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So you want to be a ghostwriter?


If you ever wanted to know the basics of ghostwriting, what it is and how you can become one, that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

What is a ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is a writer who is hired by someone to write a project that is not their own. Usually, they aren’t given credit for it. A select few like James Patterson publicly give their ghostwriters credit on the covers or in the acknowledgements, but this is not the case for most projects.

Ghostwriters are used in many industries, such as the music industry, copywriting, blog writing, and the industry that I’m most familiar with and have worked in the publishing industry.

Is ghostwriting illegal?

Ghostwriting has been around for many, many years, and it is not illegal. It’s not plagiarism, which a lot of people think it is.

This is how I view it. Those projects that I worked on would not have existed in my back catalog without the ideas from my clients. I would have never thought to write these stories on my own, let alone publish them. As a ghostwriter, you’re there to bring someone else’s story to life. There’s nothing illegal about the contractual agreement between a ghostwriter and a client for a service.

Who can be a ghostwriter?

Pretty much any writer, you could be a novice to a New York times bestselling author or anyone in between.

Why would someone become a ghostwriter?

This can be a fantastic way to gain writing experience along with honing your craft. Writers who may not be successful selling their own projects, may be a good candidate for ghostwriting to gain some experience working with publishing professionals and also really honing in on their craft by focusing on story versus everything else, such as marketing creation of the story ideas, etc.

For example, if you are a writer who can’t seem to finish your book project for any reason, or are having trouble figuring out where your story fits in the publishing industry, but you become a ghostwriter and someone gives you a fully fleshed outline of their idea. Then you can focus on bringing that story to life instead of worrying about everything else and with no publishing pressure on your shoulders.

Most of the time, ghostwriters will give a polished draft to their clients to do all the editing work, the production, and then the publishing of the book. For some of my clients, there were less than a handful of instances where I had to go back into that draft and do any edits. At that point, they were usually small tweaks.

So, there’s no pressure for you right away to create a sellable product right out the gate. Also, this can be a quick way for you to earn money. Think about it. It often takes a writer’s months or years to write a book project. Then they have to edit it, sell it, if they’re going to go traditional or they have to edit it on their own for self publishing, publish the book, market the book before they see any sort of advances or royalties.

With ghostwriting, you typically get paid when you finish the project.

If you have a client who gives you a fully fleshed outline, you get paid as quick as you take to write the book.

Why do companies and authors use ghostwriters?

I have a couple of scenarios:

If a person is a celebrity or a big CEO of a company who wants to impart their story on the world and they don’t have the time, or to be frank, talent to pen the story on their own, a ghostwriter is usually hired to do it for them. I mean, if you had enough money to hire a professional writer, to write your story, wouldn’t you do that? There’s no reason why you shouldn’t, especially as that client, if you have no experience writing books. It would take that person much longer to write their own story, then go through editing and going through finding someone to buy the book, then going with a publishing house who will hire a ghostwriter for you. Even the big four publishers often audition and hire ghostwriters to write for their celebrity clients, gearing their story to what readers and fans want to read.

Another scenario is if an author or a publishing house wants to rapidly release books. With Kindle Unlimited (KU) and binge-watching platforms, there are people out there ravenous for stories. Some KU readers read multiple books in a week or even a day. They are hungry for more.

A lot of authors or publishers will gear their publishing schedules toward this rapid release mentality. Some people are releasing a book a month, maybe multiple books a month. And most of the time one person, one author cannot do that. Now I know it may be hard to believe that your favorite KU author is not sitting behind the desk all the time, churning out books.

And I’m not saying they all do, but many of them (I’ve worked for a couple) will hire teams of ghostwriters and they will give them outlines of projects and they will have their ghostwriters write the books while they do the marketing, or even some of the book writing themselves.

But they are usually not writing, editing, and publishing all these books. Half the time, the author that is on the cover isn’t really a person; it’s one or many ghostwriters writing under that name, creating that voice that you love.

When it comes to book packagers, these are companies that employ people in different sectors of the publishing industry, such as writers, editors, marketing teams, outliners, etc. to produce and sell a product: a book.

These are publishers, but instead of hiring you as the author to write your book and have your name on it, they give you as a ghostwriter the idea for the story, usually with a fully fleshed outline and you write it for them. These companies hire experts in their fields to research the market for books that are doing really well, and they work hard to release books that readers are looking for. Even the big publishers have hired these book packaging companies to source out projects.

Where do you find ghostwriting jobs?

In my experience as a freelance ghostwriter, work for me has come from websites like Upwork.com, and Reedsy is also another popular website.

Independent publishing houses may list their need for ghostwriters on their websites. But I would suggest a quick Google search for ghostwriting jobs to give you a better idea of who is hiring now.

If you have an agent, I suggest asking them for any ghostwriting jobs or projects that are coming up with the network that they have.

How much do ghostwriters make?

This depends. Most of the time, for me, it depended on my client’s budget, my rate, and the project. When I was writing fiction projects, building up my portfolio on Upwork.com, I took any job that was available that I felt qualified to do, just to bring up my star rating.

Eventually, I worked my way up to hundreds to thousands of dollars per book project. It can be a very lucrative career for someone who enjoys the writing process and is really not interested in publishing their under their own name. Or this is a great way to make a supplemental income in between publishing your own books.

I’m going to delve much deeper into the nuances of ghostwriting and my experiences later on in future segments of this series. So stay tuned!

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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