Name/Company name:Marcia Layton Turner

Dr. Marcia Layton Turner, president, Layton & Co., Inc. and executive director, Association of Ghostwriters

Website/SM handles:

Status: part-time/full-time?

Very full-time, lol.

Annual salary range/hourly pay rate?

I’ve earned $100k+ for more than 15 years.

My current hourly rate is $200 but I quote projects on a flat fee basis so as not to scare prospects away

Can you define the duties of a ghostwriter? What does your day look like?

A ghostwriter is an anonymous professional writer who creates documents, such as articles, blog posts, books, speeches, and white papers, to name a few, in such a way that they sound like someone else wrote them. A ghostwriter’s duties vary depending on the task but always involve writing the assignment in someone else’s voice.

I specialize in ghostwriting business books for CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs, and business owners, although I also write articles and blog posts for some corporate clients, too. My day is typically a mix of client input sessions (to gather the background information I need in order to draft book chapters or articles), online research to better understand what they’ve told me, writing drafts of chapters or articles, as well as writing articles and blog posts for my own website or for the Association of Ghostwriters. My days are rarely the same and always involve juggling billable tasks with marketing tasks designed to attract inquiries from my ideal clients.

What sort of training/education did you receive?

I have an undergraduate degree in sociology and psychology that required me to write multiple papers a week, it seemed. I attended a college (Wellesley) where many of my classes offered the option to take a final exam or write a paper. I always took the paper so that I could invest as much time as I needed to deliver a quality product, versus taking a chance that I would know all the answers in a two-hour test. By the end of my time there I was a decent writer, though I didn’t discover that until I arrived at the University of Michigan MBA program and was earning As on my papers pretty easily. That realization and newfound enjoyment of writing led me to accept a marketing communications job at Kodak, followed by starting my own marketing agency, and finally to pivoting to editorial work exclusively.

My training was more on the job by attending writing conferences and reading books and magazines on the craft.

Last year I earned my doctor of business administration (DBA) degree, where my writing skills were a definite advantage. My dissertation was “An In-depth Exploration of the Field of Book Ghostwriting,” where I explained why ghostwriting has exploded in the last 15 years.

What’s a recent project you worked on?

I recently finished ghostwriting a book about a leader’s tenure at a national corporation and how he balanced growing his company with making a positive impact on his community. It took about a year to finish and by the end, I felt like a true writing partner to my client. I’ve been increasingly using that terminology to describe my services to try to convey that I work alongside my clients — that their participation is crucial to the success of the project.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I tell people that I have the best job ever — I get paid to work with brilliant, creative entrepreneurs. As someone who loves to learn, I’m in heaven when I’m peppering clients with questions, posing “What if” scenarios, and pushing them to explain how they made important connections between concepts. Those interviews and conversations inevitably shed helpful light on some aspects of my business.

What’s something someone wanting to get into your career field should know?

Being an author and writing your own articles and books is different from helping write someone else’s articles or books in their voice; it requires a new skill set that not everyone has. You can certainly develop it with practice, but it’s important to know that you have to learn how to adopt someone else’s voice to be a ghostwriter.

And also, it’s hard to overcome that initial barrier to entry of having ghostwritten a book. Most clients prefer to work with a ghostwriter who has more experience than they have in producing a book, but it can be hard to land those types of assignments without having done it before. It’s a Catch-22 and often the best solution is to be willing to be paid less for that first assignment so that you can gain the experience required for more lucrative projects.

Are there any resources for breaking into the industry or internship opportunities you’re aware of that you can share?

The best way to break into the field is by landing assignments that provide ghostwriting experience. Although rates on Upwork are typically extremely low, there is a fair amount of demand for ghostwriting work there that could help an aspiring ghostwriter get some projects under their belt. Other places where ghostwriting opportunities are posted include Problogger, Copyblogger, and the Editorial Freelancers Association. At the Association of Ghostwriters, aspiring ghostwriters can tap into our community of experienced ghosts, to learn how best to position themselves for work.

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