How to Choose a Ghostwriter or Book Coach

How to Choose a Ghostwriter or Book Coach

How to Choose a Ghostwriter or Book Coach 

Why You Need to Hire a Professional Writer or Book Coach

Article is largely adapted from the Entrepreneurs on Fire Podcast feat. Kevin Anderson

Writing a book will be one of the most rewarding and defining experiences of your life. If you’re a CEO, professional, or entrepreneur, writing a book can be a huge boost to your business or personal profile. Instant credibility, enhanced visibility, a raise in your consulting or speaker fees (especially if you hit the bestseller list): A book establishes you as an expert and thought leader in your field. 

But you need professional help to make your book a success. 

You’re not a writer. You don’t know the industry, and let’s face it, you just don’t have time to go through the entire process of writing the book and navigating the ins and outs of the publishing world.

You need to hire a ghostwriter or a book coach (if you want to do most of the actual writing). Someone who not only knows how to write a great book, but who understands and can help you achieve your unique publishing goals.

Ghostwriter and Book Coach Options, and Where to Find Them

So, how do you find that person or service? 

Like with anything else, you go online and search, and up come a million different options. About 90% of the online ghostwriting options are outright scams. Many are overseas businesses masquerading as US-based companies—and you’d be surprised at how legitimate some of these look. (In fact, we just published a blog article on these scams and how to avoid them.) 

Of the few options that are legitimate, you have several categories.

Types of Ghostwriters/Book Coaches

  1. Matchmaking services that connect you with a freelance writer. 
  2. Hybrid publishers/one-stop-shops that provide ghostwriting and publishing services in one place. 
  3. Freelancers who operate independently. 
  4. Professional firms like our company, Kevin Anderson & Associates, that have in-house talent and offer comprehensive services, including book planning, ghostwriting, editing, publishing strategy and navigation, and a range of other support.

So, with all these options, how do you decide what’s right for you, allowing you to achieve what you want from your book? How do you vet your choice and ensure you’ve selected a professional who is going to deliver?

Every day, people come to our company who either were scammed by their ghostwriting choice, or things just didn’t work—because of a poor personality fit, because they weren’t getting the quality of service they expected, or because their ghostwriter just vanished off the face of the planet. 

You don’t want to be in that boat and find that, instead of writing a book, you’ve wasted time, money, and momentum. 

The 5 Most Important Factors in Choosing a Ghostwriter or Book Coach

  1. Determining Your Publishing Goals
  2. Deciding Whether You Need a Ghostwriter or a Book Coach
  3. Evaluating Their Track Record
  4. Making Sure the Contract Protects You
  5. Selecting a Ghostwriter or Book Coach Who Adds Value Beyond the Manuscript 

Let’s look at each of these in further detail.

1. Determine Your Publishing Goals

The first thing you need to do is figure out your publishing goals. Are you looking to write the next bestseller? Do you want your book to be available in bookstores and have mass market appeal? Is your objective to write a book that receives a lot of publicity and is in high demand among media outlets?

Why Choose Traditional Publishing?

If these are the things you’re looking for, you’ll probably want to go a traditional publishing route rather than self publishing. Traditional publishing accounts for 99% of the books on the shelf; they’re the names you associate with publishing—Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster. They also account for 99% of the titles on the bestseller list. These publishers have wide distribution and strong ties to media, offer a measure of prestige and credibility, and give authors the best chance for mass market success.

That was the story for one of our clients, Ken Rusk, author of Blue Collar Cash. From day one, we helped him plan his book, write it, and figure out his publishing path. We found him a literary agent, and his book was published with HarperCollins. Blue Collar Cash received all kinds of media—it was covered in Forbes, on Fox Business and Fox News, and on Adam Carolla’s podcast. Ken’s book hit the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, and it was a big visibility boost for his brand and mission. 

If you want to be the next Seth Godin or Brené Brown, you’ll want to hire someone who has worked with that caliber of client, who knows exactly what it takes to get you there.

Why Choose Hybrid or Self-Publishing?

If you’re writing a family legacy piece—or if you just need a published book on your desk to give away to clients, and you’re not overly concerned about mass market appeal or the so-called prestige of a traditional publisher—then you’ll probably want to work with a hybrid publisher, which is basically a professional self-publishing option. 

One of the most popular reasons authors choose hybrid publishers is the speed at which they can bring a book to market—authors can go from having nothing to a published book in as little as 6 months. For some authors, especially business owners, waiting a year or two to get their book out costs them more in lost opportunities than the upside of working with a traditional publisher that’s operating on a fixed production schedule. Hybrids are also a sure bet, meaning you won’t have to go through the long process of trying to convince agents and publishers to invest in you or your book. 

And a good hybrid can even put you in a position to hit legitimate bestseller lists. This year alone, we’ve worked with multiple clients who chose to go with a hybrid publisher and ultimately hit the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller list.

Speed-to-market is an important factor to consider in general when you’re looking for a ghostwriter or a book coach. You have to account for the entire process—including planning and writing—not just the amount of time it will take to get your book published. 

