Monday, April 20, 2015

Ghostwriting Series #3: My Learning Curve

Hello and Good Monday everyone!

A quick, shameless plug before we dive into the meat of this post: my first ever blog interview after hooking my agent just went live over on Brenda Drake's blog, so please go check it out! It's me and my super secret Pitchwars mentor, now revealed, chatting about the experience.

Today is the final post of the ghostwriting series I've had going as my family moved cross country. If you haven't had a chance to see post 1 and post 2 with Marcia Layton Turner, be sure to check them out! She has great tips and experience to help you break into and succeed at this unique faucet of freelance work. I'm not nearly as accomplished in ghostwriting as Ms. Turner, but I thought I'd share a little bit about what I have learned as I meandered this part of my short freelancing career.


Unlike the sort of projects Marcia accomplished in 30 days, I started on much smaller projects. I wrote a fun bath book to accompany a bath toy, and got raving reviews from the client. (This was a small step that later lead me to writing picture books, but that's a topic for another post.) In addition to this project, I also took on half a dozen 25-page recipe eBooks. Most of the focus on these books was formatting, but it still required some research and creative writing before each recipe.I also did sporadic articles and short eBooks in between these, all with a clause in contract that these were ghostwriting and I would never have a public claim on them.

The first significant ghostwriting project came from a current client that had already tested me out on several of these smaller ghostwriting projects. She approached me after having hired and fired another ghostwriter, who from what I could understand, didn't have the same voice or conviction on the topic that she could tell I did. The client had a better grasp of what she wanted and felt confident in me (even though I didn't). But at that precise moment in my life, finances were tight and the big number offered was too tempting. I reasoned that the research was done, that I simply needed to rewrite it in her style and format all 40,000 words. That could be done in a month, no problem.

However, my lack of experience didn't prepare me for the depth that ghostwriting goes compared to other freelance writing I'd been doing. There were hours of additional research I needed to do, and it was harder for me to focus on the topic and write then cranking out some content articles. Thankfully, the client was gracious with deadlines and willing to pay for my additional time.

Through this experience, I learned a few key things that I want to share with you. These may reiterate some of Marcia's suggestions, but that just means their even more relevant.

1. It's really important to understand the project before you take the job. It's expected that you ask lots of questions and understand the client's audience, intentions, and needs. Break down the time period you'll need to complete the project and make sure you're getting paid accordingly. If you are taking the project on alone, give yourself some leeway hours just in case.

2. Once the project starts, communicate regularly with the client. If you've preproposed deadlines or check-in days, be sure to stick to them. In my case, the communication kept her in the loop and led to more pay when I made her aware of every step and why it took so much longer then originally planned.

3. Loving or knowing the topic well ahead of time makes the project go smoother. Most freelancers have one or more niches that they write within, and often those topics are what they are passionate about. Those are the ghostwriting topics you should consider, especially when you will be working on it for a month or for thousands of words. In my case, this big project called to my passion for natural health care and treatments.

In the end, this ghostwriting endeavor taught me a lot about deadlines and my time's worth. I also discovered that if I'm going to write that many words for one manuscript, I'd rather it be mine and fictional. But it was a wonderful learning experience, and I still chalk it up to extra writing practice.

Have you done any ghostwriting work? What was your experience like? Please tell me in the comments below!