Ghostwriting Services

Erick Mertz Writing

If you’re looking to hire a ghostwriter for your project, you’re probably mulling over a few questions. In my twenty years of experience in the industry, I find prospective clients have a general idea of what a ghostwriter does and what the services could possibly look like, but there are still a lot of ambiguities.

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Is ghostwriting the right choice for where you are on your career path?

What are the steps to bring in the right professional ghostwriter onto my project?

Can I afford to hire the right person?

Unlike other industries, where established prices are published and well-known to many, finding the right ghostwriter is a little different. If you’ve been looking to hire a ghostwriter, then you’ve probably encountered a wide range of services, provider types and experiences, and credentials.

Where should you turn for answers to these very important questions?

This should help you understand the basics of what ghostwriting is, what it should cost you and, considering the scope of your project, whether it’s right for you.

What Is A Professional Ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is most easily described as a skilled, professional writer who is hired to work on a project without receiving credit for their role. In short, that means, the ghostwriter receives an agreed upon payment for the writing and the client receives a finished product they can do whatever they choose with. It’s pretty simple. 

Beyond that basic definition, however, the best professional ghostwriters offer so many other intangible services and functions to their clients. Having worked in the ghostwriting industry for over twenty years now, wearing many hats, it seems just when I think I have everything figured out, a new client proposes something entirely new.

Working with a ghostwriter is like working with any other contractor. All of the proposed work is outlined on a signed, binding contract. That means, before your ghostwriter starts working on your story, you need to agree on a price for the scope of work, a realistic series of project benchmarks, and deliver the agreed upon first payment. Then the magic can begin.

Another key aspect of ghostwriting services is the promise of confidentiality. Whenever I work with any client, whatever the project, in addition to signing a contract, we also sign a standard non-disclosure agreement. This protects the client’s intellectual property as well as keeping confidential my role in creating their story.

Why should this kind of protection matter to you as a client? 

The project that we work on is based on an original story idea or concept you have created. Another way to look at your concept is as a valuable intellectual property, the same as any recipe, formula or program. It is very important, especially in this day and age of rapid, unfettered information transfer, to know that your documents and ideas are stored and disseminated in a secure manner. 

Additionally, when you hire a ghostwriter, it is important that their role is kept safely under wraps. Why? It is far easier for you, the client, to sell your project with your name attached to it than it is with their name, or as a shared story.

What Kind Of Work Can A Ghostwriter Do?

As I wrote earlier, diversity is a key attribute for a ghostwriter. The best professionals offer a wide variety of services, as well as expertise in specific areas within those. 

Here is a list, by no means comprehensive, of the many possible types of projects a professional ghostwriter can provide:

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High quality fiction, everything from short stories to novels

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Screenplays for both feature films and television

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In depth memoir writing services

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Non-fiction material such as blogs and web content

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Story development services, such as creating a book or series outline

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Manuscript consultation

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Rewriting existing projects

This is just a short list though. When you seek to hire a ghostwriter, you’re bringing on a professional capable of providing an immense amount of value. 

Most ghostwriters, while capable of providing a wide variety of services, tend to specialize in an area. It is critically important, when you’re talking to a ghostwriter, to be open about what you’re looking for. 

What do I mean by that? 

Be as specific as you can be. If you’re looking for a fiction ghostwriter, use the interview to get deep and understand what genres they have experience or expertise in. Are you looking for someone who can write a mystery? Or can handle a memoir story basked on a tough subject? 

Ask them questions. If the professional ghostwriter you’re talking to is not familiar, or experienced, with what you want specifically, then the match may not be right. 

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How to Hire a Ghostwriter

How Does A Ghostwriter Get Credit For The Work They Do?

As I described earlier, a professional ghostwriter provides high quality writing services without receiving credit for it. When the project is completed, and the client is happy with the results, the ghostwriter receives payment and the client walks away with a complete book, screenplay, or memoir.

How does a ghostwriter receive credit though? Confidentiality can definitely make gaining credibility a considerable challenge in a competitive ghostwriting market. 

While my involvement in a project remains confidential even after we are done, I rely on good working relationships to help spread the word about the quality of services I provide. I ask my clients to leave honest reviews on places like my website, Yelp, and Google. Sometimes they offer, on a request basis, new, prospective clients positive references. 

The credit I receive is not widespread. Certainly not like having my byline on the finished book or produced screenplay. But when my clients share their positive experiences, and it helps me connect with a new client, the reward is almost as good. 

During interviews, I encourage clients to ask for referrals. Work samples and a good interview rapport make for a very good start, but ghostwriting can often be a long process. Ask to talk to someone that the ghostwriter for hire has completed a project with, and ask them about their experience. You don’t need to go into depth, but you should at least walk away knowing whether they would hire them again.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Ghostwriter?

The cost for high quality ghostwriting services vary. In almost every instance, the price comes down to two factors: one is the product contracted for, and two the experience.

Almost every professional ghostwriter I know bases their prices for fiction, non-fiction and memoir on total word count. How many words are in the eventual finished manuscript defines the price.

How does this work?

In the simplest terms, when we come to a professional ghostwriting agreement, we determine how many words a project requires. What’s a reasonable estimate? A standard novel comes within the range (based on genre and market) of 50,000 to 100,000 words. A memoir, by contrast, somewhere in the middle of that, say 80,000 words. 

Don’t know what those word counts translate to? Head down to the bookstore and pick up a standard paperback. Odds are, that book’s word count falls within that range. 

When I quote a price based on a per word basis, it is for the finished word. Finished words are the number in the final manuscript. 

Some professional ghostwriters I’ve spoken to base their prices on hours, page count, or on a per project basis. While this might work for them, for me, those are difficult measures to base a fair price on. Hours in writing are hard to track and, for complicated books, get expensive. Page counts are awkward because manuscript pages can feature anywhere from 100 and 250 words.

On different projects, specifically screenplays and marketing scripts, I charge per project. One of the reasons for this is that words on a screenplay are not as relevant as they are in manuscripts. The other is that screenplays are less volatile, their completion falling in a more predictable time frame.

Have you been looking to hire a ghostwriter but having trouble finding their published prices? Most writers, myself included, don’t publish their prices anywhere for public consumption. During a pre-project consultation, I go over the price, benchmarks and expected timelines. 

If you want to know what professional ghostwriting services cost, be sure to ask. 

Bottom line on cost: when you look to hire a ghostwriter, you have to know what you’re looking for. You also need to bring your budget to the table as well. Before you ask for a price quote, know what you can realistically afford. Look at this as your starting point for an agreed upon price. 

Are Professional Ghostwriting Services Ethical?

In short, hiring a professional ghostwriter is completely ethical. There is nothing wrong with hiring a writer to work on your project, regardless of whether it’s a screenplay or memoir. 

A lot of people believe that ghostwriting is a questionable service because, in the end, the ghostwriter does all of the work while the client receives the credit. In fact, over the years, I’ve been asked this question easily a hundred times.

“Does it bother you that your clients take your work and receive credit?”

My answer is always no. Emphatically no. Even after my clients go onto success. 

I am perfectly happy to offer my services to my clients, writing memoirs, fiction, or screenplays, exchanging credit for payment. It’s what I do and I get a lot of joy out of it. 

If there are questions around the ethics of ghostwriting, I think it comes when the ghostwriter misrepresents themselves and their skills to clients. I hear about this happening more often than I like to admit. I meet a lot of clients who have started work with someone, thought they had a good match, but either the product or the working rapport left something to be desired. 

Professional ghostwriting services are not regulated. There are no overseeing organizations or agencies, making sure that providers accurately represent themselves. Anyone can go out and market themselves as a ghostwriter, making claims to skills and expertise, but there is nothing to ensure that it’s accurate.

If you’re looking to hire a ghostwriter, what do you do? You conduct an interview. You ask questions and you follow up on their responses. 

How Do I Know I’m Getting The Best Ghostwriter?

The uneasy answer to this question is that you won’t really know until your project is completed. Like in most professional situations where you’re tasked with making a hire, a comprehensive interview process is your best path forward to a decision. 

When you interview a professional ghostwriter, you need to know what you want. Understanding the product, whether book or screenplay, fiction or memoir, you have to know.

Sometimes a client has a story idea that could fall into one of two categories. Maybe they’re stuck deciding whether a concept works best as a feature film or a television series. In these instances, you’re working with the ghostwriter, using their expertise to understand how best to define the project. 

You also need to know your timelines. If you need to get your book done at a certain time, bring that to the interview and when it comes to contract time, make sure the benchmarks created lead to that date. Benchmarks need to be realistic, too. If the ghostwriter proposes to get a book done in six weeks, you may want to question how they expect to accomplish that

The same goes for your budget. Don’t go into a project feeling like you’re beholden to what the ghostwriter wants to charge. If your budget cannot accommodate the professional’s demands, and they’re not willing to negotiate or make an exception, it’s time to move on. 

If everything comes together for you and the ghostwriter, price and timeline, and you enter a contract, it’s important to keep up strong communication. While the ghostwriter is doing their work, you don’t want to look over their shoulder, but feel comfortable asking for regular updates.

Once a week? Maybe once every two weeks? Drop your ghostwriter an email and ask questions. Request tangible updates on your project. If you want to keep closer wraps, something especially important when it comes to working with newer or less experienced ghostwriters, build a review process into the contract. It is perfectly reasonable to look at a book in 20,000 or 40,000 intervals on your way to a finished product. Maybe you can negotiate a review every eight to ten chapters, just to be sure your standards of quality are met.

In the end, hiring a ghostwriter is an excellent move for your career. When you work with a professional, you assure high quality results in a timely manner. 

I hope this helped you hire a ghostwriter with confidence. If you have any questions, anything I didn’t cover here, please feel free to ask.

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If you are serious about hiring a professional ghostwriter for your book, screenplay, or non-fiction story, or you need help with editing or self-publishing your manuscript, please contact me.

Every new contact receives a free 30-minute 1:1 consultation about their ghostwriting project or manuscript consultation.

Additionally, I offer all independent and self-publishing authors a 10% discount on my already affordable services.