Josh Kelley

Josh Kelley - Ghostwriter

Mount Vernon, WA, USA

Traditionally published author specializing in memoirs, Christian living and leadership books. Your ideas made clear, engaging and profound.

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Hi! My name is Josh.

I’m a traditionally published author ("Radically Normal"), freelance writer, and ghostwriter. I was an adjunct Bible college professor for a little while and a pastor for fourteen years. After traveling around the U.S. in a minivan with my family, I became a bartender and wrote a novel.

Yeah, you read that right. A pastor-turned-bartender who still loves Jesus. Being a pastor was great, and bartending was a lot of fun. But writing for a living and helping people tell their stories?

Best job ever.

You’re reading my profile, which means you have a book inside that you’re dying to get out into the world. Perhaps you’re a pastor or respected leader and speaker. Maybe you have an incredible story to tell. But when you sat down to write, you found it’s a lot harder than you thought.

Don’t feel bad about that. Seriously. I mean, we’d never expect an inexperienced violinist to play Beethoven’s Concerto in D. That takes more than talent; it takes years of study and practice.

The same is true of writing. I’ve been writing professionally in one form or another for more than fifteen years. I’ve literally written (and discarded and rewritten) millions of words.

Ghostwriting is all about forming a partnership. I excel at helping you develop your concept then writing in a clear, engaging, and insightful way, yet sounds like you. Here’s how I see it. You’re already great at what you do. Why should you invest fifteen years into writing as well?

You probably have a ton of questions, (including “How much does ghostwriting cost?”), but rather than making you wade through a super long post, here’s an index you can use to skip ahead:


1. What is your writing experience?

2. What kind of books do you write?

3. What exactly is a memoir?

4. What’s your writing philosophy?

5. What is the process?

6. Who gets the credit for a ghostwritten book?

7. What if I want to do some of the writing?

8. I’ve already started/written my book. Will that make it cheaper?

9. What other services do you offer?

10. How much does ghostwriting cost?

11. How long will it take?

12. Should I go for traditional or self-publishing?

13. What’s the next step?

1. What is your writing experience?

I started by writing sermons, hundreds of them, and that taught me that you don’t wait for creativity. You make it happen, week in and week out. While I was still a pastor, I wrote "Radically Normal: You Don’t Have to Live Crazy to Follow Jesus," which was published by Harvest House and has a rating of 4.5 stars on Amazon. A complimentary copy is available upon request.

As I said before, I wrote a novel while bartending. I’ve had a couple of offers for publication from some independent presses, but nothing has come together. The problem seems to be that it’s too Christian for the secular publishers and not Christian enough for the Christian ones. But I don’t regret the years I put into it. I learned how to tell a good story and I discovered I have an ear for mimicking voices on the page—I can make my writing sound as if you wrote it.

Since then, I have become a full-time freelance author, specializing in ghostwriting. I’ve written eight books, am currently working on two, and have done extensive editorial work and content writing. Non-disclosure agreements limit my ability to list projects, but my clientele includes:

· A best-selling author

· A nationally known speaker and leadership coach

· A former MLB coach

· A mega-church pastor

· A TEDx speaker

· A “top ten most influential women in tech”

· A Christian philanthropist who has supported over 1,000 churches

Here are some of my past endorsements:

“For years I've looked for a ghostwriter that can catch my voice and unique style. I found Josh after a few attempts with other ghostwriters. Wow! I'm impressed. Josh has a remarkable ability to understand my ideas and help me organize and communicate them clearly. I’d recommend him to anyone looking for an effective ghostwriter or developmental editor.”

Dr. Troy Jones, Pastor of New Life Church and founder of The Recalibrate Group

"Josh Kelley is a talented writer whose prose is clear, entertaining, and thoroughly engaging. Plus, he's a joy to work with!"

Terry Glaspey, Multi-award winning author and former senior editor at Harvest House

“There are four reasons (or “levels”) why I recommend writers work with Josh Kelley. The following relate to my experience working with him on one of my novels:

“On a sentence level, Josh identified numerous opportunities in my manuscript to improve my writing. On a story level, he asked me tons of astute questions that challenged me to rethink (in a positive way) my story choices. On a professional level, he was always punctual for our meetings and responsive to my messages. On a personal level, Josh was altogether fun to work with.”

Lee, Writer and editor ​(Note: Because of his role in the industry, Lee's contact info is available by request only.)

“Josh Kelley's love for the Lord and his Biblical knowledge, combined with his own writing and publishing insight, made him an excellent mentor and consultant when writing my own story.

I'd had many friends and paid editors read my memoir and I thought it was where I wanted it to be, but it was Josh who told me some hard truths about what it was lacking and how it could be better. His input was crucial and I'm so grateful for it! I know my memoir would not have been as widely loved had I not taken his advice!!! I highly recommend using him as a book consultant!”

