Who You Gonna Call? Ghostwriter!

By Kristy Horine

The Great American Novel. It’s the dream of many a writer, but it’s not the only way to break into publication. During the month of July, the Inspired Prompt Team will bring you other publication options to explore. It is our prayer that you are drawn to just the right one at just the right time! Thanks for reading and write on.

Me? A ghostwriter?

I was nearing the end of a writers conference and I still couldn’t figure out why I was there. After all, I was a journalist, sitting with a bunch of fiction writers.

As I stood at the fringes of the group, a man I hadn’t seen before came up and asked, “So, what do you write?”

I took a deep breath and pushed out air and words, “I’m a freelance journalist.”

He paused. He stared. Then, he smiled.

“Cool,” he said. “I know someone who is interested in telling her story, but she doesn’t really write. Ever thought about ghostwriting?”

Since that providential meeting, I’ve learned much about ghostwriting, about me, and about the way God moves to equip and encourage His writers to work with excellence.

If you are considering ghostwriting, here are some aspects you need to think on:

Prayer

Ghostwriting is an intense endeavor. Cover every aspect in prayer. Pray not only for your writing abilities, but for your client’s storytelling abilities. Pray every day, for every step.

Compatibility

symbiosisIn science, a symbiotic relationship is one where two organisms live really close to one another, sometimes one within the other, in a way that could be beneficial to one or both of the parties involved. This is ghostwriting.

As a ghostwriter, you must be inside your client’s story, mind, and voice. You must be compatible enough – especially in your differences – so you can get the job done. How do you know if you are compatible? Compare your values and your missions. If those two things align, you’re probably going to be okay.

The Story

Ghostwriters can be contracted to work on many different types of writing:

  • Business Writing (web copy, newsletters, press releases, policy & procedures manuals)
  • Full-length non-fiction or fiction
  • Memoirs

No matter what type of writing you will produce, you must decide if you are willing and able to live with the moral, ethical, social, and cultural impact that the writing might have.

For example, if you are a vegetarian, you are probably not going to write for a meat packing plant. If you are a devout Christ-follower, you are likely not going to write the memoirs of a person entrenched in witchcraft. These are hyperbolic examples, but they do make good points. Can you live with the entire story that may or may not have your name attached to it?

Anonymity

“Am I willing to spend hours/days/weeks/months on a project that might not ever mention my name?” If the answer to this question is no, you might want to run now. If the answer is yes, then continue reading. Find out what your client has in mind in terms of attribution. Some clients don’t mind sharing the author spotlight and will include the ghostwriter’s name on the cover. Some clients will mention a ghostwriter in the acknowledgements page. Some clients want the world to think they alone are the brilliant writers. Most ghostwriters give up bylines in what is called a nondisclosure agreement.

Understanding where you are in terms of anonymity is very important.

  • If your name is on this story, is it a story you want to be associated with in ten years?
  • If the client doesn’t want anyone to know they hired a ghostwriter, what are the terms of your silence?
  • Will the client be willing to be a reference and acknowledge your work to a future client?

Decide what you are willing to live with and put it in writing.

Method

This is basically how the project will move from your client’s mind, through you, to the page.

  • Will your client hand you a box of papers and say, here are my notes, go at it?
  • Will your client write the bones and you fill in the blanks?
  • Will you transcribe recordings and write from them?

In addition to how you will gather the facts of the story in the first place, you also need to know what your client expects in terms of editing, marketing, revision, and so forth. Writing is a process that involves so much more than scratching words on a paper. Ghostwriting is no different in that respect. Make sure you talk about how your client expects you to gather information, write, and revise.

Fees

This is the hard part, right? Deciding how much your work and time are worth is tricky. To know the best fee scale for your business, and your life, you need to find out what your rhythms are, how good you are at record keeping, and the parameters of each job.

Consider:

  • Will you apply a per word, per hour, or per project fee?
  • Is there travel involved?
  • Will you be required to purchase extra supplies for the project?
  • Will you need to pay an attorney for contract fees?
  • Will you be responsible for marketing? For editing and revising?

Consider, also, that little issue of anonymity. Now, if you are like most people who are writing a book, you want to make sure that you receive every penny people are willing to pay for your work, not just now but in the future. Will you receive royalties? Will you give up royalties? If you ghostwrite a memoir that becomes a smash best seller for six months straight, that’s a lot of royalties to give up. How will you feel about that? What does your contract say about that?

contract

And speaking of contracts, make sure your ghostwriting contract addresses all of these questions according to each project. If you are writing web copy, you won’t mention royalties. But if you are writing a non-fiction book a publisher asks to be re-written or edited in any way, make sure your initial contract makes room for these contingencies.

