7 Must Do’s When Hiring a Ghostwriter

With a recent blog post, Why Some People Should NOT Write a Book, I received several private messages regarding ways to get a book done… even if you don’t write a word.

I do know there are multiple ways to accomplish the result of a published book. Many years ago, I worked with a client who didn’t have the time to do the actual writing required to get a book done.

He was the owner of a very successful business. Joe didn’t want to take time away from his day to day activities to sit down and write. Yet, he really wanted to put his name to a book.

The solution was simple. We recorded hours of interview time, had the recordings transcribed and then went through a rewrite and editing process before getting the book published.

This is just one way to get a book done without doing the actual “writing.” The content is all his, but the process worked for his schedule and desire to achieve a specific outcome… his book.

Another popular way to get a book done is to have the book ghostwritten. This requires a budget, a ghostwriter, clarity of outcome and good communication skills.

According to an article on QuickBooks.Intuit.com, fees can range between $5,000 and $55,000 for a book depending on the length and complexity of the manuscript. Read full article … click here.

For some people, having their book ghostwritten is a great option. They may not have the time or talent to write their book, but they know having a book with their name on it will open opportunities.

A ghostwritten book can contain your content and knowledge, it just happens to be compiled, organized and written by someone other than you.


A ghostwriter is a writer who is hired to author literary or journalistic works, speeches or other texts that are officially credited to another person.

Ghostwriting is the process of someone writing for someone without the ghostwriter’s name on the final work.

Finding a Ghostwriter

  1. Be clear on expectations

This is essential to a good working relationship. Don’t assume the ghostwriter knows what you want if you don’t tell them. Take time upfront to clarify your expectations and theirs.

  1. Know what the ghostwriter can and cannot (and will and will not) do

This is similar to clarification on expectations. If what you need is a technically written piece and the person you are considering is not qualified to do this, you need to know this up front. On the other hand, if the writer can deliver high quality content that is difficult to research, this is worth knowing up front.

  1. Check their work

A professional writer knows the importance of the potential client getting a taste of what they do. Chances are the writer has a portfolio of their work. Be willing to ask to see previous work they have done. One way to check their work is give them a small job to do. See if you like their style (which should really be to write in your voice), their turnaround time, and their level of customer care. One small job will show you a lot.

  1. Ask for references

I’ve had some ghostwriters tell me they don’t give any names of clients due to confidentiality. However, other ghostwriters gladly give references. Start with referrals. A good referral from a client they’ve done a great job for is worth its weight in gold.  It is understandable that not all clients will eagerly give a reference for someone you are considering, but if the writer has a lot of experience, they likely have some great references.

  1. Understand roles and responsibilities

Be sure you understand what you must deliver and what the ghostwriter will deliver. For example, if your job consists of facts and figures only you are privy to, then this would be a deliverable from you to the writer. It is your responsibility to provide the writer with all they need.

  1. Be clear on turnaround time

Although you may think the writer should work solely on your project, this may not be the case. Granted, if you’re willing to pay them to put 100% of their time on your job, then you will have a faster turnaround time. Obviously to do this, the investment will be higher for you.

What you may think should take only a few hours, may in fact, take several days.

  1. Sign a contract

Many problems will be alleviated with a rock-solid contract. This is where all the details, time frames, word counts, and other deliverables will be spelled out.

Marketing is Still a Must Do

Even if having your book ghostwritten is the route you go, you still need to market. Whether you do the marketing yourself, or outsource this aspect of the overall book project, marketing must be done.

Not sure how to market? Check out more articles on my blog AND download my FREE report – Hit #1 on Amazon at www.oneonamazon.com to learn lots of proven ways to market your book. This is, by far, the best resource of its kind you can get. Add to that it’s FREE. Can’t beat that.

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  1. I have been writing (ok, procrastinating) a book for some time now. Given that I wasn’t provided a cash advance or a promise of a higher return if I completed it by a certain date, it has languished. Not forgotten, just a B priority, not an A.
    My other tomes were accompanied by cash advances or promises of a payment (above and beyond the royalties) if I turned it in by a certain date. And, they were finished in short order.
    I had considered a ghostwriter, but when i did the math, I realized it was the same hours I am not spending now that I would have to provide with such help.
    Maybe it’s because I don’t pick the right topics to write…

    • Kathleen Gage says:

      There are some people who much prefer to write their own material than ghostwrite while others have the available funds, but not the time.

  2. I’ve written books for people both ways and I’d highly recommend for people to always keep in mind that “their voice” comes through clearly. It may sound funny but its your book and it needs to sound like you. That’s why I prefer the first method you mentioned. That’s how my last project was done and I did personal follow up interviews with the client for further clarification on points. And we ended up with a great book and collaboration. It’s funny when I read that article I guessed this one was coming next 🙂

  3. Heather B says:

    I have a question about ghostwriting. What does the ghostwriter get out of it? You’ve done all the work of writing a book, but you only get paid a small amount, no royalties, and your name isn’t even on the finished product.
    I hope this doesn’t come across as snarky; it’s a genuine question. I freelance, and I spend a lot of time on sites like Upwork. I see a lot of calls for people to ghost write novels, for example. Specifically something like this – “I will pay anywhere from $200 – $300 per book. Each book is around 15,000 to 20,000 words. ”
    If I wanted to write a 20,000 cozy mystery, why wouldn’t I just do it myself and put my own name on it? Self-published or traditional, I’d probably make more than $200.
    Again, I really don’t mean to sound snarky. I’ve been wondering this for a while.

    • Kathleen Gage says:

      It’s not snarky at all Heather. Those who charge only a few hundred dollars are likely in countries where a few hundred dollars is a lot. If you want a highly skilled ghostwriter, many charge upwards of $20,000 – $30,000 or more for a well written book. And, this is what they do for a living. They love writing and have a guaranteed paycheck where there is no guarantee they would sell their works if they wrote their own books. They like writing and may not like marketing. Some ghostwriters make six figures and multiple six figures.

  4. Maybe it is time for me to write a book – everyone has been saying it for years now! Working with someone certainly would be easier – I can just have a conversation/interview and get the content out!

    Thanks for sharing, Kathleen!

  5. Great pointers – speaking as someone who writes for others as “their voice.” And I’d add make sure you carve out plenty of sharing time with your ghost writer so he/she can understand you and your story.

  6. Thank you for your sage advice, Kathleen. I’d like to add another tip: talk to your prospective ghostwriter and see if you like her! I have been told time and again, “You really get me,” or “I really resonate with you,” or something similar. I screen my clients and want to ensure that it is a good fit before moving forward. It will be a long-term business relationship, so it is great when you like each other.

    Thanks for your article, Kathleen.

    Tanya Brockett, Ghostwriter/Editor