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Is Corporate Ghostwriting for Trade Publications Right for You? A Guest Post

freelance writer, Cathy millerA guest post by Cathy Miller who blogs at MillerCathy.com and SimplyStatedBusiness.com. 

She’s also become a good friend through first our online relationship which has been enhanced by lunch when once a year she comes to San Diego to walk for cancer.

As freelance writers, we love exploring a new market – one with a wealth of opportunity.

Ask yourself –

  • Do you love writing articles?
  • Do you have a niche or specialty?
  • Do you hate the push and pull of queries?

Corporate ghostwriting for trade publications might be your ticket to nirvana.

The Right Stuff

Before you explore this market, you should make sure that you have the right stuff for a corporate ghostwriter.

1. The Voice Behind the Face

I have a healthy ego. Frankly, I’ve been surprised that I took to ghostwriting.

  • There is another person’s name on the byline
  • Any praise goes to that person
  • You are the voice behind the face

If the above bothers you, ghostwriting is not for you.

I remember the first time I saw an article I’d written in print. It did not matter that it had another person’s name on it.

I knew I wrote it – I took pride in that.

2. Finding the Voice

One of the most challenging – and the most fun for me – is finding the voice of your client.

You are representing your clients’ ideas, their passion. You need to elevate your listening skills to their highest level.

  • Ask the right questions
  • Let them tell their story
  • Stir up their passion

Listen for what I call their sound bites – the phrases and expressions that sound like them.

3. Partner for Success

You want your client to succeed.

Your role is not one of a recording device – interact with your client.

  • Question inconsistencies
  • Offer ideas for expressing concepts
  • Ask why it matters

Ready for the Trade

My niche in the healthcare industry is ideal for corporate ghostwriting for trade publications. My clients are healthcare organizations, insurance brokers/consultants and healthcare providers.

One of the things they all have in common is how busy their executives are. Look at any industry and you will find the same thing with the senior executives of those companies.

And that’s how you grab them. You also play to their ego.

  • You know how busy they are
  • You can help get their message out
  • You help establish their role as an industry expert

And they get all the credit.

What executive doesn’t like to hear that?

The No-Pitch Trade

Trade publications love articles from industry insiders.

As a writer, you don’t send the queries to the magazine. If you pitch an idea to anyone, it’s your client. However, I find that most of the time my clients have an idea for the article.

Your client may go directly to the magazine with an idea for an article or use their PR firm to do it. It’s a very easy sell. About the only time magazines reject the idea is if the topic recently appeared in print. Even then, they’ll consider a different spin on it.

The Inside Pitch

There are times when you want to pitch an idea, especially if your target is a prospect you are trying to convince to hire you.

Here are some ideas for doing that.

Use trade magazines’ publishing calendar. Many of the trade publications develop a calendar with themed topics. For example, an insurance magazine may cover the voluntary product market in its spring publication, corporate wellness programs in the fall, etc.

If you know your client or prospect specializes in that area, send them an email stating you noticed XYZ Magazine is featuring corporate wellness programs in their fall issue. As your targeted company has an expertise in that area, question if they considered the opportunity it presents for them to demonstrate their expertise. Explain how you can help.

Review your target’s website and communications. The key to a successful partnership is knowing what your client does well. Review their website, published articles, and social media communications. Then appeal to their expertise.

It’s great if you know the different trade publications in the industry, but it is not essential. Ask your client or prospect what publications they subscribe to and start there.

Like any article for a magazine, make sure the theme fits the magazine and targets its readers.

For example, I have an ongoing ghostwriting assignment for a trade publication that targets insurance brokers. Any discussion about the insurance industry is from their perspective. Sometimes I have to remind my client she is not writing for her client – the employer who sponsors employee benefits.

Final Pitch

There are several benefits from corporate ghostwriting.

  • It generally pays more than articles with your byline
  • New assignments often come to you instead of you sending queries
  • It often leads to other kinds of work like white papers, case studies, etc.

If you have the right stuff to be a ghostwriter, demonstrate your value to busy executives, and can talk the talk of their business, then corporate ghostwriting for trade publication may be your dream job.

Have you done corporate ghostwriting? If so, what do you like about it?

Anything you don’t like?

Here’s a list of 11 Trade Magazines.

Cathy Miller is a freelance business writer with over 30 years of professional writing experience from small businesses to Fortune 500 customers. Cathy started her own business in 2008, providing all forms of online and print business writing.

Cathy has a business writing blog at Simply stated business, a health care blog at Simply stated health care and her personal blog, millercathy: A Baby Boomer’s Second Life.