One day after the writers conference where I first felt the tug of ghostwriting, I received a phone call. The potential client was a very high profile personality. She and I went back and forth. She interviewed several ghostwriters. I did a lot of research and offered a bid, or a proposal, on the project. Yes, she would include my name on the front cover. No, there would be no royalties. Yes, she was willing to pay a tidy sum for my ghostwriting fee. Yes, the book idea had already been accepted by a publisher, with a promise of more books to come.

After a few more weeks of negotiations, I had to write a hard email. I turned the project down, even though it would have meant more than a year’s worth of freelance income for me and my family.

Why?

Because even though the client initially said she wanted to glorify God and lead others to Christ, she didn’t want the names of God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit in the book at all. She wanted to use curse words in the narrative, and she didn’t mind being explicit in glorifying worldly passions and pursuits because she wanted to “be real.”

At the end of my days, I will stand before the Lord. I will make an account for my actions, my inaction, and every single word, even those I write that belong to someone else. When I stand, will the ghosts come back to haunt me?


Click-to-Tweet: No matter what type of writing you will produce, you must decide if you are willing and able to live with the moral, ethical, social, and cultural impact that the writing might have. Who You Gonna Call? Ghostwriter! via @InspiredPrompt

WRITING PROMPT: You are a ghostwriter. Your client is the only granddaughter of an heiress in your small Arkansas town. Before she can receive her inheritance, the granddaughter must find someone who can take an attic full of notes and transform them into a memoir to top all memoirs. You accept the project, are firing on all cylinders, until you find the box that will change the entire town forever. What does the box contain? 

3 Questions Wednesday with Janalyn Voigt (on Thursday)

Yes. It is Thursday. So why am I posting a 3 Questions Wednesday interview? Because I zealously overbooked yesterday and I like each guest to have their own day. And today’s guest, my friend, Janalyn, has a new book just released.  Make sure and read to the end to enjoy a short excerpt from Hills of Nevermore.

So let’s get to the first question:

What inspires you?

Janalyn: Many of my best book ideas have come to me while in nature. The sensation of not being completely in control takes me outside my comfort zone, where inspiration breathes more readily into my soul. The beauty of my surroundings brings out the poet in my soul, and God seems very near.

Beauty bringing out the poet in us. I love that. Now…

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Janalyn: I’m the variegated crayon because I’m so eclectic. I’ve tried to fit into a one-genre-per-author publishing world, but that’s not how I’m wired. I’m a storyteller in the old-fashioned sense of the word. If I lived in a primitive culture where people gathered around the fire to socialize, I’d be the one spinning tales. That’s exactly what I did as a child. The neighborhood kids would sit around me on our front lawn and beg me for just one more story. I don’t remember anything I told them, but I must have known how to please my audience.

A Romantic Times review of Hills of Nevermore (Montana Gold, book 1), which just released May 1st, credited me with skillfully weaving together several genres. While that’s a nice compliment, the truth is that I just told the story.

Storytelling is a wonderful talent. Last question:

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Janalyn: I didn’t give it much thought until I turned twelve. That’s when my sixth-grade teacher suggested I consider becoming a novelist. His suggestion came on the heels of a rollicking short story I wrote for his class about some sort of high-seas adventure I’ve since forgotten. Despite my stint as the neighborhood storyteller, I had to move past my painful shyness and self-doubt to believe that I could write books.

Even then, I let a serious case of impostor syndrome hold me back. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s when you sabotage your own success because you don’t believe you deserve it. It’s not uncommon among high achievers in particular. I had no clue I suffered from this affliction until I wrote a post about it for Live Write Breathe, my website for writers, and noticed familiar symptoms.

Recognizing that impostor syndrome holds you back takes you a long way toward overcoming it. Now I question every self-limiting thought and step out in faith to accomplish things I never thought possible.

We’re glad you overcame. 🙂 Thanks so much for dropping by today, Janalyn!

Janalyn is giving away a free copy of DawnSinger, the first book in Tales of Faeraven, which readers liken to a medieval historical novel despite its epic fantasy tendencies. Comment to enter.

Purchase Hills of Nevermore (just 99¢ for a limited time) and receive a free copy of Hearts Reunited, a western historical romance by award-winning author Miralee Ferrell. Read the details here: http://janalynvoigt.com/hills-of-nevermore-launch.

Enter the giveaway drawing to win a free antique locket like the one in the opening scene of Hills of Nevermore: http://janalynvoigt.com/hon-locket-giveaway.


DawnSinger 

By Janalyn Voigt

A headstrong young princess and the guardian sworn to protect her travel on winged horses across dangerous territory in a desperate bid to fulfill prophecy and release restoration into a divided land.

Hearts Reunited 

By Miralee Ferrell

Can Mercedes and Jesse set aside the old family feud and find their way back to the love that had only started to blossom when Jesse left?

Hills of Nevermore

By Janalyn Voigt

Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish circuit preacher bent on helping her survive?

