Book: Ghostwriting - The Business of Writing for Other Authors (Writer's Craft Book 31) by Rayne Hallcategories: Book, Become a Ghostwriter, Ghostwriting for Money, Earn from Writing, Write for Money, Write for Profit, Writing for Profit, Writing Career, Writing for Clients, Writing Business, Ghostwriting Career, Ghost Writing
Rayne Hallabout this book: Excerpt from the book
Do you want to break into the exciting world of ghostwriting?
Perhaps you love writing, and want to get paid for indulging in your passion. Maybe you are already a professional writer, and want to add a lucrative income stream. Ghostwriting may be the answer.
As a ghostwriter, you write, but someone else – perhaps a celebrity, a bestselling author or a subject authority – gets the credit. For this service, you get paid, often handsomely.
Here are the reasons for taking up ghostwriting:
* Typically, you get paid much more than if you publish under your own name.
* You receive a flat fee for the job, regardless of whether the book flops or succeeds. You won't have other writers' anxiety about how much in royalties you'll get and if it will be enough to pay the bills.
* The demand for skilled ghostwriters is great and increasing.
* Unlike in an employed job, you can choose who you want to work for, and the kind of work you want to do.
* You can create your own schedule, fitting the work around your other commitments, whether you're raising children, holding down a day job or studying at university.
* You can work anywhere in the world, as long as you have internet access. If you relocate, your ghostwriting career comes with you. If you like, you can even become a digital nomad.
* Unlike writers who publish under their own names, you don't need to get involved in the marketing and promotion.
* Ghostwriting is a career you can build gradually, starting part-time while you still work in your day job, so there's no 'all or nothing' risk.
* This business has few overheads. You'll need a computer, internet, perhaps some apps and devices – but those are items you may already have anyway.
* You get writing experience and acquire new skills, and earn while you learn.
* You can combine ghostwriting with authoring books under your own name, choosing how much time to devote to each.
* You can experiment with new genres, without alienating your existing fans.
What's the catch?
Getting established is difficult, and finding your first Clients is a challenge. The secretive nature of the assignments means they're rarely advertised in the open market, and most Clients want an already-established ghostwriter. This can make it almost impossible for newcomers to break into the field.
My co-author Mariana Sabiano and I will show you how to get a foot in the door. We'll also guide you to choose the best assignments, negotiate your fee, work through agencies, and prevent problems. We explain contracts (including the crucial non-disclosure agreement), the types of Clients you'll encounter, and the ethics of writing under someone else's name.
We'll teach you specific skills, such as how to match the nominal Author's voice, write for an existing series, and complete someone else's book. We'll look at non-fiction books, novels, blog posts, speeches and more. We'll even reveal the mistakes we've made and learnt from, so you don't need to make them yourself.
Mariana ghostwrites mostly novels, while I specialise in non-fiction books and articles. We've combined our expertise to give you a comprehensive guide.
In my Writer's Craft series, I strife for complete honesty, but in this book, I had to hold back, because I'm not allowed to reveal (or even hint at) my secret role. As ghostwriters, we must keep the identity of our Clients confidential. That's why Mariana and I sometimes just say 'a businessman' or 'a British aristocrat' and have changed a few details about our experiences. We hope you'll understand.
I suggest you read the whole book from beginning to end to get a good overview of the ghostwriting business. Then you can return to the chapters that are relevant to you, study them in depth and do the assignments.
We'll use the following definitions:
The Author = the nominal author of the book, often a celebrity, whose name appears on the cover and in listings
The Writer = the ghostwriter who does the actual writing work and remains anonymous
The Client = the person who hires you and pays for your work – this may be the Author, or it could be a publisher or literary agent.
We capitalise the words Author, Writer and Client when we refer to these specific roles. In other contexts, we mention authors, writers and clients without capitals.
If you see 'writer' and 'Writer' or 'author' and 'Author' on the same page, these are not overlooked typos, but different meanings. As a newcomer to the world of ghostwriting, you may find this confusing, but when you turn professional, you'll encounter it often, for example, in ghostwriting contracts.
For ease of reading, we switch between 'he' and 'she', but everything applies regardless of gender.
Mariana uses American English, while I write in British English, which leads to variations in spelling, grammar and even punctuation.
I hope this book will be your guide to an exciting, lucrative new career.
