A ghostwriter is a professional writer hired to write a book on behalf of a client.
Ghostwriters are more than writers though. We are strategic partners who serve as sounding boards, coaches, publishing consultants, and task wranglers.
We have a knack for asking questions that identify your ideal reader, highest goals, best ideas, personal and professional strengths, and unique selling proposition. We do all that and find your voice and replicate it in writing.
A great ghostwriting partnership is one in which you and your ideas shine without you having to spend hundreds of hours away from your primary work or suffer through the creative process.
Professional ghostwriters love the creative process, know the conventions of the genres in which they write, and have honed their writing skills and developed efficiencies that improve results.
Celebrities, entrepreneurs, executives, athletes, activists, consultants, speakers, and anyone else who has a strong vision for how their experience, expertise, and mission will benefit readers but doesn't have the time and/or skill required to write a book hire ghostwriters. In fact, the majority of traditionally published nonfiction books are written by ghostwriters.
The book is the visible product of your experience, expertise, and vision; it reflects your voice and authority. So, you are the author.
Every ghostwriter has their own process, but it typically goes something like this:
The process/phase listed above typically takes between four and eight months for a professional ghostwriter to complete a 50k-70k-word nonfiction manuscript.
(Related: The 4 Phases of a Book Project)
Cost varies widely. In general, your platform and aspirations should determine your budget. If you have a solid platform and high aspirations for your career and the reach of the book, I recommend hiring a ghostwriter whose clientele and results are similar to your position and goals.
Ghostwriters whose work hits the New York Times Best Seller list can charge $60,000-100,000 per book.
On the other hand, there are plenty of people out there who say they'll ghostwrite a book for $7,000-9,000.
In either case, results are not guaranteed. But, I've never seen a New York Times Best Seller or high-profile author listed on a budget writer's website nor heard of a ghostwriter who has little to demonstrate their value yet can command high fees.
I'm sure you noticed that there's a lot of middle ground between seven and one hundred thousand and between nothing to show and a lot to show.
If you're an up and comer, look for a ghostwriter who's an up and comer.
Determining how much you should pay requires an understanding of where you are, where you want to go, and who is available to work with you on those terms.
Start with your network. See if anyone you know has successfully worked with a ghostwriter.
Do a Google search. Check out the websites and blogs of potential ghostwriting partners, and look for benefits/results-oriented language. Many Testimonials and About pages speak to experience. Client experience is very important, but most of us hire someone to do a job because we want results. There should be a good mix of facts and feelings.
Remember to check LinkedIn too. Do the ghostwriters you're considering have professional standing there? What connections do they have that may benefit you? How do they interact with other professionals? Would you be confident in their professionalism and proud to be one of their clients?
Schedule an interview call with at least three prospective ghostwriters, and see which one if any are the right fit. If none are, keep looking. A forced fit is a bad fit.