ghostwriting, ghostwriter, what is a ghostwriter

What is a ghostwriter?

So, what exactly is a ghostwriter?

Simply put, ghostwriters are professional writers whom people hire to help them write something, whether that something is a book, an article, a screenplay, or even lyrics to a song.

Sometimes, ghostwriters work with minimal involvement from those who hire them. But most often, ghostwriters work hand-in-hand with their clients, helping them tell their story or convey their knowledge.

Before they became ghostwriters, most ghostwriters worked as professional writers, like reporters, business writers, or technical writers. Some ghostwriters are published authors themselves.

Ghostwriters come from different backgrounds, and no two ghostwriters have the same focus or areas of expertise. Because most ghostwriters have worked professionally as writers, they often have extensive experience writing books, reports, speeches, manuals, etc. In short, good ghostwriters are skilled, professional writers who know how to listen and are able to learn quickly so that they can help their author/clients write about a variety of subjects.

The term ghostwriter came about because the ghostwriter’s name usually does not appear on the book cover as the author or co-author. In essence, they are invisible, just like a ghost!

Who can become or who is a ghostwriter?

Ghostwriters come from many walks of life, and different ghostwriters often specialize in different subject areas.

For instance, if you want to write a book about finance, you might want to hire a ghostwriter who has worked in finance. Or, if you want to write a book about sales or running a business, you might want to hire a ghostwriter who has worked in sales or who has owned their own business.

I have worked in finance and sales, and I have owned a small business (still do!), so I am comfortable helping people write books about those subjects.

Next, because you will likely be working closely with your ghostwriter, you will want to interview them before you hire them—over the phone is usually fine—to make sure that they are someone you can talk to, someone you like, and someone who listens. When you work with a ghostwriter, it makes sense to feel a good connection with them because you will be working closely with them for more than just a few days.

And last, but not least, be prepared to pay for the right ghostwriter. Good ghostwriters are not cheap (for more information, please see my blog post titled How much does a ghostwriter cost?). Again, the old saying that you get what you pay for holds true for ghostwriters as it does for any kind of service.

How does the ghostwriting process work?

Usually, the ghostwriting process is simple. The ghostwriter meets with the subject, gathers information, typically through interviews, and then uses the information to write the book or project.

The ghostwriter can then add, edit, and refine how the material is presented. When you hire a ghostwriter, it is their job to not only sound like you, but to sound like the best you that you can be: more eloquent, and more concise.

In particular, many ghostwriters (myself included) start their project by first constructing an outline. This can take hours, days, or even weeks. But once they have an outline that covers all of the topics and stories that the author/client wants to cover in their book, the ghostwriter and the client are then ready to begin writing the book.

What follows is often weekly—or even twice-weekly—meetings where the ghostwriter interviews the client/author to gather the necessary information for each chapter.

The client/author then reviews each chapter they receive from the ghostwriter, making any needed changes, corrections, or additions. And the process continues like this, chapter by chapter.

Before the book can be considered complete, the client or the ghostwriter submits it to a third party for proofreading and copyediting.

Basically, a ghostwriter helps you get your words into print.

Why would anyone hire a ghostwriter?

Why indeed. Normally, we hire help when we lack any one or all of the following:

  • Time
  • Expertise
  • Confidence

Sometimes, we are able to complete a task on our own, but we know that we will do a better job if we get help. This is especially true for a large task like writing a book.

Let me address each of these reasons.


Many a busy professional, executive, or CEO might know exactly what they want to say and how they want to say it. Heck, they could even be a capable writer themselves, but they lack that one thing we all get the same amount of: time.

Each of us is granted only 168 each week in which to eat, sleep, work, socialize, and take care of ourselves. And for those who run a large organization or manage a busy practice or profession, time to write a book can be hard to find.

While hiring a ghostwriter won’t remove all of your effort in writing your book, it will streamline and speed up the process. The ghostwriter you hire can also serve as coach, motivator, and guide through the book-writing process. Everything a ghostwriter does for you helps speed up writing your book.

In other words, a task that often takes years might only take months. Such is the power of getting help from a ghostwriter.


Writing a book might at first sound like a simple task, but it is usually a complex, multi-faceted endeavor, requiring you not only to provide information, stories, and clear reasoning but to arrange your information in a logical, easy-to-understand order. Add having to pay attention to grammar and usage and you’ve got quite a task ahead of you.

When you hire a ghostwriter, however, you get a writing partner who can help you choose your topics, tell your stories, and say what you want to say. Again, a ghostwriter helps you in the mammoth task that is writing a book.


I can ski. Sort of. But I’d rather not. It’s not that I have no coordination or leg strength. It’s just that I didn’t grow up skiing, and no matter how many times I go, I still feel like I’m doing something that I’m just not that skilled at and thus don’t really enjoy doing.

Many people feel the same about writing. Sure, they can compose a quick letter or write a sentence, but write an entire book? Yikes. They naturally lack the confidence, and the idea of getting help from a seasoned, professional writer can ease their mind and help them get their book written.

When you hire a ghostwriter, however, you don’t have to feel confident in your writing ability because you are now leveraging another person’s writing skills, and their skills now enhance your book-writing effort.

Who hires a ghostwriter?

So, who hires ghostwriters? Smart people do, that′s who.

In the not-so-distant past, politicians, celebrities, and people of note were about the only people who hired a ghostwriter. In fact, ghostwriting and ghostwriters have apparently existed in some form for millennia. Most biblical scholars believe that much of the Bible was, in a sense, ghostwritten, as unnamed scribes often wrote down the words of whatever prophet was preaching at the time.

Nowadays, however, anyone with the budget and a story to tell or information and wisdom to share can hire a ghostwriter to help them write their book.

For instance, some of my clients don’t enjoy writing, even though most are decent writers and have very well-developed thoughts and tons of experiences to share. In fact, most nonfiction bestselling books were written with the aid of a ghostwriter, and celebrities, presidents, scientists, and even professors (yes, professors) routinely use ghostwriters to help them write their books.

Basically, the people who use ghostwriters the most are CEOs, business executives, thought leaders, professional speakers, coaches of all stripes, sales professionals, and so on. Honestly, anyone who is dying to write a book and needs help can and does hire a ghostwriter.

This means that you, yes little old you, can hire a ghostwriter if you want. You just need to find the right ghostwriter for your book and your budget.

If you hire a ghostwriter, it doesn’t mean you lack ability; it means you’re wise enough to enlist professional help with a huge task. And writing a book is a huge task.

You see, I don’t operate on myself, fill my own cavities, or fix my car’s clutch (though I suppose I could if I spent days and days). No, I hire a pro, which is what smart, high-achieving people do.

So, rejoice in the fact that only the smartest, most capable, people are wise enough to invest in someone who can save them time, headache, and frustration while helping them produce a better book.

Did Einstein ever hire a ghostwriter? I'm not sure, but you should to help you write a book that will set yourself apart from the crowd.

How to find and hire a ghostwriter

Unfortunately, there is no one, grand foolproof way to hire a ghostwriter.

Many people find ghostwriters by searching on Google. Still others use recommendations from trusted friends and associates. Others look for advice from literary agents and publishers. A few hire authors whose writing they enjoy and ask them for help to write their own book, which is how Andre Agassi hired J.R. Moehringer to write his book Open.

No matter how you locate your potential ghostwriter, you need to make sure that they:

  • Are comfortable writing in your subject area
  • Have a pricing structure that fits your budget
  • Have a process that helps guarantee a well-written book
  • Have valid testimonials and references from former clients
  • Fit with your particular personality and style
  • Are organized and professional

In the end, you need to hire someone you like and with whom you can work but who is also an able and gifted writer, so you may want to view some of their writing samples.

It’s your book, and it’s your choice, so choose wisely, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Hiring a ghostwriter and writing a book with them is a bit like a temporary marriage (minus the physical benefits of course). So, it helps when you pair up with a ghostwriter you like and with whom you can reveal your stories and deepest thoughts.