When Rayne invited me to co-author this volume on ghostwriting, I readily agreed. Having checked out the Writer's Craft series, I was impressed by Rayne's honest, direct, no-fluff approach. With decades of experience as a professional writer, she imparts her knowledge in a friendly, often humorous way. I could relate to many of her experiences and found her advice spot-on and valuable. I thought, here's a project to which I could sign my name and feel good about it.
As a fellow writer, I saw a chance to combine our experiences and knowledge, so that other writers may benefit from the lessons we've learned along the way. Since I've ghostwritten mostly fiction, whereas Rayne specializes in non-fiction, our respective angles stand alone but, together, offer a more comprehensive look at what it's like to work as a ghostwriter.
From me you'll hear about:
l壱 Writing genre fiction
l弐 The kind of assignments you are likely to get as a ghostwriter of fiction
l参 How to develop the Client's outline into a full novel
l四 Writing for an existing series
l伍 How to complete a Client's unfinished manuscript
l六 Advantages and disadvantages of ghostwriting over writing your own work
l七 How to make Clients like you, and dealing with difficult Clients
…and a few other topics.
Rayne and I have different styles and sensibilities, which you'll notice as you read each chapter. We also usually comment on each other's insights. You can view this book as a conversation between two writers that extends to you, the reader. We've opened up the discussion, inviting you to join us.
Lastly, ghostwriting will help you make a living as a writer and has its advantages, as long you know what you're getting into, and find a way to ghostwrite and work on your own projects. We also urge you to sift through the types of jobs available and consider whether they align with your ethics and conscience. In the spirit of the Writer's Craft series, we encourage you to evaluate issues from the very beginning in an open, honest way.
We've written this book with you, the aspiring ghostwriter, in mind, so that you can make informed decisions, and once you do, have some fun as a conscientious ghostwriter. Enjoy!
WHY DO CLIENTS HIRE GHOSTWRITERS?
Many people want help from an expert writer, and are willing to pay for the service.
Here are the eight main reasons why people may hire you:
1. They lack the skills.
The Clients need something written, but can't write well enough to do the project justice.
Sometimes, the Client doesn't have fluent English to express himself smoothly. Or maybe he is so used to academic communications that he struggles to write in plain English for ordinary people. Or perhaps he has an idea for a novel, but no clue how to develop it into a well-structured plot.
Many Clients of this type are experts in their fields – a professional actor, a successful investor, a sports champion, a famous meditation guru – and they're aware that his writing skills don't match their subject expertise. They appreciate quality and are used to hiring experts – for example, the sports champion is used to hiring a personal trainer, the actor to hire a dialect coach – so it's natural for them to engage someone who provides the writing expertise.
This is my favourite kind of Client, because it's an honest arrangement, the high quality of my work is appreciated, and I love working as a team with another expert.
2. They lack the time
Many people feel they have a book in them. They start writing with enthusiasm, then find that the project takes up far more time than they had anticipated. Rather than give up, they hire a ghostwriter to complete what they've started.
Some successful authors can't produce books fast enough to meet their readers' demand. Or maybe they have fallen behind schedule on a multi-book contract, and the publisher is breathing down their neck with the deadline. So they hire someone else to take on all or part of the job.
3. They seek the prestige
A lot of people like the thought of being authors, perhaps to gratify a personal vanity, perhaps to impress others. They want to be able to tell their snobby neighbour and their hot date that they've written a book.
Others want professional prestige to boost their careers. For example, a bushcraft trainer can impress future employers and land a more senior job if he's the author of a book titled Practical Bushcraft Skills. The costume designer who has authored a book Victorian Gentlemen's Costumes is more likely than the other candidates to get hired for a historical movie.
4. They seek profit
Some publishing houses produce novel after novel by a handful of authors – even though those authors don't actually exist. They invent a pen name for Steamy Alpha Werewolf Billionaire Romances and another for Clean Historical Western Romances, and then hire a dozen ghostwriters for each. The multi-person 'Author' brings out book after book in rapid succession, and therefore stays on top of the search engine algorithms, gets continued exposure, sells more books and thus makes more profit than a single re-person author could.
People without publishing experience often believe that this is a field in which they can make fast and easy profits. The formula seems simple: Hire a ghostwriter to produce a book for little money, upload it on Kindle, and reap the riches. (They soon discover that publishing is tougher than they had assumed and give up, but new wannabe publishers spring up all the time.)
