My Ghostwriting Process and the Creation of Your Non-Fiction Book



Many of my ghostwriting clients have asked me what they should expect from our first meeting.  I hope the following will explain …

Your book is your individual calling card and will possess a credibility that very few other marketing materials have. It will differentiate you in a crowded market place and be a great way to connect with people that have a particular problem which only you can solve. The idea is that your book will make an impact on people’s lives … and you will get recognition for that.

Many non-fiction authors can make substantial amounts of money from their books indirectly. For example a book can be used to get you:

·      Paid speaking gigs

·      Consulting jobs

·      Coaching clients

·      Leads for your business

A well-constructed non-fiction book:

·      takes information

·      adds contextualization, explanation and application

·      … and turns it into usable wisdom for other people

In order to know if you have a book in you, I will ask you the following positioning questions:

Why are you writing this book?

Who will care about this book?

Why will they care?

Ultimately, I will ask you to consider the following three questions:

1.     What results must the book produce to make it a success for you?

2.     What audience must you reach for the book to achieve these results?

3.     What do you have to say that is interesting and valuable to that audience?

Knowing the specific result you want to achieve enables you to focus only on those efforts which will give you those results, saving you both time and money… and possibly a little angst.

Here are some of the most common results my authors have got from their books:

·      They have generated solid authority and visibility in their field.

·      They have generated more leads for their business or service.

·      They have got more speaking engagements.

·      They have shared important ideas or pieces of wisdom that have helped others.

·      They have launched or advanced a career.

Once we have defined the results you want from your book, we will move onto exploring your audience.

I will ask you, ‘Who has to know about your book for it to get the results you want?’

You must be specific. The answer to this question is wholly dependent on the results you want. The best outcome is when the author’s goals and the reader’s goals align. Without an idea of what result you want and who your target audience is, the content of the book has no anchor.

What you know that your audience will find interesting and take value from determines the content of the book.

I will ask you to consider the following:

1.     Why does your book matter to them?

2.     What is the essential point(s) you are making for your audience to take away from your   book?

3.     What, specifically, will your audience get by reading your book? How does your book help your audience achieve their goals?

4.     What does this mean your book should be about?

5.     What background information does your reader need to have and how do you plan to explain it?

Once you have answered these questions we should have an idea of what will be valuable and interesting to your audience. Then we can begin the fun stuff … the structuring and writing of your book!

Ten Ninja Active Listening Tips for Friendly Ghostwriters


One of the most important skills for any ghostwriter to master is the ability to actively listen to their client. Listening is not a passive endeavor, it’s hard work and done correctly it can make the difference between ghosting an OK book that gets buried in the ‘I’ll find time later to read’ pile and ghosting a great book that’s on everyone’s bedside reading pile.

Effective listening means fewer misunderstandings, less errors and less wasted time getting to the spine of the story. Active listening will also create a sense of empathy and understanding, meaning your client will feel valued, energized and willing to open-up more. Listening means paying attention not only to the story but how it is told including the use of language, voice and non-verbal messages. The ability of the ghostwriter to listen effectively depends on the degree to which he or she perceives and understands these messages.

Below are ten ninja listening tips for ghostwriters …

1.     Face your client and maintain eye contact. Put your phone and any papers aside. Stay natural – don’t eye-ball your client in an intimidating way, rather make them feel relaxed. If they are unable to maintain eye contact with you, don’t worry. Just carry on regardless. Remember, it’s perfectly fine to look away every so often.

2.   Be attentive, relaxed and most of all, present. Try not to let your thoughts wander. Stay focused and alert.

3.   Keep an open mind. Listen without judging. You may hear a lot of unexpected things or your client may open-up to you with information they have kept secret for years. Remain tolerant and respectful. Your client needs to feel they can trust you with their thoughts and feelings.

4.   Listen to the words and try to picture them. Stay focused and arrange abstract concepts in your mind, or literal pictures if you prefer. You will find this habit makes it easier to make connections between random thoughts and information. Ultimately, this will help with the eventual book’s structural process.

5.   Don’t interrupt or impose your ‘solutions’ – ever.

6.   Wait for your client to pause before asking any clarifying or probing questions.

7.   Ask questions only to ensure and establish understanding. If you find that your questioning techniques have led your client away, then gently bring them back on track.

8.   Try to feel what your client is saying. Empathy is the heart and soul of good listening. It will create rapport between you and your client, making the whole ghostwriting experience more satisfying for you both.

9.   Give your client regular feedback. By nodding and using appropriate facial expressions you are reflecting your client’s thoughts and feelings. Occasionally paraphrase your client’s words to check understanding and use well-timed ‘hmmms’ and ‘uh-huhs’.

10. Finally, show you are actively listening by leaning forward toward your client with an open, relaxed posture. This will instantly put your client at ease

Adopt the SOLER position.

S = Sit squarely

O= open posture

L= Lean forward

E= Eye contact

R= Relax

Why Do Former Journalists Make Great Ghostwriters?


… because the skills needed to be a great journalist and a great ghostwriter are very similar.

A journalist spends much of their time meeting new people in new situations. They have limited time to gain their subject’s trust and enable them to open-up. They need to quickly find the nub of that all-important story that will inform, entertain, persuade or enlighten their readers and consumers. They need to be great listeners, great probers and great questioners. This experience is a perfect foundation for a career in ghostwriting.

Independent research is another notable ghostwriting skill that journalists possess. A ghost may not necessarily be party to all the information needed to write the book or document and will often have to source their own research and background material. A thorough understanding of research methods is a boon.

Working at speed is another journalistic skill required in ghostwriting, especially if the ghostwriter is writing marketing material with a commercial deadline or if the book they are working on is particular ‘timely’.

Alan Samson, publisher at Weidenfeld and Nicolson says former tabloid journalists often make good ghostwriters because, ‘The new breed of modern ghosts have to be able to ask searching personal questions, sometimes be as bold as brass, and of course be able to write. These multiple qualities are what many tabloid journalists possess and that is why they can add value to a book project’.

However, ghostwriting is ultimately about storytelling. It’s about taking a series of sometimes unconnected events and turning them into a structured narrative complete with rising action, conflict, denouement and resolution.

Whether journalists or novelists make the better ghostwriters, one primary skill they both need is the ability to listen and to be truly engaged and interested in their subjects. Curiosity is a good thing … it doesn’t kill the cat in this instance. They also need to be confident and up-front in their questioning abilities.  Shy ghosts make bad ghosts.

Ghostwriter, Katy Weitz is a proponent of what she calls ‘full-immersion’. She says she is happy to ‘…root around a subject’s home, get close, sniff around their fridge, meet their mother, look at their photos. You have to be them so you have to know them inside out. I really need that full-immersion.’

It sounds rather like method acting for writers.

If you are considering ghostwriting, hone the following priceless journalistic skills:

·      Successful interviewing skills

·      Effective listening skills

·      Effective questioning skills

·      Solid research skills

·      Efficient time management skills

·      Valuable interpersonal skills



All the Fun of the Ghostwriting Beauty Parade


We’ve all seen pictures of the classic beach-side beauty parade. Images of scantily clad, long-limbed beauties parading in all their glory to the calculating eyes of the (usually male) judges. The sun shines and the sea twinkles in the distance as every girl displays their charms, smiles at the judges and passes some asinine comment on their love of animals or world peace.

So … what’s this got to do with ghostwriting? Does a ghostwriting beauty parade mean that only the young and ‘hot’ ones amongst us get the gig? If so, that’s me out. Luckily, that’s not the case and my swimsuit can stay safely packed in the bottom of my wardrobe for now.

A ghostwriter’s parade, like any other ‘business parade’ is just that. Getting in front of the client and pitching not only your writing skills and understanding of the craft but also yourself as a caring, listening, empathic writer. Yes, it’s torturous, yes, it’s a bit embarrassing, yes, it’s bruising to the ego when and if you’re not picked as the ‘winner’ … but it IS necessary.

During this sometimes cringe-worthy, but quite civilised process, the agent and/or publisher lines up their ‘big name’ celebrity, sport-star, pop-star or whatever with a selection of possible ghostwriters. Then they get to know each other – usually over drinks, dinner or lunch somewhere very, very nice. The relationship between author and ghost is co-dependent. Each needs to trust the other.  The author with their secrets, the ghost with their skills and confidence. It’s a time to open hearts and minds, stay honest and aim for common ground.

Sometimes people ‘gel’ instantly, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, the ghost may be keen on the job originally but then decide after chatting to the author that it’s just not for them. Perhaps they think they will be unable to do the subject matter justice, or maybe they just don’t think a good, working partnership will develop. Sometimes there will be a gender, a culture or an age mismatch.

