Interview with Laura Schaefer, Ghost Writer

As promised, today I’ve got an interview with a guest writer, Laura Schaefer. Read on, and learn about the mysteries of professional ghost writing! 

  1. Could you first share a little about your writing background and how you got into ghost writing?

I began writing professionally after college in 2001. I started out creating articles for websites and curriculum for educational publishers. While I was delighted to control my own schedule and destiny as a freelance writer, I’ve always been drawn to books. I wrote and published my first book in 2005, then several middle-grade novels from there.

I should’ve been listening to my inner voice all along—the one saying, “Books, books, books…” because I would’ve gotten into helping others write their books much sooner!

I took on my first book-length ghostwriting project a few years ago, and I’ve felt right at home ever since. I have a lot of empathy for my clients, and love learning from each of them.

  1. A lot of my readers are students or young professionals. If they were interested in ghost writing for a living, what would you say are the most important skills or things to know? 

It’s important to hone your writing skills. Read widely, particularly in the genres you’d like to ghostwrite. Take note of how books are organized and what’s effective in terms of drawing you, the reader, in. This is a job you must learn by doing, so write your own books and help others to do so to build up your portfolio. It might be helpful to begin by ghostwriting shorter works like blogs or white papers to build up your chops.

One thing that really helped me was writing and editing for a marketing agency for two years. I turned out so much material for such a wide array of businesses in every industry you can imagine. It gave me the confidence to say, “I can write anything for anyone—and do it fast and well.” The pace was bonkers; I didn’t have time to question if my skills were up to snuff. I just did the research and wrote what needed to be written, day after day after day.

Jumping in the deep end like that made me a lot better at what I do.

  1. You currently focus on personal development, personal finance, and business books. Do you plan to expand to other genres in the future, and if so, which ones?

I enjoy those topics and I have a very entrepreneurial mindset, which is why they’ve been my focus. However, I’m also interested in health and fitness, overall wellness, and relationship topics. I evaluate a potential collaboration with a client on a case-by-case basis, and I’ve learned to trust my gut. I can usually tell in about 30 seconds if I’ll “click” with a client. If I do, I’m very open to whatever they want to write about!

  1. Without getting into your actual pricing structure, could you share a little insight into how you decided on your prices and what people get for their money?

Definitely! I am a member of the Association of Ghostwriters, and there is a certain standard pricing structure that most experienced ghosts follow. I base my pricing on that standard. It’s not an hourly rate; it’s a per-project fee.

I’d encourage anyone interested in hiring a ghostwriter to do their research. Fees for a book-length work generally start at around $15k, and that’s for a newer ghost like myself. The most experienced ghosts command six figures for their work, and rightly so.

  1. What’s a typical day like for you?

I prefer to do my ghostwriting work in the morning, so after I drop my daughter off at school, I get right to it. I usually only have one or maybe two clients at a time, so it’s pretty peaceful. I’m generally at my kitchen table, either preparing questions for my client, doing a recorded call with them, transcribing, or actually writing.

When I’m away from my desk, I’m often thinking about their book and how to make it better. It’s tough to turn off my brain. Taking very long walks is helpful for me and good for balancing out time at my desk.

  1. How long does a project typically take to complete?

It depends on the book, but I like to work fast. If my client is very responsive to my questions and makes him or herself available for an interview every week, we can do a whole book in 10 weeks—or less.

  1. What’s the best part about your job? 

Learning from my clients. Awesome people hire me. I feel like the universe is paying me to be a better, more knowledgeable person!

  1. What is/are the biggest challenge(s)?

Marketing. I’m not very good at getting my name out there, but I’m getting better. It’s an important part of running your own business, and as much as I’d rather write than market myself, it must be done.

  1. You’ve also been writing fiction of your own. Do you find that your client writing interferes with your own work?

Not at all. It’s a great balance, actually. I find it helpful to set aside a specific time in my day, usually late afternoon, for fiction.

  • If you had any advice for someone who wanted to hire a ghost writer, what’s the most important thing they should know–about the process, about working with a ghost writer, or just about working with you?

Talk to more than one ghost. Do your research about what it costs. Ask questions! Don’t be shy. I want to help you understand everything about how I work and what happens when the book is done. Trust your gut. The ghostwriter-client relationship is a close one, and you need to feel comfortable with your ghost to create the best book possible. I’ll nudge you to not hold anything back.

Note: The original post went out without a title and an incorrect URL. Apologies for the oversight.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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