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Like any job, ghostwriting comes with drawbacks. Knowing them in advance will help you manage them so they don’t become stumbling blocks.

Underestimating The Scope Of The Project. There’s a lot that goes into ghostwriting one page. It isn’t just about the writing. You have to do research. Conduct interviews. Review whatever material your client provides. Develop an outline. Look up meanings of words and idioms. Check facts. Look up the correct spelling of names of people, places, departments and agencies. Check timelines. Proofread. Do revisions based on your client’s feedback. Then do more revisions to repair the writing flow that inevitably breaks when you insert new information.

The final written page that your client sees is just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t underestimate all the research, fact-checking, phone calls, emails, reading, structuring, editing and rewriting you’ll have to do to create one perfect page. If you’re writing a book, multiply this process by 200 or so. Only then will you start to grasp the real scope of your project – something you must know for scheduling purposes.

Ending Up With An Income That’s Too Low. In general, ghostwriters don’t charge enough for the projects they complete. Adding up all the hours that the writer spends on tasks beyond straight writing, like research and revisions, it can easily come to multiple hours to finalize a single page.

Let’s look at a simplified example. Say a ghostwriter is aiming for $25 per hour, working 40 hours a week and taking three weeks off per year. This would yield an annual income of $49,000.

She decides to charge $25 per double-spaced page. But if it takes her 30 minutes to study material pertinent to that page, 15 minutes to look up information about the places that will be mentioned on the page, 30 minutes to write the first draft, 15 minutes to edit and proofread it before sending it to her client, and 30 minutes to revise and finalize the page after getting feedback, then she’s earned $25 for two hours of work. Her actual hourly rate is $12.50, yielding an annual income of $24,500.

An actual income that’s significantly less than what you’re expecting is a recipe for financial failure. You might have to charge more per page, per hour or per project to avoid this pitfall.

Not Getting The Client’s “Voice” Right. The best ghostwriters are like chameleons, able to change their writing style and tone to sound like the client. The writing must be top-quality and eloquent, but it can’t sound generic. A reader has to hear and picture the author, not the writer in the background. A good ghostwriter, then, must be able to inject a dose of the client’s personality and flair into the writing.

Undoubtedly, capturing the author’s voice in writing can be tricky. It takes practice. Learn to really listen to your client in order to capture all the quirks and nuances that come through. Revise your writing until it sounds more like your client, less like you.

Trying To Hit A Moving Target. In the beginning, your client may not have a good grasp of the scope or direction of his book. He may ask for a memoir only to change his mind a couple of months later and want a fictionalized account of his life instead. Or he’s constantly tweaking the outline or asking for revisions.

It can get difficult and frustrating when the parameters are constantly changing. One way to protect yourself is to charge per page that you write, and also to charge for revisions (beyond one or two). This way, whenever your client changes his mind and wants something different, it’s on his dime, not yours. If you have to write one page five times simply because your client hasn’t figured out what he wants, then you’re really writing five pages, not one, and you should be paid accordingly.

Avoid Pitfalls With A Solid Contract. The best way to protect yourself from all ghostwriting pitfalls is to draft a thorough contract that clearly addresses these cases. Before starting a project, go over the contract with your client and make sure both of you sign it. A well-drafted contract will protect you and your client in the long run.

Happy writing,

Graciela Sholander

Discover where to find ghostwriting jobs.

Read what real ghostwriters say about the field.

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Hi Ghostwriters,

It’s important to learn everything you can about the business of ghostwriting and practice being the best ghostwriter possible.

But sometimes, you need to step back and try a new challenge. Why? Because trying things you don’t ordinarily do expands your awareness and, ultimately, makes you a better writer.

Armed with that philosophy, I decided to take the “Spam Poetry Challenge” created by poet extraordinaire Christy Birmingham. Leave it to Christy to turn unwelcome spam into something glorious!

Riverside Walk

The challenge is to use any four lines from comments found in your blog’s spam filter as a springboard for your own poetry. At least part of each of the four lines must make it into your poem. So here goes …

These are the four lines I pulled out of my blog’s spam filter:

Hi, I think that I saw you visited my site.

Today I went to the beach.

I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone.

I suppose it’s ok to use some of your ideas.

And here’s the poem I wrote using the selected spam:

Was It You?

It was windy cold at the shore,

The kind of day for a cup of hot tea

And warm toast with strawberry jam

By the silent flickering glow of the fireplace.

But I went to the beach anyway,

And searched through the fog for answers,

For questions and meaning,

Before the breeze blew everything away.

That’s when I think that I saw you.

Was it you?

I don’t know. But what does it matter?

It looked like you.

I had to tell someone about, you know,

That thing that’s been on my mind,

For days or maybe decades,

I’m not sure anymore.

Because it was you there at the beach,

(Or was it? Who can tell?)

I decided to drop my teacup into the sand

And watch the liquid disappear.

Because I want you to know that, hey,

I suppose it’s ok, after all this time.

 

I have to admit, that was fun! Now you try it. And be sure to link back to Christy’s blog and leave a (non-spam) comment on her post.

