You want to write a book. In fact, you’ve been wanting to write a book for years now, but you just haven’t been able to make it happen.

Business has been crazy, the family keeps growing and changing and every time you think you might be able to put some time aside, something comes up. You’re starting to realise that, if you keep trying to go it alone, this book’s never going to get written.

So what can you do?

Hire a ghost writer.

A ghost writer is a professional writer who will write your book for you for a fee, while still letting you put your name on the cover. In other words, you’re still considered to be the author of the book, but they do the bulk of the work.

It sounds like the perfect solution, right?

The truth is… maybe.

For some entrepreneurs, a ghost writer is a great way to ensure your book gets written. However, in many cases the downsides outweigh the benefits, which means some alternatives might be a better match.

What are the benefits of hiring a ghost writer?

There are a range of benefits to hiring a ghost writer rather than trying to write your book yourself. These include:

  • It will actually get done! This is the single biggest benefit of hiring a ghost writer. I’m currently working with three co-authors who had been wanting to write a book for over three years, but had just never gotten around to writing it. We connected in July, and by the end of the year they’ll have a printed book in their hands. In other words, what had been a dream for years could become a reality within six months of engaging a ghost writer.
  • It will get done faster. In many cases, a ghost writer can finish a book faster than you could on your own. Experienced ghost writers develop systems and structures to streamline the writing process, which means that when you think of your book idea, the hard work has already been done for you.
  • It will take less of your time. How long would it take you to write and research a book yourself? In most cases, our authors spend at least 100, but sometimes 500+, hours writing, researching and revising their books. With a ghost writer, you can cut that down to anywhere between 10 and 30 hours of your time, depending on the revisions required.
  • You don’t need to figure out how to write a book. One of the most common things our authors say is, ‘I learnt so much from writing my book!’ This can be a rewarding experience, but it’s also time consuming with a lot of trial and error, and often the real work doesn’t start until during the editing process when our authors finally get professional feedback on their book. Ghost writing skips that entire process.

What are the downsides?

Although there are a range of benefits to working with a ghost writer, there are also a number of downsides that mean this approach isn’t a match for everyone. Some of these include:

  • The cost of ghost writing. In Australia, I commonly hear of ghost writing quotes ranging from $10,000 to $20,000, with some specialist celebrity, political or CEO ghost writers charging hundreds of thousands! Check out Tucker Max’s outline of the different price tiers for ghost writers for more details. The short version is that he believes anyone charging under $15,000 probably isn’t very good.
  • There are no guarantees for quality. When you pay a ghost writer, you are often paying them a large sum of money with no idea of what the end result might be. If you find a good ghost writer, you might end up with a fantastic book delivered on time. If not, you could find yourself paying a lot of money for a book that runs over time (throwing out your publishing schedule) or that is subpar. (Note that this risk can be mitigated by finding the right ghost writer.)
  • The process will still take your time. One of the things I always tell our ghost writing clients up front is that they will need to be available to work on the book throughout the ghost writing process. This may be for interviews at the beginning of the process, answering questions during the writing process, or reviewing and providing feedback on drafts. We try to limit this time, but if they are not available, the book won’t be as good as it could have been, and time frames can blow out as we wait for feedback.
  • You only get a manuscript. The ghost writing process (and fee) only covers the writing of your book – it doesn’t cover design, printing, distribution or any other parts of the publishing process. Unless you’re working with an end-to-end provider who is providing the full service, you will still need to manage and pay for the rest of the process yourself.

So, should you be considering a ghost writer?

There are a number of common worries and concerns that come up when clients enquire about ghost writing services.

Interestingly, not all of them mean that you need a ghost writer – some concerns can be addressed by working with a writing coach, and some can even be addressed by working with a good structural editor.

Consider the concerns below:

  • ‘I’m not a writer.’ This is the most common concern I hear. The good thing is that: you don’t need to be a writer to write a good book. In fact, my team and I have worked with over 130 entrepreneurs and only three of them had a professional writing background! Instead, as long as you have a lot of knowledge to share, the state of your first draft doesn’t really matter – a good structural editor will pull it apart and put it back together, turning your brain dump into a book that is credible, compelling and, best of all, coherent.
  • ‘I don’t know how to get all of my ‘stuff’ out of my head.’ This is where a good writing coach could help, and this is exactly what I used to help people do in my Book Blueprint workshops – we would get clear on their idea, map out their entire book in bullet points, and they’d then have a clear blueprint to write their first draft around.
  • ‘I don’t have the time.’ Writing a book doesn’t take as long as you think. My Book Blueprint process streamlines the process by helping you create a blueprint so detailed your book will write itself – in fact, I used this framework to write my book in three days! While I don’t recommend a three-day writing spree (between you and me, it was a bit intense), having a clear blueprint makes it easier to get your book out in a month or two, even if you only have 30 – 60 minutes a day.
  • ‘I just want to get it done!’ So why don’t you? If it’s because you just haven’t made the time or gotten around to it yet, make the time! Start getting up an hour earlier to write, or take off a couple of weeks in a cabin in the woods to start writing. If there really is no way you can do it yourself, then I’d consider engaging a ghost writer, but remember that you’ll still need to be involved when it comes to answering questions and reviewing drafts.

In short, being short on time and not being a natural writer are not reasons to hire a ghost writer – they are reasons to get a bit of extra support around the writing process, such as a coach, a great editor or even a writing framework you can use, but a ghost writer is optional.

The main reason I’d consider engaging a ghost writer is if you’re in the position where you’ve been wanting to write a book for years and just aren’t getting it done. If you’ve realised that it’s just not going to happen if you’re on your own, then a ghost writer can turn your idea into a publishable draft.