Make it Work
Make It Pay
Ghostwriting isn’t only for celebrities looking for someone to whip their thoughts into a witty memoir. It encompasses all “writing for hire” assignments, from corporate website copywriting to speech writing, in which a writer is drafting copy in the voice of someone else.
Dan Gerstein, president of Gotham Ghostwriters in New York, believes all journalists can – and should – become “writers for hire.”
“On one hand, there are shrinking opportunities in the journalism field, but the flip side is that there are growing opportunities to get paid for what are increasingly in-demand skills,” he said.
Who needs a ghostwriter?
In the worlds of business and advocacy, more and more value is placed on thought leadership – and a lot of smart content is needed to build a platform. “The book is the new business card,” according to Gerstein.
“Sure, some ghostwriters do high-profile books, but most work for ‘everyday’ clients including subject matter experts who want to publish a book in their specialty and people who want to publish a book but lack writing skills or time to do so,” Kelly James-Enger, ghostwriter and author of Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer’s Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books said.
Many of Gotham Ghostwriters’ clients are leaders in the business industry and are looking for writers to create smart, compelling content. Great content is a great investment for clients, and it’s good for business.
“They get on television more, they get more speaking opportunities,” Gerstein said. “Their reputation is enhanced and that creates more business opportunities for them.”
How it works
There are many different models for writing collectives. Some are generalized, some are specialized, and some operate as networking organizations only, such as the New York Speechwriter’s Round Table.
Gotham Ghostwriting starts by sending out project notices to qualified members in the network. Writers express interest then Gotham Ghostwriters passes along three or four potential writers to the client. From there, the clients may do a screening or interview process before hiring one writer depending on the extent of the project.
“You get free business opportunities brought to your door stop,” Gerstein said. “Ghostwriting collectives are a way to diversify your business and get access to opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise.”
How to break in
Gerstein recommends writers establish themselves as a writing practice and think of themselves as a business owner. That means networking and marketing should always be top of mind.
“The first people that are going to hire you are the people who don’t need to see your portfolio and your credentials,” he said. “That’s your best source of referrals and business prospects, and the best way to quickly build a client base.”
Ghostwriting collectives, like Gotham Ghostwriters, are always looking for new writers but Gerstein encourages writers to talk to peers who are already involved in a writing community. In this market, networking and specializing are the keys to success.
“Number one, think about the subjects you already know about and position yourself as a ghost in those subjects,” James-Enger said. “Use what you have to set yourself apart from the pack.”