How Does Ghostwriting Work?

The moment always comes. It’s inevitable. Like aging or having a second cookie. Your client will ask, “How does this ghostwriting thing work?”

The rise of ghostwriting as a respectable vocation is great. But I’m finding there’s considerable confusion out there about ghostwriting. Everyone thinks they need a ghostwriter, but they don’t know what to do when they actually catch one! Seems like every potential client I work with is curious about the process and not sure what they want from it.

That’s no worry for me really. After all it’s my job to help educate people on the process. And let’s face it, the title ghostwriter engenders mysterious mental images to begin with.

But here’s the secret: I’m not sure what ghostwriting means anymore either.

I used to think it was writing a book for someone. That’s what it used to be, right? But most clients don’t need that service—or can’t afford it.

So really, ghostwriting has morphed into a psuedo-partnership of author/writer.

When a client asks, “How does ghostwriting work?” I respond, “It works however you need it to.”

I’ve found that in order to make my business viable for potential clients, I need to offer a variety of services both outside of the writing process and within. When it comes to my writing services I’ve broken them down into three categories from most affordable to least.


When I consult with authors, I help them form their ideas and work with them to create an outline and structure. I also meet with them frequently over coffee to discuss the process, offer encouragement, and give some practical tips and ideas to make the process smoother. Part of consulting with authors is to read through the manuscript and do some line-edits. Nothing major. Just some grammar and content suggestions.

Believe it or not, this is my favorite type of work. It’s not the home run project we all dream of, but the it’s the best bang for my buck. Even though it’s the most affordable option, it works out to be the best pay for my time.

Collaborative Editing

This is a more involved process where the author still does the initial writing but I do much more intensive editing, which will often mean much of my own writing ends up in the manuscript. Sometimes whole manuscripts are reworked. Large portions are cut, I add in large portions, and I help craft the manuscript into a polished book.

The process is very much collaborative, time consuming, and not your standard book edit.

Full Ghostwriting

We all know this one. I sit down with the client, take interviews, develop outlines, do research, and write the whole book on my own. The client will review and make suggestions/edits. I’ll work with him or her to polish the final draft, and then it’s off to the printers.

I’ve found that my clients appreciate that I can offer levels of service that both meet their budgets and their needs. In turn, diversifying my services allows me to retain more potential jobs and to increase my income.

How about you? What ways have you found to answer the question, “How does ghostwriting work?”

[Photo by Oberazzi]