The previous article I wrote for WritersWeekly.com, The Good Life of Ghostwriting, brought a wave of email questions, most of which were from writers wanting to know how to market their services as a ghostwriter. Ah, the $64,000 question: where do I find clients? How do I let them know what I do? How do I get them to accept my fee and sign a contract? The answer is simpler than you may think. Just approach your marketing campaign the same way you’d approach writing a book: step-by-step.
STEP 1: Figure out what you want to market. This may seem obvious, but I cannot count the number of writers who come to me without really knowing what they have to offer or how they want to pitch themselves. They want to be a “writer,” or a “ghostwriter” – but what does that mean to a layman? Not much. You must DEFINE YOURSELF first, or you’ll never be able to define yourself to someone else.
Here’s my standard tag: “I write books for people who have wonderful ideas.” I don’t add that I have (and would again, if the money was right) written articles, speeches, company profiles, CD liner notes, brochures, and multi-million dollar prospectuses. I tell people I write books. I’ll write yours, if you need help. That’s my main focus, so that’s what I offer. The other projects come to me from people who have liked the work I did on their books, or who heard about me from other authors.
STEP 2: Write it down. Create a business card and a simple three-fold brochure that spells out who you are, what you’re offering, and how you’re different from everyone else out there peddling the same service. For example, my various brochures and promo pieces always include the fact that I’m the author of This Business of Books, which establishes me as an industry expert – just about the only one in Orange County, California. Figure out how you are unique, or at least a head above the crowd, and include it in one simple line.
These materials are the forerunners to your more elaborate promo package, which should include:
+ a one-pager, a single-page promotional piece in paragraph form that contains your picture; a short bio; the services, products and presentations you offer; and your contact information
+ your credits, listed on a single page, if possible, grouped into logical categories such as “Articles,” “Books,” “Clients,” etc. If you do not yet have sufficient credits to fill a page, use a well-constructed, 2001-style resume
+ endorsements or letters of reference from previous clients
+ a sample of your writing. The bylined flat Cover will suffice for books. If you don’t have one yet, or you’re marketing yourself to write something other than books, include your best short professional, bylined piece. (“Professional” means you were paid for the work; “bylined” means your name is on it.) DO NOT use anything you ghosted for someone else! Not only would it be unethical, it could leave a potential client with the uneasy feeling that you might use show his or her work around, too, even if the author has given you permission to show the piece. Don’t self-sabotage
Put all this together in a Presentation Folder (available at any Staples, Office Depot, Office Max, or other office-supply store). Get the kind with the business-card cutout on one of the inside pockets, and make sure you include your card in every package
STEP 3: Meet, Greet, and Eat. Go to meetings. All kinds of meetings: Chambers of Commerce, medical organizations, psychiatrist groups, networking breakfasts, CPA associations, charity organizations – anything where people gather. Hand out your cards and brochures. Don’t limit your marketing efforts to just one type of individual, or fall for the popular idea that only certain types of people or organizations write books, or need general writers or editors. All businesses have special projects now and then; everyone I’ve ever run into has had at least one idea for a book. Make yourself known and accessible. And while you’re at it, let any local literary agents know that you can be called upon to help out their “almost” clients. Don’t just send a letter; pick up the phone and invite them to lunch (one at a time, of course.) Get to know them as individuals, and LET THEM GET TO KNOW YOU. Give the agents one of your promo packages. Offer to “read” for them for free. Call those people who give you their card at the various meetings, and follow-up with a promotional package. Present yourself as a professional, and you will be treated accordingly.
A few brief precautions:
1.) NEVER discuss your fees during an initial encounter. Make an appointment to fully explore the scope of the project and where you might fit in. If your contact insists you provide a “range” of what something might cost or refuses to discuss a private meeting, he or she is probably just making conversation, and is therefore not a serious potential client.
2.) Choose your meeting place carefully, especially if you’re dealing with a professional such as an M.D., attorney, or psychologist. These people are accustomed to being in control, and dictating terms and conditions. If you meet in their office, on their turf, they will have the upper hand throughout the project – if you agree to do the project for the amount of money they want to pay. Avoid this psychological ploy by having a meeting place already in mind, preferably one that’s halfway between the client’s place of business and yours, if you’re not in the same area. Meet for breakfast lunch, dinner, or coffee – and either let the client pay or arrange for separate checks. Remember, you’re not applying for a job; you’re offering a service they need.
3.) ALWAYS review the material or manuscript before offering a written bid on the project. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into giving a quote over the phone. These tactics put the client in control of the situation, which you, as a writer, cannot afford. Never allow yourself to be treated as an employee, a clerk, secretary, or transcriptionist. Know your craft, present yourself as a professional, and conduct your business as just that – business. Don’t get emotionally involved, and don’t forget: it’s not your book, it’s just your contract. Do the best job you can, avoid making promises you can’t keep (such as, “I know this book is going to sell!”), and never, never, let a client get the upper hand psychologically. Be a pro, and you’ll earn the respect – and remuneration – of a pro.
Claudia Suzanne began her writing business in 1988 after a successful career as a professional drummer and vocalist. While providing consultation and guidance to hundreds of clients, she has written, ghosted, or edited over 50 nonfiction and fiction books as well as three of her own titles, including This Business of Books: A Complete Overview of the Business from Concept Through Sales. Her ghostwriting specialties include manuscript and political assessment, 3rd-party voice preservation, over-all structure, story development and tight editing.