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Ghostwriting Books – My Start

The seriesMy Start5 Ingredients I Bring To A ProjectElements Of My Contracts or Letters of AgreementThe Working Table Of Contents AKA OutlineIs Ghostwriting Fair? Ask Anne The Pro WriterInterviewing To The Working Table Of Contents

I stumbled into ghostwriting books ages ago. I was the editor of a magazine for a well-known metaphysical minister. I knew she was working with a publisher that had hired a ghostwriter, but I had no idea the arrangement wasn’t working.

The minster burst into my office one morning and said something like, “Anne, can you finish my book. That ghostwriter doesn’t get what I teach.”

I gulped because I knew I knew nothing about getting a book written, but instead of say that I said “yes.”

I negotiated a contract that gave me some money up front and some royalties and began.

That book already had a purpose and a working table of contents. Even maybe 10 or 15% of what had been writtin was, if not perfect, formed a foundation I could build on.

As it turned out, the fact I didn’t know books aren’t always written front to back, or that I’d never written anything longer than 2000 words (that book came in at about 50,000 words as I recall, fairly typical) didn’t mean I couldn’t get it done.

Not only did I get it done, I liked the process. But I didn’t have a clue how to market myself as a ghost. As I look back, I know I should have picked up the phone and/or written agents, but I didn’t know that then.

As it turned out because of the first book I got an editing job on a second book. Oh how I wish I’d gotten royalties on that one.

Little did I know that years later I’d be earning darn good money as a ghostwriter. A book ghostwriter. It’s fairly recently that ghostwriter has expanded to include people writing SEO articles. Sigh.

The takeaway from this article is be willing to say yes when the opportunity arrives. Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. If you can write a decent article, you can write an article series, and if you can write a series you can probably write a book.

Over the next few weeks I’ll write more about ghostwriting, including finding clients, contracts and how to get the writing done.

If you’ve got any specific questions about ghostwriting, post ’em in comments here.

See also: Ghostwriting Books – What I Think I Bring To A Project


Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Hi Anne,

    Long time reader, first time commenter:

    Is it okay to include links to ‘ghostwritten’ sites I’ve done in order to show samples to prospective clients? I anticipate you’ll respond with something along the lines of, “what was in the agreement?” or “did you discuss references?” To these questions, I answer “no.”

    However, what harm can be done if I have one or two links for to illustrate one of the many copy services I provide (e.g., SEO, marketing copy, web copy, etc)?

    Thank you!

    • Anne

      Nicole, if you do post know that they may ask you to take the link down… probably won’t, but might. You could also ask in advance… and next time ask ahead of time what their policy about this is.

  • Rich

    Its Rich Mintzer, this guy is a clown. First off he feels he needs to stand up for freelance writers and act liekthe king of copy’ and say what others are paying for generic copy is not in his idea of pay standards. Second, have you seen his books.
    The worst. He sure is a wanna be and he so wishes he had a blog with followers like https://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com.

  • Rich–

    It sounds like you’ve created a great niche for yourself. I have a question–when you ghostwrite a book, are you usually given credit in the publication as a ghostwriter, as in So-and-So, with Rich XXX, or So-and-So as told to Rich XXX, or are you completely anonamous as the writer?

  • Rich,

    Thank you for that comment. What a great idea. I can think of a few professionals who might like to write a book about what they’ve done. And, I have no doubt they’re really pressed for time and not inclined to put what little free time they have into writing a book. Awesome suggestion!

    Did you write for a flat fee, hourly rate or did you share royalties? Or a combination?


    Debbi’s last blog post..Quotation for the Week of May 3

  • Hi

    I’ve ghosted about 10 books. I would suggest looking for people you may know or are able to track down with platforms. Professionals, such as doctors or lawyers may have done many speaking engagements on a specific topic or have some expertise in an area of growing interest to the public. These are potential sources of books, but typically they don’t have the time. That’s where you come in – see if they are interested in writing a book, if you will do all of the actual writing, providing they serve as the experts. Then write a book proposal with them, to flush out the topic and see if you can work well together. This can also work with history buffs, entertainers, athletes, anyone you can contact who has not yet written a book, or has more to write beyond their first book is someone to try to contact. Hope this helps – Rich

  • Caitlin

    I’m interested in how to break into ghostwriting if you don’t have writing connections already. I’m at the very beginning of my freelance career but am most interested in ghostwriting…so where do I start?
    Thanks so much for your blog!

  • admin

    Spike, thanks for the questions.
    Benjamin, maybe we both ought to do articles on saying YES then link to each other or something.
    Debbie, Joseph, and Ed… I’m curious to see what I say about it too 😉

  • Ed

    Anne – As someone considering longer-form journalism, I also look forward to the series.

    Ed’s last blog post..Chicago Sun-Times Files For Chapter 11

  • Thanks for starting this series, Anne. It’s a relatively unexplored, and potentially quite lucrative, part of the business.

  • This is great. I’ve been thinking about ghostwriting, also. Can’t wait to read more. Thanks!

    Debbi’s last blog post..Quotation for the Week of April 26

  • Anne, I think your message of saying ‘yes’ to opportunities as they present themselves is perhaps one of the strongest lessons that a freelancer can learn. Not only will you find yourself with new clients or markets which you might not have previously considered, but you will also get the chance to grow and expand your talents, experience level and confidence with each new and different project.

  • Hiya. It’d be nice to know what the “normal” terms are for ghostwriting. In other words, do you generally get one payment and lose all reprinting/re-use rights, get a byline and nothing else, get up-front and royalties but no rights and so on. “Ghostwriting” seems to be a vague term, like “Proofreading” (which most people claim to want, but actually want full-blown editing at half the price).

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