Adam Reger | Pittsburgh Writer

Pittsburgh writer, editor, and ghostwriter

Tag: ghostwriting

Ghostwriting: How to Know If You Need to Hire a Ghostwriter or Not

Ghost Image

This is the fourth (and, for now, final) installment in a series of blog entries about ghostwriting. I’m attempting to provide practical information for those who may be considering hiring a ghostwriter. The series started with some misconceptions about ghostwriting and continued with a rundown of the different ways you might work with a ghostwriter, followed by some questions to answer before reaching out to a ghostwriter.

Now that I’ve walked through what ghostwriting is, the various logistics of how you might work with a ghostwriter, and some things you can do to prepare yourself for success with a ghostwriter, let’s ask a seemingly dumb question: do you actually need a ghostwriter?

I know, I know—shouldn’t that have been the very first question?

Well, not necessarily. Sometimes it’s only once you’ve done some self-reflection on your needs and, especially, the nature of your project that you get clarity on what you actually need. And sometimes, talking through practical matters such as how you’d like to work with a ghostwriter and what kinds of materials you have available to give to him/her exposes a surprising fact: maybe someone writing this project for you isn’t what you need at all.

As I described in my first post, many will find that they need help from the ground up, from organizing their thoughts to writing the first word. The reasons vary: English may not be your primary language, or you may simply not like writing. If you’re in that boat, a ghostwriter is certainly an excellent and efficient option.

For many others, however, your answers to some of the big getting-started questions I proposed last time might indicate: that you have already begun writing your book, but aren’t quite happy with the pages you have; that you’ve written other pieces—newspaper articles, journal entries, blog posts, white papers and more scholarly articles—that you feel could go into a book, provided they are rewritten or reworked in the right way; or that you’d like to write the book, you feel you’d enjoy it and would do a good job of it, but something is getting in your way. (Usually the obstacle here is time, a sense of not knowing where to begin, or some combination of the two.)

The options I go through below are aimed at the people who fall into this category. Depending on the nature of your project and what kinds of material you’ve already generated, you may find some of the following helpful as alternatives to hiring a ghostwriter.

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Ghostwriting: Questions Before You Get Started

Ghost Image

This is the third installment in a series of blog entries about ghostwriting. I’m attempting to provide practical information for those who may be considering hiring a ghostwriter. The series started with some misconceptions about ghostwriting and continued with a rundown of the different ways you might work with a ghostwriter.

Today I want to cover how to prepare to work with a ghostwriter. I sort of covered this in my last post, on the different ways a ghostwriter might work—it was certainly my hope that looking through that list of methods might spark some readers to say, “Yes, that is definitely how I’d prefer to work with someone.” Figuring that out is a big part of the battle.

But mostly I want to move beyond the question of how you’ll get the ghostwriter the information they need to think about ways to identify what’s important to you and get at least a general picture of your book that you can communicate to the ghostwriter. Below is a list of questions and concerns to think about before you reach out to a ghostwriter. If you have even the beginnings of ideas on these topics, your ghostwriter will definitely appreciate it.

Where will this book go in the bookstore?

For now (and hopefully forever) the metaphor of a brick-and-mortar bookstore is still relevant. As long as it is, I ask clients Where would your book appear in a bookstore?

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Ghostwriting: How does it work?

Ghostwriter 2This is the second installment of a brief series of blog posts relating to ghostwriting. In the first installment, I looked at some common misconceptions about ghostwriting.

In today’s post, I want to dive deeper into a question that can be a bit of a sticking point for many people who are thinking of hiring a ghostwriter.

“How does it work?”

Once you’ve found a ghostwriter and you’re ready to get started . . . well, how do you get started?

There are three main ways that a ghostwriter works with his or her clients. In my experience, writing a book for a client is typically a mix of these three methods, and very rarely is just a single method employed.

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Ghostwriting: Some Common Misconceptions

Ghostwriter imageOver the next couple weeks, I’m going to be posting some blog pieces covering a part of my career portfolio that I rarely write about: ghostwriting. I have been working as a ghostwriter for the last seven or so years, but due to the nature of the business I have rarely mentioned it here on my blog.

That’s mainly because by nature it’s a fairly secretive process: A ghostwriter is contracted to write a book for someone else, and that person’s name goes on the cover. That’s the deal, with all that it entails: As a ghostwriter, I don’t share credit, my name is never mentioned, and the “author” (my client) proceeds as if he or she wrote the book, from start to finish.

If you look at my ghostwriting page, there aren’t any titles mentioned or links to books. Part of what my clients purchase is my discretion. This can make it hard to market yourself as a ghostwriter, but what would make it really hard is a reputation of blabbing about writing clients’ books. So I keep my silence.

