Author Topic: Experience Using Ghostwriters?  (Read 1316 times)  

Offline Thame

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 39
    • View Profile
Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« on: April 20, 2017, 07:05:19 PM »
Has anyone on here used ghostwriters? What was your experience? How was the quality?

Online RightHoJeeves

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 885
  • Gender: Male
  • Perth
    • View Profile
    • Lawson Copywriting
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2017, 07:08:01 PM »
I haven't used one, but I do a lot of freelance copywriting. Well, I don't do that much, because I charge quite a bit.

I think it really is the sort of thing you get what you pay for, and it does need to be quite good. Various authors have done it to great success, but it seems to be an economy of scale type of thing. If you're selling enough books to justify the cost of a ghostwriter, then it makes sense. Otherwise, not so much.

James Lawson

Offline Dan C. Rinnert

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1723
  • Unposts: 39
  • ⚠ Run! ⚠
    • View Profile
    • Dan C. Rinnert
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2017, 07:16:28 PM »
Using ghostwriters is kind of a pain.  You have to set the table, turn out the lights, light some candles . . . wait . . . light some candles, then turn out the lights and you need a Ouija board and a friend, then someone has to type up the words as they come through.  It's kind of time-consuming plus you have to pay the typist.  And, if you don't have any friends, you need to hire someone to operate the Ouija board with you.  And then if it's a famous ghost, their estate will argue for the copyright.  It can be a big mess.

On a serious note, ghostwriters are like anything else.  Quality will vary with the individual writer so do your research and see if they have writing samples.  I have used some semi-ghostwriters in the past.  (I say "semi" because it was ghostwritten but each ghostwriter was assigned their own pen name.)  As I recall, I didn't have any problems with any ghostwriters I used.

Offline Anarchist

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2097
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2017, 07:56:23 PM »
I've worked with many freelancers (writers, software developers, website designers, etc.), and have found the following is normally the case...


"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - Sun Tzu

Offline Flying Pizza Pie

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 162
  • Gender: Male
  • Keaau, HI
    • View Profile
    • Nevada Casino History
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2017, 08:00:23 PM »
It's not so much getting what you pay for, it's getting what you ask for.

Ghostwriters are like racehorses. They can't do it on their own, they need a trainer for the idea and the jockey to keep them moving around the track. If you don't have an agreed upon time frame, they won't break any track records, and if you don't critique as they go, they'll leave the track completely.

Any quality ghostwriter has plenty of things they have written under their own name published somewhere. Look for their work and see if you like it.

Personally, I think ghostwriting is great because the buyer comes up with the idea, offers suggestions, is the second set of eyes, and then takes the story and runs with it. No marketing, no interviews, no ego making you check the book rankings. Most ghostwriters do a better job on their contracts than their own work. Strange, but that's the way it is.


Al W Moe | Blog | Facebook | GoodReads | Google +

Offline oakwood

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 506
  • Gender: Male
  • Scandinavia
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2017, 10:49:01 PM »
The universal 20/80 rule applies to ghost material too.
20% of the ghosts you find will be delivering about 80% of what you expected  :)

I have used a bunch of ghosts over the years. Some I found on elance/upwork, some through personal contacts, some through professional offers on forums. Here's my experience:

Even if you do extreme research and due diligence before committing, only 1 out of 5 attempts will deliver a usable result and that result will never be exactly what you envisioned, simply because noone can write what is in your had, so that's ok. But 1 hit out of 5 demands some serious thought as to if it is worth it.

There is an assumption that the higher the cost, the better the ghost. Not so. A ghost who offers to write for 1.5 cents a word may turn out to deliver a vastly better end product than a 4.5 cent ghost. The reasons are many. Very very often, the ghost is ghosting because
A) their own books aren't selling. reasons could be many, perhaps just lack of marketing... but 4 out of 5 because their material isn't good enough
B) they are noobs and need "practice" and will do so at your expense

and if A or B + they believe themselves to be better than they are and I won't work for free... then your headache is just around the corner.