Of course, there are almost as many publishing options as there are categories of ghostwriters and book coaches—and there’s a lot more to determining the right publishing path for your book, but that’s a topic for another article. The point is, in order to avoid some of the pitfalls we mentioned earlier, you’ll want to have a sense of your overall publishing goals. 

2. Do You Need a Ghostwriter or a Book Coach?

A ghostwriter handles all of the writing for you—most or all of the content still comes from you, but they’re interviewing you to get your message and stories, and they’re the one taking the lead on developing and revising the manuscript. They are like a sophisticated pen, turning your ideas into a professionally written book.

With a book coach, you’re doing all of the original writing. They’re guiding you, editing your writing, and brainstorming with you every step of the way, but you’re the one writing the book. 

In either scenario, your collaborator can (and should) begin working with you as you start to plan and outline your book. You want them there from day one.

So, which option is best for you?

It all boils down to three simple questions:

  • How much money do you want to spend?

A good ghostwriter is easily going to cost you $20K or more. If you want to work with a bestselling writer, you’re going to be spending at least $50K, and it isn’t uncommon for these writers to cost six figures.

Working with a book coach, on the other hand, will save you a lot of money. You can hire a bestselling book coach for as little as $20K, and a less-experienced coach or editor will often be willing to work with you for less than $10K. Budgets might be part of the equation, but the answer to this question will ultimately depend on your publishing goals and what matters most to you. 

  • How much time do you have to spend on the book?

Compared to working with a book coach or an editor, hiring a ghostwriter will save you a ton of time. Even with professional guidance, you might find yourself spending hundreds of hours writing your own content. 

But perhaps that’s important to you. Perhaps you want to experience the process of putting your words on the page—which can be incredibly rewarding but takes time. 

If you don’t have that kind of time to invest in the writing process, no problem: You can still author and publish an amazing book, but you’re going to need a ghostwriter to make sure it happens. 

  • Are you a good writer?

Most important of all, though, you need to be honest about your writing abilities. If you aren’t a good writer, even a book coach isn’t going to help much. More than likely, you’ll end up with a product that can’t be fixed with a simple edit and needs to be entirely rewritten—and if your book needs to be entirely rewritten, you should expect to pay ghostwriting costs. 

Rewriting is ghostwriting, and it often takes longer to fix a mess than it does to just start from scratch, so you might as well hire someone to write the book for you. 

Now that you’ve determined your publishing goal, and you’ve decided whether you need a ghostwriter or a book coach, it’s time to pick someone to work with. The question is, how do you decide whom to pick?

3. How Do You Evaluate a Ghostwriter or a Book Coach?

If you want a bestselling book, you’re going to need a ghostwriter or a book coach who has written and shaped bestselling books.

Check Out Their Client List

If their list is small or nonexistent, don’t buy the BS about how they need to stick to strict confidentiality about their clients. While that might be true of some of their clients, there isn’t a legitimate ghostwriter or book coach out there who won’t be able to show you some form of credentials, such as their name in the acknowledgements of a book, a testimonial, or a list of of the clients they’ve worked with who don’t need their names to be kept private.

If you don’t recognize the titles the writer or coach shares with you, look those books up on Amazon. See how many reviews they have and whether or not they were rated highly. Take a look at the publisher.

The better writers and coaches will typically have experience working on traditionally published books—the HarperCollins and Random House caliber of publisher—and they should be able to show you these credits. Pay the $9.00 an ebook will cost you and look at the acknowledgements section—or, better yet, read the book and make sure it’s good. A lot of scammers will say they’ve worked on books they’ve never worked on because they know that most people will never check. 

If they tell you they’ve worked on an Amazon Bestseller, don’t fall for it. These lists are often rigged, and usually the books that are on them only ever became bestsellers in a very niche category and for only a few hours or a day. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller lists, on the other hand, are all legitimate, and they account for sales over a fixed period of time. This is a big investment, and you’re going to want to work with someone who has achieved the same level of success that you want for your book.  

You’ll also want to consider speed-to-market when you’re looking for a writer or a book coach. You have to account for the entire process—including planning and writing—not just the amount of time it will take to get your book published, and you’ll want to collaborate with someone who can work within your chosen timeframe. 

Now that you’ve evaluated the ghostwriter or book coach’s credentials to ensure they’re a good fit, it’s time to ensure the contract or agreement they ask you to sign makes sense.

4. Be Sure the Contract Protects Quality and Timeline 

It’s crucial to protect the quality of the work that’s being delivered and the integrity of your timeline. Even writers and book coaches with great credentials can get loose and sloppy, or sometimes completely disappear, leaving you with nothing but frustration, lost money, and lost time. 

So, how do you ensure the quality of the work will be good, and that you’re able to stick to your timeline?

Make sure you ask your potential collaborator the following questions:

  • Who is accountable for the writing process? 

If you’re working with a writing firm, they should have a team of project managers and editors who are responsible for this. If you’re just working with a freelancer, make sure you set a strict schedule, make sure they’re not working with too many clients at the same time, and make sure that previous clients can attest to their reliability. Again, ask for referrals. Just because they have credit on an impressive book doesn’t mean that they’re dependable in a long and complicated ghostwriting or book development process. They may have only provided editorial assistance.

