A question I get asked a lot is how (and why) I became a ghostwriter and how it works. Many people, authors and non-authors alike, wonder why I would write books for someone else instead of writing my own books. I can’t speak to why other people become ghostwriters, but for me, ghostwriting has provided a stable regular income around growing my own author business.
Today I’m going to share with you how to become a romance ghostwriter. I’ll cover the skills that you should have, how to find ghostwriting work, and how to have a successful relationship with your client.
I will not go into how to write a romance as the topic is too big and there is already a great deal of information here at Write with Harte, on the Internet, and in books on how to write a romance.
Text for this video is below:
What is a ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter is a professional, usually freelance, writer who is hired to write works that are officially credited to another person. The ghostwriter’s role is to produce the written content, while the credit for the work is given to someone else, typically the person who hired the ghostwriter. This practice is common among celebrities or other successful people who have a story to tell, but perhaps don’t have the skills to write it. Here are key aspects of ghostwriting:
Anonymity: The ghostwriter’s identity is usually kept confidential. They work behind the scenes, and their contribution is not publicly acknowledged.
Collaboration: In many cases, ghostwriters work closely with the credited author to ensure the written material aligns with their voice, style, and message.
Compensation: Ghostwriters are typically paid for their services either through a flat fee, a per-word rate, or, in some cases, a percentage of royalties from book sales. However, they do not receive public credit or recognition for their work. That means you can’t use it in your resume, marketing materials, or even tell your mother.
Expertise and Adaptability: Successful ghostwriters possess strong writing skills and the ability to adapt their writing style to match the tone and voice of the credited author.
Confidentiality: Ghostwriters often work under confidentiality agreements, ensuring that the details of their writing assignments and their role in creating the work are not disclosed.
In essence, ghostwriting is a professional service where the writer relinquishes claim to the work in exchange for compensation, allowing the client to present the work as their own.
Only a writer can answer for themselves why they would be a ghostwriter as opposed to writing their own books. In many cases a writer may want to write their own books but they don’t have the knowledge or the resources to publish and sell them. Some romance writers ghostwrite until they’re able to make enough from the books they publish under their own name. And there are some writers who simply want to be freelance writers and don’t have an interest in writing their own books but are happy to write them for somebody else.
Why do people hire ghostwriters?
The flip side of the question about why write for someone else instead of myself (which I do), is why would an author hire a writer? The answer is that the person who hires a ghostwriter isn’t a writer, they’re an entrepreneur. If somebody wanted to open a widget shop but didn’t know how to make widgets, they would hire a widget maker or they would find a source of widgets. Entrepreneurs who want to get involved in publishing but don’t want or know how to write have to do the same thing. They have to find a source for books that they can publish.
A Note About AI
Will AI replace ghostwriters? Maybe. AI generated fiction still isn’t as good as human-generated fiction. But someone who is very good at prompting and revising could create a decent romance using AI.
HOWEVER, people who hire ghostwriters do it to save time and money. They’re not going to invest their time into figuring out AI and revision. It is possible that if it were less expensive and faster, that they’d hire someone who understood storytelling and good writing, and who was a good AI prompter and editor, to write using AI.
Note that I don’t think AI will completely replace romance authors in general. As long as you can write a story readers love and can find your reader market, you’ll be fine.
One final note: DO NOT USE AI TO GHOSTWRITE for your client. They’re hiring you…a professional writer to write for them. You can use AI to help with research or even plotting, but you need to write all the words.
Potential income from romance ghostwriting.
Can you earn a living ghostwriting romance? It might be tough depending on how much the job pays. Since the work is usually freelance, the income might not be steady. I’ve been lucky that I have a client who is successful (I’m not her only writer) and releases monthly. But of course to have a steady income means writing steadily. I average a book a month.
The amount you earn as a ghost writer depends on a few factors including:
Experience: Beginner ghostwriters will generally earn less than experienced ones. As they build their portfolio and gain more experience, they can start charging more for their services.
Market Demand: The demand for romance novels can also impact rates. If there’s a high demand for romance content, experienced ghostwriters in this genre may charge premium rates.
Project Specifics: The rates might depend on the specifics of the project, such as the required research, the level of creativity and originality needed, and the turnaround time.
Employer: If you work through a company that offers ghostwriting services, you’ll usually earn less than if you’re hired directly by the client.
The pay rate for the actual book itself can be calculated in a variety of ways including:
Per Word or Per Page Rates: Some ghostwriters are paid based on the number of words or pages they write. Rates can range from $0.01 to $0.10 per word or more for experienced writers. Sometimes the per word rate is provided per 1000 words. A $0.01 word rate would be $10 per 1000 words (which I wouldn’t take). Most typical rates I see offered are $15 to $20 per 1000 words.
Per page rates for romance ghostwriters are around $5 per page, give or take a few bucks.
Flat Fee: For a full-length novel, ghostwriters might charge a flat fee. For a romance ghostwriter, will usually be anywhere from $1000 to $2000 and depends on the length of the book.
