Getting Paid for your Writing
Ghostwriting Opportunities: The Pros & Cons by a Real-Life Ghost
“So, you write ghost stories?”
“Well, yes, sometimes… horror is one of my genres, but it could be any genre, so ghosts aren’t rea—”
“Any genre, but with ghosts? Like ghost romance? Ooooh, ghost rom-com—dead funny!”
I’m constantly surprised by how many people are unaware of this well-established part of the publishing industry. If you’re a fan of Nancy Drew or Vampire Diaries, then you’ve enjoyed the work of a ghost—perhaps without even knowing it. So, what is a ghostwriter?
Simply, a writer that gets paid to write a specific story that is officially credited to another person or pen name.
Why? Because a publisher has seen a group of readers that want a certain type of book and there is nothing on the market meeting that demand. They also want creative control of the story from start to finish, including pen name branding, to ensure it meets reader expectations. The publisher gets a lower-risk book, the reader gets a great story and the writer get paid doing what they love—win/win/win.
Good—ghostwriting can be the dream writing gig, but it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Not all opportunities to ghost are created equal, but putting in the work to find the best opportunity for you can be well worth it. The trick is to find opportunities that are right for you personally, and knowing just how you want to ghost… or, rather, what type of a ghost you want to be.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of things. Maybe you’re still asking yourself why you’d ever want to ghostwrite, and are still on the fence. Well, in a nutshell, here are some of the benefits if you find a good opportunity:
*Writing is generally a solitary business, but ghosting often offers some real support during the all-important drafting process.
*Ghostwriting is often collaborative in some form. You’re getting a plot, outline, and/or feedback from the person or publishing company behind the work you’re ghosting, which means you have professionals helping you develop your craft, learn the ins and outs of storytelling, and grow as a writer—without you having to invest in professional editors or find reliable critique partners. In other words, you’re getting professional feedback on your work and writing, and you’re not alone. Depending on the gig you’ve got, you might even have someone to turn to for help with brainstorming or problem-solving.
*Ghosting can be a great way to develop confidence to help combat all those rejections. You’ll get the appreciations of clients, and potentially get to see readers leaving great reviews of the stories that you personally crafted, but without putting your name out there just yet.
*Most importantly, writing is writing. The more time you spend writing, the better you’ll get. So, if your goal is to become a professional writer with work published under your own name, any time you put in as a ghost will only aid your progress. And you’ll get paid well to do it.
Of course, there are cons. You might write something you’re really proud of, and then you won’t have the pleasure of seeing your name on it. You might also have a really strong feeling about what you want for a plot or character… but the person who’s hired you has other ideas. But all this goes into that point I started with: it’s incredibly important that you find the opportunity that is right for you.
Let’s look at the three main options you have as a ghostwriter:
- Some ghosts are hired and given pretty much total control. Typical job post? “Write me a contemporary romance of 25,000 words.” That’s it. You have control over everything but genre and length, and you write it and turn it in. Depending on the person doing the hiring, you may or may not have to come up with a synopsis or outline and get it approved by them before you jump into the writing, but the creative part of the gig is all up to you because you’re responsible for both content and writing.
- Some ghosts are given a broad/loose plot—think 2-3 page outline or synopsis to go along with genre and length. There’s a lot of content that you’ll have to come up with, but you’re not starting from scratch. You will probably have to get your client’s approval if you want to make any changes at all to that outline/synopsis they passed your way.
- Some ghosts are essentially provided with all of the details—think detailed, chapter-by-chapter plot along with a breakdown of characters and themes. Editors have already been involved, and all of your creativity is going to go into the writing/craft and details because most of the content is already in the all-important outline. (This, by the way, is what Relay offers.)
It goes without saying that anything you turn in needs to be professional and original, and it also should go without saying that you need to be your own advocate and make sure you’re paid fairly for your time. Beyond that, the details are job-specific, but may include things like blurb-writing, work on revisions and/or with an editor, etc.
No matter what, you must: 1) make sure that you’re signing on for something you’re able to do (Translation: No jumping at writing an epic fantasy if you’ve never worked in that genre before, no matter how great the gig sounds!), and 2) be willing to meet all of the contract terms (Translation: Don’t sign a contract agreeing that you’ll make revisions if, in your head, you’re thinking that your work will be so perfect there’ll be no revisions required).
So, assuming a gig pays well and lines up with your genre/writing skillset, how do you know if it’s right for you?
First, think about whether or not you want to put time into an outline, or write from one. If you’d rather spend your creative energy on your own work, and are seeking out ghostwriting gigs primarily for practice/experience and, hopefully, some feedback on your writing from professionals, then your best bet is to find clients who’ll give you outlines—the more detailed the better. This will also help you get a feel for the less tangible elements of drafting if an outline is done well—pacing, genre fit/tropes, character expectations, etc. Personally, this is my preference because I love writing and I’m always working on my own books. That’s why I want to ghostwrite from outlines, working from others’ ideas, and it’s also why I like having access to the professional editors that often come along with these gigs—everything I learn from them helps me make my own work that much stronger.
On the other hand, maybe you’re someone who’d rather have pretty much complete control (outside of genre choice, at least). You’ll put serious work in and produce a great story with strong writing… but you want to be left to your own devices to do it, and you don’t want to have to ask approval if you get a sudden brainstorm that changes the original plan. That likely means you’re looking for a client who’ll trust you do everything from outlining to writing, and you’ll pretty much be on your own to do it.
The truth is, most ghosts will strongly lean towards one of the situations described above, and that’s why it’s so important that you find an opportunity that makes sense not just when it comes to your particular genre knowledge and writing skillset, but also when it comes to your style and goals.
What’s your writing style, and what do you personally want to get out of ghostwriting?
Once you answer those questions, you’ll be able to find the clients who’ll most appreciate your skills, and you’ll also be able to reap the full benefits of being a ghost.
(c) A Relay Ghostwriter
Interested in finding out more about ghostwriting opportunities?
Relay Publishing is a multi-genre fiction publishing company operating since 2013. We have a catalogue of over 700 books in English, French and German, with our focus being on romance, young adult fantasy, science fiction and thrillers.
After five years working with publishing freelancers, we like to think we know what makes a creative, fun, and collaborative environment to work in. If you check out Relay’s Testimonials (see http://recruitment.relaypub.com/) you’ll see we have a reputation for clear instructions, paying fairly and on time, and helping writers develop their craft. If you love stories, you’ll be among great company!
Head over to Relay’s recruitment portal for more: http://recruitment.relaypub.com/