Ghost C is the one you want to find.
C) ghosts because it is a guaranteed way of getting paid.. they like the aspekt of "work" about it, you get up, do the work and KNOW you are getting paid for the time. It's convenient, and safe because they don't have to do marketing, no social interaction, they don't have to wonder why they aren't ranking on amazon etc. etc. A fewer few of these C ghosts write well. This is the kind of ghost you want to find and you can find ghosts of this quality in all levels of cost. I have used C ghosts that cost 1.8 cents that delivered books that were better than my own writing. They were fine with that payment, very very fast writers. If you are super-happy and can afford it, give them a bonus when the job is done.


In all cases, you as a buyer are responsible, to yourself, for doing quality control before you enlist the ghost. You do this by asking for samples, preferably in your genre (if they don't have samples walk away), checking reviews if they are on a ghost marketplace and by taking a second to analyze what and how they say what they say when they communicate with you.. why? because the samples may not be their own, or they may have a super sample they have polished to no end but you can tell in their emails etc that they will hurry faster than fast through your sh*t job. You do not want a ghost who considers ghosting a sh*t job. You want a ghost who has self-respect, is fine with working for pay, and who will honor the agreement.

ALWAYS give them YOUR plot. NEVER let the ghost invent the story and write it because 4 out of 5 times, it will be a copy or a slightly altered story they have already written for someone else... say hello to all sorts of problems.

ALWAYS make a payment deal with milestones. I tend to do 30% upfront at start, 30% midway, 40% on delivery. Have a good contract with exit clauses for both parties.

ALWAYS ask for the first chapters, even if they are raw. This is your last chance to see what you are getting and if cr*p abort the project at a reasonable cost. (first payment) If this happens, don't blame the ghost. You didn't do your due diligence job somewhere along the line.

I've spent a lot more on failed ghosts than I have earned from the successful material.  ::)
These days I add another layer of control before I spend my dollars: If you can afford it, give the ghost a paid mini-assignment before you enlist them for the big job. Give them a plot for a short story, say 5000 words and pay them to write it. This does many things,
1) obviously.. you'll get a sample of their writing in relation to your story idea type.
2) you'll get an idea of what they are to work with.. did the ghost deliver on time, did ghost ask questions (they should IMHO), did they have accounts etc so that the payment went through easily etcetc.
3) the ghost will see you as a paying customer which adds trust in the relationship and may sway them towards you when deciding between 2 employers for a 3000 dollar job.


There are many ghosts who ghost because they prefer that way of creativity and many of them are very good writers. Finding these good ghosts at a reasonable price is very difficult. Don't fall for the idea that expensive ghost =  high quality.
Regardless of how much you are willing to pay, the fact remains 4 out of 5 ghosts will cost you more than you will earn..
There are ghost "firms" out there that will use "critically acclaimed authors" to write you a novella for 6000 dollars. That may be true, result may be ultra-polished and super excellent writing and very plot/story/depth intricate.. but it might still not sell because it's too dry and not geared toward to market. And if nothing else, you are paying 30 cents a word. not 3 cents. thats 85 dollars A PAGE... rofl
Sounds crazy right? well, there's even worse offers out there. Very professional websites that offer this:

 1-5 Pages     $900-$2900
 5-15 Pages  $1900-$5525
 25 Pages     $4000-$9700
 250 Pages     $25000-$65000

I have never used a corporate ghosting service but I know 2 authors who have and I strongly advice against. Pure vanity creation and 0 market potential. Waste of money.

Cheap isn't good either. It's less chance of finding good writer and it isn't fair to the writer... although, a good writer will be in great demand and automatically find a different pricepoint.

ALWAYS understand that if you employ a less than good ghost, your run a (again the 20/80  ;) ) 80% chance of only getting a 20% return on your investment once you publish.

Last but no least, realize that a ghost buyer easily becomes an editor, specially if you buy from different sources to publish under the same pen-name. You'll need to tweak stuff to fall in line with reader expectations of that pen.

There, I just spent my 1000-words-a-day on this post  ;D
« Last Edit: April 20, 2017, 11:11:05 PM by oakwood »

Offline Sailor Stone

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 159
  • These aren't the droids you're looking for.
    • View Profile
    • Sailorstone.com
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2017, 04:10:05 AM »
The universal 20/80 rule applies to ghost material too.
20% of the ghosts you find will be delivering about 80% of what you expected  :)

I have used a bunch of ghosts over the years....

