The pros and cons of hiring a ghostwriter

The first exploratory chat between an author and a ghostwriter is a crucial part of the process. They’ll both be sizing each other up to make sure they are a good fit and the chemistry is right. The author needs to feel comfortable speaking with the ghost and reassured that the writer understands them and the story they are trying to tell. Meanwhile, a ghost will be weighing up whether they believe they can work well with the author and that he or she is honest and credible. If all goes well, a great collaboration will emerge.

What you might be surprised to hear is that, during these calls, I often spend as much time trying to dissuade an author from kicking off the project, as I do convincing them it is a brilliant idea. Why? This is my business after all. Shouldn’t I be giving it the ‘big sell’. The answer is: yes and no. I strongly believe that authors should be fully aware of everything a project like this involves, which inevitably means highlighting the cons as well as the pros.

If you’ve done your research on ghostwriting, the pros are pretty clear. Not everyone has the ability to write a book and very, very few people have the ability to write a good book. The whole point of the exercise is to make sure your book is read widely, and to do this you need to give it the best possible start in life and a professional ghostwriter is the woman for the job. Even if you do have a decent writing ability, you may not have time to spare to plan, research and write a book. It can take up to six months for an experienced writer working full time. Besides, if you are writing about your brilliant business, or amazing life, you are probably better off getting on with what you do best, rather than locking yourself away for months with a laptop. Working with a professional ghostwriter is a guarantee that the manuscript will also be of publishable quality and ready to go straight into the editing and production process.

Something else that a ghost brings to the party is the knowledge of what sells. Ghostwriters hear a lot of stories and we read a lot of books too. We also work closely with a range of publishers. That means we know what works and what doesn’t. While an author will be hugely familiar with their own story, since they have lived it after all, a ghost can advise which bits will make the most interesting narrative. They’ll know how to make it stand out. They’ll also do research into the market, to bring in additional facts to add weight to the story and give it more authority where necessary.

And so, to the cons. What should an author think long and hard about before commissioning a ghost? The first, and most obvious, downside is the cost. The lowest tier of writer, sourced from freelancing websites, offer to write a book for as little as £5000. If, however, an author wishes to work with an experienced ghost, they can expect to pay between £25,000 and £50,000, or sometimes even more for a full length book. Without a doubt it is a huge commitment. (For more detail on how the pricing model works, read my blog on pricing here).

All of which brings me neatly to another potential con. You absolutely get what you pay for with ghostwriting. While it is instinctive to shop around and buy on price, authors should think long and hard about who they choose to work with. To achieve the goal of a highly readable book, they need to work with an experienced ghost with a track record of writing well-read, published books, preferably in the area the author wants to write about. For the collaboration to be a success, professionalism is key.

Authors should also fully understand that their contract with a ghost only covers the writing of the book. Getting it published is a separate consideration and there are no guarantees. There should definitely be a discussion upfront as to what will happen once the draft is complete. Can the ghost give you pointers or help after that? Or, will you be on your own? Again, an experienced ghost will come into their own here. They will have good connections and will be able to point authors in the right direction, or even make introductions which may help the process through its next stage.

What should certainly set alarm bells ringing for any author is when their chosen ghost does not regularly share draft chapters with them. Any ghostwriting project has to be a collaboration and the best way to capture the full story is to make sure chapters go back and forth between the collaborators. I certainly make sure to share chapters on an ongoing basis throughout a project.

Similarly, good ghostwriters will start a project and finish it, working to an agreed timeline. I would be very wary of a ghost who is reluctant to set deadlines, or share copy as the project unfolds, offering one excuse after the other as to why chapters are not yet available. That would put them firmly in the con territory.

There are pros and cons to any business relationship. Before hiring a ghost, any author should do their due diligence, go in with both eyes open and fully discuss all aspects of a collaboration up front. Aside from the cost commitment, they need to make sure they find the right ghost, with a strong track record in the type of book they want to write. The process of hiring the right, most experienced ghostwriter is as important as deciding to write the book in the first place.

If you would like to learn more about the benefits of working with a ghostwriter, or would like to discuss your book with me, please feel free to drop me an email here: