Are you haunted by the idea of becoming a ghostwriter? Writing for someone else and letting them take all the credit isn’t for everyone. But at Writer’s Relief, we know there’s definitely a market for this type of work: The books, memoirs, and blog posts of celebrities, bloggers, and social media influencers are often ghostwritten. Politicians, executives, and key players in timely current events will also use ghostwriters for books, speeches, articles, and more. If you’re interested in scaring up a few of these projects, here are our best tips on how to be a successful ghostwriter.
Becoming A Successful Ghostwriter
A busy blogger might have a great concept for a book and a built-in audience ready to buy—but no time to write the book. Or a politician might want to write a memoir, but isn’t great with the process and minutia of writing. Another example: Maybe a medical researcher who’s brilliant with scientific facts and technical writing needs a writer who can take the information and create an engaging narrative that will appeal to readers who aren’t scientists. These are just a few instances where someone might use a ghostwriter.
Often, the person who hires a ghostwriter provides an outline or a complete rough draft that needs to be overhauled. It’s also common for ghostwriters to thoroughly interview their subjects.
3 Tricks To Landing Ghostwriting Assignments
- Hone your writing skills. Before you think about seeking ghostwriting opportunities, be sure to perfect your writing skills! Your future ghostwriting clients will often be available to help with the substance of your work—but they’re counting on you to give it style and readability!
- Put together an airtight portfolio. One key to landing ghostwriting gigs is to show potential clients how flexible you are. Your ghostwriting portfolio should include writing on many different topics in different formats, genres, and styles. You can also include excerpts from past work and testimonials from ghostwriting clients as long as you have permission from your clients.
- Network, network, network! One successful ghostwriting job can easily snowball into more opportunities—but you have to land that first assignment. Make sure publishers, editors, and agents know you’re interested in ghostwriting. Once they know you and your work, you can ask them to recommend you for any ghostwriting opportunities they hear about!
Tips For Successful Ghostwriting
Consider your location. A huge benefit of ghostwriting (or any freelance writing, really!) is that you can work from anywhere in the world! When you’re first starting out, it might be helpful to base yourself in a busier city that can serve as a hub for interesting clients. For example, the book publishing industry is still largely based in New York City, but also has international arms in places like London. And if you’re interested in political ghostwriting opportunities, Washington, D.C., is a smart bet! Making yourself available to travel to meet clients is always a plus, though of course interviews can also be conducted virtually.
Become an expert interviewer. In order to create the best work, ghostwriters often extensively interview their subjects. Go into each interview with a clear objective and list of questions—the more specific, the better. It’s a good idea to record these interviews (as long as the interviewee gives permission, of course). While transcribing your recordings may be time-consuming, it will help ensure what you’re writing is accurate.
Be as good an editor as you are a writer. Editing is a key part of the writing process—but it’s even more important when ghostwriting! It’s likely that the “author” and publisher you’re working with (and/or their representatives) will review your drafts at various stages of the process. Make sure you’re ready to hear and implement their feedback!
Remember, teamwork makes the dream work! Though writing itself can often be very solitary, the person you’re writing for may be involved in every stage of the process, from initial interviews to edits. While this can be helpful, it can also lead to head-butting and bruised egos if their vision for the book is different from yours. It’s important to exercise patience and to ask the right questions to ensure you and your client are on the same page.
The Pros And Cons Of Ghostwriting
Ghostwriters can never take credit for their work—so if that’s going to be difficult for you or might create professional hindrances, ghostwriting probably isn’t your calling. Some writers also have personal concerns about whether it’s okay to let readers believe someone is a better writer than they really are. Most readers and writers see a ghostwriter as simply an extra tool available to help public figures tell their story in a strong, engaging way. But it’s up to your individual values to determine how you feel about ghostwriting.
Ghostwriting is also an excellent way to gain more experience writing professionally, and ghostwriters are typically paid very well (a big draw for creative writers). Ghostwriting also lets you write without having to promote the work you’ve created—that’s for the “author” to deal with!
Question: Would you ever consider ghostwriting? Why or why not?