What Is a Ghostwriter and Everything You Need to Know About Ghostwriting

Have a multimillion-dollar book idea, but writing has never been your strongest suit? Luckily for you, a ghostwriter can swoop in and save the day (or, in this case, your first book). But what is a ghostwriter exactly, and do you really need to hire one? 

What Is a Ghostwriter?

A person holding a paper with ghostwriter printed.

Let’s dissect the word “ghostwriter,” shall we? 

The term “ghostwriter” is a compound word wherein the root words “ghost” and “writer” are merged to form a new word, and in this case, “ghostwriter.” 

Since it is a closed type of compound, each of these root words has its meaning — a writer is someone who writes, and a ghost is an apparition or spiritual entity. 

Obviously, when you combine the definitions, you shouldn’t take it literally – or else you’ll have a dead writer that shows up at the edge of your bed. Instead, ghostwriter writes on your behalf but remains anonymous like a ghost. 

He or she takes a client’s voice and ideas and puts them into words to produce white papers, nonfiction books, memoirs, white papers, and even blog posts, all without having his own name in the byline. 

Publishers and public figures like celebrities and politicians often commission professional ghostwriters. 

Fun fact: A ghostwriter’s name can appear either as a co-author or editor in the acknowledgments. 

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

Hiring ghostwriters can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000. However, this is just an estimate. If you want a professional writer with skills, expertise, experience, and the credentials to complete ghostwriting projects, the cost can reach up to $75,000. Also, most ghostwriting jobs have a flat fee rather than an hourly rate. 

Pro Tip: Don’t decide based on cost. Always look at what a ghostwriter can do for you. 

Why Hire a Ghostwriter? 

Celebrities, actors, entrepreneurs, and other professionals commission ghostwriters. There’s no shame in asking for a ghostwriter’s help, but do you really need ghostwriting services? Answering the questions below can make decision-making faster. 

  • Do you have the luxury of writing every day? Imagine the hours you’d have to spend researching, writing, structuring, and editing a 75,000-word nonfiction book. If you can’t fathom the idea and you’re juggling between work and other responsibilities, hiring a ghostwriter takes the pressure of book writing off your shoulders.
  • Do you want to get work done? Already have the first few chapters of your book but have never gotten around to finishing it? Well, a ghostwriter can. Remember, their deliverable is textual. So, unless there is an issue during the writing process, you’ll get the final manuscript of your book. Moreover, ghostwriters offer developmental editing, which is about restructuring and organizing your drafts. 
  • Do you have writing expertise? Forcing yourself to write is not a great way to start a book. Successful and good ghostwriters have the right skills, experience, and talent to pen a book that meets your criteria and requirements. 

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

A client shaking hands with a potential ghostwriter

The last thing you’d want is to share your thought and ideas with another person that won’t be able to pull off your book. Don’t worry, though. Approaching the “ghost-hunting” process the right way can save you from a costly disappointment. 

Here’s how to hire a ghostwriter that you can actually trust and rely on to craft a manuscript as you’ve envisioned. 

1. Have a Clear Project Objective or Goal 

Before hiring a ghostwriter for self-publishing or a traditional publication project, ask yourself if you really know what you want. Do you want a self-guide book or nonfiction similar to a celebrity memoir? Do you want to publish a book to establish credibility or brand awareness? 

Answering these questions before signing a ghostwriting contract can save you from the headache of explaining to the writer what you want to achieve. 

2. Search for Ghostwriters 

You have three options. You can hire a freelance writer on Upwork, research groups, forums, and on professional network websites like LinkedIn, or reach out to ghostwriting agencies like Gotham Ghostwriters and 360 Ghostwriting.

Expert Tip: Keep in mind that writers have different specialties. There’s technical writing, SEO writing, business writing, social media posts writing, etc. 

3. Ask For Previous Works 

Here’s the tricky part. Ghostwriters sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that prevents them from revealing books they’ve written to potential clients. The good thing is many reputable ghostwriters have their self-published books, websites, and blog posts. 

Expert Tip: If you really want the cream of the crop for your nonfiction book, look for a ghostwriter that penned two or more books published by a traditional publisher. 

4. Pay for a Writing Sample 

You don’t want to have a book under your name that is painfully obvious that was written by somebody else. And although you can use the provided samples as a reference point to determine if a potential writer matches your voice and style, we still suggest paying for a sample. Remember, mimicking is part of their job. 

Expert Tip: If you haven’t determined and established your own voice and style, a ghostwriter can help you find it.  

5. Discuss the Details 

At this stage, you already have a ghostwriter that you want to work with. So, what’s next? Well, you need to outline your ghostwriting requirements: 

  • Creative freedom, limited or none at all: Will you let them openly write as they please, or do you prefer for him to stick to your plan? 
  •  Feedback and recommendations: Can your ghostwriter share his thoughts and feedback, or would you rather, again, have him stick to what you’ve already planned? 
  • Availability: Do you want to meet up once or twice a week? Would you rather have him submit the deliverable after the completion?

