Is Hiring a Ghostwriter Cheating?

I asked this question of Helen Chang, CEO of Author Bridge Media, on the SkillBites Show. Helen has been ghostwriting for over a decade. Her company has ghostwritten, edited and/or published over 300 books, including books for such celebrities as Michael Gerber of The eMyth series, Dani Johnson of ABC’s Secret Millionaires, and Than Merrill of A&E’s Flip This House.

Helen explained that most business people find writing a book to be a huge challenge. It can be overwhelming to organize all of one’s knowledge of a topic into a coherent book that will be appealing to a reader. A good ghostwriter helps the author identify the key message the author wants to convey, extracts the stories, knowledge and insights, and then creates an engaging manuscript incorporating the author’s message, knowledge and voice. After planning the book blueprint, Helen interviews the author. She then writes three drafts, so the author has ample opportunity to provide input and ensure that the book is authentic to what he or she wants to say.

So, no, using a ghostwriter is not cheating; rather it’s using good sense. Helen shared that roughly 80% of all business books are ghostwritten, which enables the author to focus more on what they do best, which is growing their business.

In terms of time, Helen spends between 9 and 25 hours interviewing an author, depending on the length of the book that the author wants written. That’s 1 to 3 days, a lot less time than it would take the author to write the book alone.

As for pricing, the fee will vary depending on the length of the book. Authors who want a custom, ghostwritten 24-page eBook, for example, might pay $2,000, while a 300-page book can cost more than $30,000. Helen works with her clients to find a way to meet their needs within their budget and time constraints. To determine whether the expenditure will be worth it, she suggests thinking about your returns on investment from being a published author – increasing your credibility, attracting new clients to your business, and landing paid speaking engagements, as well as the pride and satisfaction of having a book to your name.

One of Helen’s authors paid $15,000 for ghostwriting services for his book on investing, and obtained four new clients who decided to invest over $32 million with him! One of the new clients said, “I know who you are,” after reading his book. In addition, the author obtained numerous speaking engagements, was selected to write a column in a newspaper and received heartwarming letters from people thanking him for his advice that enabled them to gain a better life.

To find a ghostwriter, you can do a Google search, you can use SkillBites to find one for you, or you can reach out to Helen (helen@authorbridgemedia.com). You will want to view testimonials and samples of the ghostwriter’s work. Are you seeing variety in the voice used, and are the samples engaging? Make sure you have a contract with the ghostwriter that spells out that the ghostwriter does not own the copyright to the material (generally referred to as the Work For Hire clause).

One question that Helen frequently hears from her clients is whether their message is really worthwhile, whether anyone will be interested in reading their book. As long as the information is valuable and can inspire someone or make a difference in his or her life, then it is worth writing the book. In addition, a published book will bring greater credibility and business to you.

Helen offered to share her eBook, 8 Steps to Having a Published Book Without Typing a Word, with SkillBites’ community. To receive your free copy of this eBook, send an email to Helen at helen@authorbridgemedia.com.

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