5. To boost their marketing and promotion
Business owners like to give their valued clients free books with useful advice. For example, the veterinarian has a book on How to Care for Your Pet, and the landscape gardener Planting Schemes for Every Garden.
Blogs, social media posts, newsletter articles and speeches also fall into this category.
6. For personal interactions
The best man at a wedding is expected to give a speech. Although he's known the groom from childhood, he has no idea how to turn his memories into a speech that will entertain the wedding guests. He doesn't want to let the groom down with a poor speech. So he hires a speechwriter to help.
A guitarist wants to present his lady love with a song he's written for her. He's composed a beautiful melody, but the words just won't come. So he hires a skilled lyricist.
Love letters, congratulatory messages and poems also fall into this category.
7. To cheat
The Client hires writers to give fake five-star reviews, fooling genuine buyers into believing that this is a good product. "After taking these slimming pills for just two months, I lost three stones, and my husband finds me beautiful again."
Others use writers to pose as clients and employers. "The best childminder we ever had, we could go away for weeks and leave him in charge of our ten-year old girl." "Thanks to her financial advice, my savings quadrupled in under a year."
Students hire Writers to do their homework, their college admission papers and academic essays. Many gain their degrees and qualifications based on someone else's work.
Personally, I stay clear of cheats, but your ethical standards may differ from mine. (More about this in the hapter 'Dealing With Ethical Dilemmas'.)
8. As a record of their own experiences
Old people want to have their life story written – not necessarily for publication, but to share with their families and to pass it down through the generations. I think this is a beautiful gift. How wonderful it would be to read about my great-grandmother's life on a Black Forest farm, my paternal grandmother's plight as an ostracised single mum in Nazi Germany, or my maternal grandfather's exciting adventures asa steam train driver!
Other Clients seek to record a specific experience – getting lost and surviving in the jungle, crossing the ocean on a raft, discovering a rare orchid - not for publication, but for their personal records, or to share with fellow enthusiasts or professional peers.
Find out what motivates a Client. It may be a combination of reasons. It's not enough to know what your Clients want – you also need to know why they want it. Only then can you truly deliver to their satisfaction.
WHAT NOT TO DO
If you are uncomfortable about the Client's motivation, don't get involved. (More about this in in the chapter 'Dealing With Ethical Dilemmas'.)
LEARNING FROM MY MISTAKES
I was once hired by a pleasant young woman who wanted me to write a vampire novel for her. During our meetings, she told me about the kind of vampires she liked best, her favourite locations, and plot elements she found exciting. But when I sent her an outline and draft chapters, her responses were vague, and she wouldn't say what she liked or disliked about the work in progress.
When I completed the work, she seemed strangely evasive about the contents, but assured me that she was happy, and she accepted and paid without trouble.
Years later I realised the truth: This woman had pretended to write a novel in order to hide that she was illiterate. What better way to allay suspicion than to show a completed manuscript!
Now I wish I had probed her motivation before taking this job. If I had known the truth, I wouldn't have consented to be an 'enabler' of her deception, but steered her towards an adult literacy class. I might still have crafted that novel for her, but only on condition that she finally learnt basic writing skills.
Once you establish why the Client has hired you, ask yourself why you should work with them. Is there a compelling reason beyond the payment? If not, you may want to reconsider.
Think about which kind of Client motivation you would be comfortable with, and which you'd hate.
Being clear in your mind about those will make it easier later when you decide which jobs to apply for, and which to accept.
HOW TO GET STARTED AND LAND YOUR FIRST GIGS
The first few assignments are the hardest to get. Clients prefer to hire Writers with experience and proven track records. On top of that, the secretive nature of ghostwriting means that most opportunities are not openly advertised.
Once you have a track record as a ghostwriter, it gets easier. Clients will approach you and seek your services. Authors whom you've impressed with the quality of your work will tell their friends "If you need help with your book, Rea L. Writer is the woman for you." Agents will present you to prospective Authors.
But first, you have to get established. So how can you, as a newbie in the field, get a foot in the door?
1. Join agencies.
Although the top ghostwriting agencies are unlikely to take you on at this stage, you can probably get into general freelance agencies. (More about agencies in the chapter 'How To Get Work Through Agencies.)
