Wednesday, December 1, 2010

So, you want to write a novel...

This is hilarious and has a special gift for ghostwriters in the final seconds.

I could be a novelist, too

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks

Check out ghostwriter Kelly James-Enger's book:
Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books.
It's a great overview of the ghostwriting life, covering everything from finding clients to negotiating contracts. Lots of interesting people from the field of ghostwriting are interviewed, including yours truly, and fellow Ghostwriting Revealed blogger, Gwen Moran.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jobs I will not be pursuing....

Sometimes I browse through Craig's List and check out the ads for ghostwriters. Craig's List is generally a lousy place to look for ghostwriting gigs. It's full of people who want tons of work for peanuts, or worse, "half the royalties!" (Thanks for nothing. Literally.)

But every once in a while, I come across one that just makes me laugh.

My personal observations are in italics.

Ghostwriter/editor needed for Sci-fi Novel (Already a problem that she doesn't know which service she wants)

I need someone to rewrite my 92,000 word post-apocalyptic space opera vampire fiction (genre traffic jam alert!) to make it ready for publication in the late fall. (this fall????)

Compensation: $500 (cue laugh track.)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Profile of the Ghostwriter @Work

What I like best about this profile is the discussion of how much non-writing work a ghostwriter really does. This paints a very accurate picture of what the profession is like. Ghostwriters write, for sure, but we also act as sherpa to those who are wandering into the book world for the first time.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Next, we need jackets!

The latest great idea in ghostwriting:

Association of Ghostwriters

Founder Marcia Layton Turner says:

"Publishing experts estimate that as many as 50 percent of all New York Times bestsellers are ghostwritten today, but there’s also great demand for ghostwriters for other types of books and in businesses of all sizes."

Only 50 percent? ;)

Ghosts unite!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Malcolm and Me

I have an old jingle stuck in my head. Back in the 80s, Gatorade snagged
basketball great Michael Jordan for a television ad and the song that went
along with it was catchy: Like Mike. If I could be like Mike.

I have it in my head, with a slightly different spin. This week, it seems
all my client want to Be Like Malc. That’s Malcolm Gladwell. In the past ten
days, I have fielded nothing but pleas to make my clients’ books read like

That’d be fine with me, if my clients really did want a book like Malcolm’s.
I can ape a style like any good ghostwriter. The problem is that what my
clients REALLY want is all across the board.

“I want the prose to be deep and intense. Like Malcolm Gladwell.”

“I’m looking for a strong conversational tone. Like Malcolm Gladwell meets
Thomas Friedman.” (Ellen’s note: Now that’s a mash up!)

“Can you make it timeless? Like Malcolm Gladwell?”

I can do any and all of those things for my clients. I will make one
client’s book read with depth and intensity, another’s show a strong
conversational tone and the third, a lack of anchor in any one era. None of
them will actually read like a Gladwell text, because those really aren’t
the attributes of Gladwell’s work. Gladwell is very timely. Other than
best-seller status, I’m not sure he shares much in common with Friedman. And intense? Actually, Gladwell’s critics call him glib. But that’s okay. What my clients really want is not to READ like Gladwell, but BE like Gladwell – that is, the author of a respected best-seller.

So I take in the marching orders and go back to work on all these projects. I understand, I tell my clients. I want to be like Malcolm, too.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Smart Ghostwriter @Work

Ghostwriter Mahesh Grossman does all of us in the ghost biz a service with his book "Write a Book Without Lifting a Finger: How to Hire a Ghostwriter Even if You are on a Shoestring Budget" (10 Finger Press, 2nd Edition updated and revised for 2010, ISBN: 978-1-933174-98-3, Price: $17.95).

