What does a ghostwriter do?
It’s a great question, and I get it a lot.

If you’re considering hiring a ghostwriter to help you with your book or ebook, you want to understand the process so that you can put your mind at ease as your masterpiece comes to life. In truth, the process opens up in a few different ways. Let’s dig into those ways below so that you know what to expect when you approach a ghostwriter, and so you fully understand what it is they do as they help you develop your book.

1) The Author Has an Outline

You’re the author. The ghostwriter is, well, the ghostwriter.

Very often when an author approaches me to write their book, they have an outline in their hands. This means they have a general idea of what they want to say and the order in which to say it in. I get this most often from professionals and business owners who want to put together a business book or manual of some sort. 

If they have an outline, they often have the research or reference links to go with it. They’ve done the legwork, they just need someone to put everything together for them.

Sometimes the author doesn’t have the time or the know-how on how to make the book unfold. They often say to me, “Make it interesting. I want the reader to stay engaged.” Armed with an outline and a general idea of where to begin, I am able to dive right into the writing so the author gets the book sooner than anticipated.


2) The Author Has  a Manuscript

what does a ghostwriter doLots of authors come to me with a manuscript in hand. Sometimes it’s complete, sometimes it’s not. They approach a ghostwriter because they want a writer who can help them “beef it up” or make it shine. Very often, non-writers tell their story chronologically with a series of facts. It’s up to the ghostwriter to use those facts in a compelling and powerful way.

When I am given a manuscript to work with, it’s half the battle for me. My job now is to inject emotion, intrigue, and general interest into the story. To do this, I spend some time interviewing the author so I can “fill in the gaps.” 

Some authors think that already having a manuscript makes the writer’s job easier. It really doesn’t. It only makes it different. It certainly helps to have it, but all in all, the writer will need to reorganize the facts and offer rewrites so that the manuscript is consistent with the author’s voice. 


3) The Author Needs Research Done

If you need your ghostwriter to do a large portion of the research for you, expect to pay a bit more. Expect the project to take more time, too.

Some authors approach me with an idea that requires I do my homework and hit the history books. For example, I had a client who wanted to write a book about her life in a different country during the Second World War. To align her personal story with what was happening on a particular day during the war, I had to dig. Sometimes the information wasn’t such an easy find, thus the reason I needed a bit more time for the project.

If you think your project requires a certain amount of research, discuss this with the writer. This will help him or her determine a more realistic timeline as they write your book.


4) The Author Has an Idea

what does a ghostwriter doIf you have an idea but aren’t sure how it should unfold it within the pages of your book, a solid ghostwriter can help you.

Some aspiring authors approach the writer with an amazing idea. It’s something that’s been bouncing around in their head for years. Together, we determine the basis of the story and then create an outline. After a series of interviews, the ghostwriter will write the story so that your idea can come to life.


All of these instances still require the writer interview the author. A good ghostwriter will know what to ask and how to ask it so they can illicit the kind of response that will intrigue the reader. I personally record every session so that I can be 100% accurate. The recording also helps me fully “capture” the voice of the author, too.

Do you need a book written? Which option would you approach a ghostwriter with?


Joleene Moody is a former television reporter and anchor turned freelance writer, blogger, and speaker, based in Central New York.
(No, not New York City. Not even close. 🙂
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