When you write a story, are you able to make facts interesting? Do your descriptions and dialog breathe life into people you’ve only met in your imagination? No? Maybe you need a ghostwriter.
Do you have a story all plotted out but can’t seem to get past that middle that’s dragging on forever and boring even you? Is your protagonist stumbling down too many blind alleys on the way to your mind-blowing conclusion? Maybe you need a ghostwriter.
Fact is, some people are great storytellers but don’t have the writing skills to create publishable work. Maybe you don’t have adequate research or organizational skills. Maybe you focus so hard on not making a punctuation mistake that you can’t put your thoughts on paper. Or maybe you’re just too busy with other tasks to do a good job on this one.
Need has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with investing the time and work necessary to master an exacting craft. Great copy sometimes needs a pro to express ideas to advantage. A ghostwriter.
Can you be a ghostwriter?
Chances are, in one sense you already are. Ever write a letter for someone else’s signature? Ever write down a story told to you by someone else? Ever write a school paper for a classmate? While the last example is unethical, it’s all ghostwriting. Someone else is choosing the subject and point of view, often supplying a rough draft or outline, but you’re bringing your specialized writing skills to the project in an anonymous capacity—for pay.
Have I caught your interest? Good.
What, exactly, is ghostwriting?
According to The Jenkins Group, a publishing company specializing in ghostwriting, a ghostwriter “is a writer who authors books, manuscripts, screenplays, scripts, articles, blog posts, stories, reports, whitepapers, or other texts that are officially credited to another person.”
I found several such publishers/agencies with a quick internet search. They match up the genre of work required with a published writer who has experience in that genre. They vet the writers in advance so you’re sure you’re getting top quality service.
The classified sections of trade magazines and various writers’ guilds are also good places to find potential ghostwriters. In these cases, the customer must do his/her own research into the writer’s credentials. Don’t skip this part. Not every writer is qualified to ghostwrite every project. Read something published by that writer in the genre you’re interested in producing. Writers, expect to have samples of your published work ready for inspection.
Write it all down.
No matter which side of the table you’re on, make sure you have a written contract which requires payment of a third of the writer’s fee at signing, a third after a specified time has elapsed and the customer has examined the writer’s progress, and the final third when a cd/memory stick-saved manuscript is delivered to the customer on a contract-specified date.
The ghostwriter is not going to make substantial changes to the original project without renegotiating the contract, so don’t expect to be a writing partner. The client has farmed the work out and has a single opportunity to comment at the time of the second payment.
All rights to the finished work are owned by the customer, who is listed as the author on the title page. A ghostwriter is an anonymous private contractor. Payment substitutes for accolades.
Keep in mind that a ghost writer delivers an editor-ready draft, not a print-ready manuscript. They’re not responsible for editing beyond basic spelling and grammar nor for publishing or promoting the work.
What kind of money are we talking about?
Publishers/agencies charge anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000 for a 100 to 250 page book, approximately three to nine months’ work. Much of the fee is dependent upon how much research and organization the writer needs to do to complete the project. Non-agency writers may well work for less, but be sure you know exactly what you’re buying. Ask for references from past clients. Ghostwriters, be prepared with contact information from satisfied customers.
Whether you’re a businessperson with need for specialized copy, a storyteller who needs professional support, or a published writer who is looking for extra income, consider ghostwriting as an elegant solution to your writing needs.
Fred Waiss is a former high school teacher and coach who writes poetry, articles, short stories, novellas, and novels as the muse attacks; as an author he considers himself a work in progress.