Royalties and Credit: I’ve never seen this in romance ghost writing, but if you’re good and highly valued, you might be able to negotiate a share of royalties from book sales. This is especially possible if you work for a publishing house. However, as ghostwriters typically relinquish claim to the work, they often do not receive credit or royalties.
There are a couple of ghostwriting tasks that you can earn payment for. If you are writing the plot you’ll usually receive a flat fee of anywhere between $50 to $150. Some clients may also hire you to write their blurb, which is an additional fee of $50 to $100.
Knowledge and Skills Needed to Be a Successful Ghost Writer
Clients hire professionals, and that means you need to know how to write well, and in particular, how to write a romance. Here are some other things you should know:
Writing to Market: Because we’re talking about clients who are entrepreneurs, the romances you’re going to write are going to be similar to the ones that are selling well, typically on Amazon. Essentially you will be writing to market. In most cases, your client will tell you the romance category and subgenre, as well as tropes. They will have picked these areas because they’re selling well and it will be your job to craft a romance that fits within those guidelines.
Because of this, it is helpful to have knowledge of what is selling in the romance marketplace particularly in the category and sub genre, as well as the tropes that your client is interested and having you write. On Amazon, you can read the first few pages of books that are selling well in the areas your client is hoping to target to learn things like writing style, tone, point of view, tense, etc.
Plotting: If you’re a pantser, you might not like plotting, but the client will want a plot before greenlighting writing. In most cases you will be asked to provide a document that outlines the characters, including their goals and conflicts and other information about them, the location that your story takes place in, a brief synopsis of the story, and a chapter by chapter outline. One thing that I like to do with my client, is once I’m given the information about the story she wants, I create an outline of the major beats, as well as character information. Once she tells me that she likes the basic overview of the story, I go flesh it out into chapters.
Sometimes a client will have a separate plotter. I actually like it when my client gives me plots created by someone else because plotting is so challenging for me.
Adaptability in Voice and Style: As a ghostwriter, you’ll be writing in someone else’s name, which means adapting your voice and style to align with your client’s expectations and their readers’ preferences. This includes:
- Versatility in Writing Styles: Ability to switch between different writing styles, tones, and perspectives (e.g., first-person, third-person).
- Mimicking Clients’ Styles: The skill to study and replicate the unique voice of your client (or other work they’ve had ghostwritten), ensuring consistency in their body of work.
- Tailoring to Sub-genres: Each romance sub-genre has its nuances, from the historical accuracy in historical romances to the suspense elements in romantic thrillers. Understanding these subtleties is crucial.
Write Frequently, Steadily with Short Deadlines: In the romance writing genre, most clients are going to want to publish fairly frequently. This could mean every three to six weeks. In most cases, you will be giving a series project, and expected to write the three or more books for that series, with each having three to four weeks to write it. That means you need to be able to write anywhere between 70,000 and 80,000 words in three to four weeks.
In order to achieve this you should be able to write anywhere between 2000 to 4000 words a day. For example, if you are asked to write a 70,000 word romance, and you’re given 30 days to complete it, that means you have to write 2300 words a day. If you would like to take weekends off, you would need to write 3500 words a day to achieve that 70,000 word romance novel within 30 days.
I’ll admit that when I first started ghostwriting, this is the part that scared me the most. I rarely succeeded at NaNoWriMo at only 1,667 words a day. But before this scares you off, let me share with you some tips on how you can write quickly.
- Write from a plot. The advantage of a chapter by chapter plot is that each time you sit down to write you know exactly what is going to be happening. There’s no getting stuck or having writers block. Writing became so much more enjoyable once I started writing from a plot because I never get stuck.
- Learn to dictate. Dictation is something that I put off learning because the few times I tried it, it was awkward. But at one point I was working with two clients, which required me to type a lot, and I developed a repetitive strain injury in my fingers. Because it was too painful to type, I was forced to learn dictation. Typing, I can generally produce anywhere between 1600 and 1800 words an hour. With dictation, I produce around 4000, sometimes close to 5000, words in an hour. If my word count goal is 3,500 words a day, I can type it in two hours, or dictate it in one.
- Write everyday. I’m not saying that you can’t take a day or two off. But by writing every day at least five days a week, makes sitting down to write each day easier. For one, it becomes a habit. But more than that, writing every day the story stays with you. Even when you’re not writing the story is percolating in your brain as you go through your day. During those times you’re fleshing out your ideas or thinking about what you’re going to write next. When you sit down again to write, you can easily jump back in and immerse yourself into the story.
Tips for working with clients
Once you get the job, you need to deliver what your client wants. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Understand Client Expectations: Begin with a clear understanding of what your client is looking for in their romance novel. Discuss the plot, characters, tone, and any specific requirements or preferences they have.
Effective Communication: Maintain open and regular communication. Sometimes the client will ask you to report in at various intervals. But even if they don’t, be proactive in providing updates and receptive to feedback. Clear communication helps avoid misunderstandings and ensures that both parties are on the same page.
Flexibility and Adaptability: Be prepared to adapt your writing to meet the client’s vision. Flexibility in incorporating client suggestions and making revisions is key.
