Q Hi, Laura. Thanks for your time today. Can you tell readers a little about who you are and your educational background?
Sure! I’ve been a ghostwriter for twenty years now. I love to write and am happiest when I’m working on multiple projects at the same time. Right now I am in the middle of three memoirs and one how-to book about parenting. Plus, I’m working on a new sci-fi series that I’m authoring with a partner. I’m excited to be branching into self-publishing.
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, but that vocation didn’t really suit me. I began ghostwriting when my first client was introduced to me one day, out of the blue. He hired me to write a novel, then paid for three more. That launched my career. To this day, I’m grateful to him for taking a chance on me.
Q. Describe your creative process. Do you write every day?
Yes, I do! Writing is not just a job for me; it’s my favorite creative outlet. I couldn’t imagine not writing every day.
I usually prefer to write in the morning when it is very quiet in our home, but sometimes I will get a burst of creative energy later in the day. I homeschool three children, so I’m always juggling tasks. I thrive on the excitement and challenge.
When ghostwriting, my relationship with each author is unique; no two projects are the same. Since my creative process includes my client, it can vary widely. However, with twenty years under my belt, I know how to adjust the course to suit the author. I’m flexible and always do my best to make the experience enjoyable for my client.
When working on my own novels, my creative process is pretty straightforward. I always outline the story. However, lately I’ve taken to a looser approach. It’s said that there are “plotters” and “pantsers” (the latter being people who write by the seat of their pants). I will say that I have gone from being a dyed-in-the-wool plotter to more of a pantser as I gain experience.
Q. The literary landscape has changed much over the years. How has this impacted your business or your writing approach?
To be honest, it hasn’t really. Of course writing conventions and grammar rules change over time, but that doesn’t affect me much. I work with clients to accomplish their goals and achieve their writing dreams. I love that part of the business. When someone has the dream of seeing their book in print at Barnes and Noble, I am energized to make that happen.
I will say that I had a hiccup in my business this last year. At the beginning of 2020, I was set for a stellar year, and then our world turned upside down. I lost a couple of contracts and had to scramble. That was tough. However, by September I was back on track and now I’m booked through the rest of the year and into 2022.
Q. What’s the “story” behind how you actually got into ghostwriting?
The way I landed my first book deal was incredible. I received a lead from an acquaintance. He knew someone who needed help writing a book. The acquaintance who vouched for me really believed in me. That amazed me because he hadn’t seen much of my work (just a few pieces) and I didn’t have much of a portfolio. His faith in me gave me the confidence to pursue this new avenue. And as I said earlier, that first client hired me to write four books!
Q. What are some important qualities one must have to be a professional ghostwriter?
To be a good ghostwriter, you need to be an excellent writer, have great communications skills, and be a good businessperson.
To become an excellent writer, most authors I’ve spoken to agree that you must write hundreds of thousands of words to find your own written voice. This takes a while; it’s not an overnight process. In fact, another theory I recently heard is that anyone can become expert in a craft after practicing the skill for 10,000 hours. That sounds about right to me.
You also must be willing to give up all the rights and credit for your work when you ghostwrite. There are a lot of talented writers who can’t wrap their wits around this. For me, I really don’t mind. Truly! I’m paid well and enjoy each project I ghostwrite. Since I write in a variety of genres, I also learn about a wide range of topics, which is a bonus.
On the business side, you really need to be good at sales. Most writers hate that side of things, but I actually like it. The fact is, I think sales is where a lot of ghostwriters fail. They simply don’t want to talk about money. But to be successful, you must lead with the subject of cost, or you’ll waste days, weeks, or months chasing after a client who can’t afford your fee.
Q. Since many ghostwriting jobs are not published on traditional job boards, can you share a few tips on how you garner clients?
I created a powerful blog and all my leads come from that. I continue to expand on that blog, writing about ghostwriting and sharing advice about writing in general. Most people can’t afford a ghostwriter, so I have written dozens of articles answering basic and advanced questions about how to write a book.
I focus on helping people through my blog and, as a result, people find me through search engines and reach out to me. Today, all my clients come through my website.
Q. What tips can you share on successfully hiring a ghostwriter? What should one look for?
I wrote an article called How to Hire a Ghostwriter that might interest your readers. I give a lot of tips in this article.
If your readers are interested in hiring a ghostwriter, I’d suggest that they research all prospective writers thoroughly before reaching out to them. Check out books they have written or ghostwritten. Although most ghostwritten titles can’t be divulged, experienced writers will have at least a couple of books that bear their names. Some clients gift a ghostwriter with a cover credit.
Once you find a ghostwriter you like, take the time to really talk to him or her. Make sure the chemistry is there. Great communication is key for any ghostwriting relationship. After all, you’ll become a partner with your ghost for the next eight to eighteen months!
Q. From your website, I see you write in different genres. What’s your favorite and why?
To be honest, I love all genres as long as the subject is uplifting and/or educational. Over half of what I ghostwrite are memoirs, but I love writing fiction and business books as well.
My favorite memoir genre is a rags-to-riches story, or one where someone overcame unbelievable odds to achieve success. Those stories are so inspiring, and I know they will help many, many readers.
I’m especially partial to entrepreneurs and artists. If I can help them share their story with the world, I feel honored and privileged.
Q. What’s your U.S.P.? In other words, what would you say separates you from the many ghostwriters currently on the writing scene?
That’s a great question! I think it may be that I try to help everyone who writes to me. I’m aware that most people can’t afford my price, and that’s OK. I understand. However, I do my best to set as many authors as I can on a path that will help them get their books written one way or another.
To that end, my blog probably sets me apart, as what I have to say seems to resonate with people. I like to think that anyone who reaches out to me will be helped in some way.
Q. How much has your most profitable “ghost” project yielded?
I charge one dollar per word to ghostwrite, so the word count always dictates my fee. I recently completed a 400-page book that yielded $100,000. And just prior to that, I ghostwrote a series of short stories that brought in $75,000.
My average contract is for a 200-page book at $50,000, but I will sometimes write shorter books for people.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add?
I love what I do! As a ghostwriter I can help breathe new life into projects that sometimes have been shelved half-written or have only existed in the imagination of the author for years. Some of my clients want to self-publish their books, while others have a publisher waiting for the manuscript. Some simply want to write their life story so their family and friends can learn about their experiences. It brings me great joy and satisfaction to help each client fulfil their personal goals and dreams.
Laura Sherman, a.k.a. “The Friendly Ghostwriter,” has authored and ghostwritten over thirty books in the last twenty years. She specializes in writing stories that uplift, educate, and inspire her readers.