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Let’s Hear from an Expert: Kelly Epperson, Nonfiction Ghostwriter

Published on 07/14/2016

You are a ghostwriter. Tell us more about what that means.

People are always intrigued when they hear the word “ghostwriter” and some actually do think that I write ghost stories. (Nope!) As a ghostwriter, I am the wordsmith and strategy mentor to take you from idea stage to completed book.

Many people find it overwhelming to think about how to structure a book and that is okay! It is normal! We don’t do our own taxes or fix our own plumbing, so there is no guilt in hiring someone to help you with your book. There is no shame in not knowing how to do something. Most celebrities, athletes, and politicians use a ghostwriter. So do many professionals, entrepreneurs, and executives.

Some use a ghostwriter because they do not know how to write a book, some do not enjoy writing, and some simply do not have the time. They choose to spend their energy focusing on their business and family. They want their weekends free to do their own thing and not be stressing over a book. They also know a book matters and are excited to become an author.


How do you work with clients?

Every person and project differs, but in a nutshell, you (the soon-to-be author) provide anything you have written so far, along with any notes, outlines, mind maps, audio recordings, interviews, etc. that you want as part of the book. I review your materials and we have a long conversation to get deep clarity around the purpose of the book. You have a message, a movement, or a mission that you are sharing with the world. That is one part of your purpose – to give something of value to your reader. We clarify what you want your audience to think or feel or do after reading your book. The other side of knowing your purpose is how this book serves you and your overall game plan. I write it with that filter.

The book is a magnet. Who do you want it to draw to you and why? When they read your book and love it and want more from you, what will that be? The upfront thinking-it-through stage is really important.

After we brainstorm and agree on the content and structure and feel and flow, I give you a writing sample. You then are able to see that your message is conveyed in your voice even though I am writing it. I write and you read. We make any necessary tweaks and fill in any gaps. You are astounded at how easy it comes together and maybe even shed a tear. (Seriously, many of clients cry when they read their pages. “It’s so me, only better written!” Even some male clients get choked up thanking me for being able to bring their vision out of them and on to the page.)

My "office"

My “office”


Is your ghostwriting strictly nonfiction books?

For the most part. I still do some newsletter articles, web copy, video scripts, etc. for clients. I have written many things as a ghost: speeches, white papers, wedding vows, love poems, and even a nasty gangsta rap song. The client loved it and wanted five more (I only did the first one to humor my two sons), but I turned him down. If I am going to write songs, that is one area that I want my name to get the credit. (And seriously, what kind of rapper hires a middle-aged white woman to pen his raps?!)


What is the investment cost to hire a ghostwriter?

It varies depending on the scope of the project. Every person and project are different so I have a complimentary consultation with an author to first of all determine that we are a good fit, and then to provide an accurate quote. Some books require that I do a lot of research or conduct interviews, and some are very straightforward where I just consult once with the author and I’m off and writing. The return on investment is exponential. A book has a shelf life of ten years or more, and the credibility, exposure, and opportunities that come from being an author are off the charts. My clients are amazed at the doors that open when they become an author. It really is exciting.


When I first started ghostwriting, I bought this clock – supposedly Hemingway had one like it. “Le Mot Juste” is French, meaning “exactly the right word.”


Is a book often part of a woman’s next act?

Absolutely. It takes many women to reach their 40s, 50s, and 60s, to open up and explore their gifts. Expressing via a book is a gutsy act and so liberating. Many of my clients want to help other women shave off some of the learning curve. In nearly every initial conversation, I hear the words, “I want to help women know that….” The subject matter can be anything from real estate investing, to spiritual self help, to leadership, to money, marketing, mindset, death, divorce, downsizing, and on and on. My clients are coaches, consultants, speakers, psychologists, executives, lawyers, healers, doctors, professionals from all walks of life. Some want a book to grow their business and platform, and some want a book because it is the calling of their heart.

