Even Presidents Use Ghostwriters
Ghostwriting Can Be A Natural for Freelance Writers
Guest (ghost)writer, Randy Fischer, tells us how he markets himself in the first part of this series on Ghostwriting.
I don’t normally get excited about election years. You see, I’m a ghostwriter. And as such, I often feel as if I’m simply riding along on other people’s coattails. Be they doctors, lawyers, pimps, or prostitutes, they’re the ones who have lived the story. All I can do is tell it.
But this year (2004) has seen a tidal wave of presidential candidates and, from John Kerry to John Edwards, they all have one thing in common: A memoir out on the bookstore shelves. Now, I’m not trying to be cynical here, but I have retired businessmen and women who can’t find the time to send me information for their book. Try running a presidential campaign and writing one!
My point being, ghostwriting has never been more accepted as a legitimate means of earning an income.
Recently, one of the political talk shows was listing the names of presidents and their ghostwriters. I knew I was in the right business when it was revealed that even the great and mighty Ulysses S. Grant, no stranger to pen and paper, he, sought the aid of a ghostwriter. His choice? None other than Mark Twain himself.
So, I figure I’m in pretty good company. But I could always use more. Company, that is. And it struck me as I was embracing the warmth of Mark Twain’s spirit that, while many a ghostwriting gig must be clandestine by nature, that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t know HOW to find us.
And so, to make finding a ghostwriter easier, here are the top-five ways in which clients come to me and, I assume, other ghostwriters as well.
Ghost Writing and The Internet
I would say that about 80 to 90% of my clients come straight from the Internet. Either those who run across my site and contact me, or those various job sites that put writers and clients together. Frankly, the Internet has gotten a bad rap lately – and not without reason. I can remember six years ago when I first started there were dozens of legitimate, helpful, and useful sites that existed solely to help writers find clients, and clients find writers. Now I can count those I trust on my finger.
The first place I would suggest you start is a wonderful site run by Dana Cassell called www.writers-editors.com that has the capacity to put you in touch with a writer in no time. Not only do they have a directory of writers, many of them professional ghostwriters who do nothing but, but they also have a job board where you can post your job, in your own words, and get dozens of Emails from qualified clients who live all over the country. It costs US writers $39 a year.
Other sites that let clients post jobs for legitimate ghostwriters include www.craigslist.com, www.absolutewrite.com, www.writersweekly.com, www.freelancewriting.com, www.writersgazette.com and this site.
Ghostwriters and The Newspaper
My very first ghostwriting gig came in the form of a classified newspaper ad that read simply, “Professional writer needed for nonfiction project.” Now, I had no idea if this was for a magazine article, newsletter, pamphlet, or full-length book, but it turned out to be for a fictional diary of the Civil War – there’s that Grant connection again – for a local businessman.
I’ve since found a few other ghostwriting jobs from the newspaper, and I think it’s one of the most underrated places for finding freelance writers that exists today. Of course, that’s partially due to the newspapers themselves, who don’t get enough ads to have a “ghostwriting section,” naturally, but who likewise don’t go overboard to try and put writers and clients together, either.
Sell a car and the newspapers are all over you for your business. Sell your writing services and they bury you between used fridges and home massages. Still, there are a suitable amount of professional writers who make it a habit each week, like I do, to read the Sunday classifieds for writing work.
This is a particularly handy tool for those clients – and I’ve had my share – who not only prefer to work with local writers, but insist on it. With the Internet, of course, you could find a writer anywhere. I’ve worked with dozens of clients from New York to LA, Atlanta to Chicago, and even as far away as India and England.
Writer’s Digest Magazine
I bought my first Writer’s Digest as a kid. (Okay, I bought Mad magazine as a kid, too, but at least I was well-rounded!) Back then, I just wanted to learn how to get published. I never knew that, toward the back, was a listing of services offered by full-time, legitimate professionals who get paid to write.
Today, I advertise there. If you are looking for a long list of the country’s best ghostwriters, look no further than the “Editorial Services” section of this leading periodical. There you will find dozens of ads from writers looking for work. Many of them have dozens of published credits, Websites to peruse, and numerous writing samples to share.
Ghostwriting and Networking
Every year I get a call, or more than likely an Email, out of the blue from someone who knows someone who recommended me. Usually I hear about it first. A client will call me up and say something like, “I just got pulled over by a state trooper and to get out of my ticket I handed him a signed copy of our book. By the way, he’s got a great story to tell. I hope you don’t mind, but I gave him your number.”
Do I mind? Heck no. Networking is not only a great way for me to find clients, but a super way for you to find a ghostwriter. Even my clients who don’t list my name on, or even in, their books aren’t shy about admitting they had some help with the “editing.”
So if you know a friend, or read about someone local who published a book, don’t be shy about asking if they had any “help.” Chances are they’ve got the name of a qualified ghostwriter or, at the very least, the name of an editor who can point you in the right direction.
More and more often these days, the bookstore shelves are filling up with books that are some of the way, halfway, or even all of the way ghostwritten. If you suspect a book in your chosen genre was ghostwritten – say if it was by a famous athlete or a presidential candidate, for instance – peek inside and check out the acknowledgements section just before the Table of Contents.
Look for telltale words like “editorial input,” “creative guidance,” or just plain “writing help.” These are often indicators that the author indeed had help and if you write down the name they’re thanking for such services, you can quickly Google them later when you get back home.
If a writer is hard to find on the net, that typically means they’re not interested in doing a lot of ghostwriting. If, on the other hand, they’re quite easy to find, that typically means they’re in the business of helping others bring their dreams to the bookstore shelves and will appreciate your investigative work in tracking them down!
Rusty Fischer is a full-time ghostwriter who has collaborated on over 50 published books, both fiction and non-fiction, for such dominant markets as McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster, Pelican Publishing, and Thomas Nelson. You can read more about his books, not to mention his services, at www.rustyfischer.writergazette.com.