...There, I just spent my 1000-words-a-day on this post  ;D

>>> Great post. I learned more about ghostwriting by reading this one post than hours of research on my own. Thanks!

Sailor Stone | web page | facebook

Offline TwistedTales

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 926
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2017, 04:25:44 AM »
Oakwood.

Interesting post and very informative.

I'm not interested in being or hiring a ghostwriter, but I've always been curious. What you outlined makes sense, but it sounds like a lot of work. Clearly, you must have some writing skill to even take on a ghostwriter, so why do you do it? Why not write yourself?

I assumed, obviously incorrectly, that people took on ghostwriters to capitalize on their reputation by churning out more books with their name on it, or as pure business operators throwing sh*t up against the wall and seeing what stuck.

If you're happy to share then I'd be interested in understanding what your reasoning is.

Offline Kate.

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1113
  • Gender: Female
  • Australia
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2017, 07:49:26 AM »
Oakwood.

Interesting post and very informative.

I'm not interested in being or hiring a ghostwriter, but I've always been curious. What you outlined makes sense, but it sounds like a lot of work. Clearly, you must have some writing skill to even take on a ghostwriter, so why do you do it? Why not write yourself?

I assumed, obviously incorrectly, that people took on ghostwriters to capitalize on their reputation by churning out more books with their name on it, or as pure business operators throwing sh*t up against the wall and seeing what stuck.

If you're happy to share then I'd be interested in understanding what your reasoning is.
I can't answer on Oakwood's behalf, but often...

1. They have more ideas than time to write them.
2. They don't enjoy writing, but they do enjoy being published.
3. They're in a hyper-competitive genre (erotica, certain romance niches) where weekly or fortnightly books are expected.
4. They're burnt out on a popular series and hire a ghostwriter to continue it for them.

Offline Thame

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 39
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2017, 08:15:54 AM »
I can't answer on Oakwood's behalf, but often...

1. They have more ideas than time to write them.


This is why I was toying with the idea. I have a lot of ideas. The problem is that I commute 2 hours each way to and from work. Thus my free time is extremely limited during the week. My thought was to get a few works produced by a ghostwriter in order to fill out my catalog, while devoting my weekends to producing my personal work.

Offline CLStone

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 432
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • Obsession is the Goal
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2017, 08:48:13 AM »
In my past life I was brought on for projects on a work for hire basis, including short stories and once a graphic novel.

When I had an interest in my own career and my name was going to be on the thing, you bet your butt even if I got paid like a flat $1000 or whatever for the project, I worked harder on that more than I did with something that I couldn't talk about. I recommend if you hire one, try to find someone who does want a career, but doesn't know how to market themselves, etc. Maybe they don't want to or they are fresh and just started and still learning.

You'd probably want to do a new series 'together' or just the one book. Not like something you've built your brand around.

The only thing that got to me was when my name was the only name as author for a project, and then the editor changed all my dialog until it sounded really stupid and her name wasn't on it, just mine. So when reviews came in that a story seemed weak, I was irked and not inclined to pick up another contract because it was my name on the thing.

So reputation can be a motivator for good work, and being on the line and you making changes may make a ghost writer not want to work with you anymore.

I also highly recommend figuring out a way to where you're not having to split royalties forever and ever until doomsday. No one gets excited about $2 quarterly checks in the mail from a project produced 10 years ago. :)

New covers and second book release: Coming soon!
Ask me for a freebie!

Offline TwistedTales

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 926
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2017, 03:12:08 PM »
I can't answer on Oakwood's behalf, but often...

1. They have more ideas than time to write them.
2. They don't enjoy writing, but they do enjoy being published.
3. They're in a hyper-competitive genre (erotica, certain romance niches) where weekly or fortnightly books are expected.
4. They're burnt out on a popular series and hire a ghostwriter to continue it for them.

Thanks, Kate.

Offline Annalise Clark

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 25
    • View Profile
    • Annalise on Amazon
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2017, 05:11:21 PM »
I ghostwrite professionally but it's mostly nonfiction books for celebrities, speakers, and other public figures. Most want a book to build their clout, or they have an idea of what they want to say but not the time or skills to turn those ideas into a book.

