Experience. Quality. Speed. Fit. These are the four factors that should most influence your choice of ghostwriter. They also happen to be factors that typically influence the fee you will pay.
Let’s talk about fees first. Because each of these elements covers a dramatic range (ie, from no experience to vast experience), so can ghostwriting fees. I’ve seen ghostwriters charge their clients $10,000 and I’ve seen ghostwriters charge their clients $175,000. To me, both of those extremes seem a bit ridiculous. Writing a good book takes time, and if a ghostwriter is only charging $10,000, you have to wonder how much time he or she really plans to devote to the project. A book is also not a great way to become a millionaire. It isn’t a sure-bet investment. So if you pay $175,000, it’s unlikely you will see any kind of return on your investment, unless you are a guaranteed bestselling author due to a massive platform or celebrity status.
For most nonfiction books, I think a reasonable range to anticipate is somewhere between $40,000 and $80,000. I know, it’s a big range. And there are writers I would recommend in a second who charge closer to $125,000. Consequently, although budget is almost always a concern, you should first think carefully about the type of writer you should be working with and why.
So how do you find the right writer? I’ll explore this question in four posts, beginning with experience here.
The level of experience you need in your writer depends first on your own experience and preparation.
The level of experience you need in your writer depends first on your own experience and preparation. For instance, is your book based on information that you have been developing over time and implementing as a process in your business, say as a speaker or consultant? Do you already have it organized into a logical flow? Have you already developed a proposal with a clear message and promise, market and audience analysis, and proposed outline? Has a publisher already bought your book? Are you already working on a first draft? All of these elements make the writer’s job a bit easier and make the type of experience you need in your writer a bit different. If a writer isn’t required to define the message, figure out the market, write a proposal to help the project sell, etc., the project takes less time and requires a different range of knowledge and skills. In fact, some writers only work with authors who arrive with a fully developed proposal in hand.
However, if you know you want to write a book, believe you have a compelling idea or story to share, but don’t have the slightest idea about how it should be developed, you need a much more experienced writer. Look for somebody who has worked with authors from point 0 and has helped them develop their message, promise, market position, content approach, and so on. Idea and message development requires a different skill set than writing alone. The benefit of working with writers who have these skills is that they can also help you refine your brand, your speeches, your consulting approach, and much more. I have had clients tell me that because of our work together, their brand is stronger and their work with their clients is more focused and compelling. I am always happy to hear it because it is work that I love doing.
Do not hire a writer who has never written a book before.
On the opposite end of the experience scale are writers who have never written books. You should not hire such a writer for your project. Writing a book is not the same thing as writing newspaper or magazine articles, marketing materials, white papers, annual reports, or blogs. Long-form writing is an entirely different animal and most writers find it difficult to make the shift at first, especially if they are being asked to start without an outline already developed.
Finally, you want to work with somebody who has ghostwritten books. Ghostwriting requires a writer to adopt the author’s voice, style, and persona. It isn’t easy. If you are considering writers who have only ever published their own work, you may want to find a different group, unless some of them happen to have a style and voice that you believe is very similar to your own.
Look for my next post on hiring a writer who can actually write well coming soon.