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Pie Plate Publishing is an independent book publisher that incurs the full costs of the works we publish. We often have to preface any discussions about our business with this statement, because it’s unusual for a publisher to go to such lengths to develop relationships with authors and to advertise for new talent – we’re commonly mistaken for a self-publisher or vanity publisher. What you may not know is that we have another side to our business – ghostwriting services.
No – we do not write books for authors, so please, don’t ask! We don’t offer any for-pay services to authors either. In our opinion, it’s unethical for a traditional publisher to charge for services like mentoring or editing or to refer authors for those services. Mentoring and editing should be a natural, and free, part of being published. Our ghostwriting services, however, are available to businesses who need talented writers. In fact, we partner with industry leaders to deliver attractive, factual, and professional web content for value-added marketing – as such, we know a little bit about ghostwriting and would like to share what we know to help the aspiring ghostwriters out there!
So you want to be a ghostwriter…
First, leave the ego at the door. As a ghostwriter, you will not get a byline for your work. That’s what separates ghostwriting from any other kind of writing. The byline for your article or blog may be a generic label, like “admin” or the name of the company you write for. The byline can even be credited to someone else, like a CEO or VP, who has contributed the facts for the article but has relied on you for the polished writing. When you are a ghostwriter, you must accept the fact that you won’t get bragging rights for your work.
Recognize that you don’t have to know it all. As a writer, you may wonder why anyone would want to ghostwrite if they can’t take the credit. To the contrary, the greatness of ghostwriting is that you can learn something new without doing the research yourself. Ghostwriting is a collaborate effort – someone else gives you the facts. Someone else has earned the knowledge, experience, or credibility, and you have exclusive access to their brain. As the ghostwriter, you get to turn that resource into something valuable to others, even if you didn’t know a thing about the topic before you started.
Know that ghostwriting (and revisions) pays. There’s nothing better to a writer than to be a paid writer. The ghostwriter gets to supplement income or make a living doing what he or she loves most – writing. Most people agree that loving what you do is the best reward. For many, a monetary reward beats a byline anytime. It’s a good thing, because pay for writing varies drastically, and occasionally a ghostwriter must settle for the reward of building skills or a portfolio instead of a big payoff.
If you’re ghostwriting for a business, you will want to discuss beforehand the fee for writing (based on length) and your fees for revisions. Revisions are where it gets tricky – a company that pays an average amount for the initial article but a fair amount for revisions is great. A company that pays a good upfront amount but nothing for revisions is much less attractive. Your article will be fact checked, and expectations and goals (even key words for search engine optimization) can change as the article is reviewed by sometimes multiple people, including the person who will receive byline credit. Revisions, therefore, are par for the course and you should expect to do them. You may be a fantastic writer, but be realistic. Revisions often have nothing to do with your abilities, so don’t let yourself get roped into a situation where your valuable time is exhausted with revisions without compensation. It’s best to agree beforehand how much your revisions will be for edits that are beyond your control, like the client’s change in expectations or assignment, and how much edits will be for facts you get wrong.
Tip: If you’re writing online content, the going rate is for writers in your geographic area should be immaterial. Your pay should be reflective of where the company’s headquarters are located. For example, if you live in Nebraska and the going rate for writing 400 words is, say, $25 based on what companies are paying in your area, that’s one thing. But if you live in Nebraska and you are writing for a California or New York-based company, they’d be getting you at a steal at $25/400. Negotiate! In California, $100 for 400 words plus pay for revisions is more appropriate. Of course they will want to outsource to a Nebraskan to save money – and you will want fair pay for your work. Find a compromise. Where you sit down to write has very little to do with what you produce when it comes to writing web content. Be confident of that fact as you negotiate compensation.
Remember that business writing is different. If you’re an author looking to supplement your royalties with ghostwriting work, you have to remember that this writing has a very different goal than what you may be used to. It needs to incorporate identified key words (in the title and at the very least in the first and last paragraphs), it needs to deliver information, usually as a thinly veiled advertisement, it needs to be written in a tone appropriate to the culture of the company, it needs to be straight-forward and concise, it needs to adhere to the length identified in the assignment, and it needs to be written on a deadline. There’s no room for tangents, criticisms, or personal style. Usually, it must also be complimentary to the company for which it’s written and be written in a positive light. (No negative words. ß That was an example right there of negativity to some companies!) Finally, it must be wholly original. A company will not pay $100, or even $5, for an article that’s just a recycled version of a competitor’s article. If you can accept these limitations and curb your instincts to fit the needs of your client, you will be a great ghostwriter.
Prepare a portfolio. If you’ve done some writing for pay before, compile it in a document that you can email/upload as requested. Prioritize work for which you’ve received a byline, followed by ghostwritten work. You should receive permission from your ghostwriting clients to include ghostwritten material in your portfolio. Most clients are agreeable to this, as they aren’t trying to necessarily hide anything. On the other hand, they won’t want you to post this in open forums or social media networks. They expect you to provide a portfolio upon request to specific companies, not to broadcast it publicly. Some clients may have restrictions, however, if you plan to query their competitors. They usually don’t like that, especially if you’re a real gem and still writing for them.
If you haven’t written professional blogs or web content for anyone before but think you have the aptitude for it, identify the type of writing you’d like to do, or a company you’d like to write for, and write some sample articles. You should disclose in your portfolio that these are unpublished samples of your writing. For example, if you want to write about beauty or fashion, do a little research and write the article as if you were writing it on assignment for Cosmo or GQ. It’s better to have unpublished samples to offer than a resume that does not reflect any paid writing experience.
Note: Do not write free articles for companies that want to “test you out”. This is a common scam, (especially when you find companies through ads on sites like Craig’s List or some free freelancer posting sites) to essentially get free work out of you and others. They’ll love your work right up until the last revision, and then they will never call you again. Reputable companies will ask for a portfolio and will pay for a first article – be sure, if they don’t like your writing, you’ll know when you aren’t given future assignments.
Expect to get creative. The hardest part of ghostwriting for businesses can be finding clients, so you may have to get creative. Your instinct may be to go to a website for a company you like and look for career opportunities there. However, you’re looking for freelance ghostwriting, and that’s not usually something for which they are going to advertise on their website. “Seeking ghostwriter to make our VP of ____ sound better.” Not likely. Big companies that can afford well-paid ghostwriters will have an in-house marketing team and, if anything, they may post an opening on their site for their marketing team. If your goal is ghostwriting, this might not be a fit for you.
Instead, target marketing and advertising companies. They often utilize the services of contracted writers. Investigate their websites and social media pages. These types of companies will also usually have a variety of needs, i.e., a variety of clients you can’t approach directly with a multitude of products and services, which will increase your chances of finding a good fit for your ability. You don’t have to be an expert in the subject matter, but you should be perceptive, intuitive, and have a basic understanding of the lingo associated with the product/service. That will get your foot in the door, and from there, the client can direct you to their expert to interview or previous articles they’ve written on the topic they want you to cover.
Finally, never underestimate the power of word of mouth. Corporate marketing jobs are notoriously short-lived. A new marketing campaign, a rebranding – and then the marketing division is downsized. It happens every day. So you never know when your point of contact with one marketing company will move on to another. Many marketing and advertising professionals know others within their industry, having worked together at one time or another, especially in small towns or niche businesses. Maintain a good working relationship, meet your deadlines, and your chance of growing your clientele will increase accordingly.
A clarification: The advice above applies to our knowledge of ghostwriting for business, typically for web content, like blogs and product descriptions. Pie Plate cannot comment on ghostwriting as it applies to books because, as previously noted, we do not offer book ghostwriting services nor do we accept ghostwritten material for publication. (Note that writing for yourself under a pseudonym is not the same thing as ghostwriting for pay.)
As a last note, we are not hiring or contracting outside parties at this time for any ghostwriting assignments. Our authors and partners are our “go-to” individuals for this type of work. We find that authors and editors like to freelance on the side, so we try to match them with needful companies who approach us with their marketing needs. If you have questions, comments, or insightful advice for other readers, please share by commenting below or on our Facebook or Twitter.
The Pie Plate Publishing Company serves the literary desserts of new authors for all genres in print, eBook, and Espresso formats. Pie Plate also offers professional editing and ghostwriting services to businesses on such topics as Design & Architecture, Landscaping, Home Products & Appliances, Technology, Education, Business Practices, and Social Media & Networking. If you are a business seeking ghostwriting services, please see the Corporate Services section of our website (www.pieplatepublishing.com) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a writer who has questions about ghostwriting or on putting together your portfolio, find us on Facebook, Twitter, or email us at email@example.com. Our advice is always free.