Once I had a client send all of his notes in audio file that he recorded as he commuted to and from work each day. He just spoke into this recorder all the things he thought of and I turned it into a book. It's a good way to make cash to pay the bills while working on my own books and it's a win-win since they get the book they'd likely never actually complete without help.

I know next to nothing about ghosting fiction.

Offline KennySkylin

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 113
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #13 on: April 21, 2017, 06:47:22 PM »
This is why I was toying with the idea. I have a lot of ideas. The problem is that I commute 2 hours each way to and from work. Thus my free time is extremely limited during the week. My thought was to get a few works produced by a ghostwriter in order to fill out my catalog, while devoting my weekends to producing my personal work.

I don't know how you commute to work. but have you ever considered writing during those 2 hours and using that travel time to increase productivity? Either on an iPad or other tablet if you use public transportation or maybe dictate into a digital recorder if you are driving in your own car and then convert it to text with Dragon or something.

Offline pdworkman

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 466
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2017, 09:36:10 PM »
Ghostwriters are like racehorses. They can't do it on their own, they need a trainer for the idea and the jockey to keep them moving around the track. If you don't have an agreed upon time frame, they won't break any track records, and if you don't critique as they go, they'll leave the track completely.

This is pretty insulting to ghostwriters. I'm sure it is sure for some ghostwriters... but certainly not for all. My current project is due on June 30 and I delivered it last week. First draft was actually finished mid-March, but I wanted a chance to run through a couple of sets of edits and let it season for a while before handing it over.

A lot of ghosts do mostly nonfiction and memoirs, but fiction is my first love.

I write riveting young adult and suspense fiction about mental illness, addiction, and abuse.
P.D. Workman | Web | Facebook | Twitter

Offline Flying Pizza Pie

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 162
  • Gender: Male
  • Keaau, HI
    • View Profile
    • Nevada Casino History
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #15 on: April 22, 2017, 11:49:11 PM »
This is pretty insulting to ghostwriters. I'm sure it is sure for some ghostwriters... but certainly not for all. My current project is due on June 30 and I delivered it last week. First draft was actually finished mid-March, but I wanted a chance to run through a couple of sets of edits and let it season for a while before handing it over.

A lot of ghosts do mostly nonfiction and memoirs, but fiction is my first love.

Sorry, PD, didn't mean to insult you. I'm a ghostwriter myself. Guess I should have said, "ONLY I FEEL THIS WAY ABOUT MYSELF."

As for your last deal, did your employer come up with the book idea?
Did you have a specific date you had to be finished by?
Did you get critiques along the way?

I'd bet the answer to all three is yes. Still, sorry to insult you.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2017, 01:23:49 AM by ALWMOE »


Al W Moe | Blog | Facebook | GoodReads | Google +

Offline James Worlock

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 45
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #16 on: April 23, 2017, 06:58:56 AM »
I used to be a ghostwriter.

The key is to manage expectations and establish clear communication. As long as everyone understands each other, things are usually pretty smooth.

Offline SirNobody

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 10
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2017, 12:26:58 PM »
I ghostwrite professionally but it's mostly nonfiction books for celebrities, speakers, and other public figures. Most want a book to build their clout, or they have an idea of what they want to say but not the time or skills to turn those ideas into a book.

Once I had a client send all of his notes in audio file that he recorded as he commuted to and from work each day. He just spoke into this recorder all the things he thought of and I turned it into a book. It's a good way to make cash to pay the bills while working on my own books and it's a win-win since they get the book they'd likely never actually complete without help.

I know next to nothing about ghosting fiction.

Very interesting, thank you!

Offline she-la-ti-da

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 5879
  • in the bunker
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2017, 06:53:17 AM »
Quote
The problem is that I commute 2 hours each way to and from work.

That's four hours a day to write. Or dictate, if you're driving yourself. Many people would sell their soul for four hours to write every day.

But, many who use ghostwriters have specific contracts that are signed. They may or may not use detailed outlines for the ghostwriter to follow. They may or may not want or need to do much rewriting. It's going to be different depending on the skill and reputation of the ghostwriter. The money spent will not be pocket change. There have been threads here about the subject, as well as on other writer forums, so some googling may be in order.
Queen of Procrasti Nation

Genres: speculative fiction under main pen name.




