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How Does Ghostwriting Work?

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Ghostwriting follows a similar process as any other writing project. It starts with an outline, which is then enriched with research. Once all the facts are straight, you can create a manuscript, which you later layout, publish, and market. The main difference is that the person whose name is on the final work isn’t the same one who writes the content.

What Is a Ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is a writer for hire that authors literary or journalistic works that are officially credited to another person, usually the client who hired them. They bring to life the message, story, or concept, capturing the tone or theme of the client and transforming it into a professional piece of work.

Choosing to hire a ghostwriter is a sensible option for busy people, such as entrepreneurs and politicians, who want or need to write a book, column, or speech, but don’t have the time or ability to do so.

How Much Does a Ghostwriter Cost?

Ghostwriter costs vary based on several factors: the scope of work, if there’s any special training required, how much experience the ghostwriter has, the project’s timeline, etc. Generally, you can expect to spend between $20,000 to $80,000 for a great ghostwriter with some prior experience. Ghostwriters with an excellent track record (e.g. those who have authored best-selling books, either as a ghostwriter or on their own) can charge up to $250,000.

These prices might be steep, but remember that the services of a ghostwriter come with the full package—it’s not just writing. Ghostwriters do everything that it takes to self-publish a book, including researching concepts, interviewing people, and even designing the layout for publication.

That said, some ghostwriters charge below $20,000. These are usually newbies who need the experience or writers who are desperate for a gig. If your budget restricts you to this price range, just make sure that you’re extra discerning about finding a great ghostwriter (or wait until you save upwards of $20,000). Though it’s not impossible to find a cheap ghostwriter that produces excellent work, it’s very rare.

The Ghostwriting Process

Although hiring a ghostwriter takes a load off, there’s still some work required to ensure that the writer has enough details about the story, and access to the important information or resources needed to complete the piece. Only then can he or she even begin to write a manuscript. After that, though, it’s smooth sailing, with the process finally ending after designing the layout of the book and sending it off for printing.


A ghostwriter isn’t bringing their own concept to life. Though they can build the story, you must still provide them with a foundation. The first step to the ghostwriting process is creating an outline, which largely falls on your hands as the client. This is a roadmap that a ghostwriter can follow; it details the plot of your story or the message that you want to convey, and if it’s a book, it includes information about the characters, setting, etc.

But your outline doesn’t have to be completely ironed out nor set in stone. It can change as the ghostwriter fills the gaps in the story. When these changes happen, it’s important to do it in collaboration together to make sure that it’s still your vision that’s followed.


Research is the most important step in ghostwriting because it’s what feeds the content of the piece. Many ghostwriters understand that research is part of the job; this includes sourcing information, interviewing relevant individuals, and communicating constantly with you to get the facts straight.

Though most ghostwriters can research independently, it’s essential that you’re still the primary source of the particulars, especially if your piece is based on your experience or expertise. Additionally, you should give them access to the resources you would otherwise have if you’re completing the work yourself (unless it’s confidential; in that case, you should have the ghostwriter sign a non-disclosure agreement before revealing sensitive or proprietary info).


Once your ghostwriter has all the information he or she needs to write the piece, then they can begin crafting a manuscript. At this stage, you can relax and leave them to their work, only communicating to check drafts or answer questions. Once your writer is done, you can go over the piece together, ideally with the help of an editor, if you have one. 


While your ghostwriter polishes the manuscript, you should start thinking about the other elements of the piece. If it’s a book, this includes the cover, as well as the layout of the text and any illustrations or images you may have. To do this, you can connect with your publishing agency’s design team. If you’re working independently, then you’ll have to hire a designer or layout artist to fulfill your creative vision—unless, of course, you decide to do it on your own.

Publishing and Marketing

The work of a ghostwriter often ends once they’ve finished writing the final manuscript. Now, it’s your turn to put in the work of publishing and marketing the finished product. This includes getting it copyrighted, finding the proper publication channels (e.g. bookstores, websites, newspapers, etc.), and developing some marketing channels to promote it.

Are Ghost Writers Worth It?

For people with a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a message to proclaim but with no time or talent to put any of it on paper, hiring a ghostwriter is worth it. These professionals can capture your vision and turn it into an excellent literary piece—while in the end, you get all the credit.

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