A beauty parade like any other type of audition can be nerve-racking, but a potential ghostwriter should not take any rejection personally.  There can only be one winner, and not every-one gets to wear the tiara.

Andrew Crofts and Teena Lyons Write Two of the Best Books on the Art and Craft of Ghostwriting

These are two of the best books on the art and craft of ghostwriting that I have recently found. Both are in-depth, well-written and full of industry insights and anecdotes. Andrew Crofts and Teena Lyons are two of the best-known ghostwriters in the United Kingdom. Both of these books are highly recommended by Wordshaker.


Andrew Crofts (2004), Ghostwriting, A & C Black, London

‘Ghostwriting is a thriving, secretive industry. As a ghostwriter you can create best-selling books for film stars, footballers, pop singers, presidents, business tycoons, gangsters, gurus, spies, mercenaries, courtesans, four-star generals, royals and anyone else with an interesting story to tell.

This book reveals all the essential secrets of how to turn ghostwriting into a successful and lucrative career.

Andrew Crofts has ghosted more than forty books, many of them international bestsellers …’

‘One of the best known ghostwriters in the country is Andrew Crofts’

 - Charley Lee Potter, Open Book, BBC Radio 4

‘Andrew Crofts – the king of British ghostwriters … has ghosted a staggering number of books.  Crofts has spent a lot of time thinking about the nature of ghostwriting – what it takes to find another person’s voice … a one-man word factory.’

-       Helen Brown, Daily Telegraph


Teena Lyons (2014), The Complete Guide to Ghostwriting, Thistle Publishing, London

‘Ghostwriters, for so long the publishing industry’s best kept secret, are finally stepping out from the shadows. In recent years there has been a rapid increase for professional writers who can turn their hand to every genre of book, from celebrity life stories, to misery memoirs from ordinary folk with extraordinary stories, to ‘how I did it’ style biographies of successful businesspeople. Some leading non-fiction publishers report that up to 70 per cent of their list is now penned by ghosts.

The Complete Guide to Ghostwriting is a comprehensive over-view of this little-known, yet burgeoning profession. Written by ghostwriter and former Sunday Times and Mail on Sunday journalist Teena Lyons, it explores every aspect of this secret industry revealing why people use ghostwriters, who might need one, from celebrities to ordinary people and how to get the best of out a publishing collaboration…’

What is a Ghostwriting Non-Disclosure Agreement and Should I Have One?

images - NDA.jpg

A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a contract between the author and their ghostwriter which protects the author. The ghostwriter promises not to disclose any information their client gives to them in relation to the written project. This can be especially important when both parties are working on a topic of a sensitive nature such as a memoir or a business strategy. Remember however, that there is no copyright in ideas – only in their execution (the way they are presented and structured on paper or screen).

NDAs are particularly pertinent when an author is presenting themselves as the actual writer of the text and the activity of the ghostwriter is completely hidden. This is particularly evident in celebrity authored memoirs and some best-selling business books, although the ghostwriter’s input is often recognised (but not always) in the acknowledgments.

Below, you will find a standard NDA used by Wordshaker.  However, this can be adapted to make it more personal to each client.

THIS NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENT between: The Client (“the client”), and Sandra Cain (of Wordshaker), (“the recipient”), relates to the revelation of certain proprietary and/or confidential information by the client during discussions concerning the development of the client’s book project, otherwise known as “the project”. The terms and the obligations of both parties under this Agreement (items 1-9 below) shall come into effect immediately and will survive termination of the Agreement between the parties and shall be binding upon their respective heirs, successors, assigns, and affiliates.

Assuming that the recipient is awarded the project, the term will end at project completion and/or its termination. As used in this agreement, the phrase “recipient” also includes any of the recipient’s officers, directors, employees, agents, and representatives, including, without limitation, attorneys, accountants, consultants, and financial advisors (collectively “representatives”). The client wishes to protect any of his proprietary or confidential information being revealed under this agreement, and, to that end, the parties hereby agree as follows:

Proprietary and Confidential Information.  Both parties agree that any and all proprietary and/or confidential information, whether written or oral, which is disclosed to the recipient shall be subject to the terms of this agreement. During the term of this agreement and thereafter, the recipient must not, for any reason whatsoever, either individually or in partnership or jointly or in conjunction with any person or persons, firm, company, or corporation, as employee, independent contractor, principal, agent, shareholder, director, or in any other manner, whether directly or indirectly, share and/or sell information the client provides to the recipient.

