Ghostwriting Lessons Learned

CindyCarrollEGhostwriting isn’t for everyone. I avoided doing it for a long time even though I signed up for a few freelance places. I fell into ghostwriting in November due to necessity. I needed a way to earn money that would pay me faster than my book sales at Amazon. Not to mention the book sales weren’t doing great so they weren’t really paying the bills. Even though I jumped into it pretty quickly once I decided to do it, I did some research. Luckily I have some friends who had a friend who is a ghostwriter and they got me in touch with her. She gave me some good advice. One piece I had already decided on was having a contract, one with a confidentiality clause. Other things I had decided before I posted my availability for ghostwriting was my price, how many words I would devote to ghostwriting a month, the contract service I would use. The business side of it seemed simple.

First Lesson Learned

When I need money I’m willing to go over my allotted word count limit for ghostwriting. I had originally said I would write 20,000 words a month for ghostwriting leaving the rest for me and my books. But when a client wanted me to hire me to write eight 5,000 word short stories I said yes. The money would come in handy and I can write 5,000 words in two days.

I ended up devoting most of the month to those short stories though and didn’t write any of my own. That was for NaNoWriMo. So even though I won National Novel Writing Month I did so with stories that belonged to someone else.

Second Lesson Learned

There is no shortage of jobs for ghostwriters. Non fiction, biographies, fiction, corporate writing – jobs abound for all of them. It comes down to what you’re willing to write. So I had to decide what I would write and what I wouldn’t. So far I haven’t found a genre I wouldn’t write as long as I have an outline. I haven’t bid on any of the non fiction or corporate writing jobs yet but that will come later.

Purchased from DepositPhotos copyright gunnar3000

Purchased from DepositPhotos copyright gunnar3000

Third Lesson Learned

If you give me an outline I will write. I state in my contract that the author (my client) must provide me with an outline. I write to that. For some I add more if the outline is brief. Other outlines are detailed chapter breakdowns. I like those. They make it very easy to get the words written in a timely manner.  And it helps me to write to the word count the client wants. I’ve written to word count before when writing stories to submit to anthologies so that wasn’t new. I was surprised that I could write so tightly to word count. Only one story ventured into the 5,100 word range. All the other stories were under 5,100 words.

With a story mapped out for me I can write even in genres or tropes that I don’t usually write. And that can help me expand my writing horizons. One of the stories was in a genre I’d thought about writing but hadn’t tried yet. Didn’t know if I could write it. Turns out I can. Of course my client gave me a detailed outline with chapter breakdowns and a book description. Being able to write the genre for myself won’t be the hard part. The hard part will be coming up with an outline that fits the genre.

Fourth Lesson Learned

Coming up with ideas for me is easy. Coming up with ideas for someone else is hard. I had a client who wanted me to come up with one of the short story ideas I would then write for them. I thought, no problem. I come up with ideas all the time. I have so many I’ll never get to them all. Problem is, I like those ideas, all of them, and want to write them one of these days. Coming up with an idea I was willing to give away, have no claim to at all even though I wrote the story, was super hard. That story took me the longest to write out of all the ones I did for that client. Even the ones in sub genres I’d never written in before.

Fifth Lesson Learned

Even though I despise reading first person point of view I like writing it. A lot. When I put up my listing saying I would ghostwrite I said I was basically open to any genre which was true. I didn’t mention I didn’t like first person. All three of my initial clients wanted their stories (or some of them in the case of one client) in first person. Thanks to my clients I have now written in first person past tense, first person present tense and first person male. I think it’s helped me grow as a writer. And all writing means more practice on my craft.

Sixth Lesson Learned

When assigning my time for ghostwriting I should take into account that life can intervene. Without a buffer I could get behind. Also without a buffer I couldn’t write my own stories. I didn’t want all my words for the month to go to ghostwriting. I still want to publish my own stories but to do that I need to write for me. Ghostwriting has taught me to be a little more realistic in my word count goals as well.

Will I Keep Ghostwriting?

A final lesson I learned is that I like ghostwriting.  When I reach a point where my novels are making enough to make a full time income I will probably still do some ghostwriting. Maybe get to a point where the ghostwriting is the day job and my novels also get written. Ghostwriting isn’t going away. Lots of people use ghostwriters. Celebrities who want to release their own biographies, people who want to write their memoir but can’t write the book, corporations, websites. I like the variety, the learning experience, getting words on the page.

Have you read a book that’s been ghostwritten? You might have and never knew it.

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Reflections Inn looks perfect for the group of friends. A little run down, it hides a supernatural horror. A curse that replaces people with their repressed alter egos forces the friends to fight for their lives. Duplicates who lack restraint, crave gratification emerge from the mirrors. Too late they realize they didn’t know each other as well as they thought.

One by one, Lena’s friends learn the truth about their repressed emotions, their suppressed violent urges.

What doesn’t kill them can only make them stronger.

