How to hire a ghostwriter

Viewing time: 4 mins. 18 secs. 

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question looks at how to hire a ghostwriter. If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me at daphne@publicationcoach.com, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question. 

Transcript: 

How do you hire a ghostwriter? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode. 

I have a question from Debbie Garrity, a writer  based in Chicago. Here’s what she asked by email….

“If you want to hire a ghost writer, what type of material do you need to give them? And what do they typically charge?” 

Thanks for your question, Debbie. I’ve never hired a ghostwriter. But I remember speaking with one about 15 years ago. He was a very successful guy, a former journalist, who had ghostwritten at least a dozen books, many of them corporate. 

I recall being surprised by how much he charged — $70,000 a book. And that was 15 years ago. Assuming he’s still alive and working, I bet he costs a lot more now. 

But I’m not trying to suggest that all ghostwriters will charge this kind of fee. According to Writer’s Market, hiring a ghostwriter ranges from $22,000 to $80,000 — if the ghostwriter’s name is included on the cover. If no credit is given, the cost increases to somewhere between $36,000 to $100,000. And of course, these amounts can be even higher if the book is long and complex.   

I did a bit of a google search for you and found a specific ghost writer — I’m not going to name him here because I don’t know his work, which means I can’t endorse him. Anyway, his rate is $45,000 which fits precisely in the range suggested by Writer’s Market. 

If this cost seems expensive to you, remember that books are LONG. Usually somewhere between 50,000 and 80,000 words. Most will take six months to a year to write.  

In fact, if you are able to find someone who’s willing to write for a whole lot less than $45,000, I’d be very suspicious. Do they really have the experience to do the job you need done?

As for the type of material the ghost writer is going to need, I suspect each writer will be a little different. Most will want to begin with a long, in-person meeting— that’s assuming we’re through this pandemic and beyond the need for social distancing. 

The meeting, which should take at least half a day and might take as long as two, will allow you and the writer to become better acquainted. At that point, they’ll be able to give you a better idea of exactly the materials they need. 

Here are a couple of other odds and ends: 

No ghostwriter can guarantee publication of the book by a traditional publisher. That’s totally outside of their ability to control. They might be able to help you to self-publish although they’ll undoubtedly charge you an extra fee for that as well. 

All of the editing required for producing the book to your satisfaction should be included as part of the contract. It’s the ghostwriter’s job to make sure that you are happy! And, if you wish to keep it a secret that you used a ghostwriter, be sure to have that person sign a confidentiality clause. 

Why do people hire ghostwriters? They do it because they don’t have the time or inclination to write themselves. In particular, some business people, and some actors or other celebrities, know that having a book will help boost their professional standing and they want it done quickly.

It’s a question of being willing to pay for something you can’t or won’t do yourself. 

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the noted English author Robert Harris “A ghost who has only a lay knowledge of the subject will be able to keep asking the same questions as the lay reader, and will therefore open up the potential readership of the book to a much wider audience.”  

Debbie, if you want to hire a ghostwriter, understand that it’s a relatively expensive choice. But if you have good reasons for doing it, this writer can save you a lot of time and energy and get the book into your hands in a year or less.   

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