What is a Ghostwriter? Ghostwriting Jobs, Contracts, and Pay

what is a ghost writerIn your search to find a self-publisher, you may have come across the term “ghostwriter.” Ghostwriting jobs abound online. A popular form of freelancing, many writers find success in this unique arena of publishing. But, what is a ghostwriter? What do they do? We’ll discuss this and more in this blog. From contract agreements to what to charge as a ghostwriter, we’ll cover it all. 

What is a Ghostwriter? 

What is a ghostwriter? The definition of a ghost writer is, “a person whose job it is to write material for someone else who is the named author.” A ghostwriter either assists in the writing of another author’s book or writes it for them entirely. Ghostwriters provide this service for those who cannot write one on their own or are too busy to do so. The need and reasoning to hire a ghostwriter varies, and it also depends on the kind of writing project at hand. Any kind of book can be ghost written: a memoir, a mystery novel, a biography, an autobiography, etc. 

When an author hires a ghostwriter, that ghostwriter does not receive credit for writing the book. Their name will not go on the cover. The author may thank them in the acknowledgements, but the ghostwriter is not the official writer. Though this may initially seem unfair, it really isn’t. Ghostwriters are paid well, and many form professional relationships with the writers who employ them, ensuring future jobs. For freelance writers, ghostwriting promises a big payoff. 

Who Uses Ghostwriters? 

Now that we’ve answered what is a ghostwriter, let’s look at who hires them.

As we mentioned earlier, the reasons for using a ghostwriter depend on the author, the project, and the extenuating circumstances behind the book. (It should also be noted that other industries commonly employ ghostwriters, such as the music industry.) 

Celebrity authors often use ghostwriters to help when writing memoir, providing them with detailed essay ideas and background information to help the process. Political leaders, athletes, and social activists may do this, too. Other well-known or famous individuals who have a story to tell may also find a ghostwriter to help them tell it. 

Ghostwriting isn’t limited to memoir and nonfiction, though. Fiction books can be ghost written as well. Popular authors whose books are in high demand use ghostwriters to keep up with their fans’ demands. Ghostwriting, therefore, doesn’t only help those lacking the writing skills; it can also help authors with busy schedules. 

Ghostwriting is an incredibly useful form of freelance writing. Ghostwriting gives the author a means of telling their story and the ghostwriter a chance to write (and get paid to do so!). Plus, good books come out of it! You may be surprised by certain books that were ghost written

How to Become a Ghostwriter

Now that you know the answer to what is a ghostwriter, you may be interested in becoming one yourself. Who wouldn’t be? Like any other form of freelance work, you need to build up your credentials, put your work on display, and prove you’re worth the investment.

Here are some tips for becoming a ghostwriter:

  • Have something to show. Whether this is short stories you’ve published online, essays you’ve written while freelancing, or self-published books, you need to show authors that you can write well. No author will hire you without first previewing past work.
  • Create a website. We recommend this for all authors, not just ghostwriters. Share your resume, past experience, and writing samples on your site. Don’t forget to create a contact form so potential clients can get ahold of you! 
  • Sign up for freelance sites. In addition to having your own website, it’s smart to create profiles on freelance sites, such as Upwork or Fiverr, so clients can discover you.
  • Be professional. Meet your deadlines. Treat this as you would any other job. The more clients you help, the more you’ll build a reputation, and the more jobs you’ll get.

Ghostwriting isn’t for everyone. Even if you’ve self-published books before, you may be surprised to find ghostwriting is harder than writing your own books. That’s because you’re taking other people’s ideas and making their vision a reality. You may disagree with an author’s vision for the work, or find yourself writing in a style you wouldn’t necessarily choose yourself. Remember that this is a job; the client hired you to make their dream a reality, nothing more. You can give editorial insight, obviously, but in the end, each and every decision lies with the author.

We’ll discuss signing contracts and what to charge as a ghostwriter below.

Hiring Ghostwriters: Contract Agreements and Legalities 

What if you’re on the other side of the equation, though? What if you’re the author searching for a ghostwriter to assist you with your book? 

If you’re hiring a ghostwriter, you need to have a contract ready.The legal side of this isn’t always fun, but it is always necessary. You don’t want to find yourself in a legal dispute with your ghostwriter (and as a ghostwriter, vice versa). Contracts ensure that the process goes smoothly and that both parties are mutually happy with the outcome. 

Never start a new project without first signing a contract. When it comes to self-publishing, we dissuade authors from signing contracts with their printing companies, as these kinds of contracts tend to limit an author’s ownership and trap them into unfair agreements. Ghostwriting, however, warrants a contract. So, first thing’s first: sign a contract. 

A good ghostwriting contract with contain the following:

  • A description of the project and the ghostwriter’s role within that. 
  • A description of expected duties and responsibilities for both parties.
  • Pay information, including total payment and a schedule, if paying in increments.
  • Editorial calendar, including when chapters, sections, or number of pages due to author.
  • Copyright ownership. 
  • Confidentiality. 

The rights to the work, including other format rights (meaning audio, ebook, film rights, etc.), is the most crucial aspect of the contract. The last thing both parties want is to dispute over who owns the book (the author does, not the ghostwriter).

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

Look to freelancing websites to find a ghostwriter for your job. Ghostwriters’ strengths will vary depending on the individual’s experience. Some may write within one genre only, others may offer services in nonfiction and fiction alike. It’s best to search for ghostwriters who have experience in the genre your book falls in. For example, if you have an idea for a science fiction novel, find a ghostwriter with ample science fiction writing experience. 

Thoroughly examine their writing samples. You want to be one hundred percent positive that they’re capable of accomplishing the assignment. Being extensive in your hiring process will save you from dealing with unexpected headaches later.

How Much Does a Ghostwriter Cost? How Much to Charge as a Ghostwriter

This part gets tricky. How much are you willing to pay for your book? How do you know what to charge for your writing services? 

A lot of freelancers struggle with naming their pay rate. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to under pay writers and editors, claiming “exposure” to be more important that financial compensation. You should never ghostwrite a book for free, as the “exposure” part of it is limited at best. As a ghostwriter, you won’t be credited as the author of the book, because technically you’re not. Your name won’t be on the cover. So make sure you get your due. 

Pay rate depends on various factors. According to Dr. Freelance, the following should be taken into consideration:

  • What experience do they have? Someone with several books under their belt can charge more than a newcomer.
  • Project length. A seven hundred page book will cost more than a three hundred page one.
  • What other work will the ghostwriter be responsible for? Will they be researching topics? Traveling? Fact checking?
  • How many drafts will they write? How many rounds of edits will there be?

Ghostwriters can charge by the word, by the hour, or a flat rate for book-length projects. Others get paid in royalties. Read this article to learn more about charging clients as a new freelancer.

Interested in ghostwriting?

We hope this blog post answers many questions about ghostwriting. Writers can build successful careers by ghostwriting. It comes down to knowing your worth, putting the best examples of your work out there, and, of course, writing.