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How to Prove that You're a Ghostwriter

You’re a ghostwriter? Prove it!

by Ed on April 23, 2010


“I’m looking for a ghostwriter.”

“I’m a ghostwriter…Maybe I can help you.”

“Really? What have you worked on?”

“Well…I can’t tell you!”

The funny thing about ghostwriting is that anybody can say they’re a ghostwriter and you’d never really know if they were telling the truth. The built-in anonymity of the job can make it tough to find new clients, especially those who demand to see samples of your work.

Here are seven ways to work around the ghostwriting conundrum and convince prospective clients that you’re the real deal.

1. Get cover credit.

It’s almost chic to have a ghostwriter these days, and many authors will be willing to give you a “With” or an “As Told To” credit on the cover of their book. Instant credibility!

2. Get an acknowledgement.

If you can’t get cover credit, you might be able to ghost some kind words about yourself in your author’s acknowledgements section. “I couldn’t have told this story without the dedicated, professional help of John Q. Ghostwriter…” You get the idea.

3. Get a resume agreement.

If even an acknowledgement is more than your author’s willing to give you, you might be able to negotiate a clause in your contract that you can put your position as ghostwriter on your resume, or as part of your professional web site. The expectation is that these vehicles would have a more direct, and limited, audience that won’t interfere with your author’s business goals.

4. Get an agent.

Having an agent is a great way to gain credibility and take yourself out of the sales process altogether. The bad news is that you probably have to have a book on a national bestseller list to be even considered by an agent.

5. Get references from other sources.

Books are collaborative projects that involve editors, proofreaders, designers, publishers, etc. The people you work with on a project can vouch for your talent and professionalism, without revealing any secrets, like the name of the author.

6. Rely on your good reputation.

I got my first ghostwriting job when a client of mine who I was doing article edits and copywriting for referred me to a friend of his who wanted to write a book. This person took it on faith from my client that I could do the job, and our self-published project won an award for Best Business Book at the San Diego Book Awards in 2005.

7. Show them other things you’ve written.

Most writers have a trail of work they can show, from newspaper and magazine articles to web sites and brochures. For some prospects, any indication that you can write professionally is all they’ll need for reassurance

Like any business relationship, it all boils down to your professionalism and integrity — and your chemistry with a particular client. Even the most famous and prolific ghostwriters are only as good as they job they’re currently working on, so it shouldn’t really matter what you’ve done in the past.

[Photo by H. Michael Karshis]

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Siddhartha April 23, 2010 at 3:45 pm

I’m not a ghostwriter but I enjoyed reading your advice here. Much of it is applicable to non-ghostwriters as well if you look at it creatively.

You’ve got a lot of great stuff here, thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Michael Collins April 23, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Excellent advice. I would add just a couple of things.

Few authors will turn down the offer of a link from your website to their book sales page. So, what does that imply to a potential client? Pick the right books you’ve been involved in and readers will draw their own conclusions.

Blog, blog, blog. This is your showcase. A heaven sent and fun opportunity to tout your wares. You also get to write your own stuff – a rare luxury for a ghost. If you’re not sure what I mean, check out mine. I’m a shameless fiend, and it works.

Happy hunting!

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff April 23, 2010 at 11:11 pm

I’m a pro-writer, editor and ghost writer. When it comes to samples of my work, I’m fortunate in that I have a lot of material written under my own byline that I can cite and also have several clients who are happy to have me claim ghost rights for their books. They’re not trying to pretend they’re writers — just get their stories out. I’ve also been lucky enough to have ghost written a media tie-in novel that neither the publisher nor my collaborator minded me taking the off-cover credit for.

But ghost writers who don’t have byline materials or generous collaborators might consider asking a client if they’d mind you using pieces of their project as a writing sample if you “greek” it– that is, change character names or perhaps make slight changes to circumstances. A client might be especially willing to do this if they feel you want to use their material because of its quality.

I have one client for whom I ghost screenplays who is adamant that I stay anonymous. Fine with me. He pays up front :=)

Fanci Dart August 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm

thank you for the site. It was very informative and helpful. I was referred to a ghost writer by an agent. I am sure that many people get information from this site just as I did. Thank you.

Sylvie Shene September 29, 2011 at 10:39 am

“It’s almost chic to have a ghostwriter these days” totally I think is chic to have a ghostwriter! I never dreamed in my life that one day I would be seeking the services of a ghostwriter! I did not even know that professional ghostwriters existed!

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