Back in mid-2018, I got an email from an emerging platform for book ghostwriting and editing. Reedsy — a UK-based site that pairs would-be authors with ghostwriters