Can’t say I love the title. Those “I don’t want to lift a finger” clients are a nightmare! But, hey, titles sell books and when it comes to content, it appears to me that Mahesh is spot on. His tips:

"If you're writing a book to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field and to land new clients or customers, your best bet is to find someone who has written books published by major publishers in your topic area, if you can afford it (costs can be $25,000-$45,000).
For more affordable ghostwriters, visit to find editors who write about your topic for magazines to see if they might be interested in working on your book. Or ask for referrals to freelance writers they have worked with. You can hire someone to write a book proposal to help you get a publishing deal for as little as $500.
Make sure there's chemistry between you and the writer; they have to understand you and your area of expertise.
Always check their references. Make sure they turn in polished work and meet deadlines. Having a test phase is mandatory: hire your ghostwriter to write one chapter before proceeding.
Avoid hiring a professor or English teacher or someone who's never been published. Their writing often winds up sounding like a term paper instead of a book.
Be sure to make yourself available enough for the ghostwriter to get the information they need."

Interesting stuff. More info is here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ghost Citing

Greetings Ghosts,
Another article all about the life of the ghostwriter. Nice stuff, especially the Hall of Ghostwriter Fame at the end.
Enjoy these while you can. As soon as Roman Polanski's movie fades into memory, we all go back into the background!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How to Soothe a Scared Author


How to Ensure Your Writer Gets It

I recently met an author who had just started working on a proposal with a writer and was worried that the writer “didn’t get it.” He didn’t think the writer had a full grasp of his brand. He didn’t think the writer understood what he was all about. Most important, he worried that the writer was going to try to bully him into putting his name on a book that did not look, feel or sound as if he’d written it.

Indeed, the proposal stage is a scary one for authors, and it’s just as scary for writers, too. Both usually have just met, so neither one knows for sure whether the other is prone to Going Postal. And the project is still amorphous, so neither the author nor the writer knows if the dang thing is really going to materialize.

The author is worried about whether he or she hired the right person, wondering things like: Can she really capture my voice? Does she really know how to write a book that sells? Does she get me?

The writer is worried, too, wondering: Is this author going to micromanage this project? Can she really go commercial or will she force me to write boring drab that even her own mother won’t want to read? Is he going to pay me on time or will I end up in small claims court?

What follows is my best advice for overcoming fear, so you can both focus on your common goal—writing a proposal that sells.

Advice for Authors

1. Trust the process.
Many writers—myself included—communicate much better with our fingertips (ie when we’re typing) than we can with our lips. Often times we have a very tough time putting the stunningly awesome ideas in our heads into verbal words that other people will recognize as stunningly awesome. Yet, we can easily do it when we sit down to the keyboard. In other words, if your writer sounds like a doofus when she talks, it doesn’t necessarily mean you hired the wrong person. Reserve judgment until you’ve seen something she’s written.

2. Think about what you do differently—that one thing that makes you stand out from every other person in your specialty. Communicate this one thing to your writer. Whether or not she’s asking the right questions, it’s what she’s searching for. Provide it and the entire process will go more smoothly.

3. Give your writer lots of interview time. Your writer can’t capture your voice or your ideas from reading your old columns or other things that you’ve written. Your writer needs you.

Advice for Writers

1. Don’t talk about how you think the book might develop until you’ve done a complete author-to-writer brain download.
Try to get to know your author as intimately as you know your mother.

2. Let the author help you find the hook.
Ask questions like:

· A book is one way to leave a legacy. What kind of legacy do you want to leave? What is the unique mark you want to leave on this world?

· What are you most passionate about? What do you find yourself talking about everywhere you go?

· What really irritates you about your profession or about how others view your profession? What record do you want to set straight with this book?

3. Listen. Listen. Listen. The author has a hook. Listen for it. In the beginning, your interviews should be focused on you asking questions and listening as the author talks. They should not be you brainstorming hooks and suggesting them to the author.

4. Don’t try to create the hook from the ethers.
It’s the creating a hook from ethers that really gives authors the heebie-jeebies. Think about how you would feel if a writer came to you and said: I have the perfect concept for a book about writing that I’d love to put your name on. What do you think?

5. Present the author with a number of options.
I’ve only recently developed this strategy, and, so far, it has nearly eliminated author distrust. Rather than come up with just one concept and outline, I present the author with 3 to 5 of them. They are not crafted. They are not complete. They are mere starting points. I say, “Here are some ways we could package what you know into a book. Let’s take a look at what you like and don’t like about each and see if we can create a winner based on those reactions.”

