Ghostwriting: What is a Ghostwriter & Should You Hire One?


You know there are several writing and publishing options available nowadays.

And for most of you busy folk, ghostwriting may seem like the way to go. After all, if someone else writes the book then you don’t have to spend the time doing it…but here’s the thing…

Ghostwriting isn’t usually the best idea and we’ll cover exactly why in this post.

Here’s what we’ll cover about ghostwriters and ghostwriting:

  1. What is ghostwriting
  2. What do ghostwriters write
  3. Why using a ghostwriter is a bad idea
  4. How to hire a ghostwriter
  5. How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter
  6. Pros of using a ghostwriter
  7. Cons of using a ghostwriter
  8. Is a ghostwriter worth it
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What is a ghostwriter?

Ghostwriting is writing material for someone else who becomes the named author. In other words, you write the content for someone else, but it’s published under their own name.

Often, there’s a contract specifying that the author will not have any legal right to the work after it’s published to guarantee the ghost writer’s anonymity. 

What do ghostwriters write? 

Ghost writers are hired for a huge array of projects in all different sorts of mediums and genres.

You may have heard of ghostwriters taking on books, political speeches, or seen job postings for technical manuals, academic essays, fictional novels, or even captions on a brand’s social media posts. 

Ghostwriters often use freelancing sites like Upwork or Fiverr to find work. Sometimes, ghostwriters are contracted by a company to write fiction for a set period of time.

A ghostwriter might be hired to write political speeches for one particular person. Or, a ghostwriter might be hired for a single small assignment, like writing one technical manual or specific post on a website, as well as larger projects like writing a book

The bottom line is that ghostwriting is writing someone does for you, and you get full credit as the author and people don’t even need to know a ghostwriter wrote it.

Why using a ghostwriter is NOT a good idea for a book

We’ll get into some pros and cons of ghostwriters a little bit later but I wanted to cover just why using a ghostwriter to write a book is a poor idea.

When it comes to memoirs or other nonfiction books (and even fiction!), using a ghostwriter can seem like a great idea.

But in reality, it usually causes far more problems than anything else.

For one, they’re very expensive. Good ones are, at least. Which means you’ll dump a bunch of money into a book that’s not really yours. They can write on the information you give them and that’s yours, but you’ll know deep down you didn’t do it. And the emotional impact of that alone is worth doing it yourself.

Another reason ghostwriters aren’t the best idea for a book is the fact that they won’t get it right. They don’t know the details of what you want to write about and that means they’ll get a lot of it wrong.

Only you can tell the story inside of you. Ghostwriters can’t bring your level of passion and knowledge into the pages no matter how much information you share with them.

Plus, you think it might save you time when the reality is that you’ll have to spend even more time giving them information, reading over their work, providing feedback and changes, only to be left with something that still isn’t what you fully want. Because what you want is in your own mind.

Our recommendation is always to write it yourself. And that’s why we developed a system to write and publish a book in only 90 days.

You can learn more about that entire process right here.

If you’re on the fence about a ghostwriter, listening to this podcast episode with Leif Babin, co-author of Extreme Ownership, about his process in publishing and why he refused to use a ghostwriter.

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

Now, if you still decide a ghostwriter is what you want (despite the above information), we’ve got some information that can make the process easier.

Because ghostwriters are often hired for one project or a small set of projects, the most important thing to look for is experience. Potential clients will be looking for your ability to deliver work in whatever they’re looking for. When you use a freelance site like Upwork, this often means having lots of experience and positive reviews on the site itself. 

As you do more jobs on the website, more clients will rate your performance, and your on-site portfolio will grow. The more experience you have, the more desirable you are to potential clients, and the better and more high-paying jobs you’ll be able to get. Often, these websites will offer a place for you to submit your resume and some writing samples, so that employers can get a sense for your job range. 

Once you’ve got an account, the best way to get jobs is to apply for lots of different gigs! As with finding any other job, the key is to cast a wide net. The wider your skillset and the more experience you have, the wider a net you can cast. 

Now that we’ve discussed what ghostwriting is, what ghostwriters do, and how ghostwriters get work, we’re ready to talk about some pros and cons. 

How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?

While prices vary, you can expect to pay a quality ghostwriter anywhere from $25 – $100+ an hour. Meaning a project the size of a book at a 250-page average can span upwards of $20,000 – $100,000 in some cases, depending on how many words are in your book and the scope of related services provided.

For example, if you were to use a ghostwriter from a service like ScribeWriting, you will pay $36,000 – $100,000+ for their ghostwriting packages (disclaimer: they include more than just ghostwriting services within each package which is why their prices are higher than what’s mentioned above, but you get the idea).

ScribeWriting Service Costs

You can also see these prices from a company specializing in ghostwriting services called Kevin Anderson & Associates in the image below.

Kevin Anderson & Associates Service Costs

A high-quality ghost-written book is very expensive and often not worth the price when you can be taught how to write it yourself, and quickly.

You can learn more about how we do that for thousands of bestselling authors right here.

Since the writer can’t actually take credit for their work, they charge a lot more than they would if their name was on the piece of content, whatever that may be.

What are the pros of using a ghostwriter? 

You can find both pros and cons in everything, including using a ghostwriter. Here’s a breakdown of what you can gain and what you’ll lose if you go this route to finish your book.

#1 – You don’t have to spend the time to write it

Someone else takes care of that. So you don’t have to sit at a computer or notepad and write. But you still will have to take a ton of time to give the writer adequate notes, review their writing, make your own suggestions and feedback, then wait for changes.

So while you don’t have to spend the time actually writing, don’t mistake that for it saving you time (which I’ll cover below).

#2 – The writing quality might be higher

Note the “might” in this. Reason being is that even if you wrote it, it would go through a professional editor and the quality would increase significantly already.

However, many ghostwriters are “natural” writers; it comes easier to them. So if you’re worried about the quality, a ghostwriter can ensure a higher level of writing competence.

But keep in mind that a book isn’t good solely because of the writing.

#3 – Non-native speakers can benefit from native writers

Depending on the language you want to write your book in, a ghostwriter can be a great option. This is particularly true for non-native speakers looking to write a book in English.

You can hire a ghostwriter to take your writing that might be wrought with grammatical errors due to the language barrier and have them rewrite it to make sense.

#4 – Those unable to type or write can complete something written

There are a number of disabilities that can bar someone from writing a book, or writing at all. Hiring a ghostwriter can help you accomplish a huge goal or dream if you’re not able to physically perform the work necessary to write.

Now that we’ve covered the pros, let’s consider the downsides to hiring a ghostwriter to write your book. 

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Cons of Hiring a Ghostwriter

If you’re considering hiring a ghostwriter, you may want to consider some of these major cons first.

#1 – It won’t be your work

This is an especially bad con when it comes to writing a book. One of the biggest joys authors have when finishing a book is that they did it themselves.

It’s a major feat, one that a very small percentage of the population will ever accomplish and by hiring a ghostwriter, you’re taking that away from yourself. You’re robbing yourself of the experience of accomplishing something as major as writing a book!

#2 – It’s quite expensive for good work

Now, you can find ghostwriters online who are willing to work for cheap. But when it comes to writing…you get what you pay for.

If you’re looking to publish a book that you’ve paid a ghostwriter to write, you want it to be of the highest quality. Your name’s on it, after all.

But that also means you’ll have to pay a healthy sum for a book.

I listed some prices for services above, but just a reminder that a quality ghostwriter can go from $20,000 – $100,000 for your average book.

#3 – It takes a ton of time

Contrary to why most people go with a ghostwriter (to save time), it can actually take much longer. There’s a ton of communication involved in order for them to write the book even semi-close to what you’re imagining.

And that’s not to mention all the reviewing, feedback, and process of revisions.

Instead of waiting months and months to get your book completed by a ghostwriter, we can teach you how to write, market, and publish your book in as little as 90 days—proven!

#4 – Communication has to be SUPER clear

One of the hardest parts about having someone else write for you is that you need to be really, really clear in your communication…or you suffer wasting even more time.

Imagine this: you send a thorough document listing what you’d like them to write about, cover, and include only to get the writing back full of misinterpretations of what you really mean.

You then have to spend the time explaining, they have to write it again…and just so you know, they’ll charge you for this time all the while.

Some ghostwriters do work over the phone and conduct interviews, which makes less room for error while they write for you. Overall, though, communication is a big issue when it comes to using a ghostwriter.

#5 – You still have to pay for other services

If you’re self-publishing, there are other costs involved in this process. Everything from the cover design to editing still needs to be paid for in addition to the cost of the ghostwriter.

Now, some ghostwriting services have packages, which include this.

But if you choose to go with a freelance ghostwriter because they’re cheaper, you still have to pay for the cover, editing, and any other incurred expenses.

Unless you’re someone who has a significant amount of money to spend, it’s not easy to pay for a ghostwriter plus other expenses.

#6 – You can’t say “I wrote a book”

Let’s be real: sometimes the best part of writing a book is saying that you wrote a book. It directly relates back to the first con on this list.

And even though you might be able to tell people you’re an author because your name’s on the book…you can’t really tell them you wrote it. It’s still your content and your stories but you didn’t do the work of putting it together.

#7 – Nobody else will care about this as much as you

You can’t expect someone else, even someone who is being paid, to care about this book or project as much as you do.

There’s a level of passion in writing that you can’t fake. When you’re the one writing, the piece means more and comes across as far more authentic. This also means that nobody will put forth the care and effort you will to complete the writing project.

So… is hiring a ghostwriter worth it? 

That depends! If you’re looking to spend a really big chunk of change and are okay with the cons listed above, it’s probably for you!

But if you want to take pride in writing something like a book yourself, with your own stories and voice and style, writing it yourself is the way to go.

Let us teach you how by clicking right here to learn more about how we help thousands of students write and publish their book—from blank page to bestselling author—in as little as 90 days.

Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a comission if you click through to make a purchase.

Gloria Russell

Gloria Russell is a freelance writer and author living in Texas. When she isn’t writing short stories or critiquing manuscripts, she’s planning her next road trip and heeding the whims of her cat, Ham.

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