How To Hire a Great Ghostwriter (Even if You Don’t Know a Damn Thing About Writing)

by | Nov 7, 2015 | Self Publishing Books

Pop Quiz: What’s the most important search engine in the world?

How to Hire a GhostwriterI forgive you if you said Google. I would have said that a couple of months ago, too. Then I heard a highly respected entrepreneur say this, “Amazon is the search engine for experts.

Mind blown.

It makes sense if you think about it. Anyone can show up on Google, but getting your name onto an Amazon search means you wrote an entire book — not an easy feat. Authoring a book positions you as the expert in your niche. Even showing up in the most crowded non-fiction book niches put you in competition against dozens rather than thousands or millions of voices.

But that’s only if you don’t carefully select your niche and message. If you get serious about positioning and planning your book, then your book can stand alone in its own niche. What’s better for business than that?

Easy for you to say, you jerk, you’re a writer. I don’t know a damn thing about writing. This doesn’t apply to me,” you might say.

Not so fast.

I’m going to show you how to get someone else to write your book for you (and make sure it’s a great book while you’re at it).

Failing to heed this advice will lead you to a world of pain, because ghostwriters can make your life easy or they can make it a living hell.

Follow the simple 5-step system to hire a ghostwriter below to ensure you end up a happy author:

1) Ask These Three Question Before Starting

What’s your experience with this type of book?
Does she have the knowledge? Will she write in the style and voice you want? A Harvard trained PHD might be smart but won’t necessarily write in the conversational tone needed for a business book.

Can you refer me to any of your past clients?
If she says yes, then follow up by calling as many of these clients as she provides. Understand that she will probably provide her favorite clients that would never say a bad word, so be prepared to ask specific questions in order to get a true sense of how the ghostwriter works.

Questions to Ask a Ghostwriter

Here are the questions I would ask: How long did your project take? Were you happy with the end result? If you could change one thing about the experience what would it be?

What is the timeline for this project?
For the ghostwriter to properly answer this question you’ll have to provide them with a clear picture of your project. But, once they understand the project they should be able to answer this question clearly. Never go into a relationship with a ghostwriter (or any creative) without having them commit to a clear timeline.

2) Look for a Goal-Oriented Ghostwriter

Many people believe that writing is a matter of ‘inspiration’. You sit quietly and wait for inspiration. If it doesn’t come you just put aside the writing project and wait until inspiration hits.

I’ve never written fiction, but in the non-fiction, business- genre a book looks a lot more like a business plan than a sketchbook.

The most important time for a business book is before writing starts. Work should not commence until goals are abundantly clear and the plan to reach the goals is set.
There are two types of goals: a) the author’s goals, and b) the author’s goals for the audience (see Julie’s video on the first thing you need to do before you self-publish).

Only hire a ghostwriter is focused on both these types of goals. Run away from a ghostwriter whose attitude is, “Let’s dive in and see what we find.” This is a recipe for disorganization.

3) Seek Out Price and Terms That Suit You

Andre Agassi paid his ghostwriter a million dollars to write his memoir Open. What did Agassi get for his million-dollar investment? He got a bestselling book that probably took his writer more than two thousand hours to complete.

These results aren’t realistic for most business-themed books, but what level of service do you want from your ghostwriter? Some book creation services simply interview the author for a few hours, transcribe the interview, and publish those transcripts as a book.

Other ghostwriters want to meet you in person, interview you for 30-50 hours or more, and dig deeper into your knowledge and story.

How much digging do you want? Do you want your ghostwriter to interview some of your colleagues and clients? More detailed work to uncover and tell the story will result in a more detailed book.

In the non-fiction, business category, for full-length manuscript, prices vary from as low as $5,000 and as high as $25,000. $5,000 will get you a ghostwriter that records your interviews, transcribes your words, and tweaks some of the wording. For $25,000 you can expect a ghostwriter that digs deep into your story, searches for your best wisdom, and researches the topic, too.

If you’re writing a shorter, lead-magnet, eBook type of product, you will obviously pay a lot less. You can expect a ghostwriter to charge anywhere between $0.20 and $0.40 per word (manuscript alone – no layout or design).

4) Ask for a Referral

How to Hire a Ghostwriter to Write Your BookI bet if you look around there will be at least someone in your entrepreneurial or business circle that has written a book. Their name will be on the cover, but a fairly high percentage of these people don’t write their book all by themselves. They hire a ghostwriter to help them. I don’t know the actual figure, but I’d be willing to bet that at least half the business/entrepreneurial books out there are ghostwritten.

This makes sense. Writing is a specialized skill and (for most entrepreneurial people) isn’t even close to being the most important tool in the tool belt. Furthermore, writing takes a ton of time – time that you could spend making sales and delivering your product.

All of this means that many business books are ghostwritten. I don’t recommend you send Richard Branson an email asking for a referral for is ghostwriter, but find someone in your own circle that has written a book and simply ask them, “Did you hire a ghostwriter to help you with your book?

Some authors hide the fact that they hired a ghostwriter, so they might say no even if they did. If you don’t get an answer, consider asking another author in your circle. Chances are you will track one down before long. This is probably your best bet for finding a ghostwriter.

Many people hire a friend who is ‘good at writing,’ or a high school student. The results of these types of arrangements are mixed. I can’t say it always ends up badly because that’s how I got my start as a ghostwriter (a friend asked me to write his book), but you will be far more likely to have success if you hire a committed professional with a system and a history of success.

There are websites like Upwork and Fiverr, where you can find writers at obscenely low prices, but this is even more of a crapshoot. Buyer beware. You will always get what you pay for.

5) Don’t Skimp on Editorial

The biggest weakness of most self-published books is a lack of editorial support. Books are supposed to represent an author’s best thoughts, ideas, and lessons.

Book readers choose books because they want the author’s best work.

If they didn’t, they would stick to free blogs. Great editors help us put our best work into the world.

To uncover your best work you need two kinds of editorial support – content editing and copy editing. The content editor helps you craft the big picture, and the copy editor goes over every detail of your manuscript to discover style weaknesses, unsubstantiated claims, and spelling and grammar errors.

These two together can be the difference between an average book and a great book. Don’t skimp.

Are You Ready to Be The Expert in Your Niche?

Showing up in an Amazon search with a world-class, professionally edited, professionally designed, and powerful message puts you above 99.9% of your competition. You’ll still need to work hard, grow your influence, market yourself well, and [most importantly] deliver a top-notch product that delights your target audience.

But if you’re reading on Julie’s site you probably already know that.

Happy ghost hunting!

Zander Robertson

Zander Robertson has ghostwritten more than 20 books for major publishing houses and self publishers. He enables world-class entrepreneurs and visionaries to tell their stories, share powerful messages, and change the world through the written word. If you want to learn how to write your own book, or you want to find out if Zander will write it for you, visit


Other Articles on Writing and Selling a Book:

5 Self-Publishing Mistakes that Kill Your Book Before You Start

What is an ISBN Number? And, How Do You Get One?

What You Should Know Before You Buy a Done for You Book Publishing Package



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