Why be a Ghostwriter?
What causes a talented writer to not only cheerfully agree to publicly deny their accomplishments but also willingly assign them to someone who can’t string three sentences together to form a coherent paragraph? The answer is stability and money. Ghostwriting used to be publishing’s dirty little secret, but now is considered a subgenre and good ghostwriters are in high demand. Once a ghostwriter gains a reputation for professionalism, sticking to a schedule, and keeping his or her mouth shut, publishers will even seek her out instead of the other way around.
How Much Do Ghostwriters Make?
Ghostwriting can offer a nice income. North of the border, the Canadian Writers Union sets the minimum fee for ghostwriting a book at $25,000. In the US tracking down ghostwriting payments is murkier as each writer sets his or her own. Fees vary wildly, by genre, length and whether the project is for a celebrity. According to Writers Weekly, an experienced writer with a verifiable track record can earn $10,000 to $15,000 for a small project and prices go up from there. Ghostwriting has four general methods of payment; hourly, per page, per word, and per project. Shorter items are generally paid hourly, per page, or per word. Average hourly fees range from $70-$250. A per page fee might run $25 to $50, while per word might go from $0.25 to $3.
The biggest payoffs are for full-length books. Ghostwriters often bid on projects and again prices vary according to genre, page length and the amount of research needed. The low end is roughly $15,000 while the high end might be $l50,000. A celebrity autobiography can command much more and a well-known ghostwriter may even earn a percentage of royalties.
|Larry McMurtry after his sex change|
from Ophelia Ray
Even writers with prolific careers used ghostwriters. The Player on the Other Side by Ellery Queen was ghostwritten by Theodore Sturgeon. James Patterson, what a man. Why, he comes out with a book a month. Oh, really? Have you taken a close look at one of his covers? His name is splashed in large manly writer’s font at the top in a place sure to grab your eyes, but who is that name in teeny tiny print at the bottom. Here’s a hint. It’s not his dry cleaner.
Peruse a list of well-known authors who were also ghostwriters and you’ll find a few surprises. H. P. Lovecraft was a prolific ghostwriter who created stories for Harry Houdini. Early in his career, Mozart ghostwrote music for other composers. A strong suspicion exists President Ulysses S. Grant’s autobiography was done by longtime friend, Mark Twain.
Other Famous Ghostwriters
Tennis as I Play it by Maurice McLoughlin (Sinclair Lewis)
Daughter of the Tejas by Ophelia Ray (Larry McMurtry)
My Chinese Marriage by Mae T. Franking (Katherine Anne Porter)
What’s the Benefit of a Ghostwriter to a Publisher?
Writing is a skill. Few famous people can put pen to paper with any degree of competency, but ego’s rule. Promising someone they can be known henceforth as a New York Times bestselling author holds definite appeal. It’s easy to lure someone to a big publishing contract when no actual work is involved other than signing their name on the dotted line and cashing the check.
Publishers often want to continue or expand a popular series. Both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books were ghostwritten. Demand for the Goosebumps series was so high author R. L. Stine couldn’t maintain output, so the publisher used ghostwriters to produce a book a month. The Sweet Valley High series has Francine Pascal on the covers, but in fact she was the series’ creator. Pascal put together a reference manual for ghostwriters to craft stories while her role remained editorial. Without writing a word, she sold over 150 million copies worldwide. Books #25 to #52 in the Animorph series by K. A. Applegate were written by one of 12 different ghostwriters picked from Applegate’s former editors and writing students.
|Book written by dead guy|
Tom Clancy, V.C. Andrews, Mickey Spillane, and Ian Fleming recently had their names on new releases, which is pretty good considering they’ve all been dead for years. As a nod to the increased legitimacy of ghostwriting, the actual authors of the books now share credit and have a place of honor on the cover, too.
Famous Ghostwritten Books That Were on the New York Times Bestseller Lists (with ghostwriter in parentheses)
Donald Trump in The Art of the Deal (Tony Schwartz)
Sam Walton in Made in America (John Huey)
Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Ken Shelton)
Sarah Palin in Going Rogue (Lynn Vincent)
JFK’s Profiles in Courage (Ted Sorensen)
What do you Need to be a Ghostwriter?
- No ego. You get little or no credit for your hard work.
- Solid writing credentials as a freelancer helps.
- Strong work ethic and people skills. You’ll often be on a deadline and have to deal with input from the ‘author.’
Want to give it a try? Check out Guru and Reedsy for job postings.
No matter how challenging the case, psychologist Katherine Fleming never shirks from helping a patient confront a painful issue. Her keen powers of observation and compassionate nature have eased many troubled souls, but a homicide detective with a buried secret of his own stirs more than just clinical interest.
The first time Detective Jake Sumner spied the old house, he sensed the good bones. Little did he know the purchase of the property included an unusual tenant far from resting in peace. Can the new psychologist in town help him treat a ghostly trauma case or is his growing attraction to Katherine Fleming best left buried?
With the aid of a mysterious white cat and a mystical mirror, Katherine and Jake join forces to solve a murder. Can they stop a killer from claiming the next victim or will their investigation only lead them six feet under?