1.    Non-disclosure to Third Parties.  The recipient of the information shall treat the information as the proprietary and confidential information of the client’s, and shall not disclose the information to any other person or entity except as authorized, and shall safeguard the information at least to the same extent that it would her own proprietary and confidential information.  The recipient shall immediately notify the client of any request by any third person that the information be disclosed and shall cooperate with the client in his or her efforts to protect the information from disclosure.  The recipient further agrees to promptly notify the client of any request by a court or regulatory agency (or other governmental body) for information owned by the client prior to complying with such a request, and to cooperate with the client in obtaining adequate protective orders and arrangements for the information.

2.    Publicity.  The recipient shall not publicly either announce or disclose the terms or conditions of this agreement, or the fact that the aforementioned discussions are taking place or the nature of such discussions, without the prior written consent of the client.  This provision shall survive any expiration, termination, or cancellation of this agreement.

3.    Ownership and Use of Information.  All information delivered by the client to the recipient pursuant to this agreement shall be and remain the property of the client and such information, if written, and any paper copies or electronic versions thereof, as well as any summaries of any information disclosed orally, shall be returned to the client within 48 hours from receipt of written request or destroyed, at the client’s choice.  The recipient shall not use the information for any purpose other than to evaluate possible improvements to the structure, organization, grammar and depth of information provided.  In any event, the disclosure by the client of information shall in no way preclude the receiving party from purchasing or using similar information or products.

4.    Survival. The terms, conditions and warranties contained in this agreement by their sense and context are intended to survive the performance hereof by either or both parties hereunder, shall so survive the completion of performance or termination of this agreement.

5.    Legal Obligation.  The recipient acknowledges and agrees that the client reserves the right to take any legal action to which s/he may be entitled in the event of breach, in full or in part, of the confidentiality and non-disclosure provisions of this agreement.

6.    Employee Access and Control of Information.  The recipient shall maintain a list of the names of her representatives, if any, who shall have had access to same, and shall furnish such list to the client at his or her request.  However, prior to any such access, the recipient shall inform each such representative of the proprietary and confidential nature of the information and of the recipient’s obligations under this agreement.    Each such representative shall also be informed that, by accepting such access, he or she thereby agrees to be bound by the provisions of this agreement.  Furthermore, by allowing any such access, the recipient agrees to be and remain jointly and severally liable for any disclosure by any such representative not in accordance with this agreement.

7.    Exceptions.  The obligations contained herein shall not apply to: (a) information which is now in or hereafter enters the public domain without a breach of this agreement; (b) information known to the recipient prior to the time of disclosure by the client or independently developed by the recipient’s representatives without access to the client’s personal information; or (c) information disclosed in good faith to the recipient by a third person legally entitled to disclose the same.

8.    Miscellaneous. The obligations of the parties shall be binding on and be to the benefit of their respective heirs, successors, assigns, and affiliates.  This agreement may be amended or modified only by a subsequent agreement in writing. 


By: _________________________

Client (The Client)





By: ____________________________

Recipient (Sandra Cain)




What is a Ghostwriting Contract and Why Do I Need One?


Many of my clients at Wordshaker have asked about contracts and agreements between themselves as authors of their texts and the ghostwriters who work with and for them. Typical questions have been:

·      ‘What exactly is an agreement or a contract?’

·      ‘Why do I need one?’

·      ‘What happens if I don’t have one.’

So, let’s try and answer these questions…

A ghostwriting agreement or contract as it is sometimes called, outlines the contractual terms between the ghostwriter and the client for whom he or she is writing.

A ghostwriter can work on a variety of projects, from writing tweets, blogs, speeches and essays to entire books. However, a ghostwriter’s participation in the project is usually kept confidential and a ghostwriter does not expect to get any public credit for working on the project. When a ghostwriter decides to work on a project it’s important that he/she outlines the parameters of the work, compensation, and deadlines in a written agreement signed by both the ghostwriter and the client. The written agreement is legally enforceable and protects both the ghostwriter and the client should conflicts arise. Not having a contract or agreement can result in a host of legal problems for both parties if either of them come across issues or problems that they cannot reasonably solve.