Amber Mauldin, Author of "Perfectly Broken"

“joshkelley, YOU ROCK!”

Vanilla Ice, Recording artist and one-hit wonder (Yes, the real Vanilla Ice tagged me in that tweet, but in all fairness, he probably meant joshbkelley.)

2. What kind of books do you write?

My personal mission statement is to “bring more God-honoring, life-changing books into the marketplace.”

So, even though I can write in multiple genres—including commercial fiction, leadership, communication, church growth, creative non-fiction, spiritual living, and memoirs—I gravitate toward books that I believe say something important. My favorites are spiritual living and memoirs. I especially enjoy memoirs because of their story telling aspect.

3. What exactly is a memoir?

Whereas an autobiography is meant to be an all-encompassing story of your life, a memoir covers a particular part of your life and is focused on a specific theme. This allows memoirs to be crafted for better storytelling and lends itself to exploring ideas such as forgiveness, relying on God, etc.

Another difference is that an autobiography is typically a magnum opus written later in life, but you can write many memoirs throughout your life. But I believe you shouldn’t write a memoir while you’re still in the middle your story, i.e., if your memories feel like open wounds instead of scars and you can’t see the humanity of those who’ve hurt you. A memoir is no substitute for counseling!

(I recommend "Hillbilly Elegy" by J.D. Vance and "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls as good examples of memoirs that are honest about their dysfunctional families while still recognizing the good in them.)

4. What’s your writing philosophy?

I think my dyslexia and ADHD drive my writing philosophy. I want books to get to the point and keep me interested. I hate books that are so long winded that—Squirrel!—I get distracted. Never use ten words if three will do.

I also believe in the “Long Island Iced Tea” principle. Good writing should go down easy but pack a real punch.

5. What is the process?

Every project is a little different—that’s one of the things that makes this job so fun! But here’s the basic process for ghostwriting projects (for other options, see “What if I want to do some of the writing?”):

i. After you request a quote from me (see “What’s the next step?”), we’ll meet via Zoom. Think of this as a two-way interview.

ii. If that goes well, we’ll talk specifics, and I’ll create a formal offer. Once that’s accepted, we get started.

iii. Over the course of several interviews, I’ll learn more about you and your project. Ideally, we’ll arrange to meet face-to-face for a couple days. Expect to be involved and giving input the entire way.

iv. We’ll clarify the central theme and agree on a working outline, then I’ll write the first chapter in your “voice” and send it to you for approval. We’ll continue doing that with the subsequent chapters, but as we develop a good rapport we’ll go longer without touching base.

v. Once I complete the rough draft, you’ll go through it and make needed changes. We’ll repeat that process for a second and third draft, each time focusing on finer details.

vi. Once you approve the third draft, you’ll have a copyedit-ready book that’s written to professional standards and tells your story in an engaging way.

What does “copyedit-ready book” mean? No author should do the final edit of their own book. The third draft will be free of substantial errors, but another person will need to go over it before it’s published. If your book is traditionally published, the publisher will provide the copyediting. As a courtesy, I offer to respond to the copyeditor’s edits on your behalf.

6. Who gets the credit for a ghostwritten book?

You do! That’s part of what you pay me for. Some of my clients will include me in the acknowledgements, others prefer not to mention me at all. It’s your call.

Some people feel like that’s dishonest, but to me that’s no more dishonest that having someone do my taxes. I’m not a numbers person, so I hire it out. Here’s a little secret of the publishing industry: almost all books written by celebrities were ghostwritten. Those folks don’t have hundreds of hours to write a book, so they work with a professional. That’s perfectly acceptable.

That said, there are some “authors” that do nothing more than get paid to have their name on something they did zero work on. I’m not a fan of that approach. I expect the bulk of the concept to come from my clients, but I am willing to contribute to the content as you see fit.

7. What if I want to do some of the writing?

Great idea! If you want to become a great writer, there is no better approach than learning as you write your own book. For that, I offer a coaching package that can save you a lot of money.

It’s like hiring a craftsman to help build your house. The more work you do, the cheaper it will be, but I’ll always be there to lend a hand and push you forward. And if you want to speed things up or are struggling with a particular item, hand it off to me. It also has the advantage of helping you focus on the task at hand instead of worrying about the future components (that's my job).

We begin by refining your concept and creating a working outline. That in hand, I’ll coach you as you write, mostly via annotated edits and Zoom meetings. You should know that I’m a really nice guy, but a relentless editor—I don’t write crap and won’t let you either!

​The price: coaching is $750 (USD) a month for up to five hours of active involvement. That may not seem like a lot, but I’m very efficient. I’ll keep the project in your hands and “off the clock.” And if you ever need more hours, they can be purchased for $150 an hour, in ten-minute increments. I don’t, however, give credit for unused hours. That’s motivation to keep moving forward!