Offline pdworkman

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 466
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #19 on: April 25, 2017, 02:01:45 PM »
Sorry, PD, didn't mean to insult you. I'm a ghostwriter myself. Guess I should have said, "ONLY I FEEL THIS WAY ABOUT MYSELF."

As for your last deal, did your employer come up with the book idea?
Did you have a specific date you had to be finished by?
Did you get critiques along the way?

I'd bet the answer to all three is yes. Still, sorry to insult you.

Yes, it was his book idea. We collaborated on an outline. It is fourth book in a series, so characters, world, and voice were already established. The deadline for the outline was March 31 and for the book was June 30, and I finished them in January and April respectively. No critique along the way.

No riding, no whip marks, and no wandering off the track.

The line that galled me was "They can't do it on their own, they need a trainer for the idea and the jockey to keep them moving around the track." But I guess that can be taken two different ways.

(a) they can't write books on their own, so they ghost for someone else; or
(b) they can't write your book without your input.

I've been writing books for 30 years and have 24 out under my own name, so I jumped to the conclusion that you meant (a) and took umbrage. But having taken a breath, I'm willing to believe you might have meant something more along the lines of (b).

I write riveting young adult and suspense fiction about mental illness, addiction, and abuse.
P.D. Workman | Web | Facebook | Twitter

Offline Flying Pizza Pie

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 162
  • Gender: Male
  • Keaau, HI
    • View Profile
    • Nevada Casino History
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #20 on: April 25, 2017, 08:49:37 PM »
Yes, it was his book idea. We collaborated on an outline. It is fourth book in a series, so characters, world, and voice were already established. The deadline for the outline was March 31 and for the book was June 30, and I finished them in January and April respectively. No critique along the way.

No riding, no whip marks, and no wandering off the track.

The line that galled me was "They can't do it on their own, they need a trainer for the idea and the jockey to keep them moving around the track." But I guess that can be taken two different ways.

(a) they can't write books on their own, so they ghost for someone else; or
(b) they can't write your book without your input.

I've been writing books for 30 years and have 24 out under my own name, so I jumped to the conclusion that you meant (a) and took umbrage. But having taken a breath, I'm willing to believe you might have meant something more along the lines of (b).

Again, sorry. Sounds like you are right on track (oops, did it again) with your ghostwriting. Happy to hear the business is good and you have so much experience.  :)

You also work quickly, a very good attribute for any author. Have a great day!


Al W Moe | Blog | Facebook | GoodReads | Google +

Offline oakwood

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 506
  • Gender: Male
  • Scandinavia
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #21 on: April 27, 2017, 03:35:18 AM »
Oakwood.

Interesting post and very informative.

I'm not interested in being or hiring a ghostwriter, but I've always been curious. What you outlined makes sense, but it sounds like a lot of work. Clearly, you must have some writing skill to even take on a ghostwriter, so why do you do it? Why not write yourself?

I assumed, obviously incorrectly, that people took on ghostwriters to capitalize on their reputation by churning out more books with their name on it, or as pure business operators throwing sh*t up against the wall and seeing what stuck.

If you're happy to share then I'd be interested in understanding what your reasoning is.

While I write the bulk of my production myself, I do use ghosts for several reasons but the main one is lack of time. Too many ideas, I'm close to 60, can't write fast enough and I prefer to devote my own writing to my heartfelt projects. Also use ghosts for for different purposes. I may use a ghost to prospect new territory, test a new market or see if a foothold can be gotten in a genre I'm not currently in. I may also use a ghost to create something I intend to polish and expand, as if a first draft. Generally, the ghost doesn't know it and if the material is good enough I won't polish much, but as a rule when hiring ghosts - be ready to put on the editor hat and spend substantial time getting the story, the style and the dialog in line with your other stuff. This is especially true if you have your own material together with ghosted under the same pen-name.

Some publishers use ghost material as it is and push it to market directly. That is perfectly doable and depending on the ghost perhaps even profitable.. depends on the genre, and again on the ghost and on how well you served the ghost the founding material over what you expect to receive.