{ 30 comments… add one }
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  • Tim Bradley, In Other Words

    The comments about being reviewed by a corporate committee (“death by tweakage”) reminded me of the time I was doing the employee newsletter for a large corporation. One of my articles was reviewed 42 times, that is, many times by many people. The subject: employee empowerment!

  • Thank you for the interesting article. Corporate ghostwriting sounds like something I’d like to do. Does the magazine know that the articles have been ghostwritten? Do you get paid by both the client and the magazine or just by the client?

    • Hi Amel: Typically, the magazines do not know the articles are ghostwritten – at least in my case. No, you do not get paid by both the client and the magazine. You get paid by your client.

      Sometimes the client pays the magazine for an advertorial, which is a combination of the words advertising and editorial. They are not “salesy,” but do promote the author and his or her views.

      Other times, the client does not pay the magazine for publication of the article. The trade off is the PR and visibility the author receives.

      Thanks for the questions, Amel.
      Cathy Miller recently posted..Better Silence Than Bad WritingMy Profile

      • Well, Cathy, you can get paid by both sides – happens, but not often and I think of the client as the one I’ve got loyalty to. And I hadn’t thought about the advertorial. Good point.

        • Not in my experience, Anne, but good to know. The mechanics, I would think, could be tricky – i.e, the magazine pays the author who pays you?? Like I said, not something I’ve come across.
          Cathy Miller recently posted..Better Silence Than Bad WritingMy Profile

          • Doesn’t happen too often and imo the best course is to let both parties know what’s going on.

    • Get Peter Bowerman’s Well-Fed Writer to learn about corporate writing. https://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com/2009/10/the-well-fed-writer/

  • See, now I’m a Cathy Miller fan for this reason. Sensible, spot-on advice.

    The only thing I’d add is a thick skin. When you ghostwrite, there’s a committee going over it. Your words will be altered, taken out, rephrased, and in the end maybe changed to the point where you don’t recognize them. That’s part of the job. The clients get the final word on how everything is phrased. You’re there for initial drafts and any cleanups.
    Lori recently posted..When Looks MatterMy Profile

    • Lori, where are you running into committees? I’ve usually worked with just one editor.

      • Corporates, Anne. I work with some corporates who have six people telling me what to write in an article that will have a seventh person’s name on it. Doesn’t make sense to me, but they pay per hour, so I don’t complain!
        Lori recently posted..When Looks MatterMy Profile

        • You especially get that when there’s been a change in management. I’ve suffered through that.
          Cathy Miller recently posted..3 Writing Tricks to Keep it Simple Not StupidMy Profile

          • Oh geeze… another thing I hadn’t thought of and am glad I haven’t had to deal with!

        • Ah, I’ve really done little work with corporations – and then mostly small, closely held ones. I do remember that from my days as a word processor – way back when. An hourly rate would be the only approach.

    • Thanks, Lori. I rarely run into committee review, but on occasion I have had times where the copy was changed so far beyond what it was originally designed for that I don’t even keep it as a portfolio sample. And actually, that was not a ghostwritten article, but a white paper.
      Cathy Miller recently posted..3 Writing Tricks to Keep it Simple Not StupidMy Profile

  • ella

    Ghost writing is definitely an altruistic kinda business 🙂 but i think that if u attack it with the right intention, which u’ve highlighted here then it would work for quite a number of writers.
    ella recently posted..February Is National Heart MonthMy Profile

  • I actually prefer to ghostwrite and I have several corporate clients. I love that I no longer have to search for work, for it all comes to me. I love that they appreciate me for the work I can do, since they are hiring me because they can’t or don’t want to do it themselves, instead of querying where I am competing against other writers where my skills aren’t valued as much. This is an excellent post and I really enjoyed that you outlined the benefits to corporate ghostwriting – you really gave this niche industry a good name!
    Krysha Thayer recently posted..3 Free SEO Tools Essential for Any Freelance WriterMy Profile

    • Exactly, Krysha. You listed some of the same reasons I love ghostwriting. Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.
      Cathy Miller recently posted..3 Writing Tricks to Keep it Simple Not StupidMy Profile

    • Krysha, it’s great when the work comes to you – as a suggestion, keep at least a bit of marketing going at all times to avoid the ups and downs.

  • Joanne

    Thanks for the great opportunity you will gave with us probably, By these i will prepare my self to be fit with the job position.

  • Thanks, Anne, for the opportunity for a guest post. I do appreciate it.
    Cathy Miller recently posted..Posts in February’s First Friday Lite ReviewMy Profile

    • awwww, shucks, anne says kicking the dirt just a bit 😉

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