Being a ghostwriter certainly is part of my glorious next act. In a former career, I was an IRS auditor, so I always tell women to never say never! If you want to become an author, it is absolutely doable.


You are the ghostwriter, but not the author. Please clarify.

Correct. YOU (client) are the author. Your name is on the book, not mine. This is your material, your story, your content, your idea, your baby. I help you birth it. My biz is called Birth That Book for a reason. A book is something personal and precious. It needs to be nurtured. I am the wordsmith helping you bring your message to the world, but it is yours. I am a conduit, a trusted confidante.


Besides writing the book, what else do you do?

Certainly the majority of what I do is writing the manuscript. I also do book proposals for those seeking a publisher. Most of my clients self-publish so I provide them fabulous cost-effective resources for book covers, interior formatting, uploading to Amazon, etc. I also consult on how to market and how to generate revenue streams from the book. Many clients keep me on after their book is done to help them with writing articles and video scripts or to be a sounding board as they vet project ideas. They know that I get them and their mission because I have articulated it so well for them in the book.


I am addicted to emery boards!


Why do you love ghostwriting?

I meet fascinating people doing marvelous work and I get to help them further their mission. Every book I write grows me in some way. I work from home what I all the Joy House and I am over the moon happy.


Is the ghostwriter ever named?

That is up to the author. I have been named as “co-writer” and “editor” and thanked in acknowledgements in various ways. Some of my clients have me sign confidentiality agreements. I have written more than 30 books since 2007, some for New York Times best-selling authors, one that sold 3 million copies. My clients are across the US and Canada.


What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Trust in you. Listen to the deep inner voice. I have had several clients come to me saying “I SHOULD write a book on XYZ, but what I really want to write about is ABC!” Go with ABC. Even if you are not the one writing it, you want to feel excited about your topic. That sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many people feel an internal tug-of-war.

Even before the book is complete, start talking about it. Start positioning yourself as the authority.

Go to networking events. Be it your local Chamber or national groups like

Over 40 Females

National Association of Women Business Owners

eWomen Network

Go to speaking events.


National Speakers Association

Engaging Speakers

The more people you meet, the more you are able to share what lights you up and that builds your confidence. You also make connections and meet wonderful people that can spark ideas in you.


Any parting words?

Books change lives and the first to change is yours. The tangible thrill of holding your completed book is unmatched. The intangibles that come with becoming an author are the real magic.

I write a weekly inspirational newsletter. (It is not about writing; it is about believing in your dreams.) Sign up at www.kellyepperson.com. My weekly newspaper column is also posted on my blog. I’ve been writing my column since 2001 and serve as a judge for the international Erma Bombeck Essay Competition. I will also give a complimentary consultation to all Next Act for Women readers. Write to me at info@kellyepperson.com. A book can be as easy as turning over your blog posts to me and I finesse them into a readable, engaging book.


Contact Kelly Epperson at info@kellyepperson.com




Twitter: @kellyepperson


Kelly Epperson was named “2015 Female of the Year” by Over 40 Females Chicago and also received the Shining Light award. She received the Founders Award 2016, the Go Giver Award 2015, and Member of the Year 2104 by Engaging Speakers Chicago. A former IRS agent, Kelly is now an agent of joy, fulfilling your dream to become an author.

HeleneTStelian Musing
I’m Hélène Stelian, the Midlife Mentor with a passion for facilitating personal development in women 40+. Through my THRIVE Courses, I help introspective, curious, action-oriented women 40+ deepen their journeys of self-discovery and growth—and create their next chapter with courage and intention.



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  1. Terri Webster Schrandt

    This is so interesting! Very well done and intimate look into the life of a ghost writer!

    • Kelly

      Thanks, Terri. It is a fascinating career. It was fun to give a behind the scenes peek!

  2. Roy Shaffer

    “And seriously, what kind of rapper hires a middle-aged white woman to pen his raps?!”— LOL this..


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