Ghostwriters: The Outlook for Ghostwriting in 2017
While I don’t have a crystal ball that can tell me what the next 12 months will look like for professional ghostwriters, signs that have emerged in the last few months help us to infer what the rest of the year may hold.
Here is what I think we’ll see in the coming year as far as opportunities and challenges for ghostwriters go:
More work. Demand for ghostwriting is rising, as professionals in a wide variety of industries are recognizing the value of having a pro do their writing for them. That means that projects ranging from blog posts to articles to speeches to e-books and printed books are up for grabs in greater numbers.
That’s the good news.
Lower pay. Unfortunately, as demand for content is increasing, the pay offered for writing work continues its decline.
Since clients, such as content agencies and businesses, are increasingly paying by block of text, as in $50 for a 500-word article, or by the project, such as $250 per blog post, ghostwriters can expect to be quoted flat fees, rather than per-word rates, as in the past.
This new approach requires a shift in mindset on the part of ghostwriters, who should be thinking more in terms of a desired hourly rate and how to earn it. You need to start asking yourself about each writing project, “How quickly can I research and write that?” And if your answer can still yield a decent hourly rate given the client’s parameters, you may want to consider it.
Holding out for significantly higher pay is likely to be a losing strategy, unfortunately.
New ghostwriting agencies. As demand for ghostwriting services increases, so has the number of firms specializing in providing ghostwriting talent. Book in a Box and Kevin Anderson and Associates are just two newer businesses that have emerged as popular options for would-be authors in search of a turnkey process. Reedsy is a new UK-based platform that aims to connect aspiring authors with ghostwriters, graphic designers, editors, and printers, effectively creating a publishing dream team for each book project.
These new middlemen provide a service to authors and ghostwriters alike, potentially providing a steady stream of ghostwriting work, albeit at somewhat lower fees than veteran ghosts have historically earned.
Expanding role. Years ago, a ghostwriter was expected to advise the author-client on the best approach to communicating their message, possibly gather background information, interview relevant sources, draft, and then edit the finished product. The focus was on organizing, interviewing, and writing.
Today, however, the ghostwriter’s role frequently extends far beyond writing and editing into production. In many cases, the ghost is expected to be a book shepherd, advising the client on how to write, edit, and produce their book. In the case of articles and blog posts, ghostwriters are often tasked with finding relevant photos, collecting permissions from sources, understanding the latest SEO techniques, and uploading the finished product to whatever blogging platform the client uses.
The key to success in 2017 will be adding to your existing knowledge base in order to better advise clients regarding how to leverage the content you’ve helped them produce. That is, your job now is rarely done when you’ve finished drafting an assignment, so be ready to help clients take the next step with their blog post, article, or book.
Elevated client expectations. The number of client horror stories I heard rose dramatically toward the end of 2016 and I suspect will continue to occur with greater frequency in 2017. Clients unfamiliar with the process of ghostwriting, and who are unclear about their own responsibilities, seem to think it is a ghostwriter’s job to work until the client is completely satisfied with the work product.
It doesn’t matter if it’s exactly what they asked for up front, if they change their mind midstream, want to go through 11 rounds of editing, or elect at the last minute to add some new material they want you to find – some clients think they have the right to expect a ghostwriter to bend over backwards for them.
At the original agreed-upon fee.
One possible way to prevent scope creep and unrealistic expectations is to be super clear up front about what you will do and what the client needs to do in order to consider the project complete. You may also want to tie payment to delivery – not acceptance – of what you’ve drafted.
The solution is education.
Continued self-publishing growth. While some authors insist on trying to attract the interest of major publishing houses in their book, many others have decided the lengthy production cycle and loss of control are not worth the hassle. They’re opting to have their books published by online services like CreateSpace, BookBaby, and Ingram’s Lightning Source, which each grow more popular with time.
This is good news for ghostwriters who can write quickly, providing a competitive advantage that appeals to clients used to speedy turnaround.
The best way to take advantage of these opportunities for work in 2017 is to continue to educate yourself, in order to better assist your clients in every aspect of publishing, and to protect yourself, through carefully-worded agreements that make it clear what you’re owed and when.
All-in-all, I think 2017 will be a year of opportunity for ghostwriters.
As I’m sure you know, giving your client a “Statement of Work,” outlining what you will and will not do, at the beginning of the project often helps to head off many potential problems such as wanting too many rewrites. If a client balks at your terms, and pulls out, then you know it wasn’t a good fit to begin with. 🙂
Excellent point. I think some of those issues can also come out during the negotiation regarding fees, too.