6. Soothe the author’s fears.
Don’t become locked in a power struggle. Don’t continually shoot down the author’s ideas. Definitely do not tell the author that he or she is boring. Instead, create a common goal: a proposal you are both happy with. Say that you will not rest until you’ve reached that goal, and mean it.

Alisa Bowman is a ghostwriter of 6 NY Times bestsellers. You can learn more about her at

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Ghostwriter's Guide to the ASJA Conference

The ASJA Annual Writers Conference meets at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City April 23 to 25. Lots for ghostwriters at this year’s gathering.

It’s All In The Packaging.
This panel pulls together an impressive panel of book packaging professionals. Lots of packaged books use ghostwriters. Go, listen to what the industry needs, think about how you can tailor your skills to that market.
Looking at Lives: Memoirs and Biographies.
Who says memoir is dead? Every time that pronouncement is made, another great true life story hits the stands. A great memoir often needs a ghostwriter.
Personal Pitch.
It’s not just for bylines. Every year, I make the rounds of agents and book publishers with my boilerplate pitch: “Hi, I’m Ellen Neuborne. I’m a ghostwriter. My specialty is business and within that marketing, advertising and sales. If you’ve ever got a client in need of a ghostwriter, I’d be delighted to work with you.” Then I drop off my resume and move on. Every year, that’s turned up some kind of paying gig. Twice I was hired to write book proposals, once I snagged an actual book gig. And all those other book professionals have my resume on file. You never know.

Posting for Dollars.
The latest new market for ghostwriters is ghost blogging. Hit this panel and listen for ways to market your skills to experts who want to post and tweet but don’t have the time.

Go Team: Collaborations.
The other word for ghostwriting is collaborating. The difference is often the amount of credit and prominence the writer receives. Collaborations make good work for ghostwriters and many of the big names in the industry will be at this panel, including Madeleine Morel, a literary agent who specializes in matching experts and ghostwriters.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New Association of Ghostwriters Announced

Later this month, freelance writer and ghostwriter Marcia Layton Turner will launch the Association of Ghostwriters, a new membership-based organization for ghosts and collaborators. I caught up with her and got the scoop on this exciting new group.

GM: Tell me about the organization and what you hope to do with it?

MLT: For the last three years I’ve produced an e-mail newsletter entitled Become a Six-Figure Writer, which was established to help people figure out how to earn more money as freelancers. Every once in awhile, I’ll do a survey of my 1,500 subscribers and I’ll ask them “What are you interested in?” Lately, I’ve seen an increasing interest in ghostwriting. People want to everything from what kinds of projects are out there to how to find them to how to create successful collaborations. So, I decided to create an organization with member benefits to help people answer those questions and be successful ghostwriters.

GM: What are some of the benefits members will receive?

MLT: We have a series of monthly tele-seminars designed to help ghostwriters find projects, improve their writing skills, qualify themselves for projects that are out there and get an overview of the range of projects. I plan to have a ghostwriter service to help people find ghostwriters, and plan to track news and information about ghostwriting in mainstream media, blogs, social media, and other sources. We’ll have a monthly newsletter and an online networking forum for ghostwriters. We’ll also have some discounts on services. Charter memberships will start at $69.00 per year, and will rise to $99 after the first six months.

GM: Do you find that there’s a great demand for ghostwriters?

MLT: There is a rising demand for ghostwriters across the board. If you look at the job postings that are out there on the many different services, there’s definitely demand or at least interest in ghostwriting services. The sector is changing. Five years ago, when you talked about ghostwriting, the assumption is you're talking about ghostwriting a book. As Twitter, Facebook, and blogs have become more important communication vehicles, companies and experts are finding that they need to hire professional writers because they simply don’t have the time to manage all of that content. And I think the challenge for us, as professional ghostwriters, is to weed out the people who are serious and understand what a ghostwriter can do for them from the people who are looking for someone to help write a memoir and have a budget of $10.00.

GM: For writers who are interested in ghostwriting but maybe don’t know how to get started, what is your recommendation for establishing a ghostwriting business?

MLT: I think one of the first things they need to do is to demonstrate their writing skills. Pursue articles in major publications in their area of specialization, such as business or health. They also need to make contact with the companies who are looking for ghostwriters. Set up a website that shows ghostwriting availability and talk about any ghostwriting experience that they’ve had.

Of course the biggest challenge for someone who wants to get into the business is getting that first job. Until you ghost your first book, article or blog, it can be difficult to convince someone to take a chance on you. But it’s the goal of the Association of Ghostwriters to make the world of ghostwriting easier to navigate and help writers profit from this lucrative sector.

For more information about the Association of Ghostwriters, visit

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ghostwriters on the Big Screen

With The Ghost Writer in theaters and Roman Polanski doing more than his fair share to drum up new release publicity, there's been quite a lot of discussion about the business of ghostwriting recently. had an interesting story on the topic last week.
Ghosts and the corporate gurus
By Rhymer Rigby
Published: February 22 2010

The site requires registration. But you can start with this link.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Social Ghost

In this month's issue of Entrepreneur, Michael Janofsky writes an interesting piece on business ghost bloggers and tweeters. "The Ghost Speaks" is a worthwhile look at the practice of ghosting at the social media level. Check out the piece--it's well-written and informative. However, as someone in the trenches of the ghosting practice, I want to weigh in on a few points covered in the piece. (As a matter of disclosure, I also write regularly for Entrepeneur under my own by-line.)

1) I have never--and probably will never--considered,, or other such freelance marketplaces viable sources of work. Most are based on a model of pitting writers against each other, each trying to score the gig through the lowest bid. I don't work that way--and neither do the best ghosts I know. In ghosting, as in most areas of life, you get what you pay for. And the people who can truly help you use these media to make a difference are too busy and too in-demand to be looking for the crumbs typically offered on these sites. If you want a good ghost, look for referrals from colleagues, professional associations like the American Society of Journalists and Authors (I'm a member.) or Author's Guild. I also found the rates quoted to be on the low side. Those who are in demand can command higher rates because they are good at what they do.

2) You need someone who understands what you do. If you're interested in being positioned as a thought leader, you need a writer who understands your sector, whether it's medicine, business, parenting, or any other topic. Without adequate background, your ghost will not help challenge your thoughts to ensure they are truly fresh and informative, as well as congruent with your messaging and brand. In addition, a ghost who doesn't know enough about your business or sector to spot typos or inaccuracies could cause an embarrassing gaffe heard 'round the social networking world.

3) You also need someone who understands social media and marketing. Janofsky rightly points out that it's critical your ghost be familiar with the latest Federal Trade Commission guidelines governing pay-for-play blogging, tweeting, and other forms of promotion and endorsement. With penalties of up to $11K per violation, running afoul of these regs could cost you big-time. Plus, your ghost needs to be more than just a wordsmith--he or she should have a solid understanding of the medium you intend to use and how it fits into the bigger picture of your business. Siloed marketing and communication efforts are rarely effective.

Janofsky did a fine job on this piece, and it's great to see ghosts getting more recognition in mainstream media.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What Ghostwriters Read

A new ghost asks: What sites do ghostwriters visit to keep tabs on the industry?

It’s a good question. There aren’t a lot of sites devoted to ghostwriting (hence our decision to launch this one!) But we do dig for info in other places.

Gwen likes:
Publishers Marketplace
Publishers Weekly

Also: “I also find really good info through the people I follow on Twitter. And on message boards like FLX and ASJA.”

Alisa says: “I do read the deals from Publisher's Marketplace and most of what Gwen reads. I also regularly study the co-op tables at B&N and the NYT best seller list to stay on top of what is being published and is selling.”

Melissa says her reading flexes with her assignment list:
“I tend to go looking for specific information when I feel I need it. I'm about to write a proposal, for example, and I need to make sure my skills in that regard are up to date -- so I'm going to go looking for the most recent articles on that topic that have appeared in respected publications or are by respectable writers.”

Ellen says: “Ditto Gwen and Alisa on Publishers Marketplace. That’s a good place to go to keep tabs on what’s selling and who’s buying it.”

