The reason I love ghostwriting so much is because it’s the most rewarding—financially and emotionally—work I’ve ever done. I can’t adequately describe how wonderful it is to see the smiles and hear the sobs of joy in between “thank yous” from a client who has wanted to write a book and never thought it possible until working with me. And that doesn’t factor in the warm fuzzies I feel when my bank account grows!
However, those moments are fewer and farther between than I’d prefer. To reach those heights, I first have to go through the depths and dregs of humanity: People who are tire kickers, cheapskates, or genuinely ignorant about what ghostwriting really entails.
For every job I accept, I reject at least six, and I can even categorize my reasons to refuse. Here are some of my favorites.
He didn’t understand the investment
Early in my career as a professional ghostwriter, a young man contacted me about writing his memoir. He had been in gangs and gotten out and done something with his life. He wanted to tell his story. He even had started writing and gave me a draft.
When I read it, I was immediately shocked at how pedestrian it was, but I figured that was why he wanted to hire a ghostwriter. I remember a story in which he wrote about how he was listening to a song in 1982. The problem was the song didn’t come out until 1984. Okay, I thought, I’ll be doing a lot of fact checking.
I went to his house. It was in a low-income neighborhood, the kind with bars on all the doors and windows. I started talking to him about how much time and money writing a memoir takes, and his responses made it clear that he really wanted to do it and promised to come up with the money. That told me that he wasn’t a fit because he made it clear he didn’t understand how much investment he would have to make. I could have worked with him and taken his money until he ran out and then abandoned the project, but I didn’t want to work like that. So, I declined.
A year later, I got another call from him. He was still trying to find a ghostwriter and didn’t remember that we had met. When I reminded him, he tried to hide his embarrassment, and I pretended I didn’t notice.
They didn’t understand the cost
The most common reason I turn down jobs is because the prospect doesn’t understand how much ghostwriting costs. One time, a man who said he was the brother of a famous rapper wanted me to ghostwrite his book about being on the edges of celebrity (think “20 Feet from Stardom” but from a family perspective).
I asked him about his budget. He said $200. Since this was early in my career, I expressed shock and proceeded to tell him that ghostwriting costs thousands of dollars. He then expressed shock.
This taught me to always tell prospects that ghostwriting books isn’t cheap.
It also isn’t cheap for blog writing. More recently, someone contacted me at my website and asked for “5 high quality articles related to my business, that I can post on medium and then share them on different social media handles.” He had an event business in Bangkok and wanted pricing.
I responded by telling him that before I could give him a price, I would need to know how many articles, the word count, who would research, and deadlines. He told me 1,000 words, I would do the research, and he wants them all in about 15 days.
I told him $1,000 an article.
“That’s too much,” he wrote back. “I was thinking more like $100.”
I contemplated telling him, “You get what you pay for” and suggesting he go to Fiverr or some place like that, but I instead left it alone. I’ve told people this story, and they always laugh.
We philosophically disagreed
When I ghostwrite blogs or websites, I have a particular philosophy: The reader or website visitor doesn’t care about you, your process, or all the things you do. All they care about is “What can you do for me?” So, the blog or website must be written with that in mind.
I was introduced to a British telecommunications company who wanted blog posts to sell their technology. The problem was they wanted posts to explain in some detail about how the technology worked. I tried to tell them that nobody really cares how the technology worked, only that it would work for them in various ways, and I suggested posts that would highlight the various ways the technology would work for them.
They weren’t interested. So I wasn’t interested.
Thanks to technology such as Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Meet, I no longer have to be in the same city as a client. And thanks for Zelle, PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, clients no longer have to write checks, and I don’t have to wait for them to send payment.
But that doesn’t mean everyone is up to date. I didn’t take a job because a guy who enjoyed a professional baseball career insisted I meet with him in person to work on his memoir. He was in San Diego, and I was in Los Angeles.
Finally, there was the guy this year who couldn’t figure out how to pay me electronically. He had signed a contract but didn’t get me my first payment. So, the website project stalled.
These things happen, but I don’t get discouraged. I simply turn them into posts.
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