Are you a writer if you are not writing your book? And, are you an author if you are not the author of the book you wrote? The topic of ghostwriters is the hot potato of the literary world, and you might be on the point of becoming part of it. This article clarifies what ghostwriting is and gives some advice on how to become a ghostwriter yourself.
What Is Ghostwriting?
A ghostwriter is hired to write a book, article, or another piece of high-quality writing. While they are paid for their contribution, more often than not, they are not publicly acknowledged. The content is credited under somebody else’s name.
Sometimes, they may be acknowledged as a "co-author" in the Acknowledgments section. Some ghostwriters even prefer to be referred to as "collaborators," as they view their role as a partnership with the author. However, due to the confidentiality clauses often in place, they are generally restricted from disclosing the specific books they have ghostwritten.
Is ghostwriting plagiarism?
It all depends on the context and the readership’s expectations of authorship. This article from PlagiarismToday discusses the subject thoroughly, making it a worthwhile read.
Plagiarism is presenting someone else's words, ideas, or work as one's own without giving proper credit. Ghostwriting is an accepted form of plagiarism, as it’s conducted with consent and in collaboration (in the case of literary works) or within the limits of common practices (as seen in the case of lawyers).
For example, when a lawyer drafts a legal motion, it is common practice to borrow substantial portions of text from other sources without providing explicit citations. This is not considered plagiarism as it aligns with the norms of the legal profession and is, in fact, a requirement.
In the publishing industry, it is widely accepted and known that celebrities hire ghostwriters and do not write the books themselves.
What are the benefits of ghostwriting?
Choosing to become a ghostwriter can provide valuable opportunities for honing one's writing skills, building a diverse portfolio, and establishing professional connections.
As a ghostwriter, you can work closely with different writing clients and gain insights into various industries and topics. This exposure expands your knowledge base and enhances your writing skills. Additionally, once you start ghostwriting, you’ll have a steady income stream, as you can often secure long-term projects with repeat clients.
Every ghostwriting gig allows you to create a diverse collection of writing samples that showcase your versatility and talent across different genres and increase the value of your writing portfolio. These samples can be invaluable when attracting potential clients and demonstrating your capabilities. Adapting your writing voice to match different authors and maintaining consistency throughout a project are highly valued skills in the ghostwriting world.
However, there are certain considerations and drawbacks to keep in mind. One major challenge is the lack of public recognition for your work. Not seeing your name on a published work can impact personal fulfillment.
Additionally, ghostwriters must be comfortable maintaining confidentiality, as they are entrusted with sensitive information and bound by non-disclosure agreements. This can restrict your ability to openly discuss the projects you have worked on, making it important to navigate the boundaries of professional discretion carefully.
When to look for ghostwriting gigs?
The most important advice aspiring authors are given is to write, write more, and keep writing. To get to the top of their writing game, authors often look for writing jobs where they can practice, improve, and earn some money on the way.
Ghostwriting (“ghosting”) is an ideal occupation for newbie fiction and non-fiction writers.
If you have just started writing, you get to practice your skills every day, enjoying all the flexibility of freelance writing and steadily getting to grow your freelance writing business.
If you find inspiration in a bustling coffee shop atmosphere and thrive on collaborative projects that do not require your full-time attention and dedication, content marketing guest posts are excellent ghostwriting opportunities. You can find them on job boards in the business community. This allows you to still find time to publish your book and make some money with freelance writing jobs.
Further advantages include immersing yourself in different worlds, experiencing different views, collecting valuable ideas, and getting the help of supportive and professional publishing teams. Additional boons include getting paid upfront and being able to keep that important emotional distance.
On the other hand, there is such a thing as too much writing. Be mindful of your writing space, and do not confuse writing businesses with your true calling as an author.
If you’re a writer as your day job, chances are that you’d like to do something else in your off-time, something other than staring at a blank paper with little black marks. When you are a ghostwriter by day, you might not want to be a fiction writer by night.
How to Become a Ghostwriter
Chances are you won’t come across a ghostwriter position on your local job board. But this doesn’t mean that it is impossible to become a ghostwriter.
Here are the skills and experiences needed, as well as where to look for clients.
Ghostwriting suits newbie authors, but it is not an entry-level position. You must be able to show a proven track record of written works and published items. You should be confident in what you are doing as an author.
Skills and experience needed as a ghostwriter:
1. Experience as a writer
Perseverance and dedication can pave the way to success. One crucial aspect is showcasing your writing through various mediums. Self-publishing is an effective method to put your work out into the world, allowing potential clients to assess your skills. Self-publishing authors also potentially position themselves as ghostwriters. (yes, self-publishing ghostwriters are actually a thing!)
Engaging in blogging or creating your own podcast series are other avenues that can demonstrate your capabilities. It's essential to recognize that the work you undertake using your own identity can serve as a stepping stone toward securing writing opportunities under someone else's name.
2. Good knowledge of the rules of different genres and topics
Only accept work in genres you’re familiar with. Writing itself is not enough: you have to read professional work on the topics you intend to work with. And by reading, I mean a lot. Read at least as much as you’re writing.
3. Have a niche
While it is great to experience different things when starting as a ghostwriter, most ghostwriters have a niche, as known as a unique selling point. Are you working on lyrics for top bands? Do you write business books? Make sure to specialize in something.
4. Ability to work on tight deadlines and strict instructions
As a ghostwriter, you have to gather a deep understanding of your client’s needs and expectations. At the beginning of a project, you’ll get a creative brief outlining brand guidelines, expectations, and deadlines.
5. Research skills
Ghostwriters not only write up the story but do most of the legwork. If it’s an autobiography, you’ll need top-notch interview skills. For other non-fiction ghostwriting, you’ll most likely be researching a very narrow subject in great detail.
6. Ask for endorsements
It is crucial to communicate your availability as a ghostwriter to others actively. Word of mouth can have a significant impact, but for that to happen, your social network needs to be aware of your aspirations. Specifically, make sure to share your goals with individuals who have connections in the publishing industry.
If you happen to know a freelance editor or an established author, they might be able to vouch for your skills. Traditional publishing houses often recommend ghostwriters to prominent figures whose memoir rights they have recently acquired. Building relationships with the right people increases your chances of being recommended for ghostwriting opportunities.
7. Think of yourself as business
If you want to monetize your ghostwriting skills, it is essential to shift your mindset from being solely a writer to also being a businessperson. This entails dedicating time to networking and promoting your ghostwriting services.
If you have previous experience in selling your work as a writer, you are likely familiar with various marketing strategies, such as establishing a professional website or cultivating a strong presence on social media. These tools can be leveraged to showcase your expertise and attract potential clients to your ghostwriting business.
How much does a ghostwriter make?
The compensation for a ghostwriter varies based on their level of experience and the genre of the book being written.
Rates can be determined through an hourly fee ranging from $30 to $200, a per-word fee ranging from $1 to $3, or a per-project fee ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. Seasoned ghostwriters often prefer the per-project model, which allows for flexibility and accounts for the overall scope of the work. In cases where a project extends beyond the initial agreement, additional hourly fees may be added.
It's important to note that the specific pricing structure can be influenced by factors such as the complexity and length of the book, the research involved, and the ghostwriter's reputation in the industry. Furthermore, rates may also vary depending on the client's specific requirements and the level of collaboration involved throughout the writing process.
How do you find a ghostwriter job?
If you are looking to start your ghostwriting career, be sure that somewhere there is also someone asking themselves: where can I find a ghostwriter? They just need to find you, so here is a useful way to start.
- Look around at places like Reedsy, Upwork, or Fiverr for small gigs. Your first job won’t be a New York Times Bestseller, but that’s OK.
- Get the legal side out of the way. Don’t forget to register as self-employed (depending on your country’s regulations) and have your “income & expenses” Excel file ready.
- Think about how you will invoice. You can write up your own in a Word document, but there are tools that help you better manage your invoices, such as Wave. It’s free for small businesses. If you get your gig through a third party, they might create invoices for you.
- You don’t have to start by creating a website, but ensure your social media presence is in order. Whoever you’ll be working with will check your profiles. If you have a public Facebook profile, hide any content you don’t want your potential clients to see – just as you would when looking for a traditional job. Have at least one social media account that is professional.
- Start in familiar circles. Are you a regular commenter on your favorite blog? Ask them if they’d be interested in any contributions. Ask around in Facebook groups where people know you – somebody might need your ghostwriting services.
What to expect from the contract?
These are the most important details to keep in mind when signing a ghostwriting contract:
1. Price and payment terms
- Transparency in pricing: As a ghostwriter, it is crucial to provide clear information about the pricing and payment terms to potential clients. Establish a fair and reasonable fee structure based on your experience and the genre of the book.
- Flat fee structure: Consider utilizing a flat fee structure, where you determine a fixed amount for the entire project. This approach ensures that both parties have a clear understanding of the financial arrangement.
- Installments: Discuss with the client the option of dividing the payment into installments, providing them with flexibility while ensuring your financial security.
- Clearly defined deliverables: Collaborate with the client to outline the specific deliverables expected throughout the project. This may include conducting initial interviews, conducting research, preparing rough drafts, and revisions. Establishing clear expectations helps manage the scope of work effectively.
- Tailored approach: Customize your approach based on the client's requirements. Some clients may prefer a flexible arrangement, while others may have specific word or page count targets. By aligning your approach with their needs, you enhance client satisfaction.
3. Rights and royalties
- Client's ownership: Emphasize the importance of the client retaining full ownership of the book, including copyright and all associated rights. Ensure they understand that you will not retain any rights to the work.
- Royalties negotiation: In exceptional cases, clients may request a discussion about potential royalty sharing. This typically applies to major book deals and requires careful negotiation to ensure a mutually beneficial agreement.
4. Plagiarism protection
- Professional integrity: As a reputable ghostwriter, it is vital to maintain the highest ethical standards. Assure your clients that you adhere to strict guidelines against plagiarism and will indemnify them against any unauthorized use of copyrighted material.
5. Termination rights
- Client's assurance: Include clauses in the contract that protect the client's rights in the event of contract termination for valid reasons. This helps maintain their confidence and trust in your professionalism.
- Client confidentiality: Respect the client's preferences regarding anonymity and non-disclosure. Discuss the level of disclosure desired and negotiate any associated fees accordingly while maintaining the utmost respect for their privacy. Keep in mind that some ghostwriters may charge additional fees for maintaining anonymity, as many of them seek recognition for their work. The price for anonymity is negotiable.
Get set, go!
Embarking on a journey to becoming a ghostwriter requires a unique blend of writing skills, professionalism, and a deep understanding of the collaborative nature of the craft.
You can position yourself as a sought-after ghostwriter in the publishing industry by honing your writing abilities, building a network of connections, and continuously expanding your knowledge and expertise.
Remember to establish clear agreements with clients regarding pricing, deliverables, rights, and confidentiality.
Embrace the opportunity to bring someone else's vision to life while ensuring the utmost respect for their voice and story.