It all started with the elderly greeter at Wal-Mart. “I saw your picture in the paper,” he said. “You’re a writer, huh?”
I nodded, somewhat embarrassed that he’d recognized me. But I live in a small town where getting published was enough to land you a front page spot. Above the fold, no less.
“So have you been published in other things?” The greeter continued.
I shrugged and said, “I don’t like to brag, but yes, I’ve had more than 300 articles and short stories published, mostly in parenting magazines and religious publications. I’ve been writing pretty much my whole life, and I’ve been doing it for publication for the last five years. I’m currently under contract to write my first book.”
The greeter nodded, seeming impressed by my credentials. “All my life, I’ve wanted to get published, but I don’t know how to go about it. Hey, maybe you could help me!”
I shrugged and gestured to the brood of young children I’d brought. “Well, these guys keep me pretty busy.”
“It wouldn’t take too much time,” he continued. “You could just take a quick look at what I’ve written and tell me what magazines might want to buy it.”
I shrugged again. “I’m sorry, but writing is my job, and I really can’t take time away from my own work right now.”
He thought for a minute. “Would you do it if I paid you?”
My eyebrows shot up. I was used to people asking me for writing advice, but no one had ever offered to pay me. It had never occurred to me to ask. I’d heard of writing coaches, but never thought to try it myself. Still, I had five years of writing experience – as well as a few hundred publication credits – under my belt. Surely, I could use my experiences to help other people.
“So how much do you charge?” The greeter persisted.
“In what types of publications would you like to be published?” I asked.. “Because I wouldn’t feel qualified to help someone try to get a book published. You know, because I am still working on my first one.”
“Oh, I would be thrilled just to see my name in a magazine, even a small one,” he said.
I nodded. “I’ve got quite a bit of publishing experience in magazines. I think I have something to offer in that area.”
His eyes lit up. “So you’ll do it?”
I hesitated. “Let me get back to you.” We exchanged contact information and I went home to tell my husband about it.
“Do you think I should do it?” I asked.
“Yes, but you need to make it worth your time,” he said. “Figure out how much you usually make an hour when you write, and then charge him at least that much.”
I called the Wal-Mart greeter and quoted him an hourly rate. He agreed to it immediately.
Our first meeting took place at a fast food restaurant. He gave me an entire folder full of works-in-progress and said, “Do you think you can help me?”
That night, I read through some of his work. He was surprisingly talented. He wrote nostalgically, which wasn’t surprising given his age, and he definitely had potential. Plus, a study of my Writer’s Market produced several potential markets for his writing.
I decided to take the case.
We met each week for the next two months. I taught him the publishing lingo and how to follow writer’s guidelines and study markets. I told him about the good, the bad, and the ugly in my early publishing experiences. I wanted him to learn from my mistakes. But mostly, we edited his work. Constantly. Then one day, he called me and said, “I got my first acceptance! It’s a small magazine, but it’s a start! I don’t know how to thank you!”
But thank me, he has. I now coach his wife, his sister-in-law, and two people from his church. All five of them want to write for magazines, the only area in which I feel sufficiently experienced to help others. When people who want to write books ask me for help, I always decline the offer. Writers should not coach others in areas they’re not qualified to do so.
And while seeing my new friends’ bylines doesn’t thrill me quite as much as seeing my own name in print, it is very satisfying to help others achieve their writing dreams.
And earning the extra money is pretty cool too.
Diane Stark is a former kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. Her work has been published in national magazines like New Parent, Woman’s World, MomSense, and four Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Diane is currently working on her first book, a devotional for teachers, which is due out this fall. She loves to write about the important things in her life: her family and her faith. She can be reached at DianeStark19-at-yahoo.com.
So, You Wanna Be a Ghostwriter – How To Make Money Writing Without a Byline
Many freelance writers find it difficult to break into the publishing world. What they don’t know, however, is that there’s a faster and easier way to see their words in print. It’s called ghostwriting, and it’s an extremely lucrative, fun, and challenging career.