Ghostwriter or Co-Writer: Which One Is for You? 

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Talk With a Ghostwriter

Titles can mean different things publicly, financially, and contractually. Ghostwriters and co-writers, for example, are not the same. They’re similar in some ways but not interchangeable, and if you’re thinking of hiring one, you should know what each brings to the table. 

If you wish to look into the basics of ghostwriting before learning more, check out what a ghostwriter can do for your memoir or your business book

How a ghostwriter and a co-writer differ

Both ghostwriters and co-writers get paid to write. Famous authors have used them, like R. L. Stine with Goosebumps and the late Tom Clancy with his many co-writers. Working with ghostwriters or co-writers isn’t cheating—there’s no shame in it.

A ghostwriter doesn’t receive credit for their work. They often have to sign a legally binding agreement to never divulge their role in drafting the book, either for commercial reasons or because the author wants to keep the contribution a secret. Typically, the author generates the ideas while the ghostwriter handles most of the research, writing, and proofreading. The book is considered the author’s because it’s their story and ideas presented in their voice; it’s just that someone else, an unnamed professional, put those words on the page. The anonymity allows ghostwriters to work across genres and platforms without affecting their personal brand if they have their own projects, giving them the freedom to accept whatever assignments they like.

A co-writer receives some credit and works on the book with the author. This might appear on the cover as “Tom McAuthor with Cary Co-Writer.” Because of the credit, a co-author has more to consider in terms of their own branding. The work split differs between projects. Sometimes, the co-writer has penned most of the book apart from the general plot, much as a ghostwriter would do, and the established author’s name is more like a celebrity’s name on a makeup line. Other times, it’s more of a partnership, a literary buddy movie, as it were. Each co-writing duo (or team) needs to decide how to approach a joint project.

How they can help you

Ghostwriting is a full-service experience. The ghostwriter conducts extensive interviews with the author before starting on the book. The author benefits by having far more free time; most of their responsibilities involve check-ins and interviews with the ghostwriter to provide information, materials, and feedback. The ghostwriter adopts the client’s voice, ensuring the story rings authentic. This comprehensive service might be ideal for a busy professional. 

A co-writer is perfect for authors who know what they want to say but perhaps have less confidence in their writing ability and desire some collaboration. Also, publishers sometimes make use of co-writers when they sign certain authors—they assign an editor. This sidekick helps the author stay on track and tailors the content to the needs of the publisher, agent, and audience. If your strength is limited to coming up with great ideas, such assistance can be invaluable.

Usually, with a co-writer, shared credit means shared royalties, so there’s often a smaller payment upfront. Due to its collaborative nature, the co-writing process is more time-consuming and work-intensive for the author. Also, while a ghostwriter is essentially an employee, with the client exercising total executive control, a co-writer may discuss ideas and influence the artistic direction. At worst, this may lead to creative conflicts; at best—to a creative spark. 

Should you hire one? 

Everybody and their dog will know you’re writing a book before you’ve even finished the first chapter. Why not seek expert help before you start typing away? If your goal is to sign a publishing contract or have “bestselling author” in your byline, hiring a professional will only improve your chances. Ghostwriters and co-writers can save you a lot of time and help you achieve your dreams.  

If you lack the time or skills to write your book without help, check out our memoir ghostwriting services and ghostwriting for CEOs

Talk With a Ghostwriter