Skip to main content

Why Ghostwriting? Guest Post by Kelly James-Enger

Goodbye Byline: Hello Big Bucks
Is it Time to Disappear? 
Why I Became a Ghost--and Why you Should, Too

I never intended to become a ghostwriter. After all, why would I spend months of my life toiling away on someone else’s book? No thanks. I only wanted to write my own books, and that’s what I did.

I soon found, however, that the life of a book author wasn’t quite what I’d envisioned. I was working long hours, yet making less money than I had before, when I wrote only articles. The reason was simple—the time I spent promoting my books left me less time to write articles and other books, which cut into my income.

            Fortunately for me, I was approached by a nutrition expert about coauthoring her book. I found I enjoyed collaborating with her, but the real payoff came when we finished the manuscript. As the author, she now had to start promoting it—but I was all done!

That was enough for me. I decided to pursue coauthoring and ghostwriting, and “my” next book was ghostwritten for a client. (Typically a “coauthor” is identified on the cover while a “ghostwriter” is never named or identified.) Today, most of my books are published under my clients’ names—and I’m making as much money working part-time hours as I did as a fulltime freelancer.

         You probably know that many celebrities and politicians use ghostwriters to pen their books. What you probably don’t know is that most authors who hire ghostwriters aren’t household names. Instead they’re professionals (think physicians, attorneys, financial advisors) who want to add “book author” to their CVs to attract clients and establish themselves as subject matter experts—but they lack the time and/or ability to write a book. They’re willing to pay, and often pay well, to get “their” books in print.

      Ghostly Attributes

         The key to success as a ghostwriter, first and foremost, is an understanding of your role in the process. Whether you get cover credit or not, you’re writing someone else’s book. That means being able to collaborate, and to set your own ideas about how to approach the book aside if your client disagrees with your approach. That’s why successful ghostwriters keep their egos in check. You may be writing the words, but the book itself is your client’s. And that means your client has the final say.

In addition to a collaborative spirit, you’ll need project management skills. Depending on the project, you may be responsible for conducting interviews and research and keeping your client on schedule in addition to writing the book itself. And when it comes to writing, you must be able to structure and organize material and capture your client’s voice.

As a writer, you likely already know something about the publishing industry. That experience—whether you’ve already published your own books or have worked with editors before—is invaluable to you as a ghostwriter. The more you know about publishing, the more you can assist your clients whether they’re submitting their work or deciding whether to opt for POD, or print-or-demand, publishing instead of pursuing a traditional publisher.

Getting the Word Out

You basically have two ways of getting ghosting work—spread the word that you’re a ghostwriter, and go after ghosting gigs you find. Make sure your website and blog, if you have one, says that you ghostwrite. Mention it in your email signature. Consider subscribing to ($20/month) for a promotional listing and a way of staying up-to-date on the latest publishing deals.

Check sites like,, and for possible jobs. And consider your expertise when marketing yourself to potential clients. I specialize in health, fitness, and nutrition, and almost all of my ghosting work is for professionals in those areas. The idea is to start with what you know and let editors, story sources, and colleagues know you’ve added ghostwriting to your repertoire.

Potential Clients

Besides celebs and subject matter experts, everyday people who want to get books in print but lack time or ability use ghostwriters. (These books may run the gamut from memoirs to novels to how-to tomes.) Book publishers, book packagers, agents, and corporations also all hire ghosts, though they look for experienced ones.

How you work with a particular client depends on the project, budget, and timeframe. For example, you may interview your client and write the book from scratch, relying on your notes; your client may write some of the book while you write the rest; or your client may provide you with background material that you use as a starting point. It depends on how much work your client has already done (and is willing to do) and how he prefers to work with you.

That’s why before you take on a project, you should know exactly what you’re responsible for. Some clients (like book publishers and agents) will have a set fee for a project; others will ask you to make a bid. Make sure you know what’s expected of you, how you’ll be working, and how long the book will be before you quote a fee.

When it comes to how you charge, there are three basic ways—by the hour; by the word or page (e.g., $10/page or $0.25/word); or by the project. Most ghostwriting clients prefer to pay a flat fee for the entire project, which is why you want to know what you’re committing to before you say yes.

Before you start work, have your client sign a written contract. At a minimum, it should include a description of the work you’ll be doing (the more specific, the better); how much and when you’ll be paid (i.e. in certain amounts throughout the duration of the project); your deadline; and who will own the copyright to the book (almost always the client).

Working with Clients

With signed contract in hand, you’re ready to get to work. If your client hasn’t created an outline already, that’s the first step. Once he approves it, you start researching and writing the book itself.

Once all of the chapters are completed (or the sections of the book proposal are complete) and approved, I like to create one “master” document that includes everything—the final draft—and send it my client for one last review. After he signs off on the completed manuscript and sends my last check, we’re done—unless we’re working with a traditional publisher. Then I stay onboard to handle any edits until the editor and client sign off on it.

And then, when the book is published, my client’s real work as an author begins. But as a ghostwriter, my work is complete—which frees me up to start on my next ghostwriting project.

About the author: Kelly James-Enger “escaped from the law” in 1997. Today, the former attorney has written more 700+ articles for more than 50 national magazines and 13 books, including eight under her own name. She’s the author of writing-related books including:
James-Enger is also a ghostwriter, speaker, and published novelist. Her contemporary women’s fiction titles include Did you Get the Vibe? and White Bikini Panties. She blogs at about making more money as a nonfiction freelancer, and lives outside Chicago with her husband, son, daughter, and golden retriever. 


  1. I would be delighted to be a ghost writer, I feel like I might even do better at that than I do writing. Where do I start?

  2. Go for it Gael; announce to the world that you are an available ghostwriter, especially in your field(s) of expertise, then take some time to research the places mentioned in this post where people look for ghosts. Good luck!

  3. Ghostwriting has been in my mind every once in awhile when I get low on ideas.
    I simply love writing, always have. The old saying is two heads are better than one. Maybe it's true.
    Thanks for the advice.

  4. I've had a few opportunities to ghost write, and they all fell through. But I'm about to start on a ghosting project in earnest now, and can't thank you enough for this comprehensive post. The advice is invaluable!

  5. Instagram is quite popular with everybody these days. It gives all those who are on it an opportunity to display their prized photographs to the world. A feather in its cap, Instagram allows you to add pictures in a timely fashion. What's more is you can make use of hash tags to classify the pictures. Adding the appropriate keywords lets your clients see what they want to see.For you to be popular on Instagram, you are required to have to have many followers. The more the better. One way to do this is to buy followers. This can help you go viral almost instantly.
    BuyInstagram Followers UK

  6. Buy Instagram Followers Get huge Community of fans to show the public your profile presence. Get likes and video views also. Quality Followers; No password required; Fast Delivery 24/7 support. Buy 10k Instagram Followers $39.99 only.

    Buy real instagram likes


Post a Comment


Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Experience

The popularity of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books is beyond extraordinary. What started out as a multi- rejected book idea has turned into a multi-million dollar book empire. More than 110 million Chicken Soup for the Soul books have been sold. Many of the books have been translated to 40 different languages. I'm proud that my personal essays have been included in some of these books, and I hope to continue being a Chicken Soup contributor.
My Story
I thought I would share a bit about being published in these collections. I'm very happy with my Chicken Soup experiences, and part of that may be that I went into it with little expectations at first. I started with them because I had a few stories that seemed to fit what they were looking for, and I thought I had nothing to lose. Unlike some of the other markets and contests I was looking at, submitting to Chicken Soup could be done at no cost to me, and I didn't even need to worry about a postage stamp, because they had a…

All the Right Ingredients to Writing Advice

Last time, I talked about people in our lives that are pretty sure they know how to be successful writers, because they spent much of their time reading. Sometimes their advice can be a blessing, sometimes just the opposite. It is the same with the plethora of advice available from other writers. Have you checked out almost every book about the writing process from your local library at one time or another? Are your shelves lined with your own copies of "the-perfect-writing-advice-that-will-get-me-published-once-and-for-all"? Are you a member of multiple online writing communities? Do you hold your breath just a little bit when waiting from the critique from that "certain someone" in your writing group?

Yeah. Me too. And I don't think that gaining knowledge is a bad thing. We just have to be careful.

Don't Let Too Many Cooks Create a Recipe for Disaster
I love great food, I savor the tastes and textures of all kinds of cuisine; but unless I have specific, de…