Disclaimer: I specialize in capturing the big idea and communicating it in a compelling way, not grammar. I strongly recommend working with a good copyeditor before submitting any of your writing. Good news: They are a lot cheaper than I am!

8. I’ve already started/written my book. Will that make it cheaper?

That’s hard to say without seeing it. I can make a good (but non-binding) guess after ten minutes. But an accurate bid requires an in-depth evaluation. Here’s my process. I’ll work my way through the steps below, each one representing a critical tool for crafting a great book, and you can stop at any point you like.

The first step is manuscript evaluation, where I read the entire book, make 10,000-foot-view observations, and recommend a basic structure and direction. Cost: $1,000-$2,000, depending on length.

The second step would be the developmental edit. Using the recommendations from the evaluation, we’d determine the direction of the book and then I’d conduct a paragraph level edit, organizing the material and finding the gaps. If you stopped here, you’d receive copious notes and have a clear picture of where you need to go next. Cost: $.05 a word.

The third step would be to either hire me to coach you through writing your own book ($750 a month) or hire me to complete it as a ghostwriter. By this point, I’ll be able to write a firm proposal, with a 100% credit for the work already done in steps one and two.

9. What other services do you offer?

In addition to manuscript evaluations and developmental editing, as described in “I’ve already started/written my book. Will that make it cheaper?”, I can also be hired as a consultant or content writer.

Consultant: I excel at absorbing massive amounts of information and then seeing what others can’t. It may simply feel like a conversation, but you’ll walk away with your head spinning from all the new ideas, suggestions, and resources I’ve provided to improve your project. The cost is $150 per hour, charged in ten-minute increments, thirty-minute minimum. We’ll meet via Zoom and I’ll provide you with a copy of the video and a transcript for future use, as well as a signed release, giving you the rights to use any ideas I’ve shared.

Content writer: I believe in beginning with the “why,” then moving to the “what.” So, we’ll start with a brief conversation about your goals, then I’ll write content that combines brevity and clarity for your website, emails, or newsletters. The cost is also $150 per hour, charged in ten-minute increments, thirty-minute minimum, and I also do retainer work.

10. How much does ghostwriting cost?

It’s not a simple answer. The price is affected by the nature of the project, its length, and how much work you’ve already done. However, most medium length books (180-220 pages) will run $30,000-40,000. Memoirs tend to be longer and require more work, so they usually run $40,000-50,000.

(BTW: There are a lot of good resources on the Reedsy website to help you understand the costs of ghostwriting, such as

People have asked about partnering with me on a book, then sharing the advance and royalties. Please understand that this is my only job, so I can’t set aside paying jobs in hopes of an advance.

11. How long will it take?

That depends on the project’s size, my current workload, and your responsiveness. However, two to three months is about average for a ghostwritten book.

12. Should I go for traditional or self-publishing?

That’s a hard call. You first need to establish your goals for being published and determine how much work you are willing to do. Then read this Reedsy blog post about the differences:

I’ll say this: traditional publishing is a very, very difficult arena to break into. You need a compelling concept, excellent writing, and a strong platform. But if you have all that, traditional publishing is a huge mark of approval that’s even more valuable in a marketplace flooded with millions of self-published books.

Self-publishing is incredibly easy to do and hence it’s hard to stand out. But, done right, there is good money to be made by those willing to do the work. In fact, a good friend of mine made much more money with his self-published book than I did with my traditionally published book.

13. What’s the next step?

Think you might want to work with me? Awesome! Let’s chat.

Here’s your next step: Click “Request a quote” above. You can request a quote for up to five people, so do the same for anyone else you’re interested in. After that, click “Continue” in the upper right and fill out the form as completely as possible.

I will get back to you within two business days (but typically sooner). I’ll probably have a couple more questions for you and then we’ll set up a no-obligation conversation. This conversation will be a mixture of a two-way job interview and a coaching call. I’ll add value to you and your project regardless, but we need to make sure that we’re a good fit!

If that goes well, I’ll create a proposal for you to review and we’ll go from there.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Short-Form Content
English (US)
Biographies & Memoirs
Business & Management
Christian Non-Fiction
Writing & Publishing

Work experience

Ghostwriter, Developmental Editor, and Writing Coach

January, 2013 – Present (over 9 years)

Lead Pastor

The Gathering Christian Church
October, 2007 – June, 2014 (over 6 years)

Adjunct Professor

Pacific Life Bible College
January, 2000 – December, 2001 (almost 2 years)

Assistant Pastor

His Place Community Church
December, 1998 – October, 2007 (almost 9 years)

Portfolio (3 selected works)

Josh has 1 review

Communication & Punctuality
Communication & Punctuality

Timothy Berry
Josh was able to provide additional structure to a vision of how I wanted to get a piece of writing to run for a major publication. I plan to work with him again in the future.

Timothy Berry, November 2021

Josh Kelley
It was an honor to work with Tim and I look forward to our next project!

Reply from Josh Kelley

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