An in-depth look at the professional ghostwriter.

The Professional Ghostwriter

Barry Fox & Nadine Taylor, professional ghostwriters

Are you hoping to work with a professional ghostwriter, but are not sure how to find one? Or how to work with a ghostwriter to produce a great book?

Bestselling authors and ghostwriters Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor show you how to find and work with a professional ghostwriter. Topics include:

  • How to find a professional ghostwriter
  • The ghostwriting process
  • A look at professional ghostwriting services
  • The cost of hiring a top-notch ghostwriter

…and much more. Let’s begin!

  1. 1) What types of books do ghostwriters write?

    All kinds of books—from memoirs to novels, history to children’s books, political to art books. If you can think of a type of book, you can be sure a ghostwriter is writing in that genre. Ghostwriters may also write book proposals and query letters to facilitate the standard publication process.

    Early in our careers we – Barry and Nadine – specialized in health and inspiration. Today, we focus on memoirs, business books, and works of history, politics, and art.

  2. 2) Is a professional ghostwriter really qualified to write on more than one topic?

    Yes. Remember, the ghostwriter is an expert at converting information and ideas into a manuscript. This means that he/she doesn’t have to be an expert in a particular topic.

    The truly professional ghostwriter’s expertise is the ability to understand the material and explain it clearly to the average person.

  3. 3) What is the ghostwriting process?

    The ghostwriting process depends on you (the client), your ghostwriter, and the working relationship you develop with each other.

    You and your ghost may sit down together to create your work from scratch. Or, the ghostwriter may do all of the conceptualizing and writing, while you simply provide some initial ideas and information. The ghostwriter may also work from the material you’ve already prepared, turning a rough first draft into a polished manuscript.

    There is no “best” process, only the one that works best for you and your ghostwriter.

    Whatever process you decide upon, be sure to ask your ghostwriter questions such as how long it will take, how you will communicate, who will actually do the writing, and whether there are any additional fees.

  4. 4) 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 what you agreed to in the contract, the ghostwriter may or may not receive an acknowledgment 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 services agreement.

  5. 5) Is the ghostwriter allowed to tell people that he/she wrote the book?

    That depends on the agreement between you and the ghost.

    You might agree that your book can be listed on the ghostwriter’s website and résumé as a ghostwritten project. You might stipulate that it can only be listed as “edited,” not “ghostwritten.” Or you may request complete confidentiality, which means the ghostwriter must remain silent.

  6. 6) How is a book ghostwriter paid?

    Experienced ghostwriters almost always write on a fee-only basis. They rarely work 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 financial gamble!

    Even the most professionally-written manuscript, about an incredibly “hot” topic, created by an expert ghostwriter, may not earn a lot of money from book sales. That’s why most professional ghostwriters are fee-only. Payments are usually spread over the time the manuscript is being written. Some ghosts like to be paid monthly, while others are comfortable splitting the fee into two or three payments.

    For a discussion of ghostwriting fees, see “What Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?”

  7. 7) How do I find a truly professional ghostwriter?

    Looking for a ghostwriter is easy. Just google “professional ghostwriter,” “best ghostwriter,” “professional ghostwriting services,” or something similar. You’ll be rewarded with hundreds of thousands of possibilities.

    Unfortunately, sorting through that haystack would take forever. Here are several ways of making your search more specific, and much easier:

    1) Focus your search: use keywords and the Advanced Search Page to hone in on exactly the ghosts you’re seeking.
    2) Look at other books: the name of the ghostwriter you’re looking for may be on the cover of an already-published volume.
    3) Check with writers’ organizations: groups like the American Society of Journalists and Authors have directories of ghostwriters and editors.
    4) Contact literary agencies: most agents know ghostwriters.
    5) Ask your author friends: they may have used a ghost they can recommend.
    6) Post an ad: there are many places to do so online.
    7) 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 still in school.)

  8. 8) How do I find the best ghostwriter?

    Finding the ghostwriter who’s just right for you takes a bit of effort. Begin by making a short list of experienced ghostwriters who can handle the kind of book you want to write, and who charge fees that are within 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.

    You might, for example, want someone who is sympathetic and empathetic. Then again, you may prefer a take-charge ghostwriter or one who has shared the experiences you are writing about.

    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 nine-step approach to hiring a professional ghostwriter, see “How to Hire a Ghostwriter: 9 Key Steps.”

  9. 9) Will a professional ghostwriter get me a literary agent?

    Many ghostwriters help you identify and get in touch with appropriate agents. However, they can not guarantee that an agent will agree to represent your work

    You can also contact agents on your own. To help you in your search for an agent, we’ve prepared a list of “100 Literary Agents to Contact.”

    Before contacting agents, you’ll need a query letter (or the equivalent) and a book proposal, both of which your ghostwriter can prepare for you.

  10. 10) Will a ghostwriter deal with the publisher for me?

    Perhaps. It depends on whether or not you need the ghostwriter to complete your manuscript.

    You may have sold your book to a publishing house on the basis of a proposal only, without a completed manuscript. In that case, you may want your ghostwriter to work with your editor at the publishing house as you and your ghost complete the project.

