If you can write, don’t hire a ghostwriter. Hire an editor.

Since I published my book, people are coming out of the woodwork asking me to ghostwrite for them. Ghostwriters are expensive and are often unavailable. So you should think carefully if you really need one, or if you need a developmental editor.

Here’s a table of tasks that developmental editors and ghostwriters for nonfiction books do.

Define basic ideaNeverUsually
Refine ideaUsuallyNearly always
Define table of contentsRarelyUsually
Suggest changes to table of contentsUsuallyUsually
Gather research and source materialNeverUsually
Draft chaptersNeverAlways
Edit and revise drafts for contentAlwaysAlways
Edit and revise drafts for languageAlwaysAlways
Suggest graphicsSometimesSometimes
Create final draft ready for publisherSometimesAlways
Manage production process with publisherSometimesUsually

One test determines if you need a ghostwriter

If you feel unable to draft chapters on your own, you need a ghostwriter.

If you can draft chapters, even if you have low confidence in the quality of what you create, you are better off with an editor.

The cost for a quality ghostwriter for a business book of at least 50,000 words is likely to be $50,000 or more. Longer books, books that require more technical knowledge, and books that require the ghostwriter to do more research will cost more.

The cost for an editor for the same sort of book is $7,000 to $25,000. (Editors who have the skills to give you the help you need are unlikely to do a 50,000-word book for less than this.)

The reason for the range in prices is that some editing jobs are easy, and others are extremely challenging. If the author has created a poorly organized, repetitive mess, untangling that is a bigger job.

But it always less work to improve something — even a mess — than it is create something. This is why editing is so much cheaper than ghostwriting.

If you can write, even if you are insecure about it, get an editor or writing coach and write what you can. You won’t just save money. You’ll feel better about the eventual result, too.

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One Comment

  1. Several years ago, a marketing writer on LinkedIn wrote an article titled something like, “Why You Should Hire a Writer to Write Your Website’s Text, Even if You’re a Writer.” His premise was that “You have too close a perspective to market your talents.”
    I commented, “What next? Should a web designer hire another web designer? Should a portrait photographer have their headshot composed, lit, and touched up by by another photographer? Should an architect hire another architect to design his house?”
    The author didn’t respond.