|Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! No, silly. There's nothing scary about ghostwriting, unless you consider the lack of recognition many of the "real" authors receive.|
Let's play a little game, shall we. Can you tell me which one of the following five books has been written by someone other than the name slapped on the front cover?
- Ronald Reagan: An American Life
- Ecstasy and Me: My Life as a Woman
- Tennis as I Play It
- Under the Pyramids
- The Hardy Boys: The Secret of Wildcat Swamp
What is a ghostwriter?
According to Toni Robino's essay,* "Secrets of Ghostwriting and Collaboration Success," this is what ghostwriting boils down to:
❝...a ghostwriter gathers the author's original materials and research and turns them into a book, based on the author's specifications (if the book will be self-published) or the publisher's specifications (if the book has been sold through the proposal process.) Theoretically, although ghostwriters do conduct interviews and undertake additional research, they do not contribute their own thoughts or ideas to the content of the book.❞Robino later goes on to say:
❝Do not overstep your boundaries as a ghostwriter by adding your own thoughts to a book, unless the author specifically asks you to do this.❞
|Book Series: Rainbow Magic fairy books are|
all by Daisy Meadows, who is really
- Book Series -- In this category, you'll see books from longstanding series such as The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew. A more current example would be the Rainbow Magic series for grade school-aged girls. All of them are written by Daisy Meadows, but according to goodreads, "Daisy Meadows is the pseudonym used for the four writers of the Rainbow Magic children's series: Narinder Dhami, Sue Bentley, Linda Chapman, and Sue Mongredien."
- Celebrity "Autobiographies" and "Memoirs" -- Ronald Reagan's life story would fall into this category as would just about any other celebrity autobiography out there (grant it, there are a few who write their own life stories). A well written memoir or autobiography needs the proper writing skills behind it, and this is why many celebrities turn to ghostwriters. I found a little humor in a Wall Street Journal article -- "Fascinating Story, but Who Wrote It?"✠ -- "Earlier this month, the Borders bookstore at Time Warner Center hosted a reading of 'Fall to Pieces,' a memoir by Mary Forsberg Weiland, the former wife of rocker Scott Weiland. As photographers snapped pictures of the author, another woman stepped up to the podium. 'Hi,' she said. 'I'm Larkin Warren, and I was Mary's midwife on the project." I think the role of midwife is an appropriate way of describing the work of ghostwriters.
- Writers under a popular author's name or author's novel series -- In this category you'll find long-time authors doling out rights to other authors who want to continue a series under the original author's name. A couple of recent examples are The Race by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott and Locked On by Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney. In both instances, Scott and Greaney would be considered the main authors, but in order for the books to sell they are written in a popular series (like Clancy's Jack Ryan series) and titled under the bold lettering of Cussler's and Clancy's names.
|One of the biggest questions|
plaguing the free world today:
Did Ronald Reagan really write
his own autobiography?
|Can you see Mark Greaney's|
name in teeny tiny blue?
- Assess Your Writing Skills -- The more published you are the better your odds are at landing a deal.
- Make Your First List -- Who are the experts you know and are they pioneers in their fields? Resist the urge to contact these individuals until you are professionally prepared for your meeting.
- Prepare a Professional Package -- This should include your resume, bio, services you offer, writing samples, and different styles and topics.
- Set Your Rates -- Know how fast you can write a final copy, and remember the chapter isn't finished until you've edited, polished, and proofread it. Also, be aware of what first time ghostwriters make -- anywhere from $1,000 - $8,000.
- Polish Your Interpersonal Skills -- Practice listening closely to what the client wants without interrupting.
- Know When to Run -- Not every book will be a good match.
- Close the Deal -- Make sure you sign that contract and don't be afraid to ask questions.
- Capture the Author's Voice -- I good way to get a sense of the author's voice is through taped interviews.
- Create and Keep Deadlines -- Stay accountable to the deadline.
- Ask for Referrals -- The best way to market yourself is through word of mouth marketing from clients who are satisfied with your work.
Are you interested in ghostwriting or have you ever done similar work? If so, what was your experience like? Would you encourage other writers to become ghostwriters?
*"Secrets of Ghostwriting and Collaboration Success" by Toni Robino can be found in the 2010 version of Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents.
✠"Fascinating Story, but Who Wrote It?" by Joanne Kaufman was published in The Wall Street Journal on Dec. 1, 2009.