Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What is a Ghostwriter, and Who Needs One?

by Rhonda Browning White

            I can’t help but hesitate when people ask what I do for a living. “I’m a ghostwriter,” I finally say. The reactions I receive are never dull. “Oh,” someone might say, “I love ghost stories.” Uh, no. I don’t write ghost stories. That is, unless someone hires me to ghostwrite a ghost story. Once a (rather rude) woman said, “Isn’t that selling yourself, like a prostitute?” Um, double no! Ghostwriters indeed write stories for other people that are (typically) published under that person’s name, instead of their own. But then, so do many journalists and newspaper writers. I recall the first time I had a story accepted by a local newspaper. I rushed out that morning to buy a few extra copies of the edition in which my story would appear. And there was my headline in bold print . . . follow by the editor’s name in the byline. “But that’s my story!” I wailed. “I wrote it!” Such is the life of many news journalists. I whined for a bit, but then I realized it was no different than when I’d worked as a secretary, composing professional-sounding letters for my boss, who would then sign his name at the bottom, as if he were the one who’d agonized over that brilliant marketing hook in the first paragraph. Like journalists and secretaries and a host of other professional writers, ghostwriters write to help other people. And believe it or not, we usually enjoy that privilege!

What do we write?

            As a ghostwriter, I’ve been able to write political thrillers, Christian romances, memoirs, self-help books, even a screenplay. A ghostwriter works with her clients one-on-one in whatever capacity is needed to bring even a germ of an idea into a full-fledged manuscript that’s ready to submit to agents and publishers.   

Why hire a ghostwriter?

            Until they actually try to do it, most people think it’s easy to write a book. They come up with great ideas. They can see some of the scenes playing out before their eyes. But once they actually try to write, they realize it isn’t as easy as it looks. There’s so many things they hadn’t considered—point of view, voice, character arcs, plot devices—the list goes on and on. Writing is a craft that takes years of study and even more years of practice.

How much does it cost?

            Ghostwriting projects vary greatly, and the costs fluctuate with the amount of work involved. In addition to writing, some ghostwriting projects require research, collation of data and facts, and confirmation of sources. A typical ghostwriting project costs in the five-digit range. “What!” you may say. “That’s exorbitant!” But is it? A professional ghostwriter may work from four to twelve months on one project, sometimes working more than forty hours a week during that time. Would you expect to make less than a five-digit salary for half a year of hard work? Probably not. If you’d expect to make it, then you should expect to pay it.

Who hires a ghostwriter?

·         Your grandfather. Yes, we’ll write granddad’s memoir for him, taking care to use his voice as we chronicle his life into a book his family will cherish for generations.

·         Your neighbor. Everyone has a story to tell, whether it’s the story of how they single-handedly fought off a bear, how they hitchhiked across America in the 60s, or that idea for a romance they’ve put on the back burner for three decades. They may not have the skill to write the story, but man, that story deserves to be told. That’s where a ghostwriter comes in.

·         Professionals. Doctors, professors, ministers, technology developers, business leaders, and others have information to share, but who has the time to devote to mapping out a textbook, a self-help manual, or a devotional? We do!

·         Published authors. Sometimes an author will sign a three-book series deal, but then get so busy with the book tour (or vacationing on their advance) that they are nearing the deadline to turn in their next book in the series, but don’t have time to finish it. A ghostwriter can help them meet the deadline (and help them keep what’s left of their contract advance).

·         Publishers. Yes, even publishers occasionally send writers to us when the writer has an excellent story, but lacks the professional skill to write it in a manner that is publishable.

·         You! What’s your story? Doesn’t it deserve to be told? Do you dream of seeing your book alongside others in a bookstore, or popping up on your Amazon feed? Give us a call today, and let’s discuss what a ghostwriter can do for you!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Rhonda. This is an informative article that tells us what we need to know about ghostwriting. It's amazing how common the practice of ghostwriting is. Because of the confidentiality involved, no one realizes that a large number of published novels--including many bestsellers--are actually ghostwritten. Being a ghostwriter is a challenging but gratifying undertaking. Thank you for this excellent article.