The Age of the Ghost Writer

It was 2010. I was working on a screenplay at a Starbucks on Ventura Blvd, Encino, Los Angeles. By the end of the first week it was clear: I was not the only freelancer in LA! After counting, I was actually just one of fifteen in this Starbucks who weren’t just popping in to pick up latte’s and frappuccinos. Mid California summer – we were spending the entire day inside, safe in the tranquility of the air conditioning with our butter croissants, laptops and MacBook’s – some of us on just one espresso a day, others one an hour. ‘Do you come here every day?’ I asked one of the writers thumping away at his own movie script. ‘Brother, this has been my office for three months’. I looked around, we were all focused in on our writing, we were ‘the freelancers’ of Ventura Blvd.
Four year later, I find myself working at a different venue, a restaurant encircled by Macbook’s, tablets, iPhones and laptops. But I was not at a Starbucks in the LA valley, surrounded by designer logo’s, botoxed skin and beaming white teeth. No no, I was at a farmhouse converted into a restaurant in the Himalayas… North India, surrounded by yogi’s, backpackers, babas and  buddhist monks. The hoards of passing Harley’s had been replaced with mules, goats, cows, monkeys and shepherds, burritos replaced with bhajees, the LA Times with the Hindu Times. My location had changed but the situation had not. It didn’t matter where I travelled, I was no longer the only freelancer in the village. Everyone was at it!
Convenience, cheap coffee, wifi hotspots and MacBook Pro’s with eight hours of burly battery beef: everyone is freelancing – proofreading, building graphics, doing SEO, and the environment is perfect for it… but none seem more acutely aware of trends, culture, changing times and opportunity than the freelance writer. Because of this, freelance writers are quietly realising that there is money to be made as a ghost writer as the jobs are big and the employment now lasts over a period of six months, instead of six days. Writing a book as a ghost writer for someone who spent half their life in a jail is much more appealing to a writer than a few articles on Pilates for fifty quid. As a result, freelance writers are beginning to re-brand themselves as ‘ghost writers’. But is a copy editor or proofreader posing as a ghost writer capable of handling entire film scripts and autobiographies? The question remains, who is the right ghost for you? Which freelancer in that Starbucks cafe do you want to write your book?
The answers seem to lie in the ghost writers portfolio of work. In the same way you (the customer) if having a painting commissioned by an artist would review the artists prior work, it is important that you request samples of your prospective ghost writer to check their proficiency and creative skillset. You are, after all, about to hire a ghost writer for a fee and you want to make sure that he or she is capable of doing the job. You want to make sure that they aren’t copy editors posing as creative ghost writers. Think of hiring a ghost writer like hiring a personal trainer, you will want to meet them, see how they move and know that they are fit, strong and capable. You will feel assured when you find out that they have ten years of experience under their belts and the proof of this is in their bodies and their ability to teach and answer questions on bodies. A ghost writer has a body too – a body of work, and their ability to lead you through the process and their ability to answer your questions based on experience is key when selecting your ghost writer.
Is your writer another freelance writer jumping from one copy editing ship to the next? Or are they experienced and capable creatives who can lead you down the siddhartha road? Freelance writers are shifting in their market strategy and going ghost writer crazy, but without a portfolio covering vast subjects in different styles, how will you as a customer know who the right ghost writer is? If your ghost writer has not got a live portfolio online, request samples from them, and I’ll see you in Starbucks.


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