Should You Hire a Ghostwriter?

businessman in black suit hiding face behind sign ghost writerHiring a ghostwriter was the topic on a recent online post. The person in question, who did not yet have a manuscript, was being encouraged by an un-named publisher’s representative to hire and pay for a ghostwriter to write his book, as the rep thought the topic matter of the book was brilliant. I followed up by looking at the fellow’s website, and indeed, his ideas are brilliant.

The budding author asked around and got in touch with a ghostwriter, who offered to write the book for $25,000. So the query to the online community was: Should I (the author) hire and pay for this ghostwriter?

For professionals who have an idea but not a manuscript and are too busy doing what they do to write a book, a ghostwriter may be the only option. But why would a supposedly reputable publisher tell the author to hire and pay for a ghostwriter himself if the publisher thinks the book is a bestseller and believes in the project? At the very least, a legitimate publisher would have a substantive business discussion with the author, not just butter him up and tell him to go out and spend such a large sum of money. My “Spidey senses” are heightened when I hear stories like the one in this online post, because several “big” publishers now have self-publishing “divisions” that continue to scam authors in astonishing numbers, and their words and enthusiasm are no substitute for a detailed plan and a substantial investment on their part.

If you are an author facing this predicament, here are some things to consider:

  • Do you know what the publisher will do next if you invest in a ghostwriter?
  • What investment will the publisher make?
  • What do you and the publisher both hope to achieve with your combined investment?
  • Has there been a discussion with the publisher about national publicity and book signing tours to get the word out? Any book will just sit there without this serious effort and a corresponding serious budget in money and time.
  • Does the publisher promise national bookstore distribution?
  • Has the publisher shared a spreadsheet of potential sales?
  • Will this even begin to compensate you for your investment? (Most authors earn a dollar or two per book, which means the book must sell 12,000-25,000 copies just to break even. This sales volume is difficult to achieve for any publisher.)
  • Have you been offered a real contract that specifies your earnings for each book sold?
  • If so, has a publishing attorney working in your best interests reviewed the contract?
  • Has the publisher offered any sort of advance payment?
  • If things don’t pan out with the publisher, can you afford to lose the investment of $25,000?

Sitting down and speaking with the publisher about the above points will help flush out any self-publishing scams and show the publisher that you are not to be messed with.

If you have never been approached by a publisher and are thinking about self-publishing your book, you might still consider a ghostwriter. As with any self-publishing project, you must start off with a budget (see this blog post on planning your budget) and your budget would include a ghostwriter. Your per-book profit margin has the potential to be higher than if your book is published by a traditional publisher, but you may have a harder job reaching the sales numbers to break even or make a profit. However, a ghostwriter may make sense for a professional who wants a book to help grow his or her business; if a book is part of a larger marketing plan, a well-written book is simply an investment that the professional was already willing to make to increase his or her company’s overall success.

You may like these

Author Story: Mark Graban

Author Story: Mark Graban

The Mistakes that Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation is one of several books authored by Mark Graban, who found inspiration in the idea of helping others learn from their mistakes and in the stories and insights shared by guests on his podcast...

read more
The Value of Full-Service Project Management Teams

The Value of Full-Service Project Management Teams

The term “self-publishing” is often associated with the vision of an author struggling to do everything—from editing to marketing—on their own. It’s true that self-publishers wear many hats, but that doesn’t mean they’re doomed to do everything without help. If you’re...

read more
What Is the Best Bookbinding Option?

What Is the Best Bookbinding Option?

We recently discussed how print books are still a viable option for authors and how it’s important to offer as many versions of your book as possible. If you decide that producing a print book is right for you, you’ll be faced with many bookbinding options. How your...

Are Print Books Becoming Obsolete?

Are Print Books Becoming Obsolete?

It may seem that print books will be pushed out of the running as the world becomes increasingly tech-driven. We disagree. You may have heard that print sales declined in 2023, but it was only by about 2.6% (take a look at the stats on Publishers Weekly). There will...

Should You Publish Multiple Formats of Your Book?

Should You Publish Multiple Formats of Your Book?

So many authors ask us about the value of publishing in multiple formats vs. just one or two. Often the debate is between eBooks and print books in general, as more and more people think print books are going by the wayside. Some people are so bent on the print vs....