Want a Free Manuscript Analysis?

No, not from me—Claudia Suzanne’s Ghostwriting Certification class needs manuscripts to work on. If you have a never-published book manuscript that you’d like some feedback on, contact claudia [at] wambtac [dot] com.

And don’t worry, the students who will be working on the manuscript are all aspiring ghostwriters. They won’t take your work and try to pass it off as their own—their job is doing the opposite.

New Ghostwriter Certification Classes Starting July 11th

This may be your last chance to take Claudia Suzanne’s entire Ghostwriter Certification Training course in one term: she’s training student teachers to take over GCT instruction. Claudia is brilliant, and it won’t be the same without her, though I’m sure anyone she trains will be competent, and her book is great to work from.

Here are the details about the course.

Ready to launch your new career? Join me for this last blast of eight (seriously intense) weeks and prepare to earn a professional ghostwriter’s income!

When: Mondays & Thursdays, 4-7 pm PDT

Dates: July 11 – Aug 26

Tuition: $1080.00

Required Texts: $130.40


“In short, I’ve been blown away by the caliber of the course and your generosity. It’s rare to find a course so affordably priced that offers so much exceptional content, a fun, engaging instructor plus ongoing one-on-one coaching."In these 15 weeks, I feel you’ve guided us through the depth and breadth of ghostwriting, its agonies and ecstasies, and taught us all we need to know to succeed. Thanks for a fabulous course!”

Patricia Robertson, certified ghostwriter

“GCT is a graduate level course that will demand a lot of your time. In return, be prepared to learn the nuts and bolts of this new career from the expert. Claudia Suzanne knows her stuff extremely well. And she’s compassionate about helping her students learn. So set aside the time for class and then another four to six hours a week for homework. You’ll be glad you did.”

Victory Crayne, certified ghostwriter

“This course has been invaluable and has given me an avenue for making a living through writing. How fabulous is that!?”

Liv Haugland, certified ghostwriter

Class size, as always, is severely limited. Sign up now to reserve your seat.


Claudia Suzanne

Wambtac Communication

Academia and Ghostwriting Don’t Mix, Part 2

Back in 2005, I wrote a long post about why I won’t ghostwrite student essays. I will—the professor permitting—help graduate students with editing and formatting theses for readability and conformity to style guides, and I will help academics revise their theses for publication as books. I don’t get that much call to do this, in part, I suspect, because of the very marginal salaries paid to academics and the comparatively high fees I charge. (And the better university presses may still have enough editorial staff available to provide support for their authors.)

I’m also talking to my colleague Max Hansen about helping entrepreneurs write articles for business journals. He has done this before with some success. Most of these journals are published by academic institutions, but the people we would be working for are not academics. If they were, they wouldn’t need help to be able to write in an academic style. Instead, they’re real-world experts who want to share their hands-on knowledge with an academic audience. They don’t need ghostwriters to be their brains, only to be their interpreters.

Researchers within the academy can no doubt benefit from good editors—many write jargon impenetrable even to their peers—but the condition of promotion in an academic job is the production and publication of original research. Original. As in, you do it yourself. Depending on your field, you might actually be doing it with a team of junior assistants, but at the very least you are directing that team.

I was trained as a classical philologist. That means I studied Greek and Latin language and literature. It’s not a discipline that accepts multi-authored papers for considerations of tenure. You and the primary sources and the secondary literature to which you are attempting to add have to sit down and wrestle your way to a new and preferably useful perspective on works more than 2000 years old. This can on occasion be a tiny bit challenging, so philologists seize eagerly on every fad in literary criticism—usually about 10 years after the English department has declared it passé. I thought I had a pretty good angle, myself (examining Greek and Roman drama through the lens of modern performance), but had to leave the profession about ten years ago with my dissertation unfinished and my hypotheses unproven.