In an Idaho Territory boom town, America Liberty Reed overhears circuit preacher Shane Hayes try to persuade a hotel owner to close his saloon on Sunday. Shane lands face-down in the mud for his trouble, and there’s talk of shooting him. America intervenes and finds herself in an unexpectedly personal conversation with the blue-eyed preacher. Certain she has angered God in the past, she shies away from Shane.

Addie Martin, another widow, invites America to help in her cook tent in Virginia City, the new mining town. Even with Addie’s teenage son helping with America’s baby, life is hard. Shane urges America to depart for a more civilized location. Neither Shane’s persuasions nor road agents, murder, sickness, or vigilante violence can sway America. Loyalty and ambition hold her fast until dire circumstances force her to confront everything she believes about herself, Shane, and God.

Book’s Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1943959269/


Janalyn Voigt’s lifelong love of storytelling began in childhood when she dreamed up her own bedtime stories. She grew into a precocious reader, a pastime she credits with teaching her to write. Janalyn trained formally with Christian Writers Guild.

Today she is a multi-genre author and literary judge. Janalyn is represented by Wordserve Literary. Learn more about Janalyn, read the first chapters of her books, subscribe to her e-letter, and join her reader clubs at http://janalynvoigt.com.

Links to Janalyn Voigt Online:

Website: http://janalynvoigt.com

Website for authors: http://livewritebreathe.com

Sign up for Janalyn’s mailing list: http://janalynvoigt.com/join-e-letter

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Janalyn-Voigt/e/B008CEX4P4

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/JanalynVoigt

Goodreads Author Page: http://janalynvoigt.com/goodreads

Bookbub Author Page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/janalyn-voigt

Hills of Nevermore

CHAPTER ONE

Idaho Territory, May, 1863

AMERICA WATCHED HER WAGON TRAIN SHRINK steadily in the distance, dust billowing in its wake. How could it have traveled so far in such a short time? Oh, why hadn’t she let someone know she’d needed to stop? Her friend Addie, taking a turn holding America’s baby, might not look for her unless Liberty woke and cried for her mother. Bill Baker, driving her oxen for a spell out of kindness, wouldn’t notice her absence for some time.

“I can’t have lost it!” Tears blurred the trail beneath America’s feet. She’d been a fool to wear the locket Kyle had given her. She should have kept it stashed away. When she’d felt her necklace’s chain break, she’d stopped walking at once. Why couldn’t she find it? If she didn’t come across the locket soon, she’d have to leave it behind. Catching up to the wagon train would take some doing even now, and every passing moment carried her baby, only three months old, farther away.

A meadowlark trilled, the song a sharp accent against the deeper thud of hooves.

A shiver ran down her spine. She jerked her gaze upward.

A spotted pony pranced on the path. The rider on the horse’s back watched her from dark eyes. Beneath the quillwork adorning the brave’s chest, his skin gleamed the color of robust tea. A black stripe of paint slashed across the bridge of his nose. Two tight braids fell to the sash that bound fringed leggings at the waist. Strips of cloth crisscrossed a wide forehead, and feathers fanned sideways behind his head.

A group of Indians on ponies clustered beside him. One of them called out, laughing.

The brave held up his hand for silence.

Wisps of hair escaped America’s bonnet, stinging her eyes. She clawed them away with a trembling hand. One thought crashed into another, beating to the rhythm of her wild pulse. Could she outrun them? No. What would they do to her once they caught her? Horrible. She trembled at the very idea. They could scalp and murder her. Or. If they let her live, that might be worse.

With fear burning the back of her throat and her heart pounding like the wings of a canary against the bars of its cage, America walked toward the brave. Her legs shook so badly that they threatened to collapse. But she lifted her head high and pretended chance encounters like this happened every day.

She picked her way through the sagebrush and bunch grass beside the trail. The spotted pony snorted and showed the whites of its eyes. The leader’s dark gaze swept over America, making the hair on the back of her neck prickle.

The ground gave way as pain shot through her foot. She pitched forward and sprawled beside the pony’s prancing hooves.

The brave gave a command in his native tongue that quieted his pony. He leaned down to her. She stared at the hand he extended, then past it to his face. He watched her with an expression that told her nothing.

She pushed to her knees, drew breath, and took his hand.

The brave tugged America upward and caught her in a strong grip, lifting her to sit in front of him. She perched before him astride the pony with her skirt riding up to her knees. Heat rushed into her cheeks at being so immodestly displayed. He tightened his arm around her middle, and she fought the urge to scream. Whatever he intended, a clear head might help her survive. He’d spared her life so far, but for what purpose? She’d heard tales of women forced to live with natives but had never thought such a fate might befall her.

The pony lurched into motion beneath her and went through its paces, finally stretching into a gallop. The wind of their passing fanned her face. The thundering of hooves told her the other braves followed. The ground sped by as they overtook the train and curved into the path it would travel.