Common Misconceptions About Ghostwriting

In this installment, I am going to look at some misconceptions and points of confusion that I encounter frequently when I talk to people about ghostwriting. My hope is that this might be read by someone bouncing around the internet, trying to decide whether a ghostwriter is what they need for their project. Clearing up some of these misconceptions would make an excellent starting point regardless of the nature of your project.

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Another Great Writing Opportunity

Following up on this earlier post about a great (read: terrible) “ghostwriting” opportunity, here’s an ad I came across on Pittsburgh’s Craig’s List for fiction writing assistants.

As you’ll see, this sweet opportunity involves taking the ad-poster’s outline and . . . well, writing his/her novel, it appears. The successful candidate will have excellent grammatical skills, write quickly, and be able to make revisions quickly.

Okay, so it’s a ghostwriting gig. The person who posted this ad has an idea but isn’t good with words and just wants to pay someone to write it up. So let’s scroll down to the bottom where it mentions pay and see how much . . . Oh. Oh my. “Compensation: no pay.”

I won’t go on, because you probably get the picture. This crumb doesn’t mention anything about the successful applicant getting course credit, because he/she either doesn’t care or hasn’t thought that far ahead. What may be most audacious, though, is that applicants are asked to submit not only 1,000 words of writing but to spend additional time writing a 500-word statement asking for this person’s consideration. Does the poster think this is an attractive offer? Maybe he/she should mention literally any benefit the writing assistant(s) will derive from this arrangement.

My post about the ghostwriting gig was rather light-hearted, but this ad irked me so much I actually posted a response on CL. Was I too harsh? I don’t think so. It never fails to annoy me when I peruse CL or elance and see the rates people consider fair for writing (or editing or proofreading). I’m inclined to say that writing is not day labor, but that’s a faulty comparison because people have a better sense of the effort and skill involved in day labor. And I doubt you’d ever see someone get day laborers to build a patio or spread gravel around a driveway for no money by calling it an “internship.”

Update: Some time after I posted this, the person who posted the original, offending CL ad must have come to his/her senses (or, maybe, was adequately shamed by my response) and yanked the ad. So, you’ll have no luck following the link above. I imagine I’ve given a decent enough impression of the gist of the ad from the above takedown, however.

A bold reimagining of ghostwriting

Two of the more fun freelance writing projects I’ve done have been ghostwriting gigs. One was a novel and one was a children’s book, and in both cases I really enjoyed talking to the author, figuring out what he/she wanted, and then sitting down and delivering the product.

Periodically, I’ll seek out more ghostwriting work by looking around Craig’s List, sometimes advertising my services there, or doing a search for “ghostwriter” on Indeed.com, a job-listing aggregator that has saved me time before. The stuff you find in these places is, however, not often worth finding. At least on Indeed, a lot of it comes by way of elance and oDesk, marketplaces where writers (and others offering services) bid on the jobs posted. Finding an appealing job listed there is always an exercise in deflation, because the person offering the job, either from an understanding of how the marketplace works or from simple cheapness, doesn’t offer much money; the situation is worsened by the bidders, who undercut one another and drive the price down. I suppose it’s classic economics, but it’s always a tough thing to see. Invariably I end up thinking about how many books I could read in the time it would take me to write someone’s non-fiction book and be paid $300 for my trouble.

This is all background to introduce an ad I stumbled upon today, one that truly stood out from the crowd. While the job-poster gets points for forthrightness, surveying what I know about ghostwriting I must say that this is a new one on me:

“I want to buy your completed manuscript/novel” reads the headline; “You will sign over the publishing rights and will not be credited in the book. Essentially, you will become a ghostwriter for it. Once a relationship is established this could lead to more work with much higher pay.”

Yikes. I guess that constitutes a ghostwriting relationship. Except for the part where I wrote this novel for myself, to hopefully publish under my own name. You know, as part of my hopes and dreams. But I guess I could sell it to you and have you publish it under your or someone else’s name . . . I mean, that would at least spare me the hassle of wrangling with publishers and agents, right? Really, what’s the harm—and I’m sure it’s a decent wage, right? . . . The average bid is how much? $1,527? (as of publication time)

To be honest, I was intrigued by this proposal because I thought of the first two novels I wrote. Neither one has seen the light of day; neither friend nor literary agent has seen these bad boys. I’m not proud enough to send them out into the world under my own name. Why not unload them on this guy?

Because he/she wants the first three chapters for consideration, but “. . . be prepared to send over the entire MS on short notice if you make it to the next round.” Also, he ends the post with “Good luck!” So now it’s a contest? Where the prize is peanuts to take my novel and publish it under your own name?

The crazy thing is, I’m still not at all sure I won’t be doing this. If you opt to do it, fellow writers, good luck!