What it’s like to be a Professional Ghost Writer
By: Karen Cole
It’s hard to talk about sometimes, as there’s much I have to keep to myself. You don’t tend to take the credit for any of your own original work, or anything you’ve added either, in each case that you’re a ghost writer.
Sometimes the client is willing to share some of the credit, such as a blurb on the acknowledgments page: “This book wouldn’t have been possible without my Editor, So-and-So.” Or you might even get a cover credit, along the lines of “By (client’s name), as told to (your name). And sometimes, if you make a deal with your client, you can share spine and cover credit as a book’s coauthor. Sometimes clients will offer this in lieu of pay, but I never accept that.
The book market nowadays is so tight, it can be hard to tell if a book is going to sell, or if a screenplay is going to lead to a successful movie – things are even tighter in the film industry. But there are books that surprisingly take off and sell quite well. Two of the books I helped out on have been doing great over the past few months, climbing up high on Amazon and doing my feelings proud, for example.
But generally, in any case whatsoever, I prefer to receive advance pay while completing a manuscript. I only edit scripts and screenplays, and in recent years, I tend to only do book editing, too. I’m sending out a lot of work to our writer’s team instead, to free me to pursue potential other matters.
I like to edit more than I like to be a ghost writer, in fact. My style is a little sophisticated, and it’s not easy to keep to a client’s “voice” sometimes when I add new material, such as through ghost writing. But whenever I edit, I usually am able to find the client’s voice and keep to it stoically. I’ve ghost written award-winning, well-selling books, though, so I may go back to it at any time.
If you like to write, and you edit your own work, chances are that you would make a pretty good ghost writer. Have your friends review your work, and strangers whenever possible, too. This will tell you what kind of writer you are, and whether or not you should pursue the field of becoming a professional ghost writer.
Also, once you’ve written substantially, get everything you can published under your own name. That’s the mistake I made with my career – I have no books out right now published under my own name – but I use certain clients’ books as references, as they are letting me do so for my career’s sake.
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Posted by Maggie Tideswell, author of Dark Moon and Moragh, Holly's Ghost, both available on amazon in paperback, ebook and audio formats here: