Why hire a ghost? 

A ghostwriter is a writer who takes your ideas and turns them into an article or book suitable for publishing. Whether you have a very rough draft, nothing but notes, or nothing more than ideas, if your ideas are a good fit for my skillset, I can turn those notes, drafts and ideas into a book—or if you prefer, blog posts or a publishable article.

Hiring a ghostwriter takes the load off you—no more worrying that you won’t meet your deadline, or beating yourself up because you really should write that book but you just don’t have the time—or more commonly, you don’t have the writing or storytelling skills necessary to do justice to your ideas. You write the check, I’ll write the book, and you’ll get the credit. Still, it’s a daunting step to consider and you have many questions. Here are the most common ones.

Writing a Family Memoir—An Interview with Robert Wolf and Janice Harper

When Rob brought his family’s story to me, there were two critical themes I wanted his book to illuminate. The first was the remarkable story of Rob’s father, Ervin, and the stories of Joseph and Kamilla. I did not want them to become known as “Ervin’s parents” but as people with histories and dreams that the Holocaust tragically shattered.

What is the process? How will I work with you?

The process depends on several factors, including how much input you want on the book, how much you’ve already done, and what needs to be done. Let’s say it’s a memoir. Typically, a memoir client will come to me with hundreds of pages of what they thought was a book, but it lacks all the components of a compelling story. The narrative arc is all over the place, jumping back and forth with no rhyme or reason. The characters aren’t fleshed out, the setting is virtually absent, and the dialogue, if any, doesn’t sound like people talking, it reads like text put in quotation marks. But the story is there, buried beneath all those words.

My job in this case is to take that draft, distill the plot points and main characters from it, interview you to gain further detail, and then dive into the research—researching settings at specific time periods, current events to coincide with these various time periods, everything from dress to local cuisine to what music and movies were hits back then. Once I have the research done and have recorded our interviews to capture not just the story, but your voice—your style of speech—I set to work writing the first draft. I typically don’t send anything to you until I’ve gotten about a third to halfway through, because I’m constantly rewriting as I write. Once you approve the first stage, I carry on to the next stage, making revisions along the way. When it’s in good shape and you’re happy with the final product, I’ll polish it up one final time. Throughout the process, we’ll keep in touch regularly so you always know your story is in good hands.

And if you don’t have a draft? No problem. We’ll just talk, and as you tell me your story, I’ll be recording it, asking questions along the way. I’ll do the research and writing, and you won’t have to stress over anything more than just meeting by Zoom with me once in a while.

I don’t want to publish a memoir, I want to publish a nonfiction book. Can you do that?

I’ve written many nonfiction books, including self-help and how-to books and narrative nonfiction. With a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, specializing in medical and environmental anthropology, warfare and organizational cultures, gender and international development, there are a range of topics I’ve taught and published on under my own name. For clients, I’ve written books for physicians, social workers, counselors, attorneys and others. As long as I feel confident that I can understand the topic, I can write the book. How much research I do will depend on your needs and my expertise. I can conduct doctoral level research in the social, health and environmental sciences, but the more specialized the topic, the more I’ll also need your input. If you want a book to establish your expertise in an area, but you don’t have the time and/or writing talent, hiring a ghostwriter makes sense. The money won’t come from the book, it will come from the business the book draws in—because having a book demonstrates you have a unique point of view and expertise—and no one ever needs to know you didn’t write that book. They will be coming to hear you speak, not watch you write!

How long will it take for you to ghostwrite a book for me?

It all depends on the book, but in most cases, you should plan on six months to one year, depending on how big the project is. I try to get my books done in six to nine months, but ideally, I’d like more time to give it more revisions. There are some cases where I can write you a short book in two to three months, but again, it depends on the project itself.

Why does it take so long?

It’s not fast food. It takes time to research and write, and the more time you devote to the writing, the better the final product will be.

How much does it cost?

Ghostwriting is expensive, because it takes a great deal of time and skill to write a book. You are not just paying for up to a year of labor, or more, but you are also paying for the years of experience it takes to write a quality book. My rate for a memoir starts at $60,000, and a short nonfiction book starts at $30,000 to $50,000 depending on length and research involved.

Will you work for royalties?

No experienced ghostwriter will work for royalties in lieu of a set payment, although in some exceptional cases, we may add a small royalty percentage on top of the payment. Again, it all depends on the project.

Will you get credit for the work?

You will own all intellectual property rights for your work, meaning you own the copyright. We will negotiate any credit I might receive such as “with Janice Harper,” and I will usually retain the right to list the book on my website or other promotional material. But again, it’s all negotiable. You can credit me as an editor or coauthor, even if I wrote every word. Some writers are adamant that there be no mention of my role, in which case I cannot promote my work on the project so the cost will likely be higher, but you will always be credited as the author, and you alone will determine how much of my role is made public.

Will you write my dissertation?

No. I will not write anything for a grade, degree or promotion. I will write books that promote your expertise and business, but if you’re a faculty member aiming for tenure and promotion, you need to do your own writing.

What about my dating profile?

Sure, let’s have fun with it! $500 and I’ll find you the love of your life. $250 and I’ll get you a cheap date with no sense at all.

How do we get started?

You start by contacting me and letting me know about your project. I am usually working on a project, but once we’ve agreed on terms and signed a contract, you pay a deposit and that puts you next in line as soon as I’m available. I will always let you know a realistic time frame, which can be anywhere from in a few weeks to in a few months.

Do you have references?

I sure do. Although many of my clients won’t divulge they’ve worked with a ghost, many others are happy to discuss working with me and once I’m confident you’re serious about working with me, I’ll put you in touch with a few.