Finally, being a ghostwriter can help you and your freelance writing business in many ways. You get to learn how to communicate with clients better and help them open up you. Your writing also becomes better over time since you have to learn how to write in other people’s voice effectively.
How to Become a Ghostwriter in 6 Essential Steps (+ Tips from Professionals)
Becoming a ghostwriter might not be every writer’s dream, but it’s certainly a noble one. Whether you’re writing novels or business books, you’ll be helping someone tell their story without expecting any credit — though of course, you can also make a pretty penny as a ghostwriter. We’ve seen our fair share of successful ghosts on Reedsy, and some of them will be sharing how to become a ghostwriter in this post. There are five steps in total, so buckle up and let’s go.
Understanding the job description is the first step to doing anything well. Well, what is a ghostwriter? A ghostwriter is someone who works on a manuscript that will be credited to someone else. This may be the entire book or just parts of it, but either way, the “ghost” will often not receive public credit (unlike a listed co-author).
Usually, the ideas and knowledge contained in the book come from the publicly named author — the ghost only puts these ideas into words. As such, being a ghostwriter means you’ll have to work very closely with each author, noting down their detailed thoughts and overall style so that you can convey them seamlessly in the book.
Is ghostwriting legal?
In some cases, like The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the ghost may even be credited on the cover. If the author agrees to share the credit, your name will often follow the phrase “as told to” on the cover or front matter. Otherwise, the author might also name you in the acknowledgements. Don’t be perturbed if you don’t receive any public credit, however; it’s par for the course in publishing, and perfectly legal so long as you still get paid.
How much do ghostwriters make?
From the data we’ve gathered from the hundreds of collaborations on Reedsy, a ghostwriting project can earn you anywhere from 5000,000 to $60,000. And if you’re writing for a celebrity or a high-profile author, you can expect a six-figure payment for a book! A number of factors contribute to how much ghostwriters make, but the general rule is: the more experience you have, the better your income will be.
Are you ready to join Reedsy?
Take on freelance writing gigs
We know you’re eager to write a full 50,000-word book (and get paid for it) as soon as possible, but it’s not so simple. Most authors would first need to have a general idea of your authorial voice and range of knowledge, to see whether you’re compatible with their own book idea. This is why having some previous work to demonstrate your talents is absolutely crucial — and why we recommend you start with freelance writing first.
Test out various styles and topics
There’s no better time to experiment than now. Don’t limit yourself to just one or two categories of work — spread your wings and fly! Send pitches to magazines, blogs, and newspapers; write op-eds, listicles, and even short stories. Indeed, if you hope to become a fiction ghostwriter, make sure you’re not just writing articles constantly, but also adding some fiction creds to your portfolio.
One of Reedsy’s most popular ghostwriters, Sally Collings, encourages you to find opportunities to practice your skills even in the most unexpected places: “Find individuals or organizations who need help writing the ‘About’ section for their websites. Most people just don’t know how to make their own story shine, and it can be very helpful for them to draw on your storytelling skills.”
Alternatively, you can also act as an editor, assisting authors with manuscripts by refining their structure or voice (though not doing the writing yourself). “This will give you real-world experience collaborating with clients and shaping a manuscript — without tackling the heavy-lifting of concept development,” Collings shared.
Finally, keep up with your favorite publications on Twitter to see when they’re calling for pitches. When you do send something in, remember to personalize your note to them, and to be concise — editors often have a lot of submissions to go through.
Build your portfolio
Once you have a decent idea of what you really like and are good at, then you can home in on it. It’s important to keep writing on a variety of topics — but it’s also crucial to write regularly in the field that interests you, according to Stacy Ennis. “One of the best ways to be seen as an authority in an industry is to be the most consistent person talking about it.”
As your writing portfolio grows, Collings advises you to “create a website and professional email address. Order business cards. Start professional social media accounts. Update your LinkedIn profile with the title ‘ghostwriter.’ Begin calling yourself a ghostwriter when you meet people. Basically, treat it like a business and be prepared when it comes time to offer your services.” And with plenty of solid freelance work under your belt, you should be well-prepared for this next step.
What is Ghostwriting?
1. Interview the person you’re ghostwriting for.
The most important part of ghostwriting is understanding the material that you’re writing about. As a ghostwriter, you probably write about a variety of topics from industry blogs to memoirs. Before you dive into each piece, it’s essential to talk to the person you’re ghostwriting for and discuss the topic in depth.
Pam Bump, the Audience Growth Manager on the HubSpot blog team, says, “If you can, interview the person you’re ghostwriting for over the phone or on a video call. This will not only allow you to take down all the key details they want to cover in the content, but you’ll also learn more about how they speak or present tips. This can help you write content that naturally reads as if it was written by them.”
2. Make sure you understand the voice of the person you’re writing for.
Jumping off that last point, interviewing the person you’re ghostwriting for will help you get a sense of their voice. We’ll dive into when to use your voice or the client’s voice below, but each piece you write should have a distinct style and tone.
Bump adds, “If you can’t interview them to get a sense of how they talk or present their thoughts, you can alternatively read some of their other blog posts, social media posts, or published works to get a sense of how they write.”
3. Find the themes.
Karla Cook, HubSpot’s Senior Manager of the blog team, says, “It’s important to meet with the person you’re ghostwriting for at the beginning of the project and have a conversation about what they want the written piece to cover. This is their chance to share their brilliant, unfiltered thoughts with you, and it’s your job as the ghostwriter to identify themes, strong phrases, and potential narratives for when you approach producing the piece later on. This is also an opportunity to get a feel for how your subject approaches communicating, and can help inform how you represent their voice.”
4. Be flexible.
Can You Make a Living as a Ghostwriting?
But, is ghostwriting illegal or ethical? No it is not illegal and it is considered ethical. The only exception is if you are paying someone to take a test for you or do your homework for you as a student. It would also be illegal if you forged your writing when it was someone else’s. With ghostwriting clients they pay for your ghostwritten work and assume it as their work. That is not forgery.
If you can get in the author circle, then you can ghostwrite for authors. This is very lucrative. But, if you just look at job boards and find any ghostwriting gig, you won’t grow your business or make this a go for very long.
What I’m trying to tell you is to really hone down on the type of client that seeks out ghostwriters. While I do mention that anyone hires ghostwriters, only pair yourself with the ones that are high-paying!