I’m a ghostwriter, not a publisher: Advice for those seeking help from a ghostwriter.

A ghostwriter can often advise you about publishing, but it is not a publisher. Read on to learn what this means.
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A ghostwriter can often advise you about publishing, but it is not a publisher. This means that they won’t design your book, typeset it, set it up on Amazon, or help you with printing.

There are two questions that I am often asked during the first conversation with a client. They are:

  1. Can you help me with publishing?
  2. What do I do about avoiding a defamation suit?

The defamation question I will deal with separately. Today it’s about publishing.

First and foremost, a ghostwriter is not a publisher.

A ghostwriter is a writer, like you.

The ghost is a second pair of hands in your book project. Ghostwriters are often the hands to your heart and head; and many times the co-writer sitting next to you making your story even better. Two heads are (genuinely) better than one, for many book projects!

It’s important to understand that a ghostwriter is a writing resource. A writer is not an editor, an illustrator, a designer, a lawyer, an artist, an agent, a publisher, a printer, or a distributor.

It’s very easy to conflate the two because books simply… appear. Unless you already understand how books are produced, or the number of hands often involved, you may think that a ghostwriter can print your book. Only printers can do that. 🙂

You are the author. The ghostwriter writes but isn’t the ‘author’.

Confused yet? Authorship is a matter of moral rights. It involves the right to:

  • attribution
  • be guarded against false attribution
  • have your work guarded against derogatory treatment.

Ghostwriters will ‘waive’ their moral rights because moral rights cannot be assigned to someone else. They’re native to you, like your skin.

This is why you are the author. The ghostwriter allows you (because he or she waives his or her moral rights) to be the attributed author.

Publishing is a different part of the workflow.

Publishing can only take place once there is something to be published, in much the same way that copyright only exists once there is a physical something that can be copied.

It’s useful to understand the workflow of book production, to better understand the component parts.

The publishing workflow looks like this:

  1. An author writes a book
  2. An editor edits the book. This traditionally involved:
    1. substantive editing (for structure)
    2. copyediting (for clarity, consistency and accuracy)
    3. sourcing rights for images, illustrations and figures
    4. fact-checking
    5. applying appropriate style (language, punctuation, referencing…)
    6. writing briefs for illustrators and designers
    7. marking up typographical elements for typesetters (who are now called ‘book designers’)
  3. A book designer designs the book. This is not the cover. This is the book: Typography, page set up and style, etc.
  4. A cover designer designs the book cover. This itself is a long and collaborative process, and can begin concurrent with editing.
  5. The marketing team plans for the book’s launch, distribution, marketing. This is also a long and collaborative process and begins concurrent with editing.
  6. Printers print the book.
  7. Distributors distribute the book.

The publisher is traditionally the umbrella term for the entity governing the above process. (And foots the bill for the people and resources involved.)

A ghostwriter may help you in your approach to publishers.

If your ghostwriter has worked with commercial publishers previously, they will have a nuanced understanding of the books those publishers accept. If your book neatly fits their criteria, that ghostwriter may pitch your book to them on your behalf. Don’t expect it to happen; it’s merely a nice surprise if it does.

A ghostwriter may be able to help you write a book proposal, though. If it does, then you will be able to approach agents and publishers more effectively.

It’s important for you to come to a decision about whether you will publish independently or seek commercial publication. I may write about that separately (let me know if you’d like me to do so). For now, understand that if you’re wanting to publish a book to make money, there are far better and more reliable ways to make a buck!

As a co-writer a ghostwriter can help you through the writing process.

You may wish to control the book writing process yourself, but aren’t confident in doing so. That’s where a co-writing ghostwriter comes in. A co-writer will write with you. Co-writing can mean writing together, at the same time in the same document. That’s often called collaborative writing or group writing. In technical writing, it’s known as pair writing.

Co-writing can also look like you having a crack at the draft yourself before bringing someone else in to perfect it. What that writing looks like–a full draft or a bunch of chapters full of bulletpoints–doesn’t really matter. It’s the fact that you will write, your ghost will write, and you will come to the point where you both agree on the outcome.

The alternative is to hand the project to the ghostwriter to write for you. In that case, the ghostwriter will do all the work, including creating the story arc, on your behalf. (And often without you agreeing to the shape before work proceeds.)

Which type of ghost is right for you?

When you’re looking for a ghostwriter, really consider:

  1. Whether you want to do the writing
  2. Whether you have expertise in book writing (or want to spend time learning it)
  3. Whether you have enough space in your life to add focused writing time
  4. Whether you have enough motivation to pen 70k to 100k words
  5. How much you’re willing to spend (co-writing may be cheaper than abdicating to a ghostwriter)
  6. How much time you have (you’ll need a minimum of 12 months for an average project).

If you’re not sure, I’m happy to have a conversation with you to help you work that out. Just send me an email to sort it out, which you can do here:


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