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The Easy(ist) Way to Become a Ghostwriter

Claudia Suzanne will teach you to become a ghostwriter

Claudia Suzanne will teach you to become a ghostwriter

Think you’d like to become a ghostwriter? I stumbled into the book ghostwriting part of my freelance writing career.

These days, there’s an easier, softer way. Several years ago I was asked to be a speaker at what was probably the first-ever conference for ghostwriters. It was put on by Claudia Suzanne.

A successful ghostwriter herself she felt the profession needed some opmph and a bit more respectability. She started a certification program for folks who wanted to learn the skills involved.

To earn the certificate you need to take her class. And it’s a wow of a class.

Offered under the auspices of California State University at Long Beach it’s available online and in person.

I grill Claudia about her become a ghostwriter program

I asked here a bunch of questions – they, along with her answers, follow:

How did you become a ghostwriter?

When I couldn’t play the drums anymore (yes, this is a true story), I wrote a book with my pianist husband and our road manager about making a living in the clubs. Our only competition was Kenny Roger’s book, so we were picked up by Watson-Guptil/Billboard Books, plugged on MTV, and sold out quickly and repeatedly around the country–including Samuel French, the biggest music-industry bookstore at the time. We made… enough to cover rent + two bags of groceries each. Six months later, our royalties came to two bags between the three of us. We did better playing dive bars! A friend who was helping me get a handle on my MS had a friend who needed help with a book. Since I’d written one, I wrote another. Then I wrote another. Then I met a literary agent who sent me a client, but he wanted me to write like him, not like me. And the journey began.

Do you include ghosting articles as well as books in your program?

No. I never really learned the knack of writing short. I used to be Executive Editor of a small magazine and had to ghost/rewrite all the submissions into the publication’s voice (rather PEOPLE-ish), but I have little to offer there.

Why did you start your certification program?

Oh, my… well, because I wanted my students to understand they were not just adding another skill to their bag, they were launching a completely new career. It took me quite some time to get there, of course, but since we’ve been in CSULB, the program has grown from a 15-week course to a two semester course to its current 11.5 month, masters-level, soup-to-nuts course. And our Professional Certification has grown in stature and respect as a result.

Why do you think ghostwriters need certification?

From Colorado Springs publisher, “A lot of people claim to be ghostwriters, and I’m tired of sorting through them all to find someone who knows how to do the job right!”

What do you say to a writer who isn’t sure they want to be a ghostwriter?

There are three ways to find out: 1) get a gig and see if you can do it on your own by trial and error (that’s how you and I did it, right? and I reply with YES!); 2) find an established pro who will mentor you; or 3) take INTRODUCTION TO GHOSTWRITING and get a taste of what the it’s all about.

How can a writer get a sense of your program so they can decide if it’s for them? That is, in fact, the whole point of taking INTRODUCTION TO GHOSTWRITING. We reveal the entire scope of a ghostwriter’s knowledge base, skill set, mindset transitions, and necessary business acumen–and we jump right in with prerequisite skills, industry information, and an initial mindset transition so students can get a real taste of both the full program AND the real-life profession.

What benefits do students receive?

INTRODUCTION TO GHOSTWRITING students will learn what they need to command $35,000+ fees; the industry-standard style guide (and exceptions for the book business); how to code manuscripts for 21st century acceptance and reflow; an overview of the book business from an insider’s perspective, including the difference between market and audience;  the scope and responsibilities of professional ghostwriters vs. freelance and work-for-hire writers; and techniques and approach to interview like a professional ghost rather than a journalist or freelance writer.

Details of the full GHOSTWRITING PROFESSIONAL DESIGNATION PROGRAM

Professional Designation Certifications are signed by the college dean. As of Fall, 2018, graduates will also receive a Digital Badge that includes the industry-specific knowledge bases and skills (*) mastered to complete their certification:

