Ghostwriter: Executive Summary

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Ghostwriting may be one of the more likely ways to get to write for large and important audiences. Plus, you get paid—often well—to write about a range of topics you otherwise never could, and to meet interesting, otherwise inaccessible people. All that, plus a flexible schedule. But you do need to forgo the glory of seeing your name in print. Consider any writing career only if you like the process of writing, whether or not your name appears on the product.

Of course, to be a professional writer, you must write powerfully and quickly—those with writer's block need not apply. Ghostwriters also must be excellent interviewers, able to unearth the factual and emotional nuggets that lie within your client. Too, you must be able to capture your client's voice and to gracefully accept their seemingly foolish edits.

One way to land a good ghostwriting project is to contact a famous person you respect and ask if he or she would like you to ghostwrite an autobiography. If so, you develop an outline together and submit the proposal to publishers, usually through an agent. Another source of celebrity ghostwriting work: writing speeches and articles for politicians or business leaders. You can also ghostwrite for just plain folks: websites, family histories, or Grandpa's memoir. You'll have an edge if you specialize in science, autobiography, history, politics, or business.

The main potential downside of ghostwriting is that it isn't as freely creative as writing your own thoughts. You're writing your clients' ideas, not your own, and in their voice, not yours. Of course, by handpicking for whom you're writing, you're unlikely to feel unhappy about that. And ghosting is a great option if you're looking to get well paid for writing without having to write ad copy or for trade publications.

Median Pay

National: $61,000


The art of writing well can be acquired in or out of the halls of academe—out, with private coaches or writers' groups—but always by reading lots of good writing and most of all by writing, writing, writing. Always try to get feedback, not just from writing experts but from your target audience.

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