Expert Tip: During the first stages of the project, it’s not unusual for you to spend more time collaborating with the ghostwriter. You will need to provide information, answer questions, and even review the first drafts of the first chapters.

How to Become a Ghostwriter (With Zero Experience)?

a person typing

We don’t blame you if you want to offer ghostwriting services – it’s very lucrative! However, it is important to know that you need to establish your credibility and reputation before you can land high-paying ghostwriting clients and enjoy a fat paycheck!

Here’s how you become a ghostwriter: 

Learn the Four Types of Point of View

One of the core aspects of being a good ghostwriter is matching the client’s voice and style. If you only know one point of view, it’s time to brush up on your writing skills. When it comes to storytelling, you have four types of point of view (POV) – first, second, third, and fourth person – and each one has its cons and pros.

Become a Freelance Writer and Get Writing Experience  

Imagine that you’re a client looking for a ghostwriter, and there’s one candidate without any experience. Would you hire him? Most probably not. 

The good thing is you can become a freelancer and start writing without a degree. What’s important is you have the experience, skills, and talent to write. But where do you start? 

You can join Upwork and other freelancing platforms. There are thousands of writing gigs you can take on to practice your writing skills and get experience. A word of caution, though. If you don’t have zero experience, expect a lower pay grade.

Write and Self-Publish a Book 

Many ghostwriting clients prefer to connect and collaborate with a writer with published books. If you don’t have one under your belt, it’s time to write one. Although you can write anything under the sun, we suggest sticking to a genre that aligns with your ideal ghostwriting clientele. 

Do you want to ghostwrite celebrity memoirs? Write about your mom or dad. (with their permission, of course). Do you prefer writing how-to books? Find what interests you the most and write about it! 

Writing and self-publishing a book also has its perks. You earn bragging rights, and if you build a loyal fan base, there’s always a possibility that a literary agent could pick it up – similar to how The Martian author Andy Weir started his career! 

Don’t know how to get your book published? We have a comprehensive book publishing guide. 

Build Your Portfolio

Most small freelancing writing projects do not have a non-disclosure agreement. You can compile them together either on a website or inside a shareable Google folder. If you happen to have an NDA, one of the best ways to build a writing portfolio is to create mock pieces. Remember, focus on writing pieces that will show off your skills. 

How to Find Ghostwriting Jobs 

If you already have a portfolio, self-published books, and enough writing experience to take on big writing projects but struggling to find ghostwriting gigs, here are some tips: 

  1. Polish your social media profiles. As mentioned earlier, clients often do their ghostwriter hunting on Linkedin. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that more than 120 million people received an interview invite through the social network! 
  2. Join multiple freelancing platforms: Can’t find the right clients on Upwork? You can join other freelancing platforms and widen your reach. If you prefer to join a platform that does the job hunting for you, you should check out Writers Work. In addition to giving you a more convenient way to track down available ghostwriting gigs, they also offer resources to further your career. 
  3. Join writing forums: In addition to scouring LinkedIn for a potential ghostwriter, many clients go to writing forums for advice and suggestions. Don’t limit yourself to writing forums! Always join other groups where your potential clients are. The majority of the time, they’ve thought of publishing a book. 
  4. Reach out to business owners: Already have a list of clients that may be interested in your ghostwriting services? There’s no harm in reaching out to them! Just make sure to send them relevant writing samples. 
  5. Always ask for referrals: If you’ve already worked with other clients before, be sure to get referrals. They may have a friend or co-worker that needs a book to be ghostwritten.  
  6. Build a network: Most of the time, clients will prefer to work with someone recommended by a reliable source. Connect with other writers and build your online presence to get the word out about your ghostwriting services. 
  7. Establish your brand: If you want to stay away from freelancing platforms because of the low payout and high fees, it’s time for you to set out on your own. Build your website that showcases your work, experience, and talents! You can even take it even further by having an SEO specialist work on your website’s traffic, so whenever someone types “best ghostwriter,” you’ll be on top of the search results. 
  8. Attend business network events: In-person networking is also an excellent way to connect with would-be ghost authors. Just keep in mind that not every prospect is a qualified lead. 

Ghostwriting: Is It for You? 

So, that sums up our in-depth article about what a ghostwriter is. Again, a ghostwriter is someone who pens a book, script, article, and other written content pieces on behalf of the author. Their names don’t appear in the byline, but there are some instances when they are mentioned in the acknowledgments as a co-author. 

If you can’t fathom using your writing skills without proper credit, you can pursue editing services, but that’s for another article.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our guide. Let us know in the comments if you have ghostwriting tips.


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