#063: Ghostwriting Business Books — A Realistic Six-Figure Opportunity for Strong Writers

It’s not every day that I come across an idea in the freelancing world that gets me super excited.

But when I recently sat down with freelance ghostwriter Derek Lewis, I found myself taking a ton of notes … and thinking of ways I could shift my writing business to do what HE does!

Derek is a very successful business-book ghostwriter. He’s also the author of the new book The Business Book Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Write a Good Business Book.

And in this interview, he gives us a detailed and very exciting look into the world of book ghostwriting.

  • What it is
  • What it involves
  • The best target markets for this work
  • What you can charge
  • How to find clients
  • And who’s best suited for this type of writing

This is a realistic six-figure opportunity for strong writers who enjoy longer-format projects and working closely with a client for an extended period of time. And as you’ll see, the rewards go way beyond the financial.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or on Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Tell us about yourself

Derek is a business ghostwriter. He helps thought leaders write their business books.

His clients are usually business owners and consultants. They need a book to help people understand what they offer and what they do. It’s a way to market their services and connect on a personal level.

How did you get started as a ghostwriter?

Derek’s background is business management and consulting. About five or six years ago, he was working as a marketer and copywriter when he responded to an ad for help writing a business book. That was his first ghostwriting project.

How did your business grow from there?

Through that first project, Derek discovered he was better at long form than short form writing. He redirected his business from copywriting to ghostwriting.

Derek’s business took off when he found a mentor in Claudia Suzanne. He took her ghostwriting course, which gave him the skills and confidence he needed to build his business. Before, he had been severely undervaluing his skills. He began charging market rates and his business took off.

Describe the relationship between the author of a book and the ghostwriter

Ghostwriting should be a true collaboration between author and writer. Authors are the source of the content. They have the ideas. But they don’t have the skills to put their ideas into a well-crafted book. That’s what the writer does.

What kind of clients do you look for?

Most of Derek’s clients have owned their own business for 10-15 years. They’re often consultants.

There are lots of bad business books out there. People write them expressly as a marketing tool. The books don’t have any added value.

A good business book will have some marketing elements. But Derek’s ideal clients have true insights and experience they want to share.

Have you had any success ghostwriting for high-level corporate executives?

Derek’s currently ghostwriting a book for a couple of executives. The corporate world does have ghostwriting opportunities.

While he tends to attract business owners, some ghostwriters work only with people in the corporate world.

What fees do these projects command?

Generally, junior professional ghostwriters start at $25,000 for a full-length manuscript. Most professional ghostwriters start in the $35,000-55,000 range.

Ghostwriters hired by publishers tend to fall in the $50,000-$80,000 range. Really experienced ghostwriters fall in $75,000 to six-figure range.

Some ghostwriters charge more. Ghostwriters who write for celebrities often charge in the range of $120,000-$150,000. Legends in the ghostwriting field sometimes charge half a million for a manuscript.

If you have some experience, and combine that with decent sales and marketing, you can make $100,000-$120,000 per year by working on three books and charging $35,000 per book.

Business book ghostwriting is definitely a 6-figure opportunity for strong writers.

How do you get most of your clients?

Almost all of his clients have found him though his website. Although he’s tried outbound marketing techniques (e.g. cold calls, direct mail, targeted email) he’s had more success with organic SEO.

Finding people who want to author a book is easy. But it’s hard to find people who are ready to author a book now and have the money to do it.

When prospects contact him, they’ve already done their homework because it’s a big investment.

How much of your business comes from referrals?

Derek has landed only one client from a referral. Referrals are challenging for ghostwriters because many authors are reluctant to talk about their ghostwriter. For some people, ghostwriting has a stigma. This stigma lessens as you reach higher-level clients.

What do ghostwriting and pest control services have in common? People don’t want to admit they use them.

What’s the most important thing in a successful ghostwriting gig?

The personal connection between author and writer is important. If they don’t fit, then the book will reflect that disconnect.

Do most ghostwriters specialize? What are the pros and cons of picking a niche market?

The division is about 50-50. Generally, the more experienced the ghostwriter, the more he/she will specialize.

With his background in business, it made sense for Derek to specialize. It lessened the learning curve. The more he specializes, the easier it is to sell, raise his fees and get better clients.

He’s discovered that his authors aren’t bad writers. Often, they’re great writers—but they can’t be objective about what they know.

As a business ghostwriter, your job is to get ideas out of your client’s head and onto paper.

When you’re starting out, specializing too much can make it harder to land clients. Often you need to get your feet wet before you can narrow your target market.

How can someone get started in this type of work?derek

1. Take Claudia Suzanne’s course on ghostwriting. It’s offered through California State University Long Beach, College of Continuing and Professional

Education. It’s a two-semester course online course.

2. Get the support you need to optimize your company’s sales and marketing.

Tell us about your new book

Derek’s new book is The Business Book Bible: Everything You Need to Know to Write a Good Business Book.

It’s a great resource for writers looking to get into these kinds of projects.

To get free bonus material with your purchase, order the book through Derek’s website: http://dereklewis.com/the-business-book-bible