Who’s Writing It?

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The Ghostwriters Behind the Book

It’s not much of an industry secret that most of those top-selling biographies and memoirs by politicians and celebrities aren’t actually written by them. Sure, the book covers their experiences, uses their words, and contributes to their brand, but oftentimes, the book itself is written by a ghostwriter. 

The Person and the Process 

A ghostwriter is a professional writer who works with the author/expert to develop their book. This process can take weeks or months depending on the timeline. Ghostwriters sit down with the author and conduct a series of interviews to gather the content they need. Through extra research and follow-up questions, ghostwriters write a rough-draft manuscript. The author then offers feedback and layers in their voice to make the work more authentic. The result is a polished, well-written manuscript that the author may not have been able to create without the ghostwriter.

Who Should Get a Ghostwriter?

You don’t have to be a celebrity or politician to hire a ghostwriter. Maybe you don’t enjoy writing, maybe you’re too busy to commit to the writing process, or maybe you can’t define your vision for the book—that’s okay. Ghostwriters are accepted in most industries and in the digital age, it’s easier than ever to find and hire a ghostwriter. Some people may seek to diminish the value of a ghostwritten book, but they are in the minority of opinion.

Think about it this way: you have the content, but they have the capability to create a coherent and well-written book. It’s two professionals collaborating on a project and making informed decisions using their extensive experience. Hiring a ghostwriter isn’t much different than hiring a carpenter. Nobody is faulting you for not building your own dining table; why should it matter if you have the actual writing done by a professional?

If you have a unique story to tell, nonfiction or fiction, or you are an expert who has an original approach to your topic, then hire a ghostwriter to get it all on paper. Being a published author will set you apart from your competition, so if your writing skills or schedule are holding you back, a ghostwriter is a worthwhile investment.

Credit and Cost

If I shocked you with the news that ghostwriters are everywhere, then you may be asking yourself why the book cover says “by Barack Obama.” I explained before that ghostwriters serve as a bridge between the author and the reader—the ghostwriter doesn’t have the credibility and experience that the author possesses and without that name, the book likely wouldn’t be published or remembered. It may seem unfair that the author gets the credit for the ghostwriter’s work, but rest assured, the ghostwriter is compensated for their work. Some authors give credit to the ghostwriter in the introduction or acknowledgments, and some ghostwriters even ask for a percentage of the author’s royalties in exchange for their contribution.

The cost of a ghostwriter varies by project and experience. If you’re looking for a one-time blog post or written review, a ghostwriter may charge by the word or by the hour. For longer contracts such as a book, a ghostwriter will ask for a flat rate, often paid in installments.

A word of caution: price doesn’t guarantee quality. Too low of a price should set off alarm bells; sure, a ghostwriter could have a last-minute opening they want to fill or maybe it’s a side hustle passion project. But make sure you investigate: ask for references, look at a portfolio, and take a peek at the writer’s online presence. After all, a poorly-written book is worse for your brand than no book at all.