I didn’t get into ghostwriting and coauthoring until about six years ago, after I’d published both nonfiction and fiction books. Now ghosting and collaborating bring in the lion’s share of my income, but I can tell you that not every writer can ghost. It’s not a question of writing skills per se, but of personality.
To succeed as a ghostwriter (or even a coauthor), you must have:
• The ability to set your ego aside. My mom had one complaint about my first coauthored book, (Small Changes, Big results: A 12-Week Action Plan to a Better Life). “Your name is too small on the cover!” she said. "It should be larger!" I had to explain that I had no say in the cover design, and that I was happy my name even made it on there. But as a ghost, it’s not about you. It’s about your client and what your client wants. If you can’t set your own ego aside, your career will be short-lived.
• Organizational skills. When you’re ghostwriting, you must stay on top of your own research, organize information you receive from your client, track various drafts (in progress or approved), and manage a schedule that may be ever-changing depending on your client’s needs. If your desk typically looks like a bomb went off, ghosting may not be a good fit for you.
• Creativity. Ghostwriting isn’t as simple as filling in an outline or connecting the dots. If you’re writing a memoir, a novel, or “creative nonfiction,” you’ll need a narrative arc and an overall theme or message for the book. Even a relatively straightforward how-to manuscript requires an ability to organize material, structure the overall manuscript (unless your client has determined this already), and to identify and maintain your client’s voice—in addition to writing 50,000 to 75,000 words or more. And that takes creative skills.
• Stress management skills. If you work for what I call a “PIA” client (think Pain In the A…) occasionally, your contact with the person is limited. But when you ghost or collaborate, you’re stuck with that person for months. Some clients will decide on a plan of action, then follow it to the letter. (I love those people!) Others will second-guess their decisions, change the scope of the book as you’re nearly completion, or need continual handholding. And that takes patience, deep breathing, goblets of pinot grigio, you name it.
• Knowledge of the publishing industry. Have you published your own books? Written and sold book proposals? Worked with an agent? Do you know the difference between traditional publishing, self-publishing, and print-on-demand, and what the advantages and drawbacks are? The more experience you have with books, the more valuable you are to a client, and the more potential you have as a ghostwriter.
Want to learn more about the field of ghostwriting? Sign up for a free hour-long Mastermind tele-class hosted by Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander on July 28, 2010 at http://www.writenowmastermind.com/