I've said it before and it can't be repeated enough times: NEVER let a ghost create their own story because even if it turns out to be original and a good one you will NEVER know if that same story is out in another form which will ALWAYS come back and bite you AND I also feel that expecting the ghost to brainstorm + outline + plot + write is unfair.

other reasons for sometimes choosing to hire a ghost is the larger you catalog grows the more time you'll need to devote to marketing, accounting, whatever. Options are 2 - employ a VA and carry that expense or do it yourself. I do the latter as I feel it is simply faster and I would rather put that $$ into ghosts and professional editing.

This may sound like ghost factory but only 20% of my total material is ghosted, and a lot of that has been reworked by me to the point of being un-ghosted  :)

ALWAYS, if I have the choice, I will write my own stuff rather than hook up a ghost. No offense to ghosts but publishing our own stuff comes with my-baby feel-good rewards and the balance of time savings VS having to edit and sometimes receiving duds, levels things out a bit.

I DO NOT recommend new authors to use ghosts. You can't afford it. Neither the $$ nor the time.

If you have enough $$$ and books under your belt, go ahead and test a ghost. The experience is interesting and the fact remains that many of the world's best books actually are ghosted.

PS I also disagree with the idea that ghosts need the forward momentum of a prodding employer to get stuff done.  While true of some, my experience is that good ghosts generally have better work ethics than I do. I always find myself stressing to complete editorial comments on their milestone work in time. Maybe that is why I employ ghosts... they whip ME into action  8)
« Last Edit: April 27, 2017, 03:44:55 AM by oakwood »

Offline This_Way_Down

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 581
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #22 on: April 27, 2017, 03:48:38 AM »
The universal 20/80 rule applies to ghost material too.
20% of the ghosts you find will be delivering about 80% of what you expected  :)

I have used a bunch of ghosts over the years. Some I found on elance/upwork, some through personal contacts, some through professional offers on forums. Here's my experience:

Even if you do extreme research and due diligence before committing, only 1 out of 5 attempts will deliver a usable result and that result will never be exactly what you envisioned, simply because noone can write what is in your had, so that's ok. But 1 hit out of 5 demands some serious thought as to if it is worth it.

There is an assumption that the higher the cost, the better the ghost. Not so. A ghost who offers to write for 1.5 cents a word may turn out to deliver a vastly better end product than a 4.5 cent ghost. The reasons are many. Very very often, the ghost is ghosting because
A) their own books aren't selling. reasons could be many, perhaps just lack of marketing... but 4 out of 5 because their material isn't good enough
B) they are noobs and need "practice" and will do so at your expense

and if A or B + they believe themselves to be better than they are and I won't work for free... then your headache is just around the corner.

Ghost C is the one you want to find.
C) ghosts because it is a guaranteed way of getting paid.. they like the aspekt of "work" about it, you get up, do the work and KNOW you are getting paid for the time. It's convenient, and safe because they don't have to do marketing, no social interaction, they don't have to wonder why they aren't ranking on amazon etc. etc. A fewer few of these C ghosts write well. This is the kind of ghost you want to find and you can find ghosts of this quality in all levels of cost. I have used C ghosts that cost 1.8 cents that delivered books that were better than my own writing. They were fine with that payment, very very fast writers. If you are super-happy and can afford it, give them a bonus when the job is done.


In all cases, you as a buyer are responsible, to yourself, for doing quality control before you enlist the ghost. You do this by asking for samples, preferably in your genre (if they don't have samples walk away), checking reviews if they are on a ghost marketplace and by taking a second to analyze what and how they say what they say when they communicate with you.. why? because the samples may not be their own, or they may have a super sample they have polished to no end but you can tell in their emails etc that they will hurry faster than fast through your sh*t job. You do not want a ghost who considers ghosting a sh*t job. You want a ghost who has self-respect, is fine with working for pay, and who will honor the agreement.

ALWAYS give them YOUR plot. NEVER let the ghost invent the story and write it because 4 out of 5 times, it will be a copy or a slightly altered story they have already written for someone else... say hello to all sorts of problems.

ALWAYS make a payment deal with milestones. I tend to do 30% upfront at start, 30% midway, 40% on delivery. Have a good contract with exit clauses for both parties.

ALWAYS ask for the first chapters, even if they are raw. This is your last chance to see what you are getting and if cr*p abort the project at a reasonable cost. (first payment) If this happens, don't blame the ghost. You didn't do your due diligence job somewhere along the line.

