The professional ghostwriter, A to Z
We’re Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor, professional ghostwriters and editors of memoirs, business books, books on art and politics, and more. Our works include New York Times bestsellers, self-published books, and everything in between.
On this page you’ll find everything you need to know about professional ghostwriters. The topics are:
- How do I find a ghostwriter?
- Exactly how do I hire a ghostwriter?
- What types of books do professional ghostwriters write?
- What are the most important characteristics of a business book ghostwriter?
- What do professional ghostwriting services include?
- Can a ghostwriter really be qualified to write on more than one topic?
- What is the ghostwriting process?
- Who gets the credit?
- Is the ghostwriter allowed to tell people that he/she wrote my book?
- How are professional ghostwriters paid?
- How do I get the most out of my ghostwriter?
- Do I need a ghostwriter who lives nearby?
- What does a ghostwriting contract look like?
- Should I hire a professional ghostwriter as soon as I get my idea?
- How do I know if I really need a ghostwriter?
- Is it cheating to use a ghostwriter?
1. How do I find a ghostwriter?
Simply finding a ghostwriter for your book is easy. Google “professional ghostwriter,” “best ghostwriter,” “expert ghostwriter,” or something similar, and you’ll be rewarded with hundreds of thousands of possibilities.
Unfortunately, sorting through that haystack would take forever. So here are seven ways of making your search more specific, and much easier – these are fully explained in our article on “Looking for a Ghostwriter – 7 Great Ways.”
- focus your search – use keywords and the Advanced Search Page to hone in on exactly the ghosts your’re looking for
- look at other books – the name of the ghostwriter you’re looking for may be on the cover of an already-published book
- check with writers’ organizations – groups like the American Society of Journalists and Authors have directories of ghostwriters and editors
- contact literary agencies – most agents know ghostwriters
- ask your author friends – they may have used a ghost they can recommend
- post an ad – there are many places to do so online
- check with your local university – An eager writing student can be a good way to go for those on a budget. (Barry wrote his first book, a national bestseller, while in the graduate writing program at U.S.C.)
2. How do I hire a ghostwriter – the best ghostwriter?
Finding a ghostwriter is easy, but finding a top ghostwriter, and one who’s just right for you, will take a bit of effort. The best approach is to make a list of experienced ghostwriters who can handle the kind of book you want to write, and who charge fees that are within in your range.
Then, talk to each one. Choose the one you feel most comfortable with, the ghost who has the personal characteristics that are most important to you.
For example, you might want someone who is sympathetic and empathetic, has a good sense of humor, behaves professionally, is well-organized, and so on. This is crucial, for you must feel that you can trust this person to help craft your message to the world.
Equally important, look for a ghostwriter who will challenge you to make your book even better – the one who is eager to improve your concept and can actually do so. That’s a top ghostwriter!
For a 9-step approach to hiring a book ghostwriter, see “How to Hire A Ghostwriter in 9 Steps.”
3. What types of books do professional ghostwriters write?
All types, from memoirs to historical books, novels to children’s’ books, cook books to art books. If you can think of a type of book, you can be sure a ghostwriter has worked in that genre.
Early in our careers we specialized in health books. Today, we focus on memoirs, business books, and books on history, politics, and art.
4. What are the most important characteristics of a business book ghostwriter?
The most important skill a business book ghostwriter must possess is the same that every ghostwriter writing for the popular press must master: Being a good story teller.
Unless your book is a reference book, it will tell a story. The story-telling may be the book’s main thrust, as in a business biography, or the tale-telling aspect may be more subtle, as with books like Made to Stick, that relate numerous stories.
But today’s popular business books are almost invariably story-based.
In addition to story-telling, a business book ghostwriter must understand business – or, at least, the aspect of business covered by your book. That’s not to say the business ghostwriter must have an MBA, or have served in the C-suite. Unless you’re writing a very technical book, a ghost with a good understanding of business can do an excellent job for you.
The third skill of top business book ghostwriters is the ability to learn on the fly, and present the newly-mastered information in such a way that the average person finds interesting and easy to read.
5. What do professional ghostwriting services include?
When we began ghostwriting books, the service was simple: we ghostwrite books and book proposals. Today, thanks to major changes in the publishing industry, as well as the advent of self-publishing, the range of ghostwriter servcies had increased tremendously.
In addition to creating the manuscript, clients often request that we:
- help them decide what to do with their books
- handle editing and proofreading
- write their book proposals
- find literary agents
- facilitate self-publication
- supervise the design of their book covers and interiors
- oversee the printing process
- handle the marketing and PR
For a full discussion of these items, see our “Ghostwriting Services.”
6. Can a ghostwriter really be qualified to write on more than one topic? Even an experienced ghostwriter?
Yes. Remember, the ghost is an expert at converting information and ideas into a book; he/she doesn’t have to be an expert in the particular topic. The truly professional ghostwriter’s expertise is the ability to understand the material and explain it clearly to the average person.
7. What is the ghostwriting process?
In other words, how do you work with your ghostwriter?
That depends on you.
You and your ghostwriter may sit down together to create your book from scratch. Or, the ghostwriter may do all of the conceptualizing and writing, while you simply provide some initial ideas and information. Or the ghostwriter may work from material that’s already prepared, turning a rough first draft into a polished manuscript.
