I ghostwrite memoirs.
I focus on memoirs because I think people are fascinating and I like to listen. I’ve been doing this since 1997 and have more than 30 books published so far. I’ve ghostwritten for celebrities, doctors, psychologists, athletes, and lots of other people with interesting personal stories to tell. Most of the books I’ve written are published with the five major US book publishers (Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Hachette). Normally, my work comes through agents and editors I’ve worked with before, but every now and then I have a break in my schedule and can offer my ghostwriting services to people who contact me directly.
I just spent the last hour surfing the Web to see who else is offering ghostwriting services, and I’m feeling sorry for you because the people coming up first are not people you’d want to hire– at least if you have any knowledge of the publishing industry.
Listen, I’m not going to tell you I’m the “#1 Memoir Ghostwriter!” or any other such nonsense superlative, because really, how would you ever determine such a thing? I can tell you that I’m one of the most in-demand memoir ghostwriters in the country and that I have extensive experience with major publishers. That’s really the difference– I’m amazed by how many ghostwriters have hung out their shingles with no legitimate publishing credits to back them up. I’m very good at what I do. Check out my bio. Check out my recommendations.
Your memoir is obviously very important to you. You get to tell it only once, and it’s a big investment of money and time. So let me give you a quick few tips before you hire anyone:
1. Credentials count. Check out the ghostwriter’s resume. Pay attention to the names of the publishers. Do you recognize them? Are they names like Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, McGraw-Hill, MacMillan, Hachette, Scholastic, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Health Communications, and Andrews McMeel?
Even if you’re planning to self-publish, you still want a ghostwriter who has these kinds of credentials. It’s the best way to establish that the writer knows how to write a memoir that people will want to read. It means that major publishers thought enough of this ghostwriter’s skill and credibility to pay to hire him or her above all the other ghostwriters out there.
There are several memoir ghostwriters out there whose only “published” books are self-published. If you’re looking at a ghostwriter’s resume and you haven’t heard of his or her publisher before, look it up– see what else they’ve published. Only works by this ghostwriter? Yeah, you’re looking at a self-publisher. Nothing wrong with that, except that it gives you no assurance at all that this ghostwriter knows how to write memoirs that are publishable by commercial standards.
2. When you’ve narrowed it down to two or three potential ghostwriters, buy or borrow a couple of their books. It’s a minor investment– probably about $10-15 per book– to make sure that you actually like this person’s work. I’ve been amazed by how many people have offered me work without ever looking at the books I’ve ghostwritten. Even though I know I can write, you have to feel comfortable with my style. That’s the best way to find out.
3. Reputable writers won’t work on contingency. It would be nearly unheard of for a professional ghostwriter to work for a “share of the profits.” There are expenses involved with hiring a ghostwriter. If your aim is to sell your memoir to a publisher, then you’ll need a book proposal, which your ghostwriter can write for about $7,500-15,000. Assuming it then sells to a publisher, the ghostwriter will expect a significant cut of the advance money the publisher offers, and most writers will also expect a portion of the royalties.
4. Reputable writers won’t let you spend the money on the full manuscript before you have a book proposal. Nonfiction book publishers buy books– including memoirs– on the basis of a book proposal, which is an overview of the memoir you intend to write, a discussion of the target market and how you’ll reach them, an analysis of competing books, your biography, an annotated table of contents, and 1-3 sample chapters. You don’t need to pay a ghostwriter to write the entire memoir and then hope to sell it to a publisher; again, if your aim is to sell it to a publisher, then all you need is the book proposal. If you’re going to self-publish, you can obviously ignore that advice. As far as prices go, it depends a lot on the caliber of the ghostwriter. If you’re looking for someone on my level, you’re in the neighborhood of $60,000-125,000 for the manuscript.
5. Know how you expect to work. I’m a phone gal. I can’t do a lot of traveling to meet with clients in person, so I schedule lots of phone interviews and follow-ups by email. Most people are fine with that, but some do want more face-to-face work. If that’s you, then make sure you’re clear with the writer about what you expect in terms of travel and scheduling.
If you have other questions, feel free to ask me. And if you have a memoir for me to ghostwrite, I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be glad to hear about it.