    If, on the other hand, you sold your book to the publisher on the basis of a book proposal plus a completed manuscript, there may be no further need for the ghostwriter.

  11. 11) Is there a difference between a ghostwriter and an editor?

    Yes! Your ghostwriter is a skilled professional offering valuable services, but she/he is not always the one you need to assist you. It depends on what stage you’re at in the writing process.

    A book coach can guide you through the process of conceptualizing and creating your manuscript on your own.

    If you’ve already written your manuscript, you may want to have a developmental editor review it and make suggestions for “big” changes, such as eliminating or moving sections or whole chapters around, improving character and story arcs, and so on.

    Once the manuscript is complete and all the “big” changes have been made, you may wish to engage a line and copy editor to improve the word choice, grammar, etc.

    You’ll certainly need a proofreader to make sure the manuscript is perfectly “clean,” with not a comma out of place.

    For more, see “Copy Editor or Proofreader? What’s the Difference?”

  12. 12) What does a book ghostwriting contract look like?

    There is no set format for a professional ghostwriting contract. Agreements vary in length and complexity from ghostwriter to ghostwriter.

    There are, however, several items that should be covered. These include exactly what is to be written, who handles the research, who does the bulk of the 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 detail, see “The Book Ghostwriting Contract.”

  13. 13) Should I start looking for writing assistance as soon as I get my idea?

    It may be wise to hold off on finding professional ghostwriting services until you’ve thought through some important questions.

    These include why you are writing your book, what you want from a ghostwriter, and whether you prefer standard or self-publishing.

    Thinking through these issues will prepare you to hire the best ghostwriter for you.

  14. 14) What should I say during my first call to a prospective ghost?

    Start with a brief description of your idea, being sure to mention why you wish to write the book, your budget, when you would like to begin and complete the writing, and whether you have already written anything or gathered research materials.

    In other words, give the ghostwriter enough information to understand the nature and scope of the project, then move on. Specifically, move on to finding out about the ghost’s background, experience, working style, expectations of you, cost, availability, and more.

    Remember that you are interviewing the ghostwriter to determine whether she or he has the skills, knowledge, interest, and time necessary to pen a great book for you.

    So don’t hog the conversation, talking only about you and your idea. Let the ghost talk. Listen carefully for the things that are unsaid that could determine whether you and this person have the “fit” that makes for a successful partnership.

  15. 15) What should I not say on the first call?

    Beginning the call with a 20–30-minute description of your idea is not the best approach. It’s too early for this level of detail, especially when you don’t know if the ghostwriter is available or has any interest in your idea.

    Neither is it helpful to try and sell the ghost on your idea by insisting that the book “will write itself,” that “all my friends say it’s a great idea,” or that “working on this book will make you rich and famous.”

    Books don’t write themselves, writers write them; your friends are probably not qualified to make that assessment; and it’s the incredibly rare book that makes a ghostwriter rich and famous.

  16. 16) Do I want a ghostwriter who is absolutely crazy about my idea?

    You certainly want your ghostwriter to be interested in your idea or story. But beware of any who tell you that yours is the greatest idea they’ve ever heard, that your book is guaranteed to be a bestseller, or something similar.

    Experienced ghostwriters know that there are very few genuinely novel ideas; most new books are variations on existing themes that will sink or swim on the basis of the writing and marketing.

    They understand that these two factors, as well as the relationship between the two of you, are vital. That’s why they want to assess your qualities as a client as much as they do your idea.

    For more about working with a ghostwriter, see “Eight Ways to Save Time When Working With a Ghostwriter.”

  17. 17) Is it cheating to use professional ghostwriting services?

    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, business figures, and politicians 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?”

  18. 18) Do I need a professional ghostwriter who lives nearby?

    No, it’s not necessary to hire a ghostwriting professional who lives in your neighborhood.

    We are based in Los Angeles, California, yet we work with people across the U.S. and abroad. We often begin by meeting with our customers in person, but after the initial series of meetings, 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.

  19. 19) How do I know if I really need a ghostwriter?

    If you don’t have enough time to write your book, you need a ghostwriter.

    Likewise, you need a ghost if you have a great idea but aren’t sure how to turn it into a full-fledged book.

    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.

Are you ready to write?

Check out our Home Page to learn how ghostwriters Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor can help you create your masterpiece. If you’d like to get started on your book, call us at 818-917-5362. Or use the form at the bottom of this page to send us a message.

If you’d like more information on ghostwriting, feel free to read our blog articles on various aspects of writing and publishing.

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:

Make Your Best Life, professional ghostwriter Barry FoxAn inspirational memoir by the former C.O.O. of Toys “R” Us.
Diana & Dodi: A Love Story, by bestselling author and ghostwriter Barry FoxAn eyewitness account of Princess Diana’s last romance and final days.
The Arthritis CureA New York Times #1 bestseller that sold over a million copies.
Daughter of ApartheidA fearless account of growing up under apartheid, then pushing on to tremendous success.

Contact Ghostwriters Barry Fox & Nadine Taylor