Also: Journalism sites, to keep up with what other writers are doing.
Talking Biz News

Finally, I have a Google set to deliver me a daily digest of stories that include the word “ghostwriter.” Lately, that’s meant a lot of stories about Roman Polanski (!) whose new film "The Ghost Writer" is scheduled for release next month. But in general, it’s a good way to keep up to date on what’s being said in the world about the business of ghostwriting.

What about you? What are you reading?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Reader Mail

We received a question from a ghostwriter who asked: "Do ghostwriters ever promote the book they ghostwrote alongside or in lieu of the author? And how can you go about it, considering you’re not the 'expert'?"

Ellen, Alisa and Gwen each weighed in:

Ellen: I do help my clients in promoting the final book, although I’m pretty behind-the-scenes in my efforts. Sometimes, I actively contribute. I write press releases, I ghost essays and articles for placement in magazines, I write blog postings, etc. But sometimes, it’s more of an advisory role. Many clients come to me with zero experience in the book business and so I’m not just the ghostwriter, I’m the best source of information on what’s really going on with the book project. I spend a lot of time counseling clients on why the platform is the most important part of the book process. It’s the key to getting an agent, the key to getting a publisher, the key to selling your book. I often say “If you’re not spending a lot of time and effort on your platform, you’re wasting your money on me.”

Alisa: It depends. Generally, I don’t think most ghosts feel obligated to promote the books they write, especially if it’s a work-for-hire deal that pays a flat fee. That said, I have promoted many of the books I’ve ghosted or co-authored. At times, like you, I did this because I was getting a cut of the royalties and had a financial incentive to do so. Other times I did it because I liked the author and wanted the author to succeed. Still other times I did it because successful books help to advance my ghosting career, whether I earn royalties from them or not.
Here are some of the ways I promote the books I write:

• Tell my Facebook and Twitter friends about the book
• Blog about it
• Help the author connect with bloggers who I’m friendly with
• Send review copies and personally written notes to freelance friends who write on the same topic and to magazine editors I know well
• Alert either the book publicist (if one exists) or the author about any publicity opportunities I stumble across
• Mention the book when I am at a speaking event
• Quote the author when I am writing magazine articles
• Mention the book in my author bio when I write articles for magazines, guest blogs and other outlets

Occasionally, I’ve been asked to do real publicity for books—to be interviewed on the radio or for print. This is rare, as most outlets want the author and not the writer. But it does happen. In such cases, I just tell myself, “You know this subject matter. You wrote the book for criss sakes.” And that has always been true for me. I’ve yet to have an interviewer ask me a question about one of my books that I can’t answer.

Gwen: Before I became a full-time writer, I managed marketing functions at two major companies, and then owned my own marketing agency for nine years. So, I can’t help but think as a marketer when I’m developing book projects. I always look for potential promotional opportunities as I’m working with the author and make suggestions. As the book comes together, there are often angles that I believe would make great publicity hooks. I may suggest events for appearances or groups which may be interested in hiring the author as a speaker or in otherwise becoming involved with the book. I’ve also made appearances at events with the named author and discussed my role in the book’s development. I do not handle these appearances or opportunities solo for books I’ve ghosted, as I am not typically the expert in the subject matter.

I think how far a ghost or collaborator becomes involved in the marketing depends on how expert he or she is in the subject matter. Certainly, if you can, give the author or publishing house some input and spread the word among your own contacts. (Unless, of course, you're bound by give-us-your-firstborn nondisclosures, of course.) If it’s an area you know cold and in which you can offer authoritative and credible advice, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t. However, if your knowledge doesn’t extend too far below the surface, being a spokesperson for the book probably isn’t a good idea.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ghostwriters in the news

Buried in this rather sad story about a memoir gone wrong is some interesting information about how ghostwriters are paid. Scroll down.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Online Class in Ghostwriting

Please excuse the commercial interruption.

There are four slots left in my upcoming e-class on ghostwriting. Session starts Jan. 11. Makes the perfect gift for writer friends who call you up and want to “pick your brain” about breaking into ghostwriting.

For more info, visit:

And now, back to our regular programming.