But this made no sense. Why would the brave carry her toward, rather than away from, the wagon train? Did he mean to trade her for goods?

A shout went up from the wagons.

The pony slid to a stop, and her captor lowered her with swift ease. He wheeled his pony to face his waiting companions but looked back with a smile touching his lips. “Brave woman.”

“You speak English?” The words jerked from her.

His smile broke into a grin, and the pony plunged forward as the shadow of a cloud raced over the ground.

America stared after this brave who had turned from captor to rescuer. He’d done none of the things she’d dreaded and everything necessary to help her. His behavior didn’t reconcile with what she’d been told about Indians, but now was not the time to puzzle that out.

She ran toward the wagons with the prairie wavering through a sheen of tears. Two riders pulled ahead of the train to meet her. America’s joy at being set free plummeted at first sight of the red-headed miner, Pete Amesly. Why would the last person she wanted to see right now ride out to meet her?

Grant Hadley, the wagon train’s scout, reined in his Morgan beside her. “Are you all right?”

Pete drew in his chestnut quarter horse on her other side and peered at her with narrowed eyes. “What were you doing with those Indians, anyways?”

“I’m well, thank you,” she answered Grant, ignoring Pete.

The grizzled scout squinted. “What happened?”

“I stopped for a few minutes and came across some Indians.” Describing her actions made them seem even more foolish.

Pete snorted. “Why would you do a fool thing like that?”

Heat flamed across America’s cheeks. She wasn’t about to tell Pete about Kyle or the locket he’d given her.

The wagon train reached them then, sparing her from commenting as the oxen lumbered by on either side. Here on the flat prairie, the drivers fanned out their wagons to avoid breathing one another’s dust.

“That’s not important.” Grant sent Pete a scalding look before returning his attention to America. “Let’s get you back to your wagon.”

“There’s Addie now.” She gave him a grateful smile and moved off to intercept her friend. Walking a safe distance beside her wagon and the oxen driven by her mop-headed son, Travis, Addie cradled Liberty in her arms.

“I was wondering where you were.” Addie gave her a quiet smile. “My arms are starting to ache.” She looked past America to Grant and Pete. “Gentlemen?”

America took Liberty’s weight into her arms and held her daughter close. Here was a treasure more precious than any locket. She fell into step beside Addie with tears blurring her vision.

Grant kept pace astride his Morgan. “She’s had some sort of mishap, ma’am.” He cleared his throat. “Maybe you can ask her about it. Find out if she’s come to harm in any way.” His ears turning pink, he gestured with his head to Pete, and they rode off.

Addie turned a frowning face toward her. “Tell me what happened.”

“He helped me.” America spoke on a note of wonder.

“Who helped you?”

“The Indian brave. I thought he meant to kill or kidnap me, or else trade me for goods. But he helped me instead.”

Addie shook her head. “Tell me from the beginning.”

“I lagged behind the wagon train.”

“You left the train on your own?”

“It was more like it left me, but yes. I meant to stop only for a short while to—well, to look for something I dropped.”

“But you know not to fall behind. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Mr. Hughes was talking with you, or I’d have said something. I didn’t want to call attention to myself. I was bound and determined not to slow the train.”

Addie sighed. “Does this have anything to do with Pete Amesly’s objections to your joining us?”

Moisture prickled America’s eyes. “Maybe he’s right. I can barely do my share with a baby to take care of.”

“That’s hardly your fault. Granted, if you had asked to join the train when we first set out, our captains might have refused, but leaving you stranded at Fort Bridger would be quite a different matter. Christian charity required us to rescue a widow in need. Under the circumstances, no one minds doing a little extra work for you.”

“Amesly objects.”

“Oh, pshaw! Pete is so taken with gold fever he’s lost his manners. The others don’t feel the same.”

“I fear he may be right, though. I’ve slowed the train and taken others from their own chores to attend mine. I can’t help feeling like a burden.”

“Why, America Liberty Reed! I’m appalled you would say such a thing. I don’t know what I’d have done after my Clyde—” She took a breath. “After the accident, I felt I couldn’t go on. My son tried to support me, but Travis had his own grief to bear over his father’s loss. Your company eased us both. You’re a blessing not a burden and remember—I need your help cooking for the miners at Bannack.”

The idea of cooking for miners held little appeal, but other options were in short supply. “I’m touched by your kindness, although I’m not sure why you want to cast your lot in with mine.”

Addie smiled. “That’s easy. Having your help makes me feel less—alone. And you need a friend. Never mind all that about not knowing you well, by the by. I’m a good judge of people, and I could tell right off you’re decent folk.”

Addie’s judgment of people must have faltered, but no need to tell her that. Liberty stirred. Her blue eyes opened to stare at America—eyes like her father’s. America hitched a breath.

No one ever had to know her secret.

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