For more, see “How Does Ghostwriting Work? Here Are Five Ways”
8. Who gets the credit?
Generally speaking, only your name appears on the book. The ghostwriter is “invisible” and fades away once the work is complete. Depending on the contract, the ghostwriter may or may not receive an acknowledgement in the book.
You always have the option, of course, of giving the ghostwriter “with” or “as told to” credit on the cover. This issue should be addressed in your ghostwriting agreement.
9. Is the ghostwriter allowed to tell people that he/she wrote my book?
That depends on your agreement.
You may agree that your book can be listed on the ghostwriter’s website and resume as a ghostwritten project. Or you may stipulate that it can only be listed as “edited,” not “ghostwritten.” Or you may request complete confidentiality, which means the ghostwriter must remain silent.
10. How are professional ghostwriters paid?
Experienced ghostwriters almost always work on a fee-only basis. They rarely write on spec; that is, writing your manuscript without charging an upfront fee, in exchange for a percentage of the royalties you anticipate earning.
That’s because books are always a gamble: even the most professionally-written manuscript, with an incredibly “hot” topic and created by a top ghostwriter, may not earn a lot of money.
For a look at what ghostwriters charge, see “What Does It Cost to Hire a Book Ghostwriter?”
11. How do I get the most out of my professional ghostwriter?
That is, how do you establish a great working relationship? This is important, for you want your ghostwriter to be enthusiastic about working on your project, speaking with you, interviewing others, reviewing the manuscript over and over again, and going the extra mile to ensure that your book is as good as it can be.
Beyond treating your ghostwriter with courtesy and respect, remember to:
- Regard the first draft as a first draft – don’t despair if you don’t love it. Ghostwriters often make guesses in the initial drafts, just to see how you’ll respond. This is your opportunity to adjust course.
- Don’t keep changing your mind about your book’s content and tone. Yes, there’s time for experimentation early on, but once you’ve set your book’s parameters, stick with them unless there’s a compelling reason not to. Randomly ricocheting from one approach to the other slows things down.
- Read each draft of the material as it is sent to you. Read it carefully, and respond with your critique punctually.
For more, see “Working with a Ghostwriter.”
12. Do I need a ghostwriter who lives nearby?
No, it’s not necessary to work with a ghostwriter who lives in your neighborhood.
We are based in Los Angeles, California and work with people and companies across the U.S. and around the world. We often begin by meeting with clients in person, but after the initial meeting, we generally communicate via phone, Skype, email, and so on.
This means that you are able to search the world to find the best ghostwriter for you.
13. What does a ghostwriting contract look like?
There is no set format for a professional ghostwriting contract.
There are, however, several items that should be covered, including exactly what is to be written, who handles the research, who does the “main” writing, who gets authorship credit, when work is to begin, which benchmarks are to be met by certain dates, and more.
The contract is important; it sets the terms of your relationship, so read it carefully. And don’t be afraid to express your concerns or ask for changes.
For more, see “The Book Ghostwriting Contract.”
14. Should I hire a professional ghostwriter as soon as I get my idea?
Set aside the “how to hire a ghostwriter” issue until you’ve thought through some important questions, such as why you are writing your book, what you want from a ghostwriter, and whether you prefer standard or self-publishing.
For more, see “Before You Hire a Writer, Consider These 5 Questions.”
Thinking through these issues will prepare you to hire the best ghostwriter for you. Then you can go ahead and search for “professional ghostwriter,” “best ghostwriter,” “top ghostwriter,” “experienced ghostwriter” or something similar, put together a list of candidates, and start interviewing them.
For more, see “How To Hire a Ghostwriter in 9 Steps.”
15. How do I know if I really need a professional ghostwriter?
If you don’t have enough time to write your book, you need a ghostwriter.
If you have a great idea but aren’t sure how to turn it into a full-fledged book, you need a ghostwriter.
If you’ve written or dictated a first draft but it’s not up to snuff, you need a ghostwriter.
If your writing is too technical for the layperson; if you have a wealth of knowledge and practical experience but can’t figure out how to organize and present it; if you want to make sure your message is delivered clearly, concisely and in a manner that appeals to the reading public, you need a professional ghostwriter.
16. Is it cheating to use a professional ghostwriter?
No. Readers of non-fiction books are interested in your ideas; they don’t really care whether you wrote every word by yourself, or had help. In fact, many people automatically assume that books authored by athletes, entertainers and business figures are ghostwritten.
For a quick look at celebrities and their professional ghostwriters, see NPR’s article, “So You Need A Celebrity Book. Who You Gonna Call? Ghostwriters.”
Even politicians use ghostwriters. Senator Hillary Clinton, President John F. Kennedy, and First Lady Laura Bush are just a few of the politicians mentioned in the Washington Post’s article Who Wrote That Political Memoir? No, Who Actually Wrote It?
You might enjoy reading this article on “Fantastic Ghostwriters and Where to Find Them,” which mentions some of the well-known people who have used ghostwriters.
Are you ready to write?
If you’re ready to begin working with a professional ghostwriter to create your book, call Barry Fox or Nadine Taylor at 818-917-5362.
If you’d like more information, see what VIPs have said about our ghostwriting process on the Testimonials Page.
Think of us as your confidential “ghostwriters for hire” who will turn your ideas and experiences into an exciting, thought-provoking book. Our works include: