Member Spotlight: Robert Woodcox
How did you land your first book ghostwriting project?
I had just sold my advertising agency I owned for 25 years and had taken off a year to learn to play golf (not a good idea at age 48), but one which serendipitously led me into ghostwriting. At the start of that second year of semi-retirement, I need new challenges, so I took out a thumbnail ad in the L.A. Times business section that read: Ghostwriter for Hire. Call 800-339-0551. I didn’t really know what ghostwriter’s did, but I was actually looking for freelance work from the many boutique ad agencies in Orange County, not books. Turns out, the word Ghostwriter was magical, sexy and mysterious to people. I got so many calls from it, I had to take it out of the paper on the second day. My first call was a 92 year old WWII hero who wanted to tell the story he had never told to his three daughters. I wrote his memoir and that was the start of a 27 year run now and 46 books later.
What has been your secret to building a steady stream of ghostwriting clients?
There is an old adage in sales: “Keep the funnel full at all times.” That means, even when you’re busy serving clients, you must also be looking for future work. I have a consistent program of ads running on Google Adwords and have for over 13 years. I figure at $150 a month in ad fees, and my personal needs, all I need from them is one good book a year. Well worth it. I also joined AOG, Jericho Writers, ASJA, etc. and stay busy writing posts, essays or blogs. Sooner or later, they bring in work as well. I became a member of our local Senior Center and started meeting people who wanted to write their life stories and so I get small projects from that organization. I also run ads in their newsletters and online pubs. I also ask for referrals from happy past clients. Between all these activities, my funnel is always about half full. I also do consulting work on the “business” of ghostwriting via phone or Zoom on an hourly basis, so that keeps me busy in between major books.
What do you wish you’d known about ghostwriting when you were first starting out?
Everything! Hah. I knew nothing about the mechanics and processes, customer service, and legal aspects of the business. I just jumped in with that 92 year old and figured all I had to do was record him, take notes and keep that up until I had enough to write his life story. Wasn’t that easy of course, but I was hooked. I would have wished there were classes then for all that. I wished I’d known a ghostwriter whom I could be a protege to. I didn’t. It was all trial and error (more error than trial for a while). However, being a life long entrepreneur, starting new things was in my DNA. I had no fear because I had no understanding of what was coming. It all seemed great fun to me and it has been.
How would you describe your favorite type of project and client?
My favorite type of client is one who truly wants to collaborate and knows this process is a partnership, one who respects my experience and guidance, one who can afford my rates and is glad he or she has found the right person to do that. My ideal client is as excited to start as I am and as excited as I am to do the work. I don’t care if it’s a memoir, a novel or a business book, they all fascinate me and I know every one of them is going to be a real roller coaster ride and a chance to learn new things about people, events, places and human behavior.
What are the best parts of this career?
See above answer. However, I would also add: freedom! Controlling my own days and life. Being paid well and fairly. I often liken my state of mind to that of a pro baseball player who’s making a ton of money and inside gets a chuckle out of the fact that he’s just playing a kid’s game and someone is paying him a lot of money to play. But I am also very aware that I am blessed to have the chance to really help people to achieve their own dreams.
How can people reach you?
I have two web sites. One is my ghostwriting site: www.theghostwriter.net
The other is for consulting business: www.theghostwriter.net/theghostworks.
And then, there is always the phone: 949-244-7880 (PDT) and email at: firstname.lastname@example.org