What Is Ghostwriting? Here’s What You Need to Know


There are many reasons why someone would consider working with a ghostwriter on a book writing project. Among these:

  • A literary agent has contacted you about representation but needs you to strengthen the focus a bit
  • You have received an advance from a publisher based on a pitch and need a professional writer to pen your project
  • You have plans on publishing a book based on a great idea but need some help putting it together
  • You don’t have the time to work on a book and need someone who works full-time in publishing to help you

There are many other reasons to work with a ghostwriter, and all of those reasons are valid. However, it’s important that you understand how ghostwriting works before seeking a ghostwriter out.

Working with a ghostwriter should be considered a major investment, much like purchasing a car or paying college tuition. You are relying upon a person’s experience in writing and publishing to help you bring an idea to life. Therefore, it should not be taken lightly. Using discretion and understanding the finer details of ghostwriter-author relationships will make the process go smoothly for everyone concerned. For the purposes of this information “author” refers to the person who is initiating the project and who has hired a ghostwriter. In other words, the author will be publishing the completed manuscript.

  1. Ghostwriters are paid for providing a service to the author. Most ghostwriters set up an agreement (oftentimes called “Work for Hire” agreement) with an author about what they will contribute to the author’s project. Whether it is partial or full writing of a manuscript, the details of the arrangement will be outlined in a contract that you and the ghostwriter will sign.
  2. The fees for ghostwriting depend on the scope of work and timeline. Each ghostwriter will set a price for the project based on the amount of time and energy involved, as well as any background work (research, interviews, discussions with the author) necessary for completion.
  3. Just as in any other profession, there is a set range for ghostwriting rates that most professionals adhere to. There may be some writers online who would agree to write an entire book for you for $1,000, this rate falls far below the standard rate established by nonprofit organizations whose members are ghostwriters. Professional ghostwriters may set their rates at $10,000 as a base and charge upwards of $100,000 depending on the project. For a list of professional ghostwriting rates, please check the Editorial Freelancers' Association page.
  4. A typical ghostwriting project for a full manuscript may take between 3 and 8 months to complete. You will have the opportunity to set a schedule with your ghostwriter where the deliverable product is concerned. Authors who are working on a tighter deadline may expect to pay higher rates.
  5. Most ghostwriters sign over publishing rights to a project once it has been completed. Very few ghostwriters will agree to work on a project in exchange for future royalties, unless there is great likelihood of success of the project. Once the project is completed, the ghostwriter will submit a copyright release to the author assigning all rights to original content to the author. This means the ghostwriter will not have the right to publish or otherwise make public the contractual relationship between author and ghostwriter. This also means that the ghostwriter is not entitled to any royalties once the book has been published, unless otherwise stated in the contract.
  6. Most ghostwriters enter into a confidentiality agreement with the author. In addition to outlining the scope of work in the contract, an author may enter into a confidentiality agreement with the author. A confidentiality agreement binds the ghostwriter to secrecy. In other words, the ghostwriter may not have permission to discuss the details of your project with any outside party. In certain instances concessions are outlined in the agreement which may allow the ghostwriter to use clips from the material as part of his or her portfolio.
  7. Full creative license versus limited creative license. There are varying degrees of ghostwriting. Some authors have a fully detailed outline ready for ghostwriter (and may have received a publishing contract based on that outline), and others may simply have an idea and need a ghostwriter to contribute creative elements (common in fiction writing). Being clear about these expectations early on in your relationship with a ghostwriter will make everything go more smoothly.
  8. What should an author provide when developing a relationship with a ghostwriter? You can start the process with a idea that’s been burning a hole in your head, but it’s best to have some thought invested prior to initiating contact. Ghostwriters need to be able to convey your message in writing, so having as much information as possible is important. Is the project fiction or nonfiction? Does the project require research? Should it conform to a particular published author’s writing style? Is there a workable outline that must be strictly adhered to?

If you have an interest in working with one of our ghostwriters, please fill out our contact form. Provide as many details as possible about the project so that we can get a better idea of whether this would be a good fit for us. Please feel to ask any questions that are not answered here, and we will address them for you.

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Need some more information about ghostwriting? Check out our blog post.