There are Ghosts, and then There are Ghosts


Last decade’s print-media implosion left an awful lot of good journalists, writers, and editors out of work. And scads of them  turned to what Marty Nemko predicted in a 2009 US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT article would be—and, indeed, is–the #1 occupation for writers in the current marketplace: ghostwriting.

This proliferation of ghostwriters is a major boon to the vast majority of people who want to write a book but either don’t have the time, don’t know how to get started, or have already written a first draft and realize it needs help. Such aspiring authors can find that help in many places on the Internet, through many off-line connections—and on many tiers of competency and sheer raw/polished talent.

Since finding a ghostwriter is almost as easy as finding a self-publishing service these days, let’s talk about those tiers of ghostwriters, and how what you’re willing to invest affects what you’re likely to get in return.

English: Outside of the Aquarium of the Pacifi...

English: Outside of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just like in any other endeavor, ghostwriting is very much a “you get what you pay for” proposition. If you put your faith in someone willing to write your book “on spec”—i.e., they’ll wait to get paid until you sell the book and start making money from it—you might as well go to Vegas and watch the roulette wheel spin without laying down any chips. You have no one to blame but yourself when you don’t win.
Can they guarantee a bestseller? Are you interested in some wonderful Florida swampland?

When you pay someone peanuts to write your novel, memoir, or nonfiction book, chances are the resulting manuscript will be worth just that: a couple jars of Planter’s. People who work for clerk’s wages are trying to break into the business, not offering experienced, professional editorial services. Can they guarantee a bestseller? Hopefully, they’ll guarantee to finish the project.

You can go ahead and lay down the cost of a new washer and dryer set, and the relatively inexperienced ghost you attract will hone his or her skills on your manuscript. Your project will be an immense learning experience-for the ghost. They’ll not only absorb all you have to say in the book, but they’ll learn about how to work with clients (from working with you) and how to put together a real book (from putting together yours). What will you learn? That not everyone who calls themselves a “ghostwriter” has the same ability to deliver a marketable product. Can they guarantee a bestseller? Are you really asking?

Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pop for the cost of an SUV, and you’re likely to find someone who understands what they’re doing, has done it successfully a number of times, and has a fair amount of expertise under their hands. They may not have myriad New York publishing connections, but they know how the game is played, and they can lay out your options and guide you along the path from development to print or eBook production.  Can they guarantee a bestseller? No, but they should be able to guarantee that your manuscript will be given the serious consideration it deserves by the industry, critics, and the reading public.

Invest in what Princeton’s Angus Deaton, Ph.D., and Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D.  tab “The cost of happiness,” (The cost of happiness is exactly $75,000) and you’ll be dealing with a top professional, someone who can introduce you to agents, printers, and publicists and help you work out an effective plan to get your title into as many readers’ hands as possible via as many distribution/marketing/promotion channels as possible. Can they guarantee a bestseller?  No guarantee, but they’ll give you all the tools and resources you need to pursue that prize.

When you get into the government-grant-to-study-something-everyone-already-knows arena, you’ll be able to land a hi-status, high-profile ghostwriter with a lot of industry and crossover (film, TV, etc.) connections. They may even have their own small presses or be affiliated with leading agents and publishers.  Can they guarantee a bestseller? Keeping in mind that a random act of terrorism, Mother Nature, global economic or political upheaval can derail your buzz— yeah, they probably can. But then, you’re paying them the cost of a “starter home” to make it happen!

Claudia Suzanne is the first ghost to deconstruct (Secrets of a Ghostwriter) and teach (Ghostwriting Certificate Program, CCPE/CSULB) how ghostwriters do what they do.  Her next online program begins February 16; registration is open now at California State University – Long Beach. She is also the founder/creative Partner of Wambtac Communications LLC, a family partnership dedicated to raising the literacy bar of the book industry and professionalizing the field of ghostwriting through education, community, and editorial-service excellence.  Wambtac Communications LLC is producing Ghostwriters Unite! on May 3-5, 2013 at the Hilton Hotel in Long Beach, CA.

Academic and business blog posts

Here are some blog posts I recommend from academic and business acquaintances of mine. – Rand Kemp

Why so many blog posts about kids?  Because we have too many US mass killing sprees.  Perhaps some good articles on proper childhood care can cure this current and future trend?




Getting Started as a Ghost Writer




Getting Started as a Ghost Writer

According to, Ghost Writer is a person who writes one or many speeches, books, articles etc, for another person who is named as or presumed to be the author.

In today’s digital landscape, it is estimated that there over 600 million websites in operation. Many of their owners will need content but lack the necessary skills to write unique and engaging copy that the search engines will love. That’s where ghost writers come in.

Ghost writing is not only for established writers. Everybody has to start somewhere. If you are willing to invest a little time and effort into getting yourself set up and learning the craft, you can reasonably expect to make a decent income from offering your writing skills as a service.

Tips to getting started.

