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Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks

A Q&A with ghostwriter Kelly James-Enger

By Marcela Landres
Published on LatinoLA: January 8, 2012


Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks


Ghostwriting can be lucrative. According to Kelly James-Enger, author of Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books, a ghostwriter with eight years' experience averages about $60,000 a year, well above the average full-time freelancer's income.

If you're seeking to bolster your income (and what writer isn't?), read Kelly's first-rate primer, which includes templates for contracts, confidentiality agreements, and letters of interest to prospective clients, as well as sound advice on how much to charge and how to capture a client's voice. For more information, read this month's Q&A with Kelly.

Question and Answer

Kelly James-Enger escaped from the law in 1997. Today, the former attorney has written 700+ articles for more than 50 national magazines and 13 books, including eight under her own name. She's the author of writing-related books including Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books and Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your Own Writing Specialty and Make More Money. James-Enger is also a ghostwriter, speaker, and published novelist. Her contemporary women's fiction titles include Did you Get the Vibe? and White Bikini Panties. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, son, daughter, and golden retriever. For more information, visit http://dollarsanddeadlines.blogspot.com/

Question: What are some of the advantages of ghostwriting over authoring your own books?

Answer: I think the biggest advantage is that you can make more money. When you write your own book, you're responsible for marketing and promoting your book after it's published, and that takes up a lot of time--time that may or may not pay off in the long run. When you ghostwrite, you write the book for you client and then you're done--and it's up to your client to promote the book while you're on to the next project. Another advantage is that if you're writing a book for a traditional publisher, you don't have to worry about your "platform." The only platform that matters is that of your client.

Q: Must a writer be a published book author in order to become a ghostwriter? Or are published newspaper or magazine articles sufficient?

A: If you're going to be ghosting books, it definitely helps to have written at least one book because you're familiar with the process. And clients tend to want an experienced author. But you can ghost other things, too--articles, blog posts, speeches, you name it. I heard from one reader of Goodbye Byline who's now ghostwriting five different blogs for five different clients!

Q: Is ghostwriting a viable option for a writer whose credentials are solely in fiction and/or literary?

A: If you're ghosting fiction, sure. But so far, most of the ghosting work I've seen is on the nonfiction side, which isn't surprising as most books published are nonfiction.

Q: Where might a beginning ghostwriter find clients?

A: Start with who you know--really. You may find people who want to write their life story, for example. If you have a background in a particular subject, look for clients in that area. (I specialize in health, fitness, and nutrition, for example, and most of my clients are pros in those fields.) I suggest putting your shingle out, so to speak, and letting everyone know you're looking for work. Most of my work comes from referrals but I've also found work on craigslist and other sites.

Q: When negotiating a project with a prospective client, what are some red flags that indicate a ghostwriter may be better off walking away?

A: Number one, refusal to talk about money or comments like "Everyone says my book will be a best-seller." A client who wants you to work for a "share of the proceeds" or some other nebulous amount, or who won't sign a contract is another red flag. And so is someone who wants to meet all the time to talk about his/her book, not understanding your time is limited and precious. I don't have time to work with clients who can't pay me for my work, so I cut them loose pretty quickly.

Q: In addition to your invaluable guide, Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks, what other resources do you recommend to folks who want to learn more about becoming a ghostwriter?

A: There aren't a lot of resources out there, but check out: Here and here.

Q: Do you have upcoming projects that my readers should have on their radar?

A: I have a new book, Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success, coming out in April, 2012 from Writer's Digest Books and am excited about that. It's a great guide for freelance writers of all stripes. :)

Excerpted from Latinidad?« ?® 2003 by Marcela Landres

About Marcela Landres:
Marcela Landres is the author of the e-book How Editors Think. She is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published and was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster.
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