What to Expect When Hiring a Ghostwriter: Five Elements to Consider When Seeking Professional Writing Help

09 Jun 2021


Everyone has a book in them. However, not everyone is a writer. And for those who aren’t, projects such as writing a family history, memoir, or autobiography can feel like a herculean task.

This is where a little extra help comes in handy.

When writing projects exceed their author’s capabilities, hiring a professional ghostwriter can help make the project a reality.

However, not all ghostwriters fit the bill. Finding the right ghostwriter requires a combination of understanding and experience.

This article will explore five crucial elements when seeking professional writing help.

Reasons for Hiring a Ghostwriter

It is worth noting that hiring a ghostwriter is not an indictment of an individual’s writing skills. As a matter of fact, there are times when a person simply does not have the time or experience to complete an ambitious writing project on their own.

This is where hiring a professional ghostwriter can make a difference.

Here are four specific situations where hiring a professional ghostwriter makes sense.

1. Lack of Writing Experience

Ernest Hemingway once stated, “You shouldn’t write if you can’t write.” Indeed, there are times when highly creative people have trouble putting pen to paper.

However, most often, they struggle because they lack the experience necessary to craft a gripping account.

In these cases, folks who have never written before can work in tandem with an experienced ghostwriter. Together, they can craft a wonderful piece of literature.

As an added bonus, this kind of teamwork can help aspiring authors get that crucial first writing experience.

2. No Time to Write

It is practically a cliché to hear people say, “I’ve been writing a book forever.” There are many reasons why someone may never complete a writing project. However, the main reason is a lack of time.

When someone is serious about a writing project but lacks time to write, hiring a ghostwriter can be a great idea.

Most inexperienced writers can take anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 hours to write a regular nonfiction book. For a professional ghostwriter, it can be done in a fraction of the time.

It really boils down to the saying that “time is money.” A skilled ghostwriter can save both time and money while producing high-quality work.

3. Insecurity about Writing

For people who have never written before, the thought of producing a memoir or autobiography can be quite daunting. While they may have great skills and imagination, they may be unsure of their overall product.

In such circumstances, a ghostwriter can provide a useful boost of confidence.

Arguably, one of the most important qualities of a ghostwriter is confidence. And a confident writer transmits calm.

Great ghostwriters are reliable and knowledgeable and can inspire security—especially when their clients feel unsure about the entire writing process.

4. Lack of Creativity

Successful ghostwriters are highly creative and have the ability to think outside the box.

They can take a client’s ideas and goals, and then use their skills and creativity to turn those goals into a well-crafted book.

Where to Find a Ghostwriter

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Let’s be honest. Ghostwriters are not hard to find. A quick online search will return several ads for companies offering such services.

However, finding good, reliable ghostwriters is an entirely different story.

It might be tempting to hit low-budget sites, as there are plenty of folks offering their services at reasonable rates. On the surface, this may seem like an easy way out. After all, going with the cheapest option might make the most sense.

However, you get what you pay for, so the cheapest option may not be the most effective.

If you’re looking to find a ghostwriter, a good place to start is through referrals. Plenty of companies, businesses, and individuals employ the services of ghostwriters. Ideally, a referral from a trusted source would help simplify the process.

As journalist Daniela Cavalletti points out, a ghostwriter should be “mature, experienced, empathetic, and a good researcher, and listener; just for starters.”

In an ideal setting, finding a ghostwriter with the characteristics mentioned above should not be overly complicated. In reality, though, locating a ghostwriter that can match all the criteria may pose a challenge. Therefore, as Cavalletti stresses, choosing a great ghostwriter boils down to a “gut feeling.”

Naturally, hiring a ghostwriter should not hinge solely on instincts. But there are red flags to look out for when considering a potential ghostwriter.

Shady Advertising

Shady advertising is the most common red flag to consider. The term “shady” refers to advertising that essentially seems too good to be true. And often, it is.

Any individuals or companies claiming to deliver full-length books at surprisingly short turnaround times should be suspect.

Additionally, unbelievably low rates should also be a cause for concern. A quality ghostwriter knows how much work goes into writing a book. So, they rightfully charge for their time and expertise.  

Unknown Reputation

Like in any line of work, a professional’s reputation is their calling card. An unknown reputation can be just as negative as a bad one. As a result, working with an unknown ghostwriter may pose a potential issue down the road.

A good way to cut through the uncertainty is to hire a ghostwriter through a professional content creation agency. Agencies work hard to build a good reputation.

And, as an added bonus, clients get the help and support of an entire agency and not just an individual writer. Ultimately, this provides greater peace of mind.

Poor Reviews

Many online sites allow clients and users to post comments and reviews. Anyone looking to hire a ghostwriter through one of these sites should take the time to carefully read through the reviews.

Please bear in mind, however, that these sites have no vetting process whatsoever. Therefore, anyone looking to hire a ghostwriter through one of these sites must have a thorough hiring process.

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

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This question is one for the ages. Generally speaking, hiring a ghostwriter is like hiring any other consultant or contractor. Thus, implementing the appropriate process can help individuals and companies find the right ghostwriter.

