I was at my local Caribou several weeks ago when the man next to me struck up a conversation. (I was wearing my Instant Ghostwriter: Just Add Coffee T-shirt.) We talked about what I do for a few minutes, and I dispelled a few myths about the business, like:
1. You can't make money as a ghostwriter. Yeah, I know Craigslist is teeming with ads looking for ghostwriters who will work for a "share of the proceeds" or a "percentage of royalties."Those "clients" are nonstarters. But my informal survey of ghostwriters found that they're averaging $60,000/year. Not bad for a down economy.
2. Ghostwriters are never acknowledged. If you're writing for a celebrity, then there's a good chance you'll sign a confidentiality agreement. But all of my clients have recognized me in the acknowledgments of their books. So even though I'm technically a ghost, I can use their books as part of my marketing efforts.
3. Ghostwriters don't make royalties. While ghostwriters are often paid a flat, or project fee, in some instances you can negotiate a portion of royalties. (I have!) Then if the book does well, you wind up making more money.
4. No one is hiring ghostwriters. Wrong again. Publishing experts estimate that half of New York Times bestsellers are ghostwritten, and tens of thousands of books are ghosted every year. And that's not including clients (especially Pros with Platforms) who hire freelancers to ghost speeches, article, blog posts, even Tweets. There is plenty of work out there.
5. Ghostwriting always involves writing a book from scratch. Sometimes, yes. But often I have clients who have started or outlined a book but need help completing an entire manuscript. In other instances, I will do most of the research and writing and run it by my client. Every job is different.
6. Ghostwriters only do it for the money. (Hmm, there's a great T-shirt idea!) There is some truth to this, but I've found that helping a client reach his or her dream of getting his book in print is tremendously satisfying. Plus I love the collaborative process of working with a client. It's more complicated than writing my own books, but also more fun.
**Intrigued? Want to add ghosting to your writer's CV? Then check out Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books for everything you need to know to break into the field.
**And don't forget about my 2012 Freelance Income Survey! Please take it if you haven't already, and thank you!