The term “ghostwriting” refers to writing for someone that you don’t receive credit for. Famous people, for example, seldom write their own autobiographies. Instead, they hire a ghostwriter to tell their story for them.
Why would a freelance ghostwriter agree to forfeit credit for his or her work? Simple: money. Clients usually pay ghostwriters far more than a “normal” writer’s fee of $20-$50 an hour. Small books (150 pages or less) usually cost a client at least $25,000. Fees go up from there depending on the length and type of book, as well as the amount of research required by the ghostwriter.
The fees are high because you can’t slap your byline on the work and you forfeit all rights to royalties that your book generates. The exceptions are if the client agrees to put your name in print on the cover, name you as a co-author, or offer you part of the royalties. In those cases, you would often give a hefty discount depending on the return you expected.
What types of books can I ghostwrite?
Many industries seek the skills of freelance ghostwriters. Fiction and children’s writing are common – people often have (or think they have) an amazing storyline, but lack the writing ability to sell it.
Freelance ghostwriters often pen non-fiction books, such as autobiographies and instructional, business, and self-help books. Sometimes these ghostwriters are experts in the subject matter, sometimes they are not. You may have to do a lot of research, or none at all.
You can also ghostwrite for smaller projects, like articles and web content. These don’t usually pay more than normal writing but they’re good resume builders.
Where can I find freelance ghostwriting gigs?
Set up a website to promote your freelance ghostwriting services. Because ghostwriting is expensive, it’s important to buyers that you are truly a ghostwriting professional. Presenting yourself with a polished website is a great way to emphasize your credibility.
It is more than possible to find ghostwriting jobs on freelancing websites, but buyers there are usually less knowledgeable and therefore less willing to pay good money. It is common to see ads for a 250-page book that needs writing with a budget of $500 or less. It doesn’t hurt to keep your eye out for a gem though – it does happen occasionally.
What skills do I need to be a freelance ghostwriter?
If you have experience, you’re off to a great start. If you lack experience, thumb through your own files to see if you can use some of that as writing examples, or write some from scratch. You don’t have to ghostwrite it to prove your writing skills. If you have a particular client in mind, do your best to match your writing style and samples to the type of writing you think your client is looking for.
Remember that any samples you send can’t be ghostwritten work. Unless otherwise specified in the agreement, you can’t ever disclose that you’re the author behind ghostwritten work. In these cases, feel free to describe the book you ghostwrote and how well it’s doing.
How should I respond to a ghostwriting ad?
If you find a promising ad (or if someone contacts you), respond professionally using perfect grammar and polite language. For practice, try responding to this sample ad:
I’m looking for someone to write a book about choosing the right family pet. I have an outline and some research but a little more will be required. The book should only be about 100 pages. I will own all rights afterwards. Serious writers only.
What should you say to this person? Well, it’s good to start off expressing an interest in their subject matter. Ghostwriting projects are usually dear to buyers’ hearts, so if you start by saying you’re passionate about pets, you’ll catch his eye right away.
Next, you’ll want to assure him that you can handle the task. If you don’t have enough experience to convince him, suggest having him send one chapter outline and writing a sample for him for free. Yes, it’s a bit of unpaid work for you, but it will mean thousands of dollars if you get the job.
Finally, quote a fee. The book is short and research appears to be minimal. If you’re experienced, quote $25,000. If you’re not, quote around $15,000. It’s far less than an experienced ghostwriter would make, but you have to start somewhere. Good luck!