Academia is a tough row to hoe. Entry-level jobs set assistant professors Sisyphean tasks: they are supposed to simultaneously teach, publish, and do committee work. Even if they do all of this and have respectable peer-reviewed journal articles and a monograph by the time they’ve made it through six years, the university may decide to deny them tenure so it can hire someone cheaper rather than promoting them, and they’ll have to leave and start over somewhere else. That’s if a newly-minted PhD can get a job in the first place, of course. Small surprise that I know an English PhD working for a web design firm, a Latinist at ILM, and a Greek scholar building Lotus applications.

Today I received an offer of work from a desperate young philologist whose name I won’t mention in the hopes that this person will see sense and opt out of career self-immolation. Let’s call this person “Ou Tis.” (Classics joke. If you don’t get it, read the Cyclops scene in the Odyssey.) Due to extreme pressure to publish, Ou Tis wanted to hire me to write articles for peer-reviewed journals, and eventually a book. Because of my background, Ou Tis thought I would be qualified to produce work of sufficient quality.

Never mind the fact that I left academia in 1998 and am decidedly behind on current scholarship. I do live near an excellent research library. I could, in theory, catch up.

But I won’t.

First, I respect my former colleagues far too much to help someone I don’t even know get out  of doing the work they had to do in order to get ahead in the profession.

Second, though I think there are real problems with the tenure system and the expectations placed on junior faculty, cheating is not the way to fix it.

Third, I can pretty much guarantee that Ou Tis doesn’t make in a year what it would cost to have me write an academic book, and it’s not as though the publisher is going to provide a huge advance. (The retail price of academic books is shocking, in part because print runs are so small, and in part because of the cost of photo permissions and other copyright clearances. Scholars do not get rich publishing books for other scholars.) So it’s not as though Ou Tis can even offer me a fee of a size that would provide me with an ethical dilemma.

Read my lips, folks. No medical ghostwriting. No academic ghostwriting. There are times when you have to do your own work.

If you want help popularizing that original research, now—then we can talk.

Ghostwriter Certification Classes Start March 7th

From Claudia Suzanne’s newsletter:

Whether you want to change your freelancing status, enhance your income, or just improve your writing skills, Ghostwriter Certification Training is the pinnacle of writing classes.

You won’t find these clear-cut techniques for writing, editing, and submitting novels and nonfiction anywhere else—nor the unique ghostwriting skills and proven “insider” secrets that can transform a run-of-the-mill freelancing career into a $75,000 – $150,000 or more Writing Professional  career.


  • How to do an A&R
  • How to find the “gold” in any manuscript
  • How to determine BISAC selection
  • How to advise the three types of authors on publishing options
  • The scope of responsibility for the various ESPs
  • The variances between the author’s writing process and the ghostwriting process
  • How to chart nonfiction
  • How to apply a content template (not MS Word formatting)
  • How to maintain the author’s voice
  • How to do multiple “spins” (while maintaining the author’s voice)
  • The variances between passive, static, and active voice; when and how to convert; and when to not
  • The variances between and basic principles of line and copy editing
  • How to build a nonfiction proposal and query letter and research a submission list
  • The variances between plot and character driven novels
  • PMA+A
  • The elements of fiction writing
  • The parameters of fiction A&Rs
  • How to map a plot w/characters
  • Meet-in-the-Middle

Classes start next Monday, March 7. Go to http://claudiasuzanne.com/gct  for details and registration, or call toll-free at 1-800-641-3936. Class size severely limited.

Act now!

Claudia Suzanne has ghostwritten more than 100 books, both fiction and non-fiction, and she really knows her stuff. Plus, she’s been teaching for years. Not all those who have a skill can teach it, but Claudia can. You can’t do better than to learn from her.

And no, I am not getting a kickback for recommending these classes. I just think Claudia rocks.

Does Competition for Publishers Make a Good Market for Ghostwriters?

The Business of Art, by Ellen Cushing

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from a reporter for the East Bay Express, a free weekly paper here in the Bay Area. The reporter, a fellow Brown graduate, was writing about careers for creative people.

