Selling Ghostwriting Why You Don’t Close Every Deal

where are ghostwriting clients?

I see a ghostwriter making a sale!

Why in the world would anyone want to be a ghostwriter? Your name does not appear anywhere on the ghostwritten book or project. You get no royalties. There’s very little fame or fortune involved in ghostwriting. Well, maybe fortune — if you’re good at it and your business runs properly, this is a lucrative field.

The best reason to be a ghostwriter, the one that makes the most sense, is that you enjoy assisting other writers and authors to success with their writing projects. The most prudent reason for ghosting books is that you can make a good living doing it.

After writing journalistic articles and feature stories for magazines and newspapers and writing my own books for some 25 years, I needed a change. Fortuitously, I connected with Claudia Suzanne, who operates an online school for ghostwriters.

Claudia and I talked at length about what a ghostwriter does and why she does it. It made total sense to me. I had been doing a lot of substantive editing and coaching authors and writers for some time. I loved the feeling of moving an author from wannabe to on-the-road-to-publication.

I took Claudia’s class, in fact I took it twice. I learned an enormous amount about ghostwriting, publishing, marketing books, and motivating authors to turn their brilliant ideas into viable books.

How a Ghostwriter Gets a Client

There are ghostwriters put together books for people who know nothing on a particular topic in order to make that person appear to be an expert. That doesn’t appeal to me.

Some ghost writers write blog posts, newspaper articles, magazine pieces, and other short assignments for authors too busy to keep themselves in front of their audience.  That’s all good. Not my preference. I write books for authors who know their subject or story but can’t, or don;t want to write a book alone. Here’s how I find them:

  • I advertise at various websites, sometimes, but not often, on Craigslist, often via e-mail lists, through social media, and via my own website. Sometimes just talking my business up with people is helpful.
  • When someone responds or inquires, I send them a polished, professional publicity kit about myself and my ghosting.
  • I interview prospective clients, usually by phone, after a couple of probing e-mails. After introducing myself, and basically giving an elevator pitch about what I do, I asked the client or prospect to tell me about their project.
  • You can usually sit back and listen, because they’ll talk until you stop them. I listen, take thorough notes on my computer, and ask questions.
  • When the prospect has talked himself out, I say, “Let me tell you a little bit about myself.” And I do, succinctly and accurately, highlighting books and projects I’ve completed or am working on. I seldom mentioned book titles  since many of my clients are really hooked on confidentiality.
  • I almost never close the sale on that first conversation. I counsel the prospect to think about her goals, her project, her publishing desires, her motivation, and her budget.
  • youI don’t quote fee until I have seen the project. Period. I ask the prospect to send me copies of whatever he has ready. I review it and provide an evaluation and analysis. I charge for this. If he contracts me to ghost, I credit the fee back to his account.
  • I end this first encounter with this statement, “Please talk to the people that advise you, the people you trust, and make sure that you ready to commit to completing this book and getting it ready for publication. Once we start we won’t stop until were finished.”
  • I wait one week for the prospect to send material or contact me. If he hasn’t done so, I e-mail him, thanking him for his time, and ask him where he is in his decision-making process. I give him three reasons working with me is the best thing he’ll ever do. That’s my last follow -up.
  • Once I have the material, I give it a quick read and do the analysis. I send results to the prospect along with a contract ready to be signed and a fee quote.

I never begin work until the prospect has submitted the signed contract and any money — fees, deposits, retainers, or what have you — and the money has cleared all banks.

How a Ghost Writer Can Close Every Sale

In a word, I can’t. No one can. If the prospect and I are a good personality match, and that’s something I talk with them about at length, and the work is doable, I can close 50% to two thirds. Much depends upon the prospective client’s attitude towards spending money and their degree of readiness to complete a long project. I don’t work cheap, and neither should you.

  1. I provide references. It’s imperative my reference clients are aware I’m providing their contact information to other people . I secure permission to do so.
  2. I send sanitized examples of projects I’ve worked on, or, if my past client okays it, I might send an actual copy of the project.
  3. I make it clear I’m to be neither an employee nor a servant, I’m a professional ghostwriter (trained and certified) ready to help them achieve success with their book, on my terms. (Hats off to Claudia Suzanne for teaching me that!) A ghostwriter functions to a degree like a project manager. With due respect to the client’s expertise and talent, the ghost must keep charge of the project.

If I need to meet with the prospect, and that is almost never the case, I arranged a meeting away from my home office and off their turf, as well. We always meet in a public place like a coffee shop, café, or the library. Once I accept the contract and begin the work, part of my job is to motivate the client and help them tap into their own self-discipline.

At any given time, I have two to four projects actively on my desk top. My fees range from just under $10,000 per completed book project to just under $30,000. On rare occasions, I quote an hourly rate for a well defined, short-term, quick project. I may negotiate my rates depending upon how strongly I connect with the client and how much I like the project, also depending upon how much I need the money.

Sometimes when I can’t close the sale as a ghost, I switch hats and close the sale as a substantive editor/author mentor. It happens frequently with fiction clients for some reason. The process is not dissimilar to ghostwriting, so it’s very comfortable for me.

Do you, as a ghostwriter or editor, do anything differently when you’re lining up work? Let us know in the comments.

If you, as a writer or author, would like some help with your project, and evaluation, or consultation, reach out to me. I’m always delighted to help.






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2 Responses to “Selling Ghostwriting Why You Don’t Close Every Deal”

  1. Very thorough process, Maryan. I follow some steps but not all. The market Down Under is much smaller than in the US so clients aren’t as readily available. I have never advertised: somehow clients find me through referrals, I imagine. I should ask sometime. But I will be implementing some of your ideas; like presenting a contract to sign. I have always worked on a handshake. That has to change.

  2. Nicely written and fits with my experiences. One thing to add: Money changing hands brings commitment: the client to his project and me to the client.

    Like you, I see myself as the client’s collaborator not employee nor servant. The smart prospective client should not be checking out my competence and ethics, which are clear from my work samples and reference letters.

    What then? The collaboration works best when the client “recruits” me into the army of his cause as a loyal soldier/officer. I go in wanting all clients to succeed, but it’s best when they help me make their goal my own. I write best what EYE care about along with the client.