things. For example, one of my clients experienced a rape by a family member as a teenager. In the beginning, she was adamant about not identifying him, which I honored and understood. But as the process moved along, she decided to call him out. Either way, including the rape as a turning point in her life was necessary. Particularly when dealing with sensitive topics, the client is always in control. My job as the ghostwriter (and editor) is to make professional suggestions based on knowledge and experience.
- Organization – once I have all the information, I listen to playback of all recordings to determine a logical sequence to the book. Flow and pacing are just as important as content. Even if you have an incredible story to share, if not properly organized, you’ll quickly lose your readers. In the case of fiction, once I have the real-life events, I then figure out characters, plot, and sequencing. Fiction demands a different kind of creativity. Once I know the actual story, I then spend time creating characters and mapping out a plot. I explain to my clients that the fictional version of their story will not mirror real life because it’s not a memoir. Aside from changing locations (dictated by the client), creative license may involve consolidating multiple real-life people into one character, amending the timeline of events for pacing purposes, and creating purely fictional situations to enhance the intrigue.
- Writing – as I said, ghostwriting demands the ability to write in someone else’s voice, which means getting into someone else’s head. The only way to accomplish this feat is by conducting the regular recorded interviews I described in the first bullet. Most importantly though, a ghostwriter must have a genuine interest in other people. Without it, it’s impossible to do the job well. Paradoxically, good writing is a product of pouring your heart and soul into your creation, yet in the case of a ghostwriter, it’s not really your work, so you must maintain a certain detachment while you treat the process as if the end result is your accomplishment. This is especially true if your name will not appear anywhere on the cover.
- Editing – at Writestream Publishing, it’s our policy that clients who opt for ghostwriting also select one of our all-inclusive publishing packages. Among the necessary services included is editing. Once I’ve completed the manuscript, it goes to my business partner Lisa Tarves for a thorough edit. As with the writing portion of the project, the client has the right to accept or decline any changes for as long as the book is in the editing phase. Once a client approves their book for formatting, there are no further editorial changes.
Now that you know how ghostwriting works, hopefully you understand its value. Your ghostwriter will spend countless hours fulfilling your dream of becoming a published author and/or of adding more published books to your list of accomplishments. It demands time, talent, skill, discernment…and even a bit of amateur psychology for a good ghostwriter to produce a product their client can be proud of.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?
Let’s get down to dollars and cents and answer the question of how much it costs to hire a ghostwriter. If we’re talking about a full-length book, which is what I’ve outlined in this post, I defer to Laura Sherman, Ghostwriter and Author:
- Cheap writers can be found who will write a 100 to 200 page book for as little as $2,000. If this is your budget (and you’re a gambler by nature), your best bet is to find a student new to the industry. Please be careful that he or she is actually writing your book and not plagiarizing another writer’s work.
- Professional writers will usually charge between $12,000 and $90,000 to write a 100 to 300 page book. This price varies depending on the writer’s level of expertise and the amount of work required for the project.
- High-end celebrity writers are usually hired by actors, politicians, musicians and other famous personalities who will sell books just by virtue of their name. The writers for these celebrities are well-established authors with a lot of experience. They can charge $150,000 to $750,000 for a book. Sometimes more.
Visit WritestreamPublishing.com to read the rest, but for a 200-300 page book, my rates begin at $8,000.00.
Beyond costs, however, it is important to take the time to “interview” your potential ghostwriter, as I do with every person who approaches me about a project.
Because the nature of ghostwriting demands collaboration and regular communication, at least in the beginning, both parties should feel comfortable with each other. This doesn’t mean you have to become great friends (although it tends to happen); just that you want to have an easy rapport, where there’s mutual respect and an exchange of ideas. Keeping an open mind is crucial, too, because ghostwriting is a fluid process up until both parties agree that it’s time to move the manuscript into the editing phase.
If you’re thinking about hiring a ghostwriter and have more questions about the process, contact me here. I look forward to discussing your project with you!