Haunting the bookshelves – how to earn money as a ghost writer

No, not the Poltergeist. We’re talking about the well paid kind of ghost.

If you have a vague idea of what ghostwriting is, I offer up Karen Cole’s original take on the craft. Ghostwriting entails using your literary skills to create original content for clients. The catch? You usually end up doing most of the work for none of the glory. If you’re big on bylines, be warned, this may not be the route for you. But on the other hand, if you don’t mind passing over the author’s credit, this can be very lucrative.

It’s important to know the difference between a book author and a book writer. If you choose to freelance as a ghostwriter you’ll be known as the book writer. The client who pays you to write the book will be the official book author.

While most ghostwriters are waxed enough to be self-employed, many do work as in-house writers for publishing companies. They’re an essential service for big shot celebrities who dream of being the next Rhonda Byrne. Sorry to pop your bubble if you thought that Paris Hilton was a literary genius.

We see the dollar signs light up in your eyes. Perfectly understandable. Ghostwriters who have first-language proficiency in English, and a relevant post-graduate qualification, can earn up to $9000 for a 300-page book. It’s great to be ambitious and to know your worth, but always remember to represent yourself and your level of experience honestly to the client. Tips to keep in mind:

1. Have a solid contract – Invest in a good lawyer to draft a contract that suits you both. Be sure to specify how many revisions you’ll allow. A flat fee, including a deposit, is usually a better option than an hourly charge. Everyone’s pace is different and you don’t want to seem like you’re asking for a blank check.

2. Qualifications, skills and experience are the winning trifecta when it comes to bagging the gig. But be sure not to over-sell your credentials if you’re a genre virgin.

Finally, every pot needs its own lid. Remember, versatility and an approachable manner are vital to any client relationship. No one wants to work with an obstinate writer who thinks their work’s fit for the Rosseta Stone!


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