Do I need to hire a local ghostwriter?

You may wonder if you need to hire a local ghostwriter, someone in your town or maybe in your state (if you live in the US). I am of the opinion that it does not matter if your ghostwriter is local to you.

With all of today′s modern technology, (i.e., phones, Zoom, etc.), you can work with a professional, skilled ghostwriter to write your book, whether they are down the road or across the country. 

I now live in South Carolina (we moved Utah in 2021, but we are DC area originally), and I have worked with clients all over the US. For instance, I have worked with clients in these cities and areas:

  • Oakland, California
  • Houston, Texas
  • San Diego, California
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • New York City, New York
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Johnstown, Pennsylvania
  • Atlanta, Georgia

So, it matters not whether your ghostwriter lives across the street or across the country. If they are in NYC, DC, LA, Dallas, or Miami, you need only concern yourself whether your ghostwriter has the skills, the temperment, and the insight to help you write the book that is in your head.

What should I expect when hiring a ghostwriter?

Given that each ghostwriter’s process is a little different, what you can expect naturally differs from ghostwriter to ghostwriter.

Generally, you should expect that your ghostwriter is the following:

  • Professional (they show up to meetings on time and do what they have promised)
  • Talented (you’ve reviewed their writing samples and their online copy and like what you’ve read)
  • Nice (writing a book is a long haul, so why not deal with someone pleasant?)
  • Organized (your ghostwriter has a plan for you and your book but is also willing to listen to your ideas)

Given that hiring a ghostwriter can cost as much or more than a luxury SUV—or at least a nice sedan—you should expect professionalism and commitment at all levels of the process.

What is the difference between a writer and a ghostwriter?
The answer to this question is simple: all ghostwriters are writers, but not all writers are ghostwriters. In other words, to be a ghostwriter you have to be able to write, and many ghostwrites are also published authors (though many very good ghostwriters aren’t). Thus, ghostwriters are a subset of the category we call writers.

Is it worth it to hire a ghostwriter?

Generally, the answer is yes, especially if writing a good book in a timely fashion is important to you. Because the better the ghostwriter you hire, the more it will be worth to you.

The fact is that many people never finish the books they start unless they hire outside help, like a ghostwriter. In this way, it is almost always worth it to hire a good ghostwriter to help you write your book.

How long does it take a ghostwriter to write a book?

The answer depends on several factors:

  • The book’s length
  • Your schedule and pace
  • The ghostwriter’s schedule

As a general rule, most nonfiction books, like 150-page business books, take anywhere from four to six months to write.

Your mileage may vary, however, and some projects can take as long as a year to complete, and a short book might only take two or three months.

But beware of anyone, ghostwriter, or ghostwriting agency, who promises a book in a month or less. Unless, of course, quality is not your concern. Just remember that quality always takes time.

Does a ghostwriter write the entire book?

Generally, yes. When you hire a ghostwriter to help you write your book, they will work on the entire book with you, unless you don’t want their help on a particular part.

At the same time, most ghostwriters do not just write your book for you without your input. With nonfiction books especially, ghostwriters work hand-in-hand with their client/authors to capture and download their information and stories and then work to put them into a compelling, coherent book.

What are the pros and cons to hiring a ghostwriter?

There are pros and cons to every endeavor, and hiring a ghostwriter is probably not exempt.

With that in mind, let’s first talk about the pros that come with hiring a ghostwriter.

Ghostwriters can help you do the following:

  • Take your book to completion (this is a bigger deal that you may realize)
  • Write your book faster than you could on your own
  • Write a better book than you could by yourself
  • Make the book-writing process more enjoyable

While these are only four items, they are huge items. In fact, hiring a ghostwriter usually means the difference between getting your book written and not getting it written.

Of course, there may be some cons. Here are a few to consider. Hiring a ghostwriter:

  • Costs money
  • Means you will need to make and keep a commitment
  • Means letting someone else help and influence your book

Of these, the only con in the above list is not really a con, just a cost. In other words, hiring the right ghostwriter has many more upsides than it does downsides. Food for thought!

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