When a fellow writer finds out what I do for a living, they usually have a hundred questions. They span from how do I capture someone else’s voice, to how do I find leads.
A common question I get is: "Does it ever bother me if that I don’t get my name on the cover and credit for the work?" My answer is always, “The only thing that really upsets me is if the check doesn’t clear.”
Below are my insights, the top ten things I share with new and even veteran ghostwriters to help them elevate their business and, more importantly, keep sane.
1. Always meet your client.
I cannot tell you how much information I am able to gather when I meet face to face with a client. I once met with a client who had a room full of tennis memorabilia. I would not have known how much tennis was important to her, and we used the game as an ongoing metaphor in her book.
2. Remember it is their book, not yours.
You are hired for your expertise, and you should always give them honest advice - but don’t forget they call the shots. You must leave your ego at the door and remember: you are the pen, they are the author.
3. Create a daily schedule.
Even though you are the ghost writer, it does not mean you don’t fall into the same traps as other writers. Set daily goals of word counts and stick to a schedule, or you will find that procrastination can become your new friend. Turn off the social media and get to work.
4. Never forget you are a business.
You must do everything you can to grow that business and that means acquiring new clients and balancing it with the work you already have.
You can get caught on the teeter-totter. On one side is work you are currently doing with clients, and on the is sales. If you are working too much on the actual work every day, and neglect the sales, you will find that soon you will be scrambling to keep the lights on. On the other hand if you spend all your time and marketing and sales you will not have enough work to sustain you, or you may be neglecting work you should be accomplishing which can hurt relations with paying clients.
Work to find the balance, but keep in mind it is a daily balance.
5. Record everything.
You never know when a nugget of wisdom or brilliance will occur when talking to your client, so record everything. Sometimes once it is out, it is hard to recapture what they said exactly. Recording it assures you miss nothing.
6. Respect confidentiality.
I am asked often about who I have written for, and as exciting as it might be to reveal my high-profile clients, I respect my promise - both for ethic and legal reasons. This can make it tricky at times to convince new clients of my value, so I have an agreement with a few of my former clients that they do not mind being references for me. Each time I am asked to provide a reference, I ask my client first, out of respect.
7. Stay relevant in your own writing.
Because it is sometimes difficult to share past work due to non-disclosure contracts, it is important that I continue to write books, articles and blogs under my pen name. It keeps your skills sharp, it adds to your portfolio, and your credibility. In addition, it makes a great marketing piece and can lead to further work.
8. Network like crazy.
The point of networking is not about selling. People will be immediately turned off by that. What they do want is to connect, and so always offer to help in any way you can. You never can anticipate the day they will call you to engage you in work or refer you. Ghostwriting is a people business - you are selling relationships and trust before your skills as a writer.
9. Be ready to say no.
It seems counter intuitive to turn down a potential client, but sometimes it is best for both of you. The relationship and dynamics are important when getting into someone’s headspace and drawing out their book. Let’s face it, we don’t always get along with everyone. It starts at the negotiation. Trust your gut and intuition. If it doesn’t feel right from the beginning, it won’t get any better.
Have a list of other ghostwriters handy to make a referral to and others may return the favor or even pay you a finder’s fee. In addition, no one is the expert at every topic. There are ghostwriters that have niches in which they write strongly in. Don’t chase the money, focus on creating long term clients- and this means picking the right ones.
10. Take care of yourself.
Move around. Exercise. Expose your skin to sunshine once in a while. It is easy to become siloed in your work, and this not healthy for your body, mind or soul. Be sure to keep healthy snacks at arm’s reach, and schedule in walks, runs or time at the gym. Some of the best ideas and writing comes from the times you are not sitting in front of the computer. A healthy body equals a healthy mind and a healthy mind equals literary genius. Well most of the time, or at least some of the time.
Have you ever thought of ghostwriting? Do you have questions for John?
Special Ghostwriter Mentoring Package! If you email John and mention this article, he will answer any questions you have and provide a 40% discount off his next ghostwriting course (coming in June!). [john(at)johnpwriter(dot)com]
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John Peragine is no novice to writing a book. He is a published author of 12 books, has ghostwritten over 100 others and does freelance work for the New York Times, Reuters, and Bloomberg News. John ghostwrites for some of the top names in business, real estate, Hollywood, politics, fitness and healthcare. He has published articles in WineMaker Magazine, Herb Companion and Speaker Magazine to just name a few.
John has been writing professionally since 2007, after working 13 years in Social Work and was a professional musician in the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 20 years. He has been providing services to the National Speakers Association and the Global Speakers Federation since 2013. John is a member of the National Writer's Union.
His expertise is in business writing, real estate, small business, finance, Amazon self publishing, how to self publish a book. He had built a company that is a leader in self publishing companies
John lives with his wife and two children on the beautiful Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa.
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I'm assuming ghostwriting is mainly for memoirs. Is that correct? What other types of ghostwriting have you done?
They are for many types of writing. I do business books, how-to, and history books. In addition I also ghostwrite articles and blogs. There are a number of ghostwriters that even ghostwrite fiction.
I've always been interested in ghostwriting. It feels like it takes a bit of pressure off when you are writing true life stories. You don't have to make it up, but rather you must structure it and make it sound interesting...am I right?
It is about taking the ideas and stories in a person's head, their video, or other written materials and sewing them into prose within the quilted structure of a book.
You're speaking my language - I am totally a story quilter, even in my own life.
It sounds glam, but I'm a pure fiction girl. Is it a lot like writing with another?
Laura, your answer is down below.
"You are the pen, they are the author." Perfect frame of mind for this, John. I once attended a workshop on ghostwriting, but your article makes it so much clearer. Thanks!
Thank you for your kind words Fae Rowen. Some days it is about clear as mud to me!
It is very collaborative writing- however there are a number of famous that have allowed other to write under their nom de plume. Famous artists did the same thing- they would allow their students paint under their instruction and then placed their signature on it. Consider also the case of Shakespeare. Or think of the great ghostwriter Cyrano De Bergerac
[…] For any writers interested in ghostwriting, John Peragine has 10 tips for successful ghostwriters. […]