Get in Touch
Get in Touch

How Does Ghostwriting Work?

Take a look at the nonfiction book section in your local bookstore or your favorite online retailer. You’ll see books from thought leaders and CEOs, researchers and memoirists, and actors, comedians, and musicians. You may be wondering how they have so much time and talent to produce a cohesive and enticing 70,000 words. Their name is on the cover, so they must have written it, right?

Not always. Many authors in this space probably employed a ghostwriter, a term you’ve likely heard in passing but may not know all the ins and outs of. Here, we’re going to take a deep dive into ghostwriting and if it’s the right method for you to bring your story to life.

What is ghostwriting?

Ghostwriting is when you employ a professional writer to help you write your book. The story, ideas and content are all yours, and many of the words may be too, but the ghostwriter is the person who takes all those ideas and words and transforms them into a complete book. Indeed, a lot more goes into producing a successful nonfiction book than simply writing down all your ideas. You need a compelling hook that will grab your reader right from the start. You need an easy-to-follow structure that will keep them reading. And you need interesting and actionable (if that’s your goal) content that they haven’t seen before and will be willing to pay for. A ghostwriter will make sure your book has all those things, plus they’ll make your content sing on the page.

Who needs a ghostwriter?

Ghostwriters aren’t just for people who don’t have the writing skills to write a bestseller, though that’s certainly one category. Entrepreneurs and CEOs who don’t have time to sit down and physically put the words on the page will often work with a ghostwriter. Likewise, leaders who have implemented a unique or successful strategy in their business that they want to share with others can use a ghostwriter to transform their internal processes into a book that anyone can read and understand. If you have a great idea for a book that aligns well with your brand or your business but whose contents lay just outside of your immediate skill set—like a wellness influencer who wants to write a cookbook or a finance wiz who wants to write a memoir—you can employ a ghostwriter who specializes in that specific genre and whose expertise you can combine with yours to create the book you imagine.

The bottom line is, if you have a great idea for a book but that idea is just swimming around in your head with no ladder in sight, a ghostwriter can save the day.

Is a ghostwriter actually a ghost?!


What is it like to work with a ghostwriter?

Different ghostwriters will use different processes, though many will use an interview-based approach. That means taking part in several interviews with the ghostwriter so that they can extract all those game-changing ideas from your head and then shape and finesse them into a book. Interviews often start with you giving the ghostwriter an overview of how you see the book, after which the ghostwriter comes up with a plan or an outline that you sign off on. Then the following interviews will be to give the ghostwriter all the content they need to actually write the book.

After this round of interviews there will likely be more rounds of back and forth, discussing and making edits and changes and inching closer to what will be the finished product. The amount of collaboration that takes place during this phase of writing will likely vary depending on the ghostwriter you choose to work with and how much input you want to have in the ultimate form and structure of the book.

How this collaboration happens will also change too. At Raab & Co, for example, we create a project dashboard that can be accessed by everyone working on your book, which in our case may include editors, proofreaders, designers, fact-checkers or illustrators in addition to writers (and of course you, as the author). That way, everyone involved can see the work that the other team members are doing and how things are progressing.

Once the manuscript is complete and the author is happy with it, the ghostwriter’s role and involvement in the book comes to an end. You and your book then move on to the path to publishing, the stages of which will vary depending on whether you are pursuing a traditional publishing or self-publishing route.

Who gets credit for writing the book?

In the majority of cases, the author does. Ghostwriters are called ghostwriters for a reason: They may get a call-out in the book’s acknowledgments or in an author’s note, but otherwise, the extent of their contributions is invisible to the reader. Some big-name authors may even have their ghostwriter sign an NDA about the project, though this isn’t super common. After all, ghostwriters need to be able to present completed books to potential clients as part of the initial hiring process.

Sometimes the ghostwriter may get a “with” credit on the front cover of the book, though this is more common in the types of books mentioned above where authors need a ghostwriter or coauthor with specific expertise that they don’t have, such as recipe development. This is usually negotiated in the initial hiring process with the ghostwriter.

How much does a ghostwriter cost?

The cost of a ghostwriter varies really widely, but the bottom line is that if you want a good one it’s going to be an investment. There are no industry-wide standards for how much a ghostwriter costs since each writer’s experience level and process is different. Gotham Ghostwriters has reported that the ghostwriters they work with tend to fall into one of three price ranges.

  1. Professional ghostwriters working on memoirs, business books, or how-to guides, tend to fall in the $30,000 to $60,000 range.
  2. Writers who have written books for major publishers and are willing to produce a more time-consuming, unique, and sophisticated book are found in the $75,000 to $150,000 range.
  3. Elite writers who have written multiple New York Times bestsellers and will produce a Malcolm Gladwell- or Glennon Doyle-quality book, can run you anywhere from $150,000 to $300,000.

At Raab & Co. we’re mostly within that first range, and on top of it, you get a project manager to do quality control and make sure the project is going smoothly.

If your first instinct was to balk at those numbers, remember that ghostwriters need to make a living too. They’re also essentially bowing out after writing the book, so any profits you earn from the book, whether through royalties or sales, future book deals or the growth of your business as a result of the book’s publication, will go straight to you and you alone. Not to mention it takes a lot of time and attention to write a book in someone else’s voice. It’s important to take all these things into account when you’re determining your budget for a ghostwriter.

Hot tip: If you do have the time and feel comfortable and experienced enough to write a draft of your book yourself, you may not need a ghostwriter, just an editor. This would be a completely different process and would likely be less of a monetary investment, though it would be more time-consuming on your part. As long as you have an outline, you can just dictate the whole book and have an editor clean it up!

How do I find a ghostwriter?

The easiest way is through an agency or company like Raab & Co. that will connect you with potential ghostwriters who you can interview and determine the best fit for you and your project. This route will connect you with experienced professional ghostwriters who have already been vetted by the agency and have produced quality work in the past (as opposed to if you were to use a marketplace like Upwork or Fiverr, in which this quality-control step doesn’t exist).


So, are you ready to get writing?

Or rather, are you ready for us to pair you with an amazing writer

who will bring your story to life?get in touch today!


How I Made a New York Times bestselling book for Al Gore


What Goes Into Self-Publishing a Book?