Keep writing! Until next time,

Graciela Sholander

Join a growing community of ghostwriters on Facebook

Find out where the ghostwriting jobs are

 

 

 

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For the longest time, I avoided LinkedIn. Invitations to join came, and I ignored them. I wasn’t convinced it was a worthwhile site.

What would I get from joining? Would it help my career in any way? Would it connect me to the right people? Or would it be nothing but a colossal waste of time?

Only recently did I decide to plug in and see what happens. And while I haven’t secured any jobs from LinkedIn, I’m starting to see its merit as a professional networking site.

For me, the best part about LinkedIn are the groups. I’ve joined a number of writing groups including Ghostwriters Worldwide and I’m enjoying taking part in some of the discussions. In addition to learning how others manage the business of writing, I get to share my own expertise.

Being active in a LinkedIn ghostwriting group is a great way to discover tips and tricks of the trade, see what other ghosts struggle with,  and offer a piece of advice now and then.

Based on my limited but growing experience with LinkedIn, I’d say that yes, it can be a useful site for ghostwriters, especially as a means to connect with others and share our knowledge.

For a profession as isolated as ghostwriting, being part of a professional network can help all of us grow by leaps and bounds.

To your success,

Graciela

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Here’s a short, to-the-point Q&A article written by ghostwriter Roz Morris with additional tips on breaking into ghostwriting:

How To Break Into Ghostwriting

While you’ve heard much of it before, you’ll find a few new tips and insights.

One involves using journalism as a springboard for a ghostwriting career (near the end of Morris’ article).

I also like this point the ghostwriter makes: “I find it liberating to work on a book where I don’t have to be me.” One of the many joys of ghostwriting — pretending you’re someone else. Like acting, only on paper.

By the way, what are you working on these days? I’m ghostwriting a romance, ghostwriting a self-help book, and doing technical writing for an engineering firm. I also write articles here and there. When I’m not writing, I’m enjoying life with my husband and our young adult kids. And our energetic Jack Russell Terrier.

Have a productive week,

Graciela Sholander

Join my Facebook page about ghostwriting

 

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What you charge as a ghostwriter depends on how much money you need in order to make a living (or for some of you, your desired part-time income) and what the market will bear.

I always urge U.S. ghostwriters to charge at least $25 per page. The going rate will differ from country to country, and even client to client.

There are many factors to consider when deciding what to charge and whether or not to take a project when the client can’t afford to pay much. This article by ghostwriter Kim Pearson covers many of those considerations:

How to Pay a Ghost

(Many thanks to writer Maryann Miller for posting this at Google+)

Once you come up with terms you and your client can live with, put them in writing — either a contract or an agreement:

Ghostwriting: What You Must Include In Your Contract

With these details taken care of, you’re free to tap into your talent and creativity to develop a winning manuscript your client will be happy with — and you will be proud of.

Wishing you productive writing days,

Graciela Sholander

Join a growing community of ghostwriters at Facebook

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Yesterday I received the following email message:

I have a journal that I wrote to Harper Publishers about. They suggested I get a ghost writer to help me with the proposal and manuscript to send to them. I have no experience in writing books! I really want to get this done as soon as possible. It is important to me and my late husband. I want to write this story to reach millions of hearts out there! I don’t have money but could sign a contract to pay as soon as I get an advance on the book. If you could help me find someone who knows the process and has written a book please contact me.”

What’s wrong with this picture? Plenty.

There is no money whatsoever up front. The ghostwriter will spend hours upon hours on this project with no guarantee that payment will ever be received. That’s because the book may never be published. If the book is published, there likely will be no advance. If the book is published and sells (which will require a great deal of marketing and promotions on the author’s part), it may not make enough money to adequately repay the writer for her time, effort, skills, talent and dedication.

Here’s my response to this individual:

“Thank you very much for contacting me.
It is a dilemma, and I understand — the money situation required to hire an editor or ghostwriter is a challenge for many people.
Unfortunately, I do not know any writers willing to defer payment until the book is published. There may be some out there, but 99.9% of professional writers charge for the writing we do as we go. This is how we make our living. Because a book may never be published (publishers can be terribly fickle), it is too risky for a professional writer to invest time and effort into a project that may never pay.
I wish you the best of luck in finding someone who can help you. You may want to look into locating a college student who might be willing to write for practice, or perhaps a hobbyist writer.”
In retrospect, I was overly generous in my response.
You are a professional writer — never accept such terms. Don’t just give your writing away. If you sign on for an arrangement of work now, get paid if and when money ever shows up, you can be sure that you’ll never see a penny.
Happy, productive writing,
Join a growing community of ghostwriters on Facebook

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A good Monday to all of you.

Today I want to share two articles.

The first is a piece on ghostwriting changes and trends and why it’s a great time to be in this field:

Trends in ghostwriting

The second is a short piece I wrote with advice for those entering the field:

How to become a ghostwriter

Happy and productive writing, everyone.

Graciela Sholander

Join a growing community of ghostwriters on Facebook

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