1. Get Online

Networking Freelancers

Networking Freelancers (Photo credit: solobasssteve)

Creating a professional online presence is the first step that should be taken by any aspiring ghost writer. You can create a site for free using basic WordPress services or even with a Facebook page. For an even more professional feel to your profile, consider the relatively small cost of buying a unique domain name and hosting package.

Your writer profile should include some samples of your work. You should aim at having at least ten different samples of your writing. Remember that potential clients may make the decision to hire you based on the quality of these samples, so you should make sure they represent your writing abilities in the best light.

If you have already completed some writing work for clients, it would be nice if you could request some favorable testimonials for your work and display these on your site. You might also consider publishing your rates for different types of writing assignments, although this is a matter of personal choice. Naturally, your contact details should be included.

2. Sign Up for Freelance Writing Sites

There is a huge choice of different freelance writing sites available on the Internet. Even when you are just starting out, it’s a good idea to sign up for more than one. Even the busiest of agencies have quiet periods, and if ghost writing should become your full-time job, there’s nothing worse than finding yourself with nothing to do.




Different sites have varying approaches to how work is allocated, so you should take your time to have a look around several and work out which of them are the best fit for you as a writer. Some require you to purchase credits in order to bid for posted jobs. Other sites are free to join, and jobs are awarded on a first come first served basis but such jobs may well pay less.

The following companies have opportunities for ghost writers. The list is by no means exhaustive, but is a great starting point for anyone serious about pursuing a career as a ghost writer.


– MediaPiston

Demand Studios

– TextBroker


– PeoplePerHour

– Interact Media


When you have set up your writer’s profile and registered with the freelance writing sites of your choice, it’s up to you to start actively seeking opportunities. In the early days at least, you shouldn’t expect clients to be banging down your door to offer you work. Proactiveness on your part is the key to your writing success.

Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Liverpool in the United Kingdom. She is a full-time writer and published author for sites like Degree Jungle who specializes in social media, technology and entrepreneurship.


Exorcise the Ghost in Book Ghostwriting

I was approached to ghostwrite a novel

Recently I was approached to ghostwrite a book. The party in question has made journal entries over a period of time. Since I invoke client privilege, please forgive me if I don’t divulge the project scope or client identity. I have decided to find some professional ghostwriters for her, through Linkedin, and the University of Iowa graduate writing program. I did get some compliments from the Linkedin ghostwriters:

1.   Sallie thought my website copy at was good.
2.   Claudia thought my blog was adorable.

Coming from a couple outstanding professional ghostwriters, I feel honored by their compliments.

Well, anyway. Why bother with the University of Iowa?


It’s pre-screening for quality. If it is very difficult to get into the U of I writing school and candidates must have an excellent writing portfolio to get in, wouldn’t that pre-qualify graduates for “quality” ghostwriting? All you need to do is pick the top five US graduate creative writing programs, and send a communication like this:

Query to U of I graduation writing program:

I know that the University of Iowa graduate, creative writing program is America ’s best. I work as a copywriter and was approached for a book-ghostwriting project. I prefer to defer this to qualified candidates with this area of specialty. I know that candidates who either teach or enter the U of I program are already pre-screened for quality. Can I get some recommendations on faculty or alumni who would be available for a ghostwriting project? I can then provide contact and details (phone contact, project information, etc.).  Let me know.

Answer from the University of Iowa

One of our alumni runs a business doing this sort of thing. Go to: His name is Brian Richman and he should be able to help you out.

Sallie Goetsch answers:

“There are a number of factors to take into consideration when hiring a ghostwriter. Budget is an important one, because if this is a major project, it’s going to involve considerable time and effort on the writer’s part. To know how much you can afford to spend, you need to know what the book (or other project) is worth to you in terms of expanded business opportunities, increased pay scale, etc. (Sad to say, it probably won’t earn you that much in royalties.)”

“Expect a good ghostwriter to cost you a substantial chunk of money. The least I’ve ever charged anyone for a full-length non-fiction book is about $7,000, and she did a great deal of the writing herself. We *are* talking about as much as 200 hours of work, after all.”

“Now that I’ve gotten the sticker shock out of the way, let’s get to the important part. Of course a ghostwriter needs to be able to write well. Some people insist on hiring writers who have published their own books, or writers who are journalists. You should certainly be able to see samples of the ghost’s writing. But that much is true of any writer you hire.”

“If you want a ghostwriter–someone who can take the knowledge in your brain and the passion in your heart and distill it into words in *your* voice–then you need someone who has more than just writing skills.”

“You need someone you can develop an intimate personal relationship with, because the ghost is going to be getting inside your head. Rapport is critical.”

“You need someone who listens to you. Don’t be surprised if your ghost spends more time asking questions, recording, and taking notes than actually writing.”

“You need someone with a gift for mimicry, someone who writes in multiple styles and genres. Established authors with too strong a “voice” of their own are not always good at this.”

“You need someone who understands enough about publishing to be able to keep the purpose and audience of your book in mind, and help you refine and develop your ideas to achieve that goal.”

“So far as I know, ghostwriters don’t have a union or a professional association. We are, by our nature, anonymous. You can find us lurking in the acknowledgments pages of books when we don’t have “as told to” bylines, which we often don’t. (I’ve never asked for one, but then, I mainly write business books, not celebrity biographies.)”

“The best way to find a good one is probably to ask for a referral from another author. You can, of course, search LinkedIn and read recommendations here. Check out the books they’ve worked on. Read their blogs. Meet them (or have a video interview) and see if you click. Find out how they work and whether your subject is interesting to them. (The more interested they are, the better their writing will be.)”

“Then go on and enjoy a wonderful collaborative experience building something neither of you could have created alone.”

Sallie Goetsch

Claudia Suzanne answers:

“I’m sorry you don’t want to ghost the book yourself-it’s a wonderful experience, if you know what you’re doing. “

“I appreciate being included in your list of recommendations, but she won’t find me in Writers Market or any other compilation. In the 20 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never advertised. By sheer luck, all my clients have come to me through recommendations. Back when I started ghosting, in fact, there were only a handful of people who actually made their living as ghostwriters (45, to be exact-we were countable!) Now, over 100 titles later, clients still find me via recommendation.”

“A publicist for XXXX, a best-selling mystery writer, referred one of my current clients. Because he only offered one possibility–me–the client knew that 1) he valued my work and 2) I was the right person to help her. Had he offered several possibilities, she would have had to make a decision with no real idea of how to do so, and thus we both would have entered the relationship more tentatively.”

“It’s been my experience that when a buyer is looking for help with something as intimate as a book, what they’re really looking for, besides quality and affordability, is hand-holding, which is, in fact, part of the ghostwriting scope of responsibility. They’re looking for guidance from start to finish. Ergo, when next someone for a book-ghostwriting project approaches you and you don’t want to do it (really, I recommend you do give it a try; you may find you love it), give the client two people to contact, three at the most. Tell them to look over the ghosts’ web sites to get a feel for their personality and attitudes, and to ask each:”

– How closely will we work together?

– Will you send me the chapters as you write them, in groups of chapters, or when the first draft is done?

– What if I don’t like something you’ve written?

– How often can I call to talk about my book?

“Believe it or not, those will become the most important aspects once the work gets started. The answers should be:”

– Very closely.

– Will send each chapter as it’s written so the client can make corrections and changes as the work progresses and be intimately involved in the entire process from beginning to end.

– What the client doesn’t like gets changed to what the client does like, within the confines of marketability and ethics–and if the client doesn’t care about marketability, well, it’s the client’s book, after all.

– The client should be able to call as often as necessary to feel comfortable.

“This is probably a lot more answer than you ever wanted when you posed your original question, but I’m a teaching ghostwriter, so I feel the need to give full explanations.”

“I hope this helped. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to write or call.”

Claudia Suzanne

What about AWAI copywriting courses?

No! It’s not about ghostwriting. But I was asked this recently, so I’ll share my answer. I have gone through of some of the AWAI courses. In fact, I do know a copywriter friend who has purchased ALL the AWAI course material. The copywriter who brought the works from AWAI (I.E. – Circle of Success) has been in the business for 7-plus years, and specializes in the financial market. His opinion is that MOST of it is worthwhile, while some of it can be less than adequate. I have only gone though courses by Michael Masterson and Steve Slaunwhite. While I did find benefit from Michael, I do think he spends a bit too much time on course expectation, drama buildup. Steve was right to the point and quite excellent.

Keep in mind there are two different skills involved. One is to be a good copywriter and another is to be a good course curriculum builder. I don’t think everyone has both skills. Other courses have been discussed here, along with teaching programs. Steve Slaunwhite and Chris Marlow offer both. Clayton Makepeace has been talked about and currently I have seen John Carlton reopen and plug a course through affiliates. In my opinion, you get the best value for the dollar, from a marketer named Ben Hart, or obtaining some old course material from Brian Keith Voiles. .

Recently I have connected with an AWAI founder on FaceBook, and have enjoyed some email exchanges. The course of Brian Keith is entitled “Advertising Magic”, and I have talked to Brian in the past. Both the female AWAI founder and Brian are great people, as is Ben Hart. Ben wrote a book while in college and was a presidential speechwriter, before transitioning to direct response marketing and copywriting (he recently succeeded in an Internet Marketing transition)

I don’t like to put down anyone who has some degree of notoriety behind them. Just be a careful consumer and watch your budget. In the case of AWAI and other competing course offers – do “one course at a time”, regardless of what offers they send. Test the waters for yourself, “one step at a time”.

What happened to the client?

So I sent the client to Writers Market to obtain suggested price ranges. Three candidates are now available for her to select from. In the meantime, I found a Homeland Security training video, ghostwritten by Firesign Theater.

Randy Kemp