‹ Back to blog

How to Become a Ghostwriter

FEATURED IMAGE New York Book Editors 9 27 2021 How to Become a Ghostwriter

Do you have what it takes to become a professional ghostwriter?

In my 10 years plus experience as a ghostwriter, I can tell you that ghostwriting will not be the right fit for every writer. If you're a writer who wants to tell your story on your terms, becoming a ghostwriter will ultimately frustrate you. But if you like helping others bring their ideas and stories to life, you may be pleasantly surprised by a career in ghostwriting.

In this guide, we discuss how to become a successful and paid ghostwriter. Let’s do it.

What is a Ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter writes content for someone else as that person.

In other words, you do the work while the client who hired you takes the credit.

That may seem wrong or unethical, but in reality, what you write becomes their property according to the terms of the agreement. It’s an honest transaction. Your client pays you with the understanding that you would write as them.

To be a successful ghostwriter, you must approach it more as a creative business instead of an individual pursuit.

To be a successful ghostwriter, you must approach it more as a creative business instead of an individual pursuit. You’re not telling your story. You’re a hired pen who’s in business to tell others’ stories. Of course, you’re free to pick and choose which stories to tell.

What are the Benefits of Becoming a Ghostwriter?

Believe it or not, there are many benefits to becoming a ghostwriter. Sure, you don't get recognition, at least not from the general public. However, let’s review some of the other great benefits.

Get Paid

Money is arguably one of the best reasons to become a ghostwriter. You'll get paid handsomely for your hard work. Because you don’t get credit for the work, you can demand more money than other writers (such as co-writers) for the same work.

As a ghostwriter, you can charge per word, hour, or project. The sky's the limit on payment. On average, ghostwriters make a livable salary of $64,000 annually, but top earners can make six figures.

There are several ways to earn money as a ghostwriter. In addition to actually writing a book from scratch, you can also brainstorm with your client, outline a novel, rewrite a rough draft, or begin writing the sequel to a client-written debut novel.

Ghostwriting is a unique way to make big bucks as an author.

Get Paid Upfront

Most authors get paid after they’ve done the hard work of writing a book. But as a ghostwriter, you can charge for your services before you write a single word. Ghostwriting is one of the only ways to get paid in advance a guaranteed sum for your writing.

Get Steady Work

While this truth is always hard to accept, remember that not everyone likes writing. For some, writing is as natural as breathing! But for many more, writing is on the same plane as root canals.

There are many people who will pay you cold, hard cash to write a book for them. Once you prove yourself as a capable ghostwriter, you will find steady work if you hustle.

Get Steady Work

Work With Others

When you work as a ghostwriter, you work as part of a team. You’re not working on your own. You have a client and an editor, at the very least, but your team may also include a literary agent and publisher. This means that the success of the book isn’t entirely on your shoulders. You have others in your team that can provide inspiration and direction while you’re freed up to do what you do best—write.

Face a Challenge

Are you the type of writer who loves a challenge? Being a ghostwriter will provide a steady stream of challenges. The first challenge is to match your client's communication style and personality with your writing. The second challenge is to tell the story in a way that's both compelling and honest to that client. This may seem easy, but it’s a challenge to ensure that you’re writing as the client and not as yourself.

Deal With Fewer Competitors

We've already established that writing is difficult for the general public. But, to get even more granular, ghostwriting is tough for the average writer. Whether they cannot do it or they simply don't want to do it, the result is the same: There are not a lot of writers eager to ghostwrite. But this is good news for those who do. Fewer competitors equal more opportunities.

How Do You Get Work as a Ghostwriter?

Here’s what you need to do to get steady work as a ghostwriter:

Create Your Portfolio

To get work as a ghostwriter, you must show your writing. But you can't do that by pulling samples from actual work. As we've already discussed, linking to books you've ghostwritten before may be unethical, problematic, and possibly illegal.

So, what do you do?

Create a portfolio with your own work. You can do this by publishing regularly on a blog so potential clients can see samples of your writing. Perhaps a better way to do it is by writing a book under your name. It may be a good idea to write multiple books, one in each genre that you'd like to specialize in. You can also showcase different voices in each of your books to show clients your range.

The bottom line is that you’ll need to hustle harder as a ghostwriter because you won’t be able to use your actual paid work as samples. Instead, you’ll need to write even more to build up your portfolio.

Promote Yourself as a Ghostwriter

If you'd like to become a professional ghostwriter, market yourself as such. Create a website and offer ghostwriting services. In your bio line on different social media platforms, indicate that you're a ghostwriter for hire. Guest blog on websites that your target clients frequent and in your blurb share that you're a ghostwriter and are currently accepting clients.

Network at in-person events to promote your ghostwriting services. Be sure to have your business cards ready to share with fellow authors, publishers, and literary agents.

Last, but not least, be willing to pitch yourself to people who may have a great story but don't have the skills, time, and/or inclination to write. These people are everywhere—at your day job, at your community BBQ, and your kid’s PTA meeting. Make sure that everyone in your social circle knows that you’re a ghostwriter for hire.

How Do You Work Effectively With Your Clients as a Ghostwriter?

Let’s discuss the four things you need to do to become a successful ghostwriter.

Sharpen Your Collaboration Skills

Most writers are accustomed to writing completely alone—in the beginning, at least. But ghostwriters never enter the process alone. You will be writing with your client. And chances are high that they’ll have a lot of input on what you write and how you write it.

To be successful in this career, maintain a collaborative mindset. Understand that your work is subject to constant critique and feedback as you try to get it right.

Learn the Client's Voice

One of the most challenging parts of ghostwriting is assuming someone else's voice. Unless you're already familiar with that person and the way they communicate (which may be possible if you’re working for a celebrity or public figure), you're going to need to learn that person's voice immediately.

You can do that in a variety of ways.

The easiest way is to conduct and record a string of interviews. Then pay special attention to how the client responds. What words do they use? How do they structure sentences? Are their sentences long and flowery or short and staccato? Are they blunt or diplomatic?

As a ghostwriter, you’ll put your observation skills to work.

Learn When to Say “No”

While you may pride yourself on your chameleon-like ability to change voices and writing styles, not every ghostwriting project will be a good fit. Sometimes it's not the project itself but the terms of the project or the client. You and the client may not work well together. For example, they may expect you to check in far more than you'd like during a ghostwriting project. Or they may be demanding too much in terms of research or brainstorming.

In these instances, it's okay to say “no.” If you sense that a project will stretch you in a bad way, politely decline the offer. There's no reason to waste your time or theirs.

Learn When to Say “No”


Get a Good Editor

Editing is a necessary part of the writing process. When you work as a ghostwriter, your client expects you to produce the best work possible. That doesn't happen with just one draft. You must wrestle with your writing, making revisions until you come up with something that's as good as possible.

If you’re looking for a good editor, partner with NY Book Editors. Check out our comprehensive list of editorial services here.

Final Thoughts

Should you become a ghostwriter? If you have the desire and the disposition, go for it. It may not be right for every author, but choosing to ghostwrite could be the best decision for your literary career.

You might also like...
Every author knows about the Big Five publishers, but many authors don't know about independent publishers. Small publis...
Read More
Hey authors, should you make a website? In this post, we’ll discuss the benefits of creating a website and how to do it ...
Read More
To fulfill your dreams of traditional publishing, you must create one amazing query letter. Here is a winning strategy f...
Read More