Here is an example of the agreement used by Wordshaker:

This agreement ("Agreement") is between {Name}, henceforth referred to as "Author," and Sandra Cain of Wordshaker, henceforth referred to as "Ghostwriter," and is executed this {date} day of {month}{year}.

Author and Ghostwriter are entering into this Agreement for the purposes of completing {description of book and/or other publication covered under this Agreement, including working title and estimated length}, herein referred to as the "Work." As such, Author and Ghostwriter agree to the following provisions:

Method. In order to accomplish the Work, Ghostwriter will {description of how Author and Ghostwriter intend to work together, including any mandatory meetings, times Ghostwriter is expected to work, etc.}.

Plagiarism . Ghostwriter agrees that all Work created for Author is {his/her} own unique work, and does not borrow from any other copyrighted work.

Deadline. Ghostwriter will have {amount} of the Work done by {deadline date}. {include additional deadlines here, and explain if Author will have access to the Work at any point during the writing process}.

Payment. Payment for the Work will be delivered according to the following schedule: {outline the payment plan. Is Ghostwriter getting an advance, money at the halfway point, etc.?}.

Royalties. Ghostwriter will not be entitled to any royalties, residuals, or commissions upon the sale of the work. Total payment for Ghostwriter is {amount in dollars/pounds sterling}, payable according to the terms listed above.

Copyrights. Author will own the Work, including any copyrights and sale or distribution rights.

Credit. Credit for the Work will {indicate if Author will be the only credit on the book, or if there will be an "as told to" or "with" credit for Ghostwriter}.

Confidentiality. Ghostwriter acknowledges that {he/she} will have access to certain privileged information during the course of this project. Ghostwriter agrees to keep all information confidential from any and all third parties, during and after the course of this project.

Termination. Author {will/will not} have the right to terminate this Agreement at any point. Should Author terminate the Ghostwriter's services, Author will be required to pay Ghostwriter for completed work, according to the provisions outlined in the "Payment" section of this Agreement. Similarly, Ghostwriter {will/will not} have the right to end this Agreement at any point. {Outline any further details about this clause, including perhaps the amount of Work Ghostwriter must complete to avoid any legal recourse} .

Author and Ghostwriter agree to the above terms, and undersign here to that effect.


Buzz Your Biz with a Book

Many business owners, entrepreneurs, ideas people, creatives, health practitioners and opinion formers publish their own books. Why? Because it’s the first step to demonstrating their business expertise, enhancing their reputations, creating buzz and getting their ideas ‘out there’ and turning these into profit. Many of these same business owners, entrepreneurs, ideas people, creatives, health practitioners and opinion formers turn to a ghostwriter to help them craft their manuscript into a finely tuned book aimed at their niche market.

A book can help to generate substantial revenue in all sorts of ways. Being an author can establish you as an ‘expert’ in your field and can introduce you to all sorts of business opportunities including:

·       New clients

·       Additional work from existing clients

·       Consulting work

·       Coaching or mentoring programmes

·       Public speaking opportunities

·       Invitations to lead paying workshops or seminars

·       Webinar guest opportunities

·       College or university teaching engagements

·       Corporate spokesperson gigs

·       Website sponsors or advertisers

·       Paid blogging invitations

·       Expert witness requests

These same authors use ghosts because:

-        They may not believe they have the skills to write their book themselves.

-        They don’t have the time to write it themselves.

-        They are too close to the subject matter and need to step away, simplify and gain a wider   perspective of their field.

-        If they are independently publishing they need and want a guide to help them understand the publishing process.

-        Their publisher (if they have one) needs to know the project is being managed by a professional writer, making it less risk averse.

-        Their agent (if they have one) needs to see that an author’s project can become a reality.

As the author, you need to leverage your book … talk about it, sell it, give it away … anything to get your message heard and establish yourself as a credible expert. The sales of your book alone will not generate huge amounts of revenue, it’s the opportunities that arise from publishing the book that will. 

Wordshaker would be pleased to ghostwrite your book. We might not have the same knowledge about your business as you, the ‘expert in your field’, but we have the same level of knowledge as the average reader and will know what questions to ask and predict when arguments and explanations have become too complex and need to be simplified and illustrated. Ultimately, we can help turn you, the expert, into a great teacher by being the one who translates the knowledge in the expert’s head into a language that others with none of that knowledge will be able to understand.

If you would like to discuss your writing project with us and turn your ideas into a great book that sings to your market niche, then please click the link below.

