A lot of people have the same reaction when I tell them that I ghostwrite fiction. It’s a mixture of curiosity and confusion. Ghostwriting sounds like an exciting thing to do, but what does it actually mean? And how does it even happen?
What I Do
Fiction work for hire, whether as a ghostwriter or a named contributor, is extremely variable.
Sometimes I get hired to plot a novel, then never touch it again.
Sometimes I get hired to write a novel based on a plot someone’s already written.
Sometimes I get hired to do the whole thing, based on a concept the client has or a genre they want to publish in.
Sometimes it’s consulting with a client, helping them to develop their ideas.
There’s also a lot of editing work, though I don’t often do that.
The genres vary. There’s a lot of work out there for romance writers, as that’s a huge part of publishing. But it’s not my genre, so I only write romance as part of something else. I’ve been hired to work on space operas, dystopian sci-fi, urban fantasy, thrillers, hard sci-fi, folktales, and historical fiction.
I also do non-fiction ghostwriting, but that’s a post for another time.
I find most of my working through freelance hiring websites. Clients post details of jobs they want done. I browse the jobs and find ones that I’m interested in, based on the budget, conditions, and how interesting the work looks. Then I make a bid, saying what I would provide, how much I would charge, and what relevant skills and experience I have. The clients pick between bidders.
These sites are incredibly helpful. Partly, that’s because they put a bunch of jobs in one place. But it’s also because of the feedback mechanisms. Clients and freelancers leave feedback for each other. After several years of work, I have a lot of positive reviews and ratings. This lets potential clients know that I’m reliable and have the skills that I’m laying claim to.
Sometimes clients even single me out and invite me to bid on their jobs. The process is pretty much the same, except that I know in advance that they think I might be a good fit.
I also have work away from these sites. Some of this comes through friends and some comes from previous clients approaching me directly.
This is the question that seems to fascinate most people – who is hiring me and why?
It’s a natural question to ask. We tend to assume that, if someone has a story to tell, they want to tell it themselves. Despite many examples to the contrary, we think of authors as lone creatives driven by passion and inspiration. My work doesn’t fit that image.
Most of why I get hired stems from the current book market. Thanks in large part to Amazon, it’s possible for small presses and independent authors to make a living off publishing. To do that, they need to have a firm grasp of marketing. And for that marketing to work, they need a steady stream of books. So marketing-minded people, whether authors themselves or not, hire the likes of me to produce books for their publishing machine.
There are also the passion projects. Maybe a client has a story they really want to tell but they don’t know how. Maybe they want to write but aren’t sure how to structure their plot. Maybe they just want a professional’s perspective on their ideas and they’re willing to pay for a few hours of my time.
It’s always tricky to talk about this stuff. Discretion is an important part of my work. There are often non-disclosure agreements. Even when I can technically talk specifics, I’m wary of doing so.
But if you have questions, if you want to know more, then feel free to ask in the comments. I’ll answer those I can. Because this is an odd job and a brilliant job, and I’m happy to talk about it.