2. Present yourself as a specialist.
Clients are far more likely to hire you if you possess expert knowledge in the book's topic.
Imagine three people seeking to hire a Writer: an Olympic gold medal winner who desires an autobiography, an investment broker who wants an insider guide to Wall Street, and a hobby writer who needs someone to complete her Regency Romance. When they scroll down the list of thousands of available Writers, which profiles do you think they'll click?
"Ghostwriter. I'm passionate about all kinds of writing."
"All-Round Writer. I can research and write about anything."
"Ghostwriter. Hire me, and you won't regret it."
"Romance Ghost Writer. My specialism is the Regency/Victorian period."
"Finance Writer – Banking, Crypto-Currencies, Insurance, Investments."
"Sports Writer. Ghostwriting articles, biographies, non-fiction books on sports-related topics."
As the Client sees 'Writer' after 'Writer', her eyes glaze over. Her attention will be arrested the moment she sees a writer who specialises in what she wants.
You'll have far less competition, too, because there'll be only a few freelancers specialising in your topic, whereas there are thousands of freelancers offering non-specific writing services.
So, what should you specialise in? Combine the forms of writing you have most experience in (whether that's social media posts or short stories) with the subject expertise you've gained from your day job, studies or hobbies. Do you have a law degree? Then present yourself as a legal writer. Are you a nurse or physiotherapist? That's a great background for a health writer. Are you a musician? Then make music your speciality. Perhaps you teach history? Great, you can be a specialist in history and education, or in historical fiction.
3. Look for 'urgent' jobs.
Some Clients want a Writer who is available immediately. They need a topical blog post or a CV/resume the same day, or even within an hour. Because of the urgency, they'll hire the first suitable Writer who applies. Your track record is irrelevant – your availability matters.
Scan the newly posted jobs in the agency's listing. Pre-set a search filter for the words 'urgent', 'immediate', 'quick', 'fast'. Some agencies even allow you to create an alert, so you'll get a notification on your phone.
When a job comes up, apply at once. Your chances of landing this gig are a hundred times better than with a non-urgent one.
Once you have a few of these urgent jobs under your belt, you have a track record with that agency. Now the agency's Clients take you seriously, and will consider you for bigger and better-paying assignments.
I used this method myself, and it worked wonders. In under a month, I had a solid track record and graduated to better gigs.
Use these three methods to get your foot in the door. Later, you can switch to a better agency, ignore the rush-jobs, and choose the genres and topics you really want to cover.
But for now, take the urgent jobs and use the expertise you already have.
WHAT NOT TO DO
Don't pretend expertise you don't have.
Don't promote yourself as a generalist writer.
LEARNING FROM MY MISTAKES
When I signed on with Upwork (a general freelancer agency), I hoped to work with experts in their fields turning their outlines into high-standard non-fiction books.
"That's too specialised," people told me. "There won't be much demand for that. Better say that you can do all sorts of writing."
Following their advice, I presented myself as a generalist writer. I listed all the writing services I could provide: non-fiction books, academic writing, memoirs, novels, short stories, poems, blogs, social media posts and more. I truly had done all of that and would be able to deliver quality work in each field. But my profile hardly ever got clicked, and my applications got ignored. Nobody hired me.
I changed my profile and presented myself as a non-fiction specialist… and the situation changed. Now half my applications led to interviews, and quite a few of them to hires.
The feedback you receive is crucial in building your reputation, especially when you are just starting out as a freelancer. So look for jobs that you know you can do well, and devote the time and effort it takes to do it. Cultivate your professional relationships. I still keep in touch with one of my very first Clients, who has since hired me for many projects.
Also, if you have a unique style, zany sense of humor, or unusual expertise, it doesn't hurt to showcase it. In the beginning, I submitted one of my quirkiest published stories as a sample and managed to attract interesting Clients whose sensibilities resonated with my own.
1. Research agencies online – those covering general freelancing work, those for all kinds of writing jobs, and the specialist ghostwriting agencies. Apply to at least five of them. Join at least two.
2. Decide on your specialism – the genre and/or subject area(s). For this, consider the kind of writing you have already done, as well as your professional skills and hobbies.
3. Think about when you can be available for urgent jobs, and scan the listings during those periods.
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