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The Business Executive’s Guide to Working With a Ghostwriter

Share your knowledge, add a revenue stream, or simply live out a lifelong dream


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John Feldman

3 years ago | 8 min read

The guide to ghostwriting, from concept to completion, will take you through what you need to know in order to get started on that book you’ve been wanting to write.

A lot of knowledge has been acquired throughout the career of a business executive or industry leader. Outsiders often wonder why it’s the seasoned professionals of an industry that make more money than the others and the answer is simple: you’re paid for your knowledge on the industry.

You’re paid because you can save time and money for a company by simply advising on best practices.

That knowledge doesn’t need to be held within the confines of your business’s walls, or its written policies. If you know how to help make your industry-or the world!-a better place, you’d be leaving a major opportunity on the table by not sharing. No to mention the money and accolades that come with writing a bestseller.

But there’s a guide to ghostwriting-to the process as a whole. For many industry leaders, the idea of writing a book has come to mind. But there may simply not be an avenue to turn for information. No colleague who has already written one or a friend of the family who writes stories.

This guide should help to demystify the process and get you one step closer to holding a published book in your hand.

Have a budget in mind

Ghostwriting prices vary widely. And when I mean widely, I mean anywhere from a penny per word to $2 or more per word. So a book of 50,000 words could cost you anywhere from $500 to $100,000.

Did you believe me when I said prices vary widely?

Let’s start with why they can get so high-$2 per word?!-and what a ghostwriter has to do to hit this point.

Obviously, getting to charge someone one hundred grand to write a book means you’re one of the best. If not the best. It means you’ve done your time. Learned everything you could learn. And you have a long list of New York Times bestselling books under your belt. Also, you won’t be working on a bunch of projects at once like someone who charges much less.

But why would anyone pay so much for a writer when they could get another for a fraction of the price?

As an industry leader, you have a lot to share. And the way in which you share this information is critical to the book’s success.

This book is an investment, and working with a seasoned writer with a great deal of accolades means you’re working with someone who has industry connections. They also have a thorough grasp on what to put in the book in order to make it a bestseller.

With this in mind, you might now wonder why a writer would charge $500 for a 50,000-word book when they know there are others charging $100,000?

Well, the internet and virtual working capabilities have opened up ghostwriting to the world. Many amateur writers in outside countries are willing to work for pennies on the dollar compared to their fellow scribes in the U.S.

Thus, the competition for work begins. But this also opens the door for some pretty unhappy clients receiving some elementary work.

Know where to search…and where to avoid

Once you have established the price you’re willing to pay for your ghostwriter, the next step is to find them. As previously mentioned, the internet has opened up your talent pool significantly.

If you’re a business executive searching for a writer, chances are you’re not looking for an amateur. You want someone who has written before and is proven to be able to capture your voice and your story.

For quality ghostwriter leads, try one of these options:

  • Reach out to colleagues who have had books written.
  • Contact a publisher you would like to partner with to see if they have recommendations. (If they’re established, they will.)
  • Search Google for ghostwriters who have their own websites
  • Try searching through Reedsy, which is a ghostwriter platform that thoroughly vets their writers
  • Write through an agency like Gotham Ghostwriters, 2M Communications, or Forbes Books.

When you’re going through the process of finding your ghostwriter, you will find that most have writing samples they can provide you. This can give you an idea of their writing capabilities and also how well they can adjust their voice to different clients.

Unproven writers won’t have writing samples. They may only have a few-or no-writing clients under their belt. And this isn’t to say that they’re bad writers. Or hacks. It’s a simple matter of experience.

However, as an executive and/or a leader in your field, taking a giant leap of faith and hoping you find a great writer here is incredibly risky. You take the chance of releasing a bad book with your name on it which could tarnish your credibility.

To avoid the writers who won’t be a good fit, try to stay away from Upwork, Guru, Fiverr, and other, similar sites.

Pick by niche

Just as you have specialized knowledge, so too does a ghostwriter.

Ghostwriting comes in a variety of forms and those who charge higher rates are typically experts in one area. These specified areas can include business books, memoirs, self-helps books, and so on.

Does this mean a memoir writer can’t be placed in consideration for a self-help book? Not necessarily. But it does mean an experienced self-help writer could have accolades in the genre. Or at the very least, they have experience with the industry terminology and processes and these are things that, should decide to move forward with the memoir writer, you will have to help teach.

The more work a ghostwriter takes on, the more they tend to find their strongest niche. And when they do, they typically stick to it and try to perfect it.

Working with a quality ghostwriter at a discounted rate

Many first-time authors seeking ghostwriters are surprised when they see the rates they will need to pay. As with anything, you get what you pay for. But that doesn’t mean your options are to pay handsomely or scrap your idea altogether.

If you have an interest in being traditionally published rather than self-publishing, a book proposal may be your best option. These typically cost anywhere from $5,000 — $10,000 and consist of the book overview, marketing strategy, author bio, and sample chapters, as well as some additional research on your target audience and comparable books.

Book proposals are for nonfiction only. They are documents of about 20 to 50 pages put together to send to literary agents and publishing houses to gauge interest.

If an agent or publisher is interested in your proposal, they will offer you a book advance (money up front, taken from future royalties). You can then use that advance money to pay your ghostwriter to write the actual manuscript.

One trick to picking the perfect writer

When working on a project that could cost tens of thousands of dollars and take many months to complete, picking a writer may become stressful. On top of everything you have going on, you now have to interview potential writers and hope you’re making the right choice.

During the selection process, there’s one thing you’ll need to make sure you have with your ghostwriter: A connection.

You will have some email communication, most likely an introductory call, and the potential for some more contact after that. While their ability to write well matters greatly-all ghostwriters will have writing samples for you to preview-it’s the connection that matters most.

Think about it. You will be working alongside this person for months. You will be sharing your stories and secrets with them. And you will be communicating with them a lot.

Make sure the person you’re working with is likeable. Optimistic. Possibly even someone you share a connection with. Do you both share any common interests? Are there things you will be able to talk about over the months other than strict project details?

Have a connection with your ghostwriter also makes it easier to ask the difficult questions. It makes it easier to lay everything out on the table and trust they will know what to do with it.

Your writer will be your guide to ghostwriting success. Make sure you feel this way about them when you officially sign on to work with them.

How to get the best results

For a ghostwriter, finding a client’s voice is a process. It may take a try or two before getting it perfect. So if the initial results aren’t the crisp, clean version of the book you envisioned, don’t panic.

When I work with a new client, I like to hand them a sheet of paper with three paragraphs. Each paragraph is written in a different style and they can tell me which style they prefer. This, mixed with the recording of our conversations, helps me to get a pretty good head start on capturing the voice.

However, this isn’t the definitive process. It isn’t the guide to ghostwriting perfection. People are different. Not every writer will be available to communicate 24/7. Some writers work best at night, some work best in mornings. Some will only be able to work on your project on the weekends (for smaller budget projects).

There is no certain path that will lead to the success of your story. This is why having the aforementioned connection with a writer is so important. Because things can be talked over. Worked out. Tinkered and built out over time.

Once the book is complete

Phew! It’s been a long few months, hasn’t it?

Once the book is complete, all drafts have been edited and perfected and you are happy with your story, your partnership with your ghostwriter might come to an end. This is dependent upon your desired publishing path.

For business executives in particular, a desired route for publishing isn’t always through a major publishing house. This is because the process of editing, design, and marketing could push your book’s release date as far as 2 or 3 years. And you simply don’t have the time for that.

Self-publishing is a viable option for executives who are looking to book speaking engagements. With self-publishing, the book is available almost immediately and can be ordered, at cost, at any moment. These books can be taken with you to speaking engagements and/or industry events where they can be handed out.

For many industry leaders, the book isn’t necessarily another income stream but an enhanced business card. It’s a way to portray a message to their audience and to gain credibility.

That being said, utilizing it as a new income stream isn’t a bad thing. After all, if you’re making the investment to have the book written, no one will fault you for wanting to see a return on that investment from the book itself, rather than relying on booking speaking gigs.

Interested in how you can make passive income off of an eBook alone? Although eBooks cost less to a reader, they generate more revenue than a printed book because there’s no printing and/or shipping costs associated.

Ways to promote your eBook include:

  • Pulling quotes from your book and sharing them.
  • Placing a cover image of the eBook on your business card or promotional documents.
  • In your bios, place links to where someone can purchase your eBook
  • And more…

Learn more about promoting and keeping your book relevant here.

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