  • Microsoft Word Coding/Decoding*
  • Industry and Direct Sale Market Placement
  • Industry and Chicago Manual of Style Standards
  • Industry-Standard Presentations*
  • Creative Analysis*
  • Nonfiction Charting*
  • Slinky® flow Restructure*
  • Fiction Mapping*
  • Meet-in-the-Middle Plotting*
  • Character Studies*
  • Character/Plot Integration*
  • Nonfiction Analysis*
  • Nonfiction Ghostwriting*
  • Fiction Analysis*
  • Fiction Ghostwriting*
  • Nonfiction Musical Line Editing*
  • Fiction Musical Line Editing*
  • Nonfiction Book Proposal*
  • Fiction Synopsis*
  • Query Letters*
  • Analysis & Recommendations*
  • Professional Positioning
  • Business Development
  • Effective Bids
  • Equitable Contracts
  • Fee Structures
  • Project Management
  • Project/Client Troubleshooting

They will also go through a series of mindset transitions:

  1. Freelancer to industry insider
  2. Work-for-hire writer to client equal
  3. Journalist to ghostwriter
  4. Habitual/reactive opinion to deep thinking
  5. Familiar/comfortable to array of possibilities
  6. Writer/author to ghostwriter/project manager
  7. You on the page to you off the page
  8. Critic/evaluator to colleague/supporter
  9. “Literary” not “visual”
  10. Copy editor to musical line editor
  11. Media consumer to industry authority
  12. Ghostwriter to publishing guide/service provider
  13. Client equal to expert authority
  14. One of several competitors to in a class of your own
  15. Book-industry service provider to entrepreneur/business owner

What about graduates?

Graduates receive:

  • Professional Ghostwriter Certificate
    Signed by the Dean of CCPE/CSULB
  • Digital Badge
    Displays your name, the year you earned your certification, and the unique knowledge, skills, tools, and mindset transitions you acquired in the course. Post it on your website, SMN profiles, email signature, and any other digital media or location

The Invitation is to join CertifiedGhostwriters.com for continuing education, news, resources, and community with other certified ghosts to share questions, kudos, and best practices. Among other things it offers one-on-one coaching through your first (or any) professional gig via Wambtac Ghostwriter’s unique apprenticeship program.

What else do you want to tell me about your program?

Lots more info as well as student testimonials at: http://certifiedghostwriters.com/gpdp/ This is a one-of-a-kind, mind-blowing, life-changing, career-launching program that will change the way the student reads and writes for the rest of their life.

Yes, you can still register for:  Introduction to Ghostwriting 

    • Class dates: June 20 – Aug 1, 2018
    • Live/recorded sessions: Wednesdays, noon-1:30pm Pacific
    • Use Promo Code AW2018 and get a 10% discount (and yes, I get a commission as well.)

Vacation plans, or other conflicts? You can register now and take the class asynchronously. You  just have to get your assignments in by August 15.

I recommend this class if you want to become a ghostwriter

No, I haven’t taken it – like Claudia I figured it out on my own. I have, however, gotten to know several of her students well enough to be sure they know exactly what they need to know to do a great job ghostwriting books.

Post questions in comments and I’ll make sure Claudia sees them.

Write, and study, well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

 




{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Thanks for the details article regarding ghostwriting.

  • Good morning Anne,

    Thanks for your questions. We plan to offer the Introductory class again this Fall, next Winter, and late Spring as a prerequisite to the 2019-20 program–and then the same three times for the 2020-21 program, and so on and so forth, and scooby dooby do.

    As to ghostwriting in English: yes, you’ll definitely need to submit ghostwriting assignments in English. Perhaps this would be the stretch you need to expand your capabilities. You’d certainly have a built-in niche market for your services!

    Please go to wambtac.com and click the Contact tab at the bottom to schedule a time when we can chat about your circumstances and the class. I look forward to meeting you!

    Claudia Suzanne

    • Hi Claudia,
      Thanks for your reply.
      Saving money for the fees & clearing up my schedule to fit in the class requirements are two major concerns –this is why I don’t expect to apply within the next couple of years. And, you’re most probably right: ghostwriting in English will be a significant stretch of my capabilities! 🙂
      Anyway, I totally trust Anne’s recommendations, and I’ll hit you up shortly for an online appointment.
      Cheers,
      Helene

  • Hi Anne,
    I have a couple of Qs for Claudia.
    1. Will the introductory course be open in the future (say, in a couple of years) as a stand-alone?
    2. As a native Greek speaker, would the full course be right for me? Meaning, will I have to submit (ghost)writing assignments / samples in English to get the certification? (Following the lessons & being examined on the materials in English won’t be much trouble, but ghostwriting in a foreign language is quite different.)

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