If you’ve read any celebrity or professional athlete’s autobiography, then you’ve read a book that has been ghostwritten. Sounds eerie, doesn’t it? For those not familiar with the terminology, a ghostwriter is essentially an individual who writes articles, books, and other materials that are officially credited to another person. Now why on earth someone choose to pursue a career in writing where they receive no recognition?
For one, money. In such a competitive work environment, many writers will find it hard to refuse a writing opportunity that offers good pay (sometimes the equivalent of an advance on a published book!) Not to mention the fact that an experienced ghostwriter can charge between $10,000 to $20,000 for writing a book, and if you’re in high demand or have a long resume with celebrities and politicians as clients, then you can command even more.
Second, convenience. You’re writing someone else’s story, so for the most part you’re just taking the information they provide you with and rewording and arranging it while creating a convincing tone that will make the audience believe they are reading the actual words by the person the book is about. Most celebrities and other big public figures don’t have the time to sit down and write a book, but they have the money to hire someone else to do it for them. Or some of them simply lack the skills and ability to write and formulate decent sentences. Either way, everyone wins. Professional ghostwriter Marcia Layton Turner says, “I ghostwrite for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the steady stream of revenue. I also find that ghostwriting is easier than authoring a book myself because there is less research to be done. The client is generally responsible for providing background material or for pointing me in the right direction.”
So how does one go about becoming a ghostwriter? One of the most common ways is by going on writer’s websites (including Craigslist, but you want to be cautious as always) that often post ghostwriting and co-authoring opportunities that you can apply to. You can also subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace and list your available services for those who are interested.
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to build yourself in this industry, so start out by taking on smaller projects and excelling at them so you can get more referrals. For instance, a busy CEO may need assistance ghostwriting a short article for a magazine, which can then be added to your list of experiences. Eventually you can work your way up to writing books for people, or volunteering to do so when someone you know happens to be looking for a ghostwriter.
You can also look up agencies that specialize in or have a ghostwriting division. You’ll need to be more established in order to pursue this route, but once you’ve gained some street cred as a ghostwriter, then agencies can assign or refer you to bigger projects, which is a great source of reliable income. While you may prefer the idea of seeing your name in big font on the cover of a book at Barnes & Noble, it wouldn’t hurt to give ghostwriting some consideration. Not only is it a convenient and easy career path, but it will also provide you with an interesting experience and teach you new things that you might have otherwise never learned about.