How Does Book Ghostwriting Work?

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Ghostwriting, which has been around since humans invented writing, is widely practiced in the publishing world—it’s the perfect solution for people who have great book ideas but not enough time or writing experience to craft a book on their own. Despite its popularity, however, the practice of ghostwriting seems shrouded in mystery. If you’re considering the services of a ghostwriter, you may be unsure about how it all works, especially for a personal project such as a memoir. How much work do you, the client, need to do?  Does the ghostwriter write every single word? 

The short answer is that the ghostwriter writes everything, even when it comes to memoirs and autobiographies. They will conduct an initial interview to gather material, implement your final revisions, and guide you through everything in between. However, if you need help with only certain aspects of the writing process, you can hire a ghostwriter just for part of the work. 

What your project will look like is something you’ll discuss with the ghostwriter as you draw up a contract. This document will stipulate things such as the specifications of the end product, the estimated word count, the work the ghostwriter will take on, the number of revision rounds, and the fee you will pay for those services. The entire process will depend on the ghost, the client, and the book, but at its core, ghostwriting involves providing the ghostwriter with all the content and material you want in the book and letting them weave it into a coherent narrative with all the right words to appeal to your target audience.

If you’re looking to hire a ghostwriter for your memoir and want to know more, book a free memoir consultation and learn how we can help you through the entire writing and publishing process.

Disclaimer: This post does not constitute legal advice. Consult a lawyer if you have legal questions about ghostwriting contracts.

Why do you need a ghostwriter?

Exactly how much of your book the ghostwriter will pen depends on why you’re hiring them in the first place. Maybe you want to write the first draft and only need a professional writer to flesh out the story or restructure it. Maybe you lack writing skills and want someone to take the lead on all the writing, but you can handle other parts of the publishing process. Perhaps you simply don’t have the time to devote to a book, in which case you’ll need a ghostwriter who can do it all, including the editing and formatting. Every client has different needs, which will determine what the ghostwriting process looks like.

The ghostwriter will have an initial conversation with you to make certain you’re both on the same page and understand what services are required. Don’t go into this conversation blind—be clear about your vision and goals before you speak with the ghostwriter to ensure as productive a discussion as possible. This meeting will also help you see whether you get along with the ghost well enough to entrust them with your book.

How to work with a ghostwriter

Working with a ghostwriter is a collaborative process. They will interview you to get a sense of your goals. What is your vision for your memoir? What story do you want to tell? What ideas or messages do you want to convey? Who is your target audience? What goals do you hope to achieve with your book?

Even if your collaborator is writing the entire book, you’ll still need to do a few things. You’ll have to provide any notes or journals you have and any transcripts in case you’ve interviewed someone who will feature in your memoir (otherwise, the ghostwriter can interview them, which should be stipulated in the contract). You should also make yourself available to the ghostwriter as they will likely have follow-up questions and details to clarify. If you can’t meet with them in a timely fashion, your book will suffer.

After you’ve provided your ideas and documents in the initial meeting, the ghostwriter can create an outline and decide on the overall structure of your memoir. They might conduct some research or check basic facts (such as names and dates). Before they start writing, they’ll request your feedback on the outline. This is the most appropriate stage to make sweeping changes to the book, so don’t be afraid to ask for major revisions to the outline if you feel it needs them.

Once the outline is approved, the ghostwriter will produce a first draft, present it to you, and then revise it based on your feedback. The number of revision rounds will be specified in your contract.

After the revisions, you will have a completed manuscript. For many ghostwriters, their work will end at this point, but some also offer services past the writing stage, such as editing or formatting the manuscript. They may not provide these services themselves—they may partner with professional editors and typesetters to deliver to you the highest-quality manuscript possible. Since it can be difficult and time-consuming to find great editors and typesetters on your own, it can be worth it to leave this work to your ghost.

If you’re writing some sections or the first draft yourself, a good ghostwriter will be able to mirror your style when they add their sections or make revisions so that the entire story is told in a consistent voice.

Bottom line: Find the right ghostwriter for you

Regardless of how much (or how little) help you need through the writing process, partnering with a ghostwriter can make your memoir a reality. A ghostwriter is someone who will work alongside you for quite a while, so find a collaborator who can not only provide the help you need but can also connect with you on a personal level.

Ready to get started on that memoir? Hire a ghostwriter to get your life story published!

Talk With a Ghostwriter