The Business of Art, by Ellen Cushing
This article appeared in the January 12, 2011 edition of the East Bay Express

The article, titled “The Business of Art”, focuses mainly on how hard it is to make a living as an artist and how little most art schools do to prepare students to find work. I stand by my quote: ghostwriting provides a more reliable income than writing for magazines or pitching your work to agents and publishers. There’s that old joke: “The difference between a full-time writer and a large pizza is that the pizza can feed a family of four.”

I warn my clients that not many authors make a significant income from book sales. That’s not because I want to drive them off, but because I want them to have realistic expectations. There are many ways besides a six-figure advance and getting on the New York Times best-seller list to measure a book’s success. And many non-fiction books bring their authors considerable indirect revenue by boosting their consulting and speaking businesses.

But any book published today is competing for attention with a shockingly large number of other new books. (It’s hard  to be quite sure just how many, but Bowker reported 764,448 self-published books and 288,355 traditionally published books in 2009.) Though most of these books are not real competition—they are in the wrong genre, or of laughably poor quality, or only produced for family  members—the sheer number of them creates a lot of noise against which you have to make your book marketing signal stand out.

So will all that competition drive hordes of young to become ghostwriters instead of novelists? My guess is, “probably not.” Ghostwriting is definitely more popular as a career than it used to be, but it requires one skill that’s exactly the opposite of the one aspiring Hemingways and Byatts are trying to develop. You have to subsume your own style and personality into that of your client. It’s a better job for a beat reporter than for a columnist. While it’s a highly creative activity, it’s more like translation than like original writing.

Young artists, as I remember from being one, are often taught (by peers, movies, literature, and probably something hormonal) that being an artist involves certain behaviors and personality traits, most of them highly irritating to other people, and all of them egocentric. None of these are useful to a career as a ghostwriter. (They probably aren’t useful to any career, which may be why there’s a stereotype of a starving artist.) Ghostwriters are often legally constrained from walking around saying “Look at me! I’m so talented! See what I did!”

However, if you do have the temperament to become a ghostwriter, and an interest in it, I highly recommend you sign up for Claudia Suzanne’s Ghostwriter Certification Classes. Claudia has ghostwritten more than 100 books and has been teaching others to do so for years, and she’s brilliant. (And no, I don’t get any kickbacks for saying that.)

For many artists, it’s likely to be easier to find an ordinary day job than to retool as a commercial whatever. But don’t rule it out entirely—you might find you enjoy it if you try.

Finding Your Client’s Voice

A few days ago on LinkedIn, I came across someone who was trying his hand at ghostwriting for the first time. He had jumped in at the deep end and was writing from recorded interviews rather than a draft, and the client objected that what the writer produced wasn’t in his voice. According to the aggrieved novice ghost, his client’s voice “is pretty much gibberish.”

Some clients do, alas, suffer from a certain lack of coherence, particularly during interviews, where they may be hunting for the best way to express something, or even formulating their ideas on the fly. A straight transcription of such a conversation reads like a fox backtracking through a stream to throw the hounds off its trail. But correcting grammar, eliminating redundancy, and getting to the point fast enough to keep the reader from falling asleep don’t have to neuter your prose. Even if you have no actual writing samples from which to deduce a style (or the writing is as hopeless as the conversation), your client still has a voice.

Everyone uses characteristic expressions when speaking and writing. Some of these are regional; some are generational; some passed down in a family; and some may be unique creations of the user. Chances are you can easily list several such expressions used by your close friends and family members. My mother always used to say “destructions” for “instructions.” (Sometimes I do, too, as a result.) I had a high school friend who would say “Damn skippy!” where others said “Damn straight.” My housemate says “Meanwhile, back at the ranch” when she wants to contrast two situations. Neville Hobson’s predilection for the word “kerfuffle” has become an inside joke on the For Immediate Release podcast, as has his co-host Shel Holtz’ classic consultant’s answer, “It depends.”

