Confessions of a Ghostwriter: 3 Tips on How To Have a Fulfilling Ghostwriting Experience

Irene Entila - Pyragraph
Photo by hobvias sudoneighm.

The term ghostwriting sometimes still gives me the chills.

The first time I did a ghostwriting gig was back in the summer of 2013. I was a substitute teacher scrambling to find summer income. Temp agencies didn’t have anything for me, and my usual freelance service provider (Zerys and Crowdsource) only had enough work to pay for weekly groceries. I discovered another service provider, oDesk (now known as UpWork). My first two gigs were a good experience; they were product description jobs.

She wanted to make an ebook, but she is a horrible writer.

Things eventually went dry, and my savings was depleting. A client through oDesk contacted me about a job writing his 12K ebook for $225 (1 cent per word). I ignored it for a couple of days hoping something would come up, but unproductive time equaled lost money. I begrudgingly accepted the offer. The project was about the paleo diet. (I make fun of people who participate in that!)

It was a done deal, and I had two choices: Look at it either positively or negatively. I made the best of that experience. In my mind, I sarcastically snickered when researching this ogre caveman diet along with their nonsensical exercising (also called CrossFit). The research gave me better understanding of this “lifestyle,” and I was able to crack more jokes about paleo with ease. I knocked this project out in one week and got a five-star rating as well as a small bonus. On top of that, this proves I can sustain a writing pace on a long-term basis. Though, my five-star book was in the hands of someone who doesn’t even use proper punctuation and capitalization. I didn’t tell any of my friends about this project because of the embarrassment that, for pennies, I sold my soul to a get-rich-quick paleo bunghole. The embarrassment was equivalent to online dating in the early 2000s, but it subsided in a few days.

I didn’t partake of any long-format writing pieces the last two summer breaks. Before the summer break of 2016 started, I was gearing up for some major writing projects and wanted to get back into writing consistently. I considered ghostwriting differently. I wasn’t desperate for money this time. I was going to use it to hold myself accountable for writing consistently.

I logged back into UpWork and updated my profile. After searching the posts, I came across a posting about collaborating and ghostwriting a Running 101 book. The word collaboration was a good sign, and I decided it was up my alley after reading the description. I applied for it and the buyer replied back immediately. She is an avid runner (like me) and has her own training business. She wanted to make an ebook for her clients to download, but she is a horrible writer and doesn’t have the experience or education to write one. It was a successful and more rewarding experience from start to finish.

Here are some tips that made it that way:

1. Pick a topic that you are very knowledgeable about and about which you don’t mind sharing your expertise.

I chose this project because I don’t mind ghostwriting a Running 101 book. I’m willing to share basic tips on how to start off running for leisure or beginner racing. I would be on the fence for accepting a project about training for a marathon because I plan to write something about that for one of my blogs. I’m also working on a satire ebook about marathon running. This satire book is a type of project I am not willing to share; there are different degrees of content I’m willing to share as a ghostwriter.

2. Make a list of questions for the buyer.

The main question I had for the buyer was,

  • Are you going to announce that you are using a ghostwriter?

She said yes. I know I don’t have much proof of this, but I took her word for it. (Let karma handle the rest if need be.) Other questions I had for her follow:

  • What is the name of your business?
  • What is the web address where this book will be uploaded?
  • Are you charging for this book? (only her clients can download it for free as part of their membership fee)
  • Who else is involved in this book? Cover artist? Photographer?
  • Do I get a copy?

3. Check for collaboration.

The buyer knew what she wanted in the ebook, and I had her send me a bullet list with the articles and resources she wants to use. She also asked for my suggestions because of my racing experience, and she included my suggestions in her outline. I wrote the rough draft and she gave feedback. Then, I finished the final draft with her feedback.

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