Monday, June 2, 2008

Ghostwriting Part II: How to Land a Gig

Browse through the middle-grade or teen sections of any bookstore and you’ll find all kinds of series in every genre imaginable. Some series are published every single month for years on end, adding up to a staggering number of books. Are these books the work of a single, hyper-prolific insomniac? Not likely. Some are started with the best of intentions, with a single writer who writes maybe the first twelve books or so. Other series are merely created, only to have the grunt work farmed out from the get-go. Either way, most series are written by a rotating team of ghostwriters.

And this is where you come in. There is a very high turnover for ghostwriters, which means publishers are always looking for new talent. Writers-for-hire are a fickle sort, chasing down multiple jobs, flitting from one project to the next, launching their own work. This means that on any given series, there might be a job waiting for you.

The first step is to find a series that appeals to you. Let's say you’re not into teen fiction, but love science fiction--find something with that slant. Read a few books from the series. Is this something you can see yourself writing? If not, move on to something else. You have to find yourself interested in the series to some degree or your writing won’t ring true and the work will feel more like a job than a joy.

Once you’ve found a series you like, look at the copyright page. On it, you’ll see the publishing company and its address. All you have to do is write to the publisher (this is one of those few times when I’ll recommend contacting a publisher directly) and request the series guidelines, which is essentially an audition packet. Your letter for requesting the guidelines is simple:

Dear So-and-So:

I’m interested in writing for X series. Please send your guidelines to the following address. I’ve included a self-addressed, stamped envelope for your convenience.


That’s all. You don’t need to write a full-fledged query proclaiming your virtues—that will come later. I would write ATTN: X Series on the envelope to expedite the process.

Sometimes you’ll see another company listed with the publisher on the copyright page. This is the packager. In this case, you’d want to write your request to the packager instead of the publisher. A packager is a company that puts together many different series—from the acquisition of the series ideas, to the hiring of ghostwriters, to the editing and book design. Basically, a packager IS the publisher, and the publisher becomes the printer and distributor. It’s a little confusing, but the point is that you’ll have to write the above letter to the packager instead. What’s great about working with a packager is that if you develop a good relationship with the editors it can lead to many writing jobs for different series. You may also get the chance to pitch ideas for your own series.

Next time—how to "audition" for a series.

1 comment:

Elphine said...

This is wonderful, Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I found you by accident. How lucky of me and how beautiful life is sometimes so suddenly. May you have a very good day and best of luck with your stuff !