Famous ghostwriter Claudia Suzanne includes such expressions among what she calls an author’s “tells,” along with characteristic sentence structure and perspective or intent. Everyone, no matter how poor a writer, has these “tells,” and part of what distinguishes you as a ghostwriter from other writers is your ability to discover and preserve your client’s “tells”—and to be aware of and eliminate your own.

If your client is not a native English speaker, and you are not fluent in your client’s first language, it’s much harder to identify these “tells,” but not impossible. Vocabulary is the biggest challenge, unless your client is very fluent, because you don’t know whether word choice is dictated by a limited phrase book or is actually meaningful. In most cases, you’re going to want to correct any misused words, however charming the error.

But even when you can’t get a direct experience of your client’s natural writing and speaking style, you can certainly get an impression of his or her personality. Sometimes it’s more illuminating to ask the client’s friends or colleagues than to rely on your own impression, because s/he may be more reserved or formal with strangers or people from another culture. Is this a person of few words or many? One whose natural style is academic, learned, even a little dry, or passionate and energetic? A big-picture person or a detail person? Does s/he care about being approachable, or respected? All of these things can help you choose an appropriate writing style.

In the case of the client who has long, rambling telephone conversations, it may be necessary to preserve a rolling style, with multiple clauses per sentence, rather than writing the short sentences you think are better suited to the reader’s short attention span. A client who wants to be approachable wouldn’t write with intimidating vocabulary words or lots of jargon, but one who wants to impress people might.

Unless you know your client very well, you’re unlikely to get the voice perfect in the first draft. Ghostwriting is a collaborative process. It’s your client’s job to go over what you’ve written and make corrections for voice as well as for facts, then give the draft back to you for revisions. As you make the corrections and discuss the manuscript with your client, you’ll develop a better feel for the best way to convey someone else’s identity in writing.

Sign Up Now for Claudia Suzanne’s Spring Ghostwriter Certification Course

Claudia Suzanne is that contradiction in terms, a famous ghostwriter. After ghostwriting more than 100 titles, both fiction and non-fiction, she knows her stuff. If you want to know it, too, you can sign up for one of her semester-long Ghostwriter Certification courses. She teaches them in-person down in San Diego, and over the phone for everyone else. The cost is $930 plus an $89 materials fee; there’s a payment plan option.

Here’s a list of topics covered:

    • How to do an A&R
    • How to find the “gold” in any manuscript
    • How to determine BISAC selection
    • How to advise the three types of authors on publishing options
    • The scope of responsibility for the various ESPs
    • The variances between the author’s writing process and the ghostwriting process
    • How to chart nonfiction
    • How to apply a content template (not MS Word formatting)
    • How to maintain the author’s voice
    • How to do multiple “spins” (while maintaining the author’s voice)
    • The variances between passive, static, and active voice; when and how to convert; and when to not
    • The variances between and basic principles of line and copy editing
    • How to build a nonfiction proposal and query letter and research a submission list
    • The variances between plot and character driven novels
    • PMA+A
    • The elements of fiction writing
    • The parameters of fiction A&Rs
    • How to map a plot w/characters
    • Meet-in-the-Middle
    • How to ghostwrite supplemental scenes while maintaining the author’s voice
    • How to ghostwrite full novels while maintaining the author’s story, characters, vision, premise, theme, intent and “tells”
    • The variances between “show” and “tell”; when and how to convert; and when to not
    • How to create a compelling submission synopsis and query letter and research a submission list
    • How to create a personal resume and credit list while maintaining client confidentiality
    • How to find clients and how to get clients to find you
    • How to set reasonable fees, bid projects, and write equitable contracts
    • How to assess clients and control the initial contact to land the gig
    • How to establish and maintain authority and avoid or handle problems as they arise

I would love to take this course, but haven’t had a chance yet. I do know the classes fill up quickly, so if you’re an aspiring ghostwriter, you should head to Claudia’s website to register. (And don’t mind the painful collision of font colors—she’s a writer, not a web designer.)