In particular, hiring the ideal ghostwriter depends on an effective interview. Author, Stacy Ennis, offers the following insight:

Many ghostwriting clients find that the interview process helps them develop clarity about their methods, business, and brand. Explaining their ideas to someone else forces them to articulate and clarify – something these busy professionals often don’t take the time to slow down and do.”

Indeed, the interview portion of the process enables both client and ghostwriter to sync their approaches. Nevertheless, the interview is just one part of the process. There are other equally valuable steps along the way.

Here are four steps.

1. Initial Contact

The initial approach with a ghostwriter can happen over the phone or online. The main purpose of this first contact should be to focus on the scope and overview of the project.

This initial meeting often includes signing of contracts and other legal paperwork, as well.

Please note that while an email conversation can work well at first, it’s important to have an actual conversation before moving forward.

2. Project Proposal

After the initial contact, the ghostwriter should produce some kind of book proposal. Often, the proposal will come in the form of an outline.

The outline or proposal is usually a result of both the client’s notes and ideas, as well as information gleaned from the initial conversation.  

Depending on the scope of the project, proposals can be quite simple or extremely thorough.

3. In-Person Interview

Traditionally, clients meet with ghostwriters for an in-person interview to hammer out the final details of the book. This is often the time when ghostwriters collect all of the nitty-gritty details of what the book should entail.

Recently, due to travel restrictions, this trend has changed somewhat, and online meetings have become more common.

While online meetings can be effective, if possible, it’s best for clients and ghostwriters to meet face to face. Doing so provides clarity for both the client and the ghostwriter.

4. The Writing Process

The entire writing process consists of a final approved outline, draft, revision, editing, and publishing.

The length of the process can vary from project to project. As such, the terms and timelines must be clear from the onset of the project.

The overarching element throughout the whole process is communication. Being able to maintain constant communication is a key factor in building trust.

As a solid working relationship builds, both client and ghostwriter can work closely to create a consistent approach to get the job done.

Formalities of Hiring a Ghostwriter

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With a ghostwriter on board, the real action can begin. Notwithstanding, there are formalities that both sides need to solve. These formalities will allow both parties to work confidently, knowing clear expectations for the working relationship.

Here are four formalities to consider when hiring a ghostwriter.


Fees are a crucial consideration. Ghostwriters can charge anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands for a finished book. So, it’s important that both sides have a clear understanding of what the costs will be.

It can be difficult to determine “standard” going rates for ghostwriters. However, a good rule of thumb is to avoid going with the lowest bidder. Often, the lowest bidder produces the lowest-quality work.

Legal Paperwork

Generally speaking, the legal paperwork involves a services contract and a confidentiality agreement.

Most ghostwriters build a comprehensive document that covers both items. However, clients cannot forego an explicit clause mandating confidentiality. While confidentiality should not be a concern with a professional ghostwriter, it is a best practice to ensure the rules are clear.

Additionally, clients should consult with their legal counsel to ensure they have adequate protection. In particular, clients need to be sure the ghostwriter will respect highly sensitive information.

Furthermore, some clients may require ghostwriters to surrender files and source materials once the project is over.

Copyrights and Royalties

By definition, ghostwriters have no claims over royalties and copyrights. Therefore, the services contract needs to reflect these stipulations.

Please keep in mind that giving credit to a ghostwriter makes them a co-author. In such cases, co-authors often receive a cut of the book’s proceeds. Thus, clients should give careful consideration to crediting a ghostwriter.

Handling Disputes

Disputes may arise over payments, quality of work, and missed deadlines. Good communication can solve disputes effectively. Notwithstanding, some disputes require additional measures. For instance, when a ghostwriter abandons a project, they may not be eligible to receive compensation for their work. In such cases, clients should not hesitate to involve legal counsel. The timely intervention of lawyers can help avoid larger issues.

Handling formalities upfront will avoid issues and unpleasantness down the road. Therefore, clients must take the time to hammer out all of the details before committing to a project or making the first payment.

What to Expect After Completing the Book

The successful completion of a project is always an exciting time. A book launch is the ideal validation of the investment in time and hard work.

However, a project does not necessarily end once the final period goes on the last page. There are usually final details to handle.


There is no standard practice as far as the way a ghostwriter’s payment process is set up. Some will require payments be made on a monthly basis, while others charge half up front and the other half upon completion.

Regardless, it is imperative that clients read and understand the ghostwriting payment structure prior to beginning each project. And, as always, any questions should be brought up to the ghostwriter before signing a contract.


The vast majority of service contracts forbid ghostwriters to disclose any information related to their projects.

Consequently, clients must keep an eye out for any breaches of the confidentiality agreement. If so, then legal counsel should proceed with appropriate actions.

Materials and Documentation

Clients may choose to keep ownership of materials and documentation produced during the project’s completion.

For example, research and studies should remain the client’s property even when the ghostwriter conducts the research.

After all, all of the materials resulting from the project should belong to the client. Therefore, it is always good to require that ghostwriters turn over research materials and other relevant documentation.


Hiring a ghostwriter is a great idea when individuals or organizations lack the capability or time to produce a book.

However, finding the right ghostwriter requires a structured approach, as well as a clear, mutual understanding of the client’s —and the ghostwriter’s— expectations.

Through good communication and an effective collaboration, working with a ghostwriter can turn dreams of a book into reality.

Zach Richter 

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