  • Who is responsible for the quality of the book? 

You’re definitely the best judge of what you want to say, but you may not be the most qualified or impartial judge to evaluate the marketability and quality of your book. Even the best writers have editors, and if you don’t already have a publishing deal where an in-house editor is working with you, we strongly advise working with a professional editor to review the material.

  • What happens if the collaboration doesn’t work out? 

There is no bigger setback for your book than having to break up with your ghostwriter or your book coach (or having them disappear, which unfortunately, happens a lot). But sometimes, the partnership just doesn’t work out. Sometimes, it isn’t even their fault—it just wasn’t a good match. 

Before you begin your ghostwriting or book-coaching relationship, you need to make sure there’s a very clear prenup. You need to make sure your writer or coach is not only okay with that prenup, but that they also have a very clear contingency plan. Some writing firms, like our company, will replace the writer or book coach for free if the collaboration does not work out; others will apply a small fee. This can be hard to guarantee if you’re working with a freelancer, but what you definitely want to avoid is an arrangement where you don’t retain the rights to any and all material that’s been developed prior to the break up; you want to ensure that anything that’s been written is yours, and that you’re free to use that content with a new writer or book coach. 

You also don’t want to pay all of your money upfront. Instead, reach an agreement where you’re paying your ghostwriter or book coach in milestones as you go. It’s not easy to get your money back from someone who disappears. 

Last but not least, you’ll want to make sure that your ghostwriter or book coach brings more to the table than just their ability to write or develop the book—or, if that’s not possible, at least hire someone to help with the bigger picture.

5. How Can a Ghostwriter or a Book Coach Add Value Beyond Writing a Manuscript?

Some writers just write, and that’s fine, but unless you have a separate publishing sherpa to guide you, you may want to choose a service that helps you plan and achieve the big picture.

This gets back to your reason for writing your book.

Did you hire a ghostwriter or a book coach just to have a nice manuscript saved in Microsoft Word on your computer? That never sees the light of day, never mind a bookshelf?

Probably not—but you also might not be thinking about what happens after you’ve written your book. Many authors assume that it’s okay to kick the can down the road; that it is, in fact, common to put a publishing plan on the backburner, and that authors should focus on finishing their book first.

But that’s actually a misconception: If you aren’t thinking about your publishing strategy by the time you start writing your book, you’re likely to miss the boat. You need to have a plan, and even start implementing that plan, before you’ve completed your first chapter. Otherwise, you may end up having to start over. 

Why? 

There are four main reasons:

  1. Your publishing plan and your goals will affect the type of book you write, which means that most effective publishing strategies are built and started before the writing process even begins.
  2. If your goal is to hit the bestseller list, or to land a traditional book deal, you’re probably not going to accomplish that by just writing whatever you feel inclined to write. You need to make sure your book is an original concept that’s never been written before, and that there’s a need for your book in the market and a target audience who will want to buy it. You’re also going to need a platform that you can use to sell it. All of these elements should be addressed early, as they will have a huge impact on how you approach the writing process. (In fact, most traditionally published nonfiction books begin with a proposal—and you’ll need a literary agent just to get that through the door—so writing your book might not be your first step at all.)
  3. If you’re self publishing or going with a hybrid, depending on your timeline, you may want to go ahead and find a home for your book—most of the good hybrid publishers still want a long runway to get the most from their sales cycle, which means you need to start early. Many of the books we write already have publishing deals—both traditional and hybrid—as soon as the book has a solid outline.

Again, there’s enough to discuss when it comes to publishing strategy to make it worthy of a separate article—which is a big part of why you want to make sure you’re working with someone who not only understands and sees the full picture, but who can also help you plan and manage the whole process. 

Publishing is complicated. Hire someone who can be your advocate from start to finish—who can navigate every step for you and be there to tell you when something’s a good deal or a bad one, when it’s normal or not normal.

You also want to hire someone with connections—someone who knows a lot of publicists, marketers, agents, and both traditional and nontraditional publishers. You want to work with someone who knows your budget, your goals, and what’s possible for your book—not someone who’s vested in their own interests. The fact is, most hybrids are biased to hybrid options, and most traditional publishers are biased to the traditional market—which is why working with someone who knows both is so important.

If your ghostwriter or book coach can’t provide this, we strongly recommend that you hire someone who can, and hire them early. Most ghostwriters and book coaches specialize in writing, not publishing and promotion. They aren’t agents or publishers, and they don’t always see the marketplace from a publisher’s standpoint or have extensive connections.

Writing a successful book is like starting a business. In fact, in many ways, it is a business—which is why you need a plan and a good planner who understands the publishing industry as well as they understand your objectives. They can save you from making costly mistakes and ensure that you get the very best publishers and professionals, and the optimal timing and processes, to achieve your specific goals. 


So, to recap, these are the five most important factors in choosing a ghostwriter or a book coach: 

  1. Determining Your Publishing Goals
  2. Deciding Whether You Need a Ghostwriter or a Book Coach
  3. Evaluating Their Track Record
  4. Making Sure the Contract Protects You
  5. Selecting a Ghostwriter or Book Coach Who Adds Value Beyond the Manuscript

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