Ghostwriting for a Dead Man

My first ghostwriting client was a dead man.

It was a pro-bono job.

I realize this is not the way most ghostwriters start their careers.

I was in graduate school at the time, working on a PhD in Classical Studies at the University of Michigan. Before I could start working on my dissertation, I had to complete three preliminary exams or papers. For my Special Author in Latin, I chose Plautus. The specific project was reconstructing Cistellaria, a play dated to about 200 BCE and missing about a third of its text due to damaged manuscripts. (You can see the Latin text here and the 1912 translation on the Perseus Project website.)

I didn’t think of reconstructing Cistellaria as a problem in ghostwriting. It was a problem in script analysis, the process by which a director works backward through the action of a play to find out what in each scene could not have happened without the scene before. The missing parts of Cistellaria are scattered through the middle of the text, so examining the later scenes made it clear what had to have happened in the missing lines. (We know how many lines are missing because of the way manuscript pages are constructed.)

Without finding a lost papyrus containing the missing parts of the script, there’s no way to figure out what Plautus actually did say in the missing lines. But there’s more than enough left of Cistellaria to know how the different characters behave and speak, and to know Plautus’ style. (There are also several complete plays to go by.)

This close study of the client’s previous writing is very similar to the way I work with clients today, though I have an advantage now in that I can get their confirmation that I have succeeded in capturing their “voice.”

Melaenis and Alcesimarchus from the 1994 production of Easy Virtue
1994 production of Easy Virtue in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Photo by Peter Smith

In 1994, I had to convince an audience made up substantially of my classmates and instructors that Easy Virtue, as I called my reconstruction, not only worked as a comedy in performance, but sounded convincingly like Plautus. I had a slight advantage, because I wasn’t writing in Latin. Therefore I didn’t have to match Plautus’ style exactly. (And while Plautus’ Latin is difficult at first because it’s more archaic than, say, Caesar’s Gallic Wars, the kind of comedy he writes is easy to adapt for a modern audience.)

The key scene in Cistellaria revolves around a box, or cistella, whose contents prove that the heroine is really the daughter of the Rich Couple Next Door. It’s a scene involving a lot of physical comedy (for which director Kate Mendeloff created some wonderful stage business), as the character who dropped the box searches frantically all over the stage, not knowing that the people she meant to give it to have already found it and picked it up.

After the production, one of my classmates asked whether that scene was the one I’d written, so I figured I must have done something right.

And though I didn’t know it at the time, that was the beginning of my ghostwriting career. While I’ve learned a lot since then, one thing hasn’t changed: my goal is still to create a final document where no one can tell which parts my client wrote and which parts I wrote.

You can read the script for Easy Virtue here.

What Does a Ghostwriter Do?

Asked by Adam Fields on LinkedIn, August 9, 2009.

Real ghostwriting, as opposed to what self-publishing guru Dan Poynter calls “contract writing,” involves writing in another person’s “voice.”

To explain the distinction, contract writing is “Go write me an article/blog post/white paper on topic X, and give it to me when you’re finished.”

Ghostwriting means I sit down with the client and get to know him or her, the way s/he speaks and thinks, what really matters to him or her, why s/he wants to write a book, etc. Then I use materials such as recordings of the client’s speaking engagements, interviews, notes and other written materials the client has (from e-mail messages and blog posts to short articles), to help me build up the book.

Then we pass the manuscript back and forth to make corrections for accuracy of style, tone, fact, and grammar, and finally we have a book that’s a joint effort. The client’s name absolutely belongs on this book: it’s his or her ideas and expertise that the book contains.

My name could go on the book, or not. I certainly appreciate having an acknowledgment. But I get paid for the work I’ve done, and the author and publisher might not if the book doesn’t earn out its initial investment. The obscurity is worth it.