Ghostwriting: Everything You Need to Know

Picture of Sylvana
Content Writer @Spines

Let’s start with an interesting statistic that may surprise many of you: Not all of the books you have read in your life were written by the authors whose names appear on the book cover. In the shadows, making dreams come true for authors of thousands of books published every year, are ghostwriters.

Ghostwriters write for other people, with the credit for the writing being given to those they wrote for. Ghostwriters write speeches for lecturers and leaders, opinion columns in magazines signed on behalf of the columnist, and professional content articles for businesses and books as well. 


Have you ever considered hiring a ghostwriter for ghostwriting?

Here are some advantages to using a ghostwriter for your book:

  • You lack the time. You are passionate about a book idea, but even though you’ve tried rearranging your schedule several times, you’re unable to get into a groove with writing. Writing a book requires a large investment of time – from months to years. Fortunately, even if your schedule does not leave you time to write, you can fulfill your dream of publishing a book with the help of a ghostwriter. 
  • Putting your thoughts into words is very difficult. You may be surprised, but there are even widely esteemed writers who aren’t satisfied with their writing. If you’re having trouble putting your ideas in writing, know that you have two options available to you: One is to attempt a messy first draft, and then rely heavily on developmental and substantive editors for your work. The second option? Significantly shorten the process by hiring a ghostwriter to finish your first draft.

Even if you have a great idea, plenty of time, and the desire to write, you can still turn to a ghostwriter – someone to bounce your ideas off of and keep you to a consistent and aggressive schedule.

Even though someone will be pulling their weight in getting your ideas onto paper, hiring a ghostwriter still requires your full cooperation and involvement in the process. 

These are the most common scenarios you may face if you choose to work with a ghostwriter:

  • The ghostwriter will interview you, and then write a draft on their own. This method is very common with writing politicians’ books, biographical and autobiographical books, self-help guides, reference books and so on. Usually, the ghostwriter will interview you over a period of several hours to get a sense of the author’s language, style, worldview and the message they want to convey. This will help the ghostwriter convey the content of the book in a way that still feels authentic to the author’s voice.
  • The ghostwriter will use an outline written by the author as a reference. This method may be helpful for those writing a children’s book. In this method, you can give the ghostwriter an in-depth breakdown of each of the characters, as well as a chapter outline with plot points. It may still be necessary to interview the author to further define the characters’ voices, define the conflict and resolution, better understand the intended mood the author is going for, etc.
  • The ghostwriter acts as a collaborator, offering feedback as you write your first draft. Another option available to you is to write your own book, with a ghostwriter as a mentor. This person can not only offer guidance, but can help you form characters, change plot lines, and write certain chapters you feel stuck on. In this method, a ghostwriter acts as co-author, trading off on writing duties and helping you with your own writing.

What are the qualities of a good ghostwriter?

  • Proven experience in writing. Ghostwriters are usually previously published authors or professional ghostwriters. In either case, it’s important that they have years of experience under their belt so they can work efficiently with you.
  • Compassion. This may be an odd suggestion, but the ghostwriter should have a connection to you and be empathetic to your ideas and perspective. This is a job where someone is putting in a concerted effort over a long period of time to write something that you will ultimately take credit for – they should be interested and invested in your work and the quality of the final product.
  • A good critic. Although the ghostwriter is essentially doing the majority of the writing, you are the source of the ideas they are writing. Your ghostwriter should be a good listener, with the ability to take careful notes of everything you’ve communicated to them, and then reformulate all of your ideas into a palatable and engaging manuscript. This also extends to their ability to take constructive criticism from you as the creator. An experienced ghostwriter will want to work in tandem with you, deferring to your vision and maintaining flexibility with their own opinions.

For some ghostwriters, it’s important that they write a significant portion of the book on their own. For others, feedback is preferred early on, so they can feel confident that the direction they’re going in suits the author’s vision. If there’s a way you prefer to work with a ghostwriter, find someone who shares your style of workflow. Landing the right ghostwriter for you is both about finding someone who gets you as an author, and will also follow your lead in the creative process. 

Ghostwriters can be empowering; particularly for those who struggle as communicators. It’s a legitimate way to get you past the slog of a first draft under a tight deadline, so if you feel stuck, consider finding a ghostwriter to help you to your goal as a published author.

Content Writer @Spines
Sylvana has been a key content writer at Spines for two years, specializing in creating clear and engaging narratives. Her work, which consistently embodies Spines’ values and mission, reflects a broad range of perspectives and a commitment to quality storytelling.