The good news is that when you agree to ghost write a book truly as a ghost, with no credit given to you as a writer, you will make a lot more money than if you were given credit.
Here’s the rub, though; your ghost contract prohibits you from ever telling anybody that you worked on the book. It also specifies your legal liabilities if you ever spill the beans to anybody, even to your mother or your best friend.
Legally bound to secrecy, how are you supposed to get your next ghost writing job? Here are some tricks of the trade. Don’t forget to give your clients your business cards and ask them to recommend you to others in their circles. The client has not sworn to be silent about you, after all. Unfortunately though, the happier the client was with your ghost writing work, the less likely they are to recommend you to anybody. The absurd but accurate psychology of that is, you almost magically created their distinctive voice in writing and they do not want to believe that you also could create a completely different – and distinctive – voice for anybody else. You can extend the working relationship with a client, though, by drawing up a book promotions proposal in which you are the ghost writer of a website, blog and other similar venues for promoting the book.
At a high enough level, you will of course be working with a (most likely different) literary agent for each individual ghost writing project — and you should let the agent know you are entertaining additional offers. But naturally, you must hustle for more work on your own. How to do that? Let’s say you’re passionate about a particular designer’s clothes. Send the designer a beautifully-crafted one-page letter explaining why you love his/her work. To get a correct address, call the designer’s company headquarters and ask where you should send the designer your letter. Simultaneously, look for the designer and/or the designer’s company on the Internet, on Facebook for example. Join the community of the designer’s admirers, commenting about posts, and in relevant places also putting in your fashion-related, published articles — the ones about that designer’s clothing. Do you see how this works? People in these mini-Facebook communities sometimes tell little stories in the comments thread. You can find ways to slip in remarks such as “I’ve ghost written books.” You’re letting the designer and the designer’s company know that you’re a ghost writer, without revealing for whom you have ghosted.
That activity can pay off in unexpected ways. Maybe your favorite designer will never even want to do a book. But because the designer is so fabulous, other fabulous people are looking at her Facebook page. They’ve seen you say that you are a ghost writer. They’ve seen links to your sample articles. They quite possibly have already “friended” you. And then suddenly, a politician, or a chef, or a famous dog trainer sends you a message: “Would you like to talk about collaborating on a book with me?”
Your previous clients, too, are likely on Facebook, or elsewhere online. Reminding them that you’re alive every two weeks or so can help them to remind themselves that they’ve been wanting to get an article written and placed somewhere (yes, articles can be ghost written, too!). Non-writers who are asked to write articles usually do it for publicity, not for the money. That’s why they’re willing to pay a professional ghost writer to do the work for them. Here’s how I recommend handling the situation when previous ghost writing book clients ask you to do an article project for them:
If an editor has already approached your client with an article contract, charge the client double whatever they are getting paid for the piece. If they don’t want to pay your price, let them write the article themselves. On the other hand, if your client wants to try to get an editor interested in taking an article, tell your client that you need a project starter fee to learn what you need to know to get the point where you can start sending out query letters, plus your fee for each query letter you compose. And yes, again, you ask for double what the client gets from the magazine in addition to the pre-query and query work you did, or they can write the article themselves.
This is how us big league ghosts dooze it, so don’t say “Boo!”
Scott Rose, a ghost writer and journalist, lives in New York City, where some of his favorite haunts are the Metropolitan Opera, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Transit Authority. He is the author of two published novels, Death in Hawaii and Mr. David Cooper’s Happy Suicide, which is about an advertising executive assigned to a condom account.