The 5 characteristics of successful ghostwriters

We don’t spend that much time thinking about ghostwriting. But, here’s the thing: that autobiography you’ve loved so much may have been written by a ghostwriter and not your favorite actor/entrepreneur/YouTube celebrity.

Ghostwriting can be incredibly rewarding and an excellent way to boost your careers. For others, however, this type of work might not be the right fit.

Here are a few traits that every successful ebook ghostwriter shares and that any aspiring ghostwriter should possess.


1. They’re Flexible    

Ghostwriting a book is quite different from writing your own work. Think about it – when you write your own piece, you’re essentially the one who’s in charge of everything. You spend as much time as you want to research your subject, you write whenever you’re prepared or in the mood, and you’re never pressured by anyone to respect deadlines (well, except for your publisher, of course.)

Things are different when you’re telling someone else’s story. Ghostwriting means you have to collaborate with your client. If you need more research on specific topics, you have to contact them and ask for the information. Whether your meetings are via phone, email, or direct interviews, you need to wait for them to become available. Sometimes, it will not happen as fast as you or the publisher wants to, which means you may miss a deadline or two. You become the middleman that needs to bring everything and everyone together. And, all that on top of writing.

2. They’re Incredibly Organized    

Depending on the type and length of the project, ghostwriters will need to create a strict schedule and work plan to make sure they don’t fall behind. As a ghostwriter, you are essentially offering your writing services to your client, which means that you are the one in charge of making everything happen. You will be the one doing the research and collecting the information from your client, and you will also be the one drafting the piece and communicating with the publisher.

Moreover, you never know what type of client you will have and how the necessary information will be passed on to you. Interviews that last too long or not enough, countless exchanged emails, scattered pieces of stories that make no sense, and timelines that overlap and get confusing can be challenging. And you have to make sure you gather everything you can, sort it out, make some sense out of it, and present it coherently.

3. They’re Creative    

This one goes without saying. Ghostwriting is more than just transcribing what your client dictates. Most of the times, all you will get from your client are bits of information that you have to put together to tell the best story you possibly can.

As a ghostwriter, you will be expected to gather whatever you can, come up with concepts, organize everything, research, write, and edit what will many times feel like a complete mess. It will feel like chaos, but it will be your own, personal, organized chaos.

4. They’re Confident

Confidence is a great thing to have, especially if you want to get into the ghostwriting business. If you trust your abilities, it will show, and you will have a bigger shot at convincing clients to hire you. Moreover, having confidence in yourself will make it easier to create a piece that stands out from someone else’s ideas and thoughts. It will also help with accepting the fact that any praise you may get for your work will not be directed at you but the client. That is an aspect many struggle with, so if you feel like you would be uncomfortable or even resentful in this situation, then ghostwriting might not be the best choice for you.

5. They Know What They’re Doing

Short pieces, such as articles or blog posts are usually not an issue. But when it comes to more significant projects, such as books, it’s better if the writer has some experience. Having already written books means you understand the industry, you know what the expectations are, and you know how to navigate the process smoothly. Experience is a huge advantage in this line of business.

Being a good ghostwriter means more than just being a good writer. Personality, background, and experience should all be factored in if you’re thinking of making the transition to ghostwriting. What’s certain is it’s not for everyone, but if what you’ve read so far makes you think you have what it takes to be successful, then go for it – it might be a pleasant surprise and a nice change of scenery.

uva basketball team of destiny

Team of Destiny: Inside UVA Basketball's improbable run

Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.


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