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About Cindy Carroll

Cindy Carroll is a member of Sisters in Crime and a graduate of Hal Croasmun’s screenwriting ProSeries. Her interviews with writers of CSI and Flashpoint appeared in The Rewrit, the Scriptscene newsletter, the screenwriting Chapter of RWA. She writes screenplays, thrillers, and paranormals, occasionally exploring an erotic twist. A background in banking and IT doesn’t allow much in the way of excitement so she turns to writing stories that are a little dark and usually have a dead body. When she’s not writing you can usually find her on Twitter.
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25 Responses to Ghostwriting Lessons Learned

  1. Reblogged this on L.LEANDER BOOKS and commented:
    Ever thought about ghostwriting? In her post on Writing Wranglers and Warriors, author Cindy Carroll explains the pros and cons and whether or not it might be for you. Interesting post you’ll want to be sure to read!

    Like

  2. Very interesting posy Cindy. I’ve really never given thought one way or the other to ghostwriting, but your post makes a solid case for either or. Thanks for sharing your experience with us and for giving us a little helpful info just in case we might want to try it. Good luck!

    Like

  3. Neva Bodin says:

    I’ve always wanted to know more about ghost writing and you certainly gave some good information. It would be a hard decision to decide to ghost write, although income is a good incentive. But I wonder if it’s like doing a painting for someone who has a specific idea in mind, and always wondering if I will “hit the Mark” with the assignment. I admire your talent.

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  4. I didn’t know that much about ghost writing until now. Thanks for enlightening me.

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  5. Cindy,
    Interesting blog on ghostwriting. The only ghostwriting I had heard of was for celebrities and memoirs. I didn’t realize that “normal” folk would have their stories ghostwritten. I admire the way you stepped up and created a new income stream. Gave me food for thought.
    Thanks,
    – Stephen

    Like

  6. Doris says:

    What a gift to share your experiences Cindy. I can understand trying to juggle your need for your own writing and the job of ghostwriting. Here’s to finding the balance. Doris

    Like

  7. Great and informative post, Cindy. If you need a transcriber (for interviews you may do when researching the book or short story), keep me in mind. I have a transcribing business and one of my clients is a ghostwriter. I’m at http://www.scscribeservices.com. If it’s OK, I may private message you with a couple questions on the ghostwriting sites you signed up. What’s the best way to PM you? Thanks!

    Like

    • Sarah, that’s cool. I hadn’t thought about that but I might need that in the future. Wish I’d recorded my expert when I talked to them about my trilogy. I’ll send you a friend request on Facebook. You can PM there.

      Like

  8. katewyland says:

    Very interesting. I’d love to learn more. Didn’t realize how much opportunity there was.

    Like

    • There’s a lot of opportunity. And a lot of different price ranges. Unfortunately the freelance sites pay really low. My prices were rock bottom when I started so I could get customers and the freelance sites pay even less.

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  9. Joe Stephens says:

    I alternate between not liking the idea of writing in somebody else’s name and not feeling good enough to write in somebody else’s name. I have a day job that pays well and allows me time to write, at least periodically. So it’s not an issue for me. But this was an interesting post. Thanks for sharing it.

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    • For some of the jobs I did it wasn’t hard to write since the stories were new. But for one I was writing a story in an already established series so I was worried about getting the feel right. I read the books that came before the one I was writing and it helped.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Wranglers says:

    I’ve thought about it. Interesting. Thanks for sharing. Cherl’ey

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  11. Awesome post, Cindy! Years ago I went onto a few freelance sites and signed up. Had a few nibbles but not many projects. The projects I did do were very low pay so after I completed them, I didn’t go back on the sites. Now that I’ve had more experience and two writing awards, perhaps I’ll give it a go again and do like you — set a higher price and stick to it. Are you still working “a day job” or is writing, both for yourself and others, your fulltime occupation? That’s where I want to get in the near future — but it’s a scary step! Best to you and thanks so much for sharing your ghostwriting experiences!

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    • I still have a day job. I would like to get to a point where the ghostwriting is the day job and writing my own books on the side. But not there yet. That’s why I have to dedicate only a small portion of the words I can write a month to the ghostwriting. I still want to release my own stuff this year.

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  12. Nancy Jardine says:

    I certainly didn’t know this much about ghost writing beyond what I’d read about celebrities using them, Cindy. But like Joe I’m a bit torn. I can see the economic need kicking in. However, I’d be totally happy to read on the cover of a novel that the story has been produced as an amalgam of the outline being provided by A and the actual writing by B. Otherwise, it seems like borrowing your effort and talent without you being given true credit.

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  13. Mike Staton says:

    Sounds like one can make quite a bit of money ghostwriting. I have done some freelancing at various times in my adult life. Back in the 1970s I wrote some articles for Anchor Hocking Glass Corp. for their magazine (they asked to write them). Then I submitted some stories to the Columbus Dispatch Sunday Magazine and they were published in truncated form (features on Civil War re-enactments). Of course, that’s not ghostwriting. Recently, I’ve been asked to do a few stories for the newspaper I worked for in North Carolina, the best being a piece on how I did a series of Facebook posts on the U.S. space probe that fly by Pluto. A good friend and former roommate in NC is a former journalist who does articles for a company that supplies copy to business websites. I think she makes around $6,000 or so doing it.

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  14. S J Brown says:

    I never considered ghostwriting or knew how much was involved. I assumed there would be a contract, but hadn’t thought about word counts or outlines. When I think of ghostwriting my mind jumps to celebrity’s pushing their new book on talk shows. You helped enlighten me. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

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