Ghostwriting ... An Old Profession

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare



Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas

With the current proliferation in non-fiction it’s easy to imagine that ghostwriting is a  modern practice, but in fact, it’s one of the oldest professions in the world. Shakespeare, Dumas and Homer have all been accused of using ghosts in the past, or at best help from invisible hands. Many scholars have accused Shakespeare of collaborating with Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh and Edmund Spencer. Most scholars agree that Homer was not a single individual but a tradition or ‘culture’ whose stories emerged from traditional orality and that Auguste Maquet was the true genius behind Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers and the Count of Monte Christo.

Today, it’s standard knowledge that authors such as Tom Clancy, Katie Price and James Patterson rely on ghostwriters, co-authors or ‘collaborators’ for their prodigious literary outputs. The current boom in ghosting can be traced back to the early 1900s when the American demand for children’s books were apparently written by one person – Edward Stratemeyer of Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew fame. Stratemeyer wrote many of his books under a pseudonym and used many different publishers in order not to dilute his brand but appetite for his books was enormous.  To meet demand his only option was to turn to ghostwriters for help. He gave them a strict formula to stick to and over time together they churned out more and more best-selling children’s books. Stratemeyer’s ‘ghostwriting to formula’ business model had cracked the market wide open. R.L. Stine, author of the ‘Goosebumps’ series for children later carried on with this assembly line model, turning to ghosts later in his writing life to produce sequels

Today, the demand for ghostwriters is being led by the desire for celebrity memoirs whose names will guarantee to sell. Most of the books ‘authored’ by celebrities, actors, politicians, captains of industry, musicians and ordinary people with extraordinary lives are ghostwritten. Some of them may be perfectly adequate writers but most of them simply do not have the time in their hectic schedules to put pen to paper. Many publishers claim that at least 7 out of 10 of their books are in fact ghosted.

Recent technological changes in the publishing industry have encouraged ‘ordinary’ people to consider using professional ghostwriters.  Real-life and personal inspiring stories filled with passion, conflict, drama and jeopardy are being easily published with digital and print on demand services. The barriers to publishing are being smashed as you read.

Today, ghosts are used to write anything from simple tweets, speeches and marketing materials to lengthy, well-researched and dense biographies. If you would like to use the services of Wordshaker in your own ghostwriting adventures, then please click on the link below.

The Importance of Voice in Ghostwriting

It's YOUR voice that matters ...

One of the most important things for any ghostwriter is to write in the ‘voice’ of their client. It’s also one of the hardest to nail. Ghostwriters act as a conduit, translating their client’s thoughts and feelings on a subject onto paper or screen. They are expected to write a text or document that reflects their client’s words as though they had written those words themselves. To be effective they need to refine their writing voice to reflect the expectations and vision of their clients, whether they are a corporate entity wanting a newly minted, sharply written brochure to inform and persuade or a self-help author wishing to spread their inspiring message,

There are several ways to help the process of finding a client’s voice. At Wordshaker we always put our clients first. We understand the importance of creating long-term relationships. We listen to our clients - we assess their needs and we adapt our writing to their preferred style and voice. Essentially we search for ways in which our clients best engage an audience and aim to reflect that in our writing.

Many of our clients want their books to reflect their personalities, so it’s our job to find out who and what that personality is and to tap into their personal voice. We pay attention to our client’s natural speaking style. Are they fun and flirty; dry and academic; serious or funny, energetic or slower-paced? Do they speak in long drawn-out sentences or short pithy sound bites? Do they use characteristic expressions or buzz words?

Ultimately, we provide content where the client remains uniquely visible.  It’s about combining our craft with their unique voice. After all ... it's not our voice that matters, it's yours!


How to Improve the Readability of your Text with the Flesch Reading Ease Test

Many of my Wordshaker ghostwriting clients have asked me to take quite complicated documents and boil them down to something more readable and easy to understand. 

There is a test called the Flesch Reading Ease which can be used to determine the readability of any document from marketing materials to academic papers, depending on who your prime audience is. Nobody wants to plough through a memoir that’s written like a PhD thesis, likewise nobody wants to read a medical research paper that’s written like a picture book for a five-year old! So, getting readability just right is a must for all writers – whatever their discipline or genre.

Readability is the ease with which a reader can understand a written text.  In natural language, readability depends on:

·      The content – complexity of vocabulary and syntax.

·      The presentation – typographic issues such as font size, line height and line length.

