By Thomas Smith
“Could you cut off your own arm in order to save your life?”
That was the first question one of my ghostwriting clients asked, because that was the position in which he’d found himself a few years earlier. He had been forced to cut off his own arm when he became trapped in a flaming piece of farm equipment and the subsequent international attention was the reason he wanted to write a book. The result: Unthinkable Choice: The Story of Sampson Parker.
Even so, it wasn’t my answer to his first question that landed me the assignment (my answer was I hope I don’t ever have to find out). It was the answer to questions he had asked others about me prior to our meeting. Then it was the answers to questions we dealt with as the writing process progressed that reaffirmed his contention that I was the writer for the job.
That being said, there are six things your client should expect from you when they hire you as a ghostwriter:
· Authentic voice
· Clear communication
These six attributes will (not “can”) make or break your career. Let’s take a look at why that’s true.
Trust. Your client must be assured of your character, your ability, and the truth in your words and actions. They need to know that their faith in you and your abilities is well founded and well placed.
Flexibility. It is essential that you are able to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements. To paraphrase a popular saying, stuff happens, and as a ghostwriter one of your greatest assets will be your ability to “go with the flow.”
Experience. Is this your “first rodeo” or have you done similar jobs before? How long have you been writing and how long have you been writing professionally? There’s a difference, and your client deserves an honest answer.
Authentic voice. This is the quality that makes your writing unique. But as a ghostwriter, you also need the ability to write in a way that sounds like your client. You must be able to hear and reproduce your client’s unique cadence and rhythm on every page. For example, after I turned in the first draft of the book Unthinkable Choice, Sampson’s wife called me after she read it and said, “I can’t believe it. The book sounds exactly like him.”
Clear communication. There should be no gray areas when it comes to what you expect from the client and what they should expect from you. So, spell it out in a contract, because it will protect both of you. For example: my clients have final say over most content, but I have the final say in matters of style. Period. Additionally, every stage of the project delivery and all financial arrangements are spelled out in detail.
Confidentiality. While this should be fairly obvious, let’s be crystal clear. If they can’t trust you to keep some things to yourself, they shouldn’t hire you. Not everything you hear is for public consumption, though it might be vital as a way for you to better understand your client.
In short, your client needs to know the person they have hired has both the ability and the character to develop the project. Meet those criteria, and you will create a steady demand for your services.
Where do you find ghostwriting projects? Check sites like:
=> Craigslist.org (be careful here because in addition to really good leads there are a lot of scams and content mills listed)
You can also search phrases such as “ghostwriter” and “ghostwriter wanted” on SimplyHired.com and Indeed.com. Book packagers are always looking for dependable ghostwriters and The American Book Producers Association is a great place to start your search for projects (http://www.abpaonline.org).
Thomas Smith is an award winning writer, reporter, essayist, playwright, and TV news producer. He has been a freelance writer for over 25 years and may be the only writer in captivity to ever be involved in projects with Stephen King and the Rev. Rick Warren at the same time. He has written fiction, nonfiction, greeting cards, web copy, short stories, plays, academic study guides, essays, articles, white papers, a horror novel, and some really bad poetry. You can find him at http://thomassmithonline.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsmithwriting.