The Ins and Outs of Being a Book Ghostwriter
By Karen S. Cole
I am a leading “name” book ghostwriter, have been one for years.
So background, I’m nearly unknown. Why haven’t you heard of me? I spent two decades as a freelance writer. You have to report to a boss, often a managing editor or commercial publisher. They set rigid rules, and allow for little creativity: all things must be done their way. Sometimes, they fail to pay you properly. As to freelance ghost writing, it depends on the nature of the client. Excessively demanding types tend to drop you and find another book ghost writer. Worse ones quit the job in mid-stream. They suddenly decide they can write better than you and move on. They claim to not like something you did, or get queasy about paying you. This doesn’t bother me. I’d rather not work with such people, anyway.
On the other hand, when you’re a book ghost writer you get clients who are happy with what you’re doing. That is in my case, so I can’t totally speak for other ghostwriters. When I work on any project, I give it everything, my heart and soul. I’m a book ghost writer with over 30 years of on and off writing experience. I know that I do good work. I’ve been told I do GREAT work! Much of my client base is New York Times or Amazon bestselling authors. I’m not boasting; I’m an experienced book ghost writer. I believe some people think that because I’m female, I’m easy to push around. Such people are losers to me, as they lose out on my exceptional writing skills.
I’ve been at this since January of 2003.
Being a book ghost writer and editor is my main forte, although with this job I’m forced to wear many hats. Such as search engine optimization knowledge, current awareness of the publishing field and the ongoing needs of my clients, marketing, script optioning services, etc. It’s easier for me to need to report to my clients directly, and not to a Boss Editor. The middleman is thus eliminated. I make my own company rules, and I strictly keep them. I also, albeit loosely, have the people on my 200+ member team follow them. Only to the extent they can, and no further. I make everything as fair, ethical and honest as I can for myself, my team members and my clients. They are each a book ghost writer or editor whom I chose carefully for the job. Or they perform other services – but every time, I went over their credentials slowly and carefully. I only hire good people.
I love being a book ghost writer. I get to meet book authors, honest human beings with intelligent, intriguing things to say. It’s a diverse assortment of almost random individuals. Each of them has an excellent story, even the ones who are a hard case, a hard time, or are too picky. I do my best to stick closely to my author client’s true writing voice, whenever I edit or ghostwrite. I feel sad when any of them leave, but fortunately this only happens to me about 5-10% of the time. Believe it or not, some of this crowd finds out there isn’t somebody better, and they come back to me!
I have the feeling most of those people genuinely wanted cheaper, less professional services. A lot of my fellow book ghostwriters agree with me about that problem. Writers, as a group, are paid divergent salaries, so we have to work hard to be paid what we’re worth. It’s too easy for people, even ghost writing clients, to want to underpay you. Another 10% of “the quitters” leave due to the fact they simply don’t have the money to pay a book ghost writer. Or, they need “on spec” work done, but it’s not for a book project that is likely to sell widely. This doesn’t warrant my working for percentage payments alone. A lot of these folks end up with cheap, unsubstantial work done on their book manuscripts. You really do get what you pay for! Well, in most cases. Sometimes, sadly enough, book authors spend lots of money and get little in return. We here at Ghost Writer, Inc. try hard to give you more “bang” for your buck. I have tons of references and can back up what I say, powerfully.
Often, book publishers don’t fulfill payment of an outside book ghost writer.
They have their own “in-house” ghost writers, so they frown on a freelancer. When I work on spec, I have my clients pay me directly out of whatever percentage they make from the book publisher. This method does work, and I’m happier with it. But in most cases, payment from the client during course of completion of the project makes me happiest. This is true in the case of 90% of the great, experienced professional book ghost writers. I have read about this extensively and know a lot of book ghost writers. Average time for a true pro is six months to complete a book, average cost is $50,000 per book.
I don’t charge that way myself. I have enough experience to command that high of a price tag, but I know most clients simply don’t have that much money to spend. Supposing for some reason, the book doesn’t take off, it doesn’t sell, or the book author gets sick and fails to promote the book? I tend to charge somewhat lower pricing and also offer far lower pricing for book editing versus book ghostwriting. Then, I set you up with people on my team who are 90% likely to get your book to sell. They are better at marketing than me, because sales are their specialty.
A sophisticated, professional book ghost writer often has an English degree (speaking in terms of English-speaking countries). She or he has several years of experience. There are also talented student ghostwriters and editors, far better at writing and editing than the average person or even our author clients. Therefore, if you need a book written and you don’t have the time, energy, tools, writing or editing talents, you should turn to a book ghost writer or book editor to assist you.
The one thing you shouldn’t do is sell a good book ghost writer short.
This makes for a bad relationship. Too often, hostility develops, or somebody wants attention. To tell his or her story to others, but not to have a book professionally ghostwritten. Once they discover they must devote resources, time and effort, once they see it’s going to cost them decent money – you guessed it. They quit, not wishing to hire a professional book ghost writer after all, often claiming it’s your fault. I have to tell them, I don’t write books for free, though I hate to dampen anyone’s dreams.
These people mystify me. But fortunately for me, they are few and far between. Most of the time, I’m allowed to complete a book ghost writing or editing project beautifully, in the right way, and in the short space or full scope of time allotted. I ghostwrite, edit, proofread, polish and professionally format a full book manuscript. That is why I still deeply enjoy performing the needed, privileged and daily work of an above-average book ghost writer. I don’t mind the lack of credit, if you let me do my job. And sometimes I get the perk, “As told to Karen S. Cole” on the book’s cover as well!