However, readability is more than simply legibility. Higher readability makes the reading process easier and quicker and is especially important for those who do not have a high reading comprehension. By raising the readability level of a text from mediocre to good you can make the difference between the success and failure of your communication goals.

In the Flesch Reading Ease Test, a higher score indicates material that is easier to read and a lower score indicates material that is more difficult to read. The best text should contain shorter sentences and words. A score between 60 and 70 is acceptable for 'every-day' text and average comprehension.

Reader's Digest magazine has a readability index of about 65, Time magazine about 52, while the Harvard Law Review has a general readability score in the 30s. A simple one-syllable word sentence such as 'the cat sat on the mat' would have a score of about 116. Many government agencies and insurance companies in the UK and the USA use the reading ease test as a standard test of readability and like to have a score of 45 or greater.

The table below shows readability against scorings.

90-100             very easy

80-89               easy

70-79               fairly easy

60-69               standard

50-59               fairly difficult

30-49               difficult

0-29                 very confusing

You can check the readability score of your text or manuscript against the Flesch readability formula by accessing

Finding the Ghost Who's Right For You


Do you have a great idea but can't get the words down? It may be that you have a story to tell, a memory to share, an idea to spread or a message to persuade but you are stumped as to where to start.

If that sounds like you, have you considered working with a ghostwriter? Celebrities, entrepreneurs, academics, sports stars, business movers and shakers - they've all hired ghosts to write their stories for them.  Some of the biggest names in fiction have worked with or hired ghosts for their projects.

The process is simple,  The author finds the ghost, hires them, tells them their story and waits for a well-polished manuscript to land glowingly on their desk.

Sounds easy doesn't it? But although the process is relatively simple, the relationship between the ghost and author needs to be properly negotiated.  After all, the author might be sharing their innermost secrets with the ghost - so they must be comfortable and confident in their chosen ghostwriter's discretion.

Therefore, finding the ghost who's right for you is paramount.

Today, ghostwriters are sometimes called collaborators, editors or helpers, but they are part of a team that helps bring a great writing project to fruition. Sometimes the ghost is credited in the book, sometimes they are not. But it will be your (the author's) name that appears on the cover of the book. Authors hire a ghost for several reasons:

·       Perhaps they are an adequate writer but just don't want to write the book.

·       Perhaps the author realises that good writing requires expertise and is often better when done by a professional writer.

·       Perhaps the author may not have the skills nor the talent to write.

·       Or maybe they just don't have the time or the stamina.

What about the ghost? What skills do they need to have?

·       Better than average writing skills.

·       First-rate people skills.

The match between ghost and author should work seamlessly and it's all in the 'voice'.  Capturing the author's voice starts with the way the ghost listens.  The ghost must be able to translate your voice into words that reflect your style, flair, phrases, unusual slang, witticisms and other elements that make you unique. The ghost must be able to duplicate your speech/word  patterns so that  the writing is authentic.

·       If you are a business person writing a serious business title, you may talk in elongated statistical sentences.

·       If you are authoring chicklit, you may talk n short, sharp, snappy sentences.

If you decide to hire a ghost to write for you, there are a number of things to consider and questions to ask.  You should be prepared to ask them:

·       If they like the idea of the project?

·       What their background and writing experience is?

·       When they are available?

·       When they expect to complete the project?

·       What the cost of the whole project will be?

The relationship goes 2-way and the ghostwriter will also be checking to see if they can work with you.  They will expect:

·       To ask you lots of questions.

·       You to stay on topic.

·       You to tell them all the details and be honest.

·       You to remember that their time is valuable

·       You to pay them.

You should also be prepared to answer some of the ghost's questions, which could include things like:

·       Your reason for hiring a ghost? 

·       Your goals for the project?

·       Your intended readership?

·       Where you are in the writing process?

·       What exactly you expect from them?

·       Your budget?

There is no set fee for hiring a ghost writer.  We set our own fees and determine our own worth, so you may find that fees fluctuate wildly.  Most ghosts calculate how much to charge by the amount of work required and the length of time it will take to complete the project to everyone's satisfaction.

The relationship between author and ghostwriter should be joyful and respectful. The best recommendation for a professional ghost who writes well, understands your project and works to agreed deadlines is via word of mouth.

A version of this article by Sandra Cain first appeared in Self Publishing Magazine, Issue 32, Autumn 2014.