Ghostwriting seems to be a lessor discussed facet of freelance work. It's been an important part of the launching of my career, but I don't consider myself an expert. So for this series, I'm going to let an guru share her wealth of knowledge and experience with my readers in a two to one ratio with my own. Her 30 plus pieces speak for themselves. Please welcome Marcia Layton Turner to EG Moore Freelance and Fiction!
If you’ve thought about getting in to ghostwriting, you’re not alone. After all, with magazine and newspaper work disappearing and web content writing often paying paltry rates, the higher pay that ghostwriting often offers looks mighty appealing. At least that’s what I hear from friends and colleagues who are on the hunt for new writing income sources.
What some don’t realize, however, is that ghostwriting is different from writing magazine articles, authoring books, or crafting blog posts for your own blog. You have your own distinctive voice. That voice might be casual and conversational or it might be scholarly, or it might be opinionated and peppered with expletives. We all have our own style and tone that we’re most comfortable with.
The biggest preconceived notion about ghostwriting is that it’s just like any other kind of writing for money. It’s not.
Ghostwriting requires well-honed writing skills on top of the ability to adopt someone else’s voice. That means writing to match another person’s tone, style, rhythm, vocabulary, and word preferences. A friend should be able to read something you’ve written in another’s voice and believe your client wrote it. That’s what a good ghostwriter does. It’s a skill that can be learned, of course, but it does add another element to writing assignments that can make it tough for some writers to do well.
There are a number of pros and cons with respect to ghostwriting.
Figuring out how to match your client’s voice is perhaps the biggest con. That is, it’s a challenge that must be overcome to be good at ghostwriting and to build a solid base of clients. Being able to mimic how another person communicates is just as important, maybe even more so, than mastering the topic. Writing articles or blog posts as a freelancer in your own voice is simpler.
Another con, or challenge, in ghostwriting is that some clients misunderstand the role of a ghostwriter. They may think that hiring a ghost means they don’t have to participate at all in the development of their book – they’ve turned that over to you. They’re wrong, of course, but clients who hadn’t planned to make time to be interviewed or to brainstorm how best to approach the topic of their book may become irritated at your request for their time. That’s why they hired a ghostwriter, they think.
Finally, whether you’re writing blog posts, an article, or a book for a client, you’re dependent on their being available to provide input and feedback on your work. Unfortunately, not all clients understand that. Finding time to connect can be difficult when dealing with very busy people, as most ghostwriting clients are.
Despite these factors to consider before striking out as a ghostwriter, there are plenty of pros as well.
For those of us who struggle to come up with our own ideas to sell to publishers, clients who want to hire us to write about their topic makes life much easier. As a ghostwriter, you don’t have to come up with ideas yourself, though sharing your perspective and feedback with clients regarding their ideas is essential.
And when it comes to research, a ghostwriting client typically has background information and opinions to share that can lead you to sources and material you might never have come across. Having access to clients who have expertise on a subject can make research so much faster and easier.
The reason many freelancers decide to explore ghostwriting has more to do with money than anything else, however. This is the biggest pro of all: ghostwriting projects often pay well. And by comparison to publisher advances today, ghostwriting fees look very attractive.
Yes, the money is good. But where it’s easy to identify outlets who might buy your written work, it’s more difficult to identify who might need your ghostwriting services. Many clients prefer not to reveal their need for professional writing help, making it hard to determine who, exactly, is in your target market.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim to be a ghostwriter, only that there are a few barriers you’ll need to overcome and some challenges inherent in the job to be aware of.
As someone who earns close to 80% of her income from ghostwriting, I think the best part of being a ghostwriter is the opportunity to explore new topics, guided by the leading experts in their field. I certainly learn something new every day.
Marcia Layton Turner is a ghostwriter and freelancer who focuses mainly on business topics. She has authored, co-authored, or ghosted more than 30 non-fiction books. She is also founder and executive director of the Association of Ghostwriters. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
Thanks again Marcia! This ghostwriting series will continue in mid April, where Marcia will give you an example from her career and how to use ghostwriting to further your freelancing career.