I've spent a lot more on failed ghosts than I have earned from the successful material.  ::)
These days I add another layer of control before I spend my dollars: If you can afford it, give the ghost a paid mini-assignment before you enlist them for the big job. Give them a plot for a short story, say 5000 words and pay them to write it. This does many things,
1) obviously.. you'll get a sample of their writing in relation to your story idea type.
2) you'll get an idea of what they are to work with.. did the ghost deliver on time, did ghost ask questions (they should IMHO), did they have accounts etc so that the payment went through easily etcetc.
3) the ghost will see you as a paying customer which adds trust in the relationship and may sway them towards you when deciding between 2 employers for a 3000 dollar job.


There are many ghosts who ghost because they prefer that way of creativity and many of them are very good writers. Finding these good ghosts at a reasonable price is very difficult. Don't fall for the idea that expensive ghost =  high quality.
Regardless of how much you are willing to pay, the fact remains 4 out of 5 ghosts will cost you more than you will earn..
There are ghost "firms" out there that will use "critically acclaimed authors" to write you a novella for 6000 dollars. That may be true, result may be ultra-polished and super excellent writing and very plot/story/depth intricate.. but it might still not sell because it's too dry and not geared toward to market. And if nothing else, you are paying 30 cents a word. not 3 cents. thats 85 dollars A PAGE... rofl
Sounds crazy right? well, there's even worse offers out there. Very professional websites that offer this:

 1-5 Pages     $900-$2900
 5-15 Pages  $1900-$5525
 25 Pages     $4000-$9700
 250 Pages     $25000-$65000

I have never used a corporate ghosting service but I know 2 authors who have and I strongly advice against. Pure vanity creation and 0 market potential. Waste of money.

Cheap isn't good either. It's less chance of finding good writer and it isn't fair to the writer... although, a good writer will be in great demand and automatically find a different pricepoint.

ALWAYS understand that if you employ a less than good ghost, your run a (again the 20/80  ;) ) 80% chance of only getting a 20% return on your investment once you publish.

Last but no least, realize that a ghost buyer easily becomes an editor, specially if you buy from different sources to publish under the same pen-name. You'll need to tweak stuff to fall in line with reader expectations of that pen.

There, I just spent my 1000-words-a-day on this post  ;D
Sounds about right. I was asked how much to ghost write and gave an estimate of $30k. After I peeled them off the ceiling, I explained that it was mostly due to the time involved that would take away from writing my own material. I went on the explain the enormous amount of work it takes to write a novel of the quality they would expect for that much money. 

Offline oakwood

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 506
  • Gender: Male
  • Scandinavia
    • View Profile
Re: Experience Using Ghostwriters?
« Reply #23 on: April 27, 2017, 04:31:39 AM »
For those wondering, I generally pay my ghosts 1.5 - 3 cents a word. Anything over that makes it not worthwhile for the type of material I publish which is romance, westerns, cozies, general crime, some non-fic and other light stuff.

Remember that ghosting is writing from a detailed outline/plot. Unless you are a pantser, plotting is a substantial part of the job, already done. for the experienced ghost with quick fingers, it's not all that hard to output 80-100k words a month from a detailed outline. That's n average 2.2 grand a month. 26 grand a year with 0 expenses from working 4 hour days

This is a biz so from the publisher pov one also has to factor in the pure loss duds. Only 1 out of 3 written books are usable (this is only related to my own experience, in my genres, from my material & my ghosts) So if a successful 50' book is $1100 but carries with it a $2200 other-book loss, that book needs to generate $3300 to make the whole ghosting experience just meet break-even and we haven't started to factor in covers, marketing etc.

That's why the ghosting cents per word pay seems low, but actually isn't. The ghost does this professionally, at speed from a template, from wherever in the world, with no investment risk.

26 grand a year doing 4 hour work-days while travelling the world? Many find that quite agreeable and many of the people you find living the digital nomad lifestyle are in fact not software developers, website owners or authors but sub-contractors, VA's and ghosts. They get their paycheck even if Amazon does a KU3 jump on us  ;)
« Last Edit: April 27, 2017, 04:33:25 AM by oakwood »