Should I Hire a Ghostwriter for My Memoir?

A woman contacted me to inquire about ghostwriting services for her memoir. After one phone conversation, she became my first coaching client.

It's a common misconception that if you hire a #ghostwriter to write your #book for you, you can simply hand the project over and attend to your other concerns without a second thought about it.

But that's not how it works. Especially not with a #memoir.

Consider this: how is a stranger supposed to write an entire book about some of the most personal events and encounters of your life, with all the details, dialogue, ambience, and emotion that make a book come alive–not to mention your sage reflections on all of it–all on their own?

The answer is that it's not possible. They'd need considerable input from you. This could take the form of you:

  • sitting for multiple personal interview sessions

  • handing over your journals, letters, diaries, texts, emails, blogs, and social media posts

  • arranging interviews with family members, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues

  • gathering and granting access to whatever other resources you can muster.

Depending on the focus of your memoir, you may also need to provide professional references, private records, and legal documents.

Consider, too, that many ghostwriters sign contracts that forbid the ghostwriter to ever reveal which books he or she has written. This means that the ghostwriter often cannot put together a portfolio, or list testimonials, or engage in many of the common marketing activities that most other freelance writers engage in to find new business. A ghostwriter's future income is shaky at best.

Between the extensive research necessary to undertake such a project, and the limitations on promotional opportunities, ghostwriters' fees tend to be high. Many charge a minimum of $25,000, with some charging $75,000 or more. Generally, only major celebrities and entrepreneurs are in a position to hire a ghostwriter for a full-length book, and they do so because they expect to make that money back in sales and/or high-end speaking engagements.

Now, this may sound as though I don't see any benefit in engaging a ghostwriter, but that wouldn't be true. The primary benefit of using a ghostwriter, and it's a big one, is that the actual writing and crafting process is the writer's business, and while the writer is:

  • sifting through all the notes and interview recordings

  • checking facts

  • laboring over paragraphs and chapters while attempting to capture and convey your voice and personality

you can go about your life and attend to other concerns, as long as you remain available to answer a variety of questions that are bound to arise during such a project. That's a big plus. Secondly, since the ghost is a professional writer, the final manuscript is likely to require fewer layers and rounds of editing than it might if you attempted it on your own.

Having a ghostwriter also spares you myriad hours of lonely immersion in your memories and emotions. While it's necessary for you to revisit them in order to provide the ghost with material, you don't have to sit in front of your computer every day, baring your soul, wandering down memory lane, and possibly wallowing in regrets and what-if scenarios. All of my memoir coaching clients have experienced some degree of emotional upheaval during the writing process. A few have had to take time away from writing in order to process their feelings and experiences.