Respect Deadlines: Always adhere to agreed-upon deadlines. You may be asked to meet pacing deadlines for review. Other times, you may just have a project deadline. Whatever the case, meet your deadlines. Your client often has the publishing date for the project. After yo, the book goes to the editor. The client likely has a process by which all the tasks to publishing are done, and if you’re late, you could mess that up, and lose out on future work. You’re a professional writer so you need to act like it. Timeliness is crucial in maintaining a professional relationship and building a reputation for reliability.
Confidentiality: As a ghostwriter, you must respect the confidential nature of your work. Ensure that you adhere to any non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality clauses in your contracts. That means not telling your family the name on the book. It also means you can’t use your work in your portfolio. If you want a testimonial or reference, ask your client if that’s possible.
Quality of Work: Consistently deliver high-quality writing. This includes well-developed characters, engaging plotlines, and maintaining the integrity of the romance genre.
Handle Feedback Constructively: Be open to constructive criticism and willing to make changes based on the client’s feedback. Remember, it’s about bringing their vision to life.
Clear Agreements and Contracts: Have a clear contract in place that outlines the scope of work, payment terms, deadlines, revision policies, and rights. This helps in avoiding future disputes. Usually your client will supply this, but if not, create one and ask your client to sign it.
Understanding the Audience: Familiarize yourself with the target audience for the book. Different audiences have different expectations from romance novels, and this understanding can guide your writing.
Stay Updated with Genre Trends: As mentioned in the writing to market section, keep up with current trends and themes in the romance genre. This knowledge can be invaluable in meeting the client’s expectations and making the book relevant to current readers.
Invoice Promptly and Professionally: Depending on your work set up, you may be paid at the end of the project automatically or after a review. If your client asks for an invoice, send it per the outline of the contract. Maintain professionalism in all financial dealings.
Build a Relationship: Aim to build a long-term professional relationship with each client. If your client is successful, you’ll have steady regular work. I’ve written over 60 books for my client in the last few years.
Seek Feedback for Improvement: After completing a project, ask the client for feedback on your work and their experience working with you. This can provide valuable insights for future projects. I’ve often asked my client about areas of the book I was concerned about or the feedback from her readers because I want to make sure she and her readers are happy.
Stay Organized: Keep track of all client communications, notes, drafts, and deadlines. Good organization helps in managing multiple projects efficiently.
Be Proactive in Problem-Solving: If issues arise, address them proactively. Offer solutions and be willing to work collaboratively to resolve any problems. If you need time off or will miss your deadline, let your client know asap. I always give my client my travel or family-time schedule so we can build it into the deadline.
Where to find romance ghost writing jobs?
Before you go looking for romance ghostwriting jobs, Here are a few things you should put together first:
1. Determine the type of romance writing you can do. If you can write across multiple categories, that gives you more opportunities to find work. But you also need to be aware of categories that you don’t have experience in or that perhaps you don’t want to write. For example maybe your experience and your interest is in traditional contemporary romance, and not paranormal or romantic fantasy. So any client that’s looking for somebody to write paranormal romance is probably not somebody that you would apply to.
2. Create a resume that has any information about your writing experience especially if you have already written romances before. Even if you’ve not written romance, if you’ve freelanced before, mention this. Clients want good writers, but also, they want one that understands working with clients and deadlines.
3. Put together a writing sample. If you have already written a romance, you can take a chapter out of what you’ve already written and use it as part of your job application. In some cases, the client or the organization that is hiring ghost writers may give you a prompt and ask you to write something towards that.
Platforms and Forums for Ghostwriting Jobs
There are place where you can find romance ghostwriting jobs.
Ghost Writing Companies
HotGhostWriter: Hires fiction and non-fiction writers, editors, and narrators (audiobook). Writers are paid for plotting, writing, and blurbs. Pay depends on what program your in and your experience. Generally it’s between $15 to $30 per 100 words.
Urban Writers: Like HotGhostWriter, Urban Writers hires writers and editors, and other publishing professionals. I can’t find their pay rates, but I would imagine they’re similar to HotGhostWriter.
To attract clients, your online profile should be compelling including showing your expertise and experience, writing samples, testimonials if you have them, and use of relevant keywords so clients can find your profile.Some of the most popular freelance platforms and job sources include:
- Upwork: This freelancing platform allows you to create a profile, showcase your portfolio, and bid on romance ghostwriting projects.
- Fiverr: Known for gigs in various niches, Fiverr is a good place to offer your romance ghostwriting services at set prices.
- Freelancer.com: Similar to Upwork, here you can find various ghostwriting projects, including those in the romance genre.
- Reedsy: Catering specifically to the book industry, Reedsy connects ghostwriters with authors and publishers looking for writing services.
Networking with Authors, Publishers, and Literary Agents
Building a network is crucial in the ghostwriting industry. Here are some ways to do it:
- Writing Conferences and Workshops: Attend these events to meet authors, editors, and literary agents who might need ghostwriting services.
- Social Media and Online Communities: Engage with writing communities on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and
- Goodreads. Participating in discussions and showcasing your expertise can lead to job opportunities.
- Joining Writers’ Associations: Becoming a member of writers’ groups like the Romance Writers of America (RWA) can provide networking opportunities and access to job listings.