There are several questions which regularly follow the conversational revelation that I am a ghost writer. The fundamental problem facing any professional writer is finding a steady supply of ideas and subjects so dazzlingly certain to appeal to the book-buying public that publishers are bound to put up huge advances. One answer is to collaborate with other people who lack writing skills and experience but have all the necessary information. These people might be celebrities who would impress publishers because of their notoriety through the tabloid or other media, or ordinary people who have undergone extraordinary experiences.
Alternatively they might be experts in subjects that the public want to know more about. The idea was first put to me by a management guru I was interviewing for a business magazine. He suggested that I should write them for him, having attended a few of his seminars and riffled through his filing cabinet. In the film industry, as screenwriter William Goldman and others have repeatedly pointed out, everything about the writing process has to do with teamwork and collaboration.
Why should the same principles not apply to book writing? The idea started to grow on me. If collaboration and adaptation were good enough for William Shakespeare, they should be good enough for the rest of us. Only the smallest percentage of books get reviewed.
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Most vanish completely from the shelves within a few months of publication, and are usually pretty hard to find even during those few months. Apart from a handful of literary stars, many of whom choose to write under pseudonyms anyway , few people recognise the names of authors. While Gillian was spending a week being whistled around all day from breakfast television to late night television, I could stay comfortably at home and get on with my next project, content in the knowledge that the promotional side of the project was in the hands of a true mistress of the media.
Sometimes you will get a mention in the acknowledgements and sometimes you will not appear at all. It does help if your name can appear somewhere on the cover of the books you are most proud to be associated with. Of all the advantages that ghosting offers, the greatest must be the opportunities that a ghost gets to meet people of interest. Ghosting a book for someone is like being paid to be educated by the best teachers in the world. Imagine being paid to learn everything that is in the heads of these people and then turning their thoughts, words and notes into book form.
Could there be a better form of education? Of course, not all people who use ghost writers are going to create books of such lasting value. But suppose one of your specialist areas is information technology.
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If you get invited to ghost for one of the most famous innovators in the business you will be able to ask questions about the future and learn things at his or her knee which other people would have to pay good money for in the form of consultancy or seminar fees. Zana Muhsen, who had escaped back to England after her father had sold her as a child bride in the Yemen, went to her local library to find out about ghost writers.
The librarian obligingly looked me up in The Bookseller. Having been to see her and heard her story I wrote a synopsis and sample chapter of Sold and found an agent to represent it.
The book eventually translated into every possible language and has so far sold over three million copies and spawned a sequel. To get her story on tape Zana and I spent three days together in a hotel suite in Birmingham and I then spent between two and three months writing. As with all the authors I ghost for, Zana had complete control over the text, nothing would even be shown to the agent until she had okayed it, but she changed almost nothing. Always having one good agent representing both parties in the arrangement, whose prime interest is in getting the book well published, not in encouraging the ghost and the author to fight one another for larger shares of the resulting royalties, means that I have almost never exchanged a cross word with any of my subjects.
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Being a ghost is a matter of suppressing your own ego completely, which is a good discipline for any writer. I listen to their story and then tell it for them, helping to get across their view of the world and the way things happen in it. She then exploited her position by selling her story to the media. Authors like Roz Morris have written whole books as ghostwriters, which is a far more involved process that includes extensive interviews with the client.
Assuming you want to build up your own brand as a writer, why would you want to be a ghostwriter? One huge reason to be a ghostwriter is money. Ghostwriting tends to pay better than regular freelancing. After all, having your name attached to your words is valuable for you as a writer. When you have a byline, you can use that piece of work to showcase your talent, build your reputation, and potentially attract new clients.
Most people want their writing to be consistent, so it makes sense to stick with the same writer.
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In other words, you have consistent work at a higher rate than usual. You may be privy to their rough notes or mind maps, or you might interview them on the phone or in person. This may be eye-opening! It could give you some ideas for how best to move forward with your own business when you start your own blog.
And as you build up closer relationships, or even friendships, with your client, they might share your other work on social media, bringing you a lot of extra traffic. Several of the people I ghostwrite for have supported me in that way. So much of blogging success depends on getting a helping hand from other bloggers — particularly those with a large audience and a great reputation in their field. Is ghostwriting ethical? The authors who hire ghostwriters certainly think it is! But not all writers or readers agree.
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Many feel that some types of ghostwriting are more ethical than others. For instance, think about these two scenarios, which are on opposite ends of the ghostwriting spectrum:. The thoughts in the e-book belong to the blogger, but the ghostwriter has helped shape them. Where would you personally draw the line as a ghostwriter, if at all?
It may sound silly, but not getting recognition for your writing can be quite painful — unbearable to some. I have to admit that, as a writer, it can sometimes sting a little to see a blogger receive lots of lovely praise for a post that I wrote every word of. But think of it this way: All that praise is a sign you did a great job.
Many writers feel that way. But maybe we should also keep things in perspective. Some writers feel that, to become a successful freelance writer , you need to take credit for every powerful word you write and create an impressive body of work with your name on it.
They believe that ghostwriting is essentially a waste of time. It might be that you want to solely focus on your own platform heck, you might even hire ghostwriters of your own, some day down the line! You can do both at the same time. Check out the image below click to see a larger view :. The same way you become a freelance writer.
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If you want to be a ghostwriter, you have to learn how to create quality content. It means:. Nothing will impact your ability to earn real, tangible income as a ghostwriter more than your ability to create amazing content. So how can you help your content rank on Google?
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