Exorcise the Ghost in Book Ghostwriting

I was approached to ghostwrite a novel

Recently I was approached to ghostwrite a book. The party in question has made journal entries over a period of time. Since I invoke client privilege, please forgive me if I don’t divulge the project scope or client identity. I have decided to find some professional ghostwriters for her, through Linkedin, and the University of Iowa graduate writing program. I did get some compliments from the Linkedin ghostwriters:

1.   Sallie thought my website copy at http://www.b2b-techcopy.com was good.
2.   Claudia thought my blog was adorable.

Coming from a couple outstanding professional ghostwriters, I feel honored by their compliments.

Well, anyway. Why bother with the University of Iowa?


It’s pre-screening for quality. If it is very difficult to get into the U of I writing school and candidates must have an excellent writing portfolio to get in, wouldn’t that pre-qualify graduates for “quality” ghostwriting? All you need to do is pick the top five US graduate creative writing programs, and send a communication like this:

Query to U of I graduation writing program:

I know that the University of Iowa graduate, creative writing program is America ’s best. I work as a copywriter and was approached for a book-ghostwriting project. I prefer to defer this to qualified candidates with this area of specialty. I know that candidates who either teach or enter the U of I program are already pre-screened for quality. Can I get some recommendations on faculty or alumni who would be available for a ghostwriting project? I can then provide contact and details (phone contact, project information, etc.).  Let me know.

Answer from the University of Iowa

One of our alumni runs a business doing this sort of thing. Go to: http://www.iowawordwrights.com/. His name is Brian Richman and he should be able to help you out.

Sallie Goetsch answers:

“There are a number of factors to take into consideration when hiring a ghostwriter. Budget is an important one, because if this is a major project, it’s going to involve considerable time and effort on the writer’s part. To know how much you can afford to spend, you need to know what the book (or other project) is worth to you in terms of expanded business opportunities, increased pay scale, etc. (Sad to say, it probably won’t earn you that much in royalties.)”

“Expect a good ghostwriter to cost you a substantial chunk of money. The least I’ve ever charged anyone for a full-length non-fiction book is about $7,000, and she did a great deal of the writing herself. We *are* talking about as much as 200 hours of work, after all.”

“Now that I’ve gotten the sticker shock out of the way, let’s get to the important part. Of course a ghostwriter needs to be able to write well. Some people insist on hiring writers who have published their own books, or writers who are journalists. You should certainly be able to see samples of the ghost’s writing. But that much is true of any writer you hire.”

“If you want a ghostwriter–someone who can take the knowledge in your brain and the passion in your heart and distill it into words in *your* voice–then you need someone who has more than just writing skills.”

“You need someone you can develop an intimate personal relationship with, because the ghost is going to be getting inside your head. Rapport is critical.”

“You need someone who listens to you. Don’t be surprised if your ghost spends more time asking questions, recording, and taking notes than actually writing.”

“You need someone with a gift for mimicry, someone who writes in multiple styles and genres. Established authors with too strong a “voice” of their own are not always good at this.”

“You need someone who understands enough about publishing to be able to keep the purpose and audience of your book in mind, and help you refine and develop your ideas to achieve that goal.”

“So far as I know, ghostwriters don’t have a union or a professional association. We are, by our nature, anonymous. You can find us lurking in the acknowledgments pages of books when we don’t have “as told to” bylines, which we often don’t. (I’ve never asked for one, but then, I mainly write business books, not celebrity biographies.)”

“The best way to find a good one is probably to ask for a referral from another author. You can, of course, search LinkedIn and read recommendations here. Check out the books they’ve worked on. Read their blogs. Meet them (or have a video interview) and see if you click. Find out how they work and whether your subject is interesting to them. (The more interested they are, the better their writing will be.)”

“Then go on and enjoy a wonderful collaborative experience building something neither of you could have created alone.”

Sallie Goetsch



Claudia Suzanne answers:

“I’m sorry you don’t want to ghost the book yourself-it’s a wonderful experience, if you know what you’re doing. “

“I appreciate being included in your list of recommendations, but she won’t find me in Writers Market or any other compilation. In the 20 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never advertised. By sheer luck, all my clients have come to me through recommendations. Back when I started ghosting, in fact, there were only a handful of people who actually made their living as ghostwriters (45, to be exact-we were countable!) Now, over 100 titles later, clients still find me via recommendation.”

“A publicist for XXXX, a best-selling mystery writer, referred one of my current clients. Because he only offered one possibility–me–the client knew that 1) he valued my work and 2) I was the right person to help her. Had he offered several possibilities, she would have had to make a decision with no real idea of how to do so, and thus we both would have entered the relationship more tentatively.”

“It’s been my experience that when a buyer is looking for help with something as intimate as a book, what they’re really looking for, besides quality and affordability, is hand-holding, which is, in fact, part of the ghostwriting scope of responsibility. They’re looking for guidance from start to finish. Ergo, when next someone for a book-ghostwriting project approaches you and you don’t want to do it (really, I recommend you do give it a try; you may find you love it), give the client two people to contact, three at the most. Tell them to look over the ghosts’ web sites to get a feel for their personality and attitudes, and to ask each:”

– How closely will we work together?

– Will you send me the chapters as you write them, in groups of chapters, or when the first draft is done?

– What if I don’t like something you’ve written?

– How often can I call to talk about my book?

“Believe it or not, those will become the most important aspects once the work gets started. The answers should be:”

– Very closely.

– Will send each chapter as it’s written so the client can make corrections and changes as the work progresses and be intimately involved in the entire process from beginning to end.

– What the client doesn’t like gets changed to what the client does like, within the confines of marketability and ethics–and if the client doesn’t care about marketability, well, it’s the client’s book, after all.

– The client should be able to call as often as necessary to feel comfortable.

“This is probably a lot more answer than you ever wanted when you posed your original question, but I’m a teaching ghostwriter, so I feel the need to give full explanations.”

“I hope this helped. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to write or call.”

Claudia Suzanne


What about AWAI copywriting courses?

No! It’s not about ghostwriting. But I was asked this recently, so I’ll share my answer. I have gone through of some of the AWAI courses. In fact, I do know a copywriter friend who has purchased ALL the AWAI course material. The copywriter who brought the works from AWAI (I.E. – Circle of Success) has been in the business for 7-plus years, and specializes in the financial market. His opinion is that MOST of it is worthwhile, while some of it can be less than adequate. I have only gone though courses by Michael Masterson and Steve Slaunwhite. While I did find benefit from Michael, I do think he spends a bit too much time on course expectation, drama buildup. Steve was right to the point and quite excellent.

Keep in mind there are two different skills involved. One is to be a good copywriter and another is to be a good course curriculum builder. I don’t think everyone has both skills. Other courses have been discussed here, along with teaching programs. Steve Slaunwhite and Chris Marlow offer both. Clayton Makepeace has been talked about and currently I have seen John Carlton reopen and plug a course through affiliates. In my opinion, you get the best value for the dollar, from a marketer named Ben Hart, or obtaining some old course material from Brian Keith Voiles. .

Recently I have connected with an AWAI founder on FaceBook, and have enjoyed some email exchanges. The course of Brian Keith is entitled “Advertising Magic”, and I have talked to Brian in the past. Both the female AWAI founder and Brian are great people, as is Ben Hart. Ben wrote a book while in college and was a presidential speechwriter, before transitioning to direct response marketing and copywriting (he recently succeeded in an Internet Marketing transition)

I don’t like to put down anyone who has some degree of notoriety behind them. Just be a careful consumer and watch your budget. In the case of AWAI and other competing course offers – do “one course at a time”, regardless of what offers they send. Test the waters for yourself, “one step at a time”.

What happened to the client?

So I sent the client to Writers Market to obtain suggested price ranges. Three candidates are now available for her to select from. In the meantime, I found a Homeland Security training video, ghostwritten by Firesign Theater.

Randy Kemp




7 thoughts on “Exorcise the Ghost in Book Ghostwriting

  1. Randy,

    Thanks for including me in your blog. Thanks, too, for including Sallie’s reply, because it gives me an idea of what other ghosts are charging and the way they approach ghosting work. Now more than ever, I am convinced the time is right for Ghostwriter Training. Please tell Sallie to check it out at http://tinyurl.com/9yeyj4 — she should be making more than $7,000 for a full-length nonfiction regardless of who does the writing.

  2. Claudia:
    I don’t know what year Sallie was referring to in her reply, as she also has been in the business for years. I do know you can go to Writers Market – Section “How Much Should I Charge” – Book Publishing: There you can find the categories “Per Hour”, “Per Project”, and “Other”, along with “High”, “Low” and “Average”.
    Now I did two things.
    1. I referred the client to this information, so she can get a good idea how much such a project would actually cost – no surprises.
    2. I do have an hourly rate that Sallie quoted me, and it doesn’t fall within the low-end spectrum. However, Sallie will be aware of this article and corresponding comments – as will the potential client.

  3. For the benefit of readers, you can find Writers Market in your local public library (ask the reference librarian), your local junior college library, or any full-service bookstore.

  4. Thanks for good post.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close