You’re a ghostwriter? Prove it!

“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]