I am interested in becoming an editor or ghostwriter. I have now started reading a book that was published without being edited, and in desperate need of a ghost writer. These writers all had valuable ideas, but no support or advice for how to make it a well written book. I want to help. How do I become qualified or listed, or whatever I have to do to break into this area?
Technically, this is outside the scope of this blog, but I decided to address it because published authors are frequently approached about ghostwriting books for other people.
If you’re interested in having your own career as a published author, I’d suggest staying away from ghostwriting and concentrating on your own stories. However, some excellent writers struggle with new ideas but are great at shining up the work of others and receive lots of personal fulfillment from doing so. If this is the case, then ghostwriting and/or book doctoring might be something for you to consider.
In ghostwriting, generally you write the entire book from someone else’s outline and research notes; they put their name on the cover and you are listed briefly in the acknowledgments. Sometimes they’ll give you credit on the front, as in “by Jane Doe, with Sue Smith.” (You would be Sue Smith.)
A book doctor takes a nearly complete manuscript and fixes it, often rewriting major portions. Credit and acknowledgments are the same as with ghostwriting, but since the author wrote the first draft of the book and you are merely polishing it, they rarely give you credit on the front cover.
Qualifications are: you need to be a good editor/writer, able to fix the words of others without obscuring their original voice. Create a bio listing your writing credentials or industry experience. Put together a portfolio of your work to show people.
Pricing varies widely for these services. Do some Googling and then decide what you’re worth. In the beginning, the first time you work with a new client, you should be willing to do one chapter free to show them what they can expect from you. After you have several published books, you can show those as samples.
As to how to “break in” to the business, you most likely will not be hired by a publishing company unless you know someone in the biz who is willing to give you a chance. Also, a publishing company would hire you as an editor for an hourly rate, which is going to be much less than freelancing as a ghostwriter.
You will most likely be working with non-fiction first-time authors or experts in a particular area who do great workshops and presentations and need a book to extend the reach of their message. Set up a website, get business cards, spread the word that you’re open for business. You’ll get your first few clients based on the strength of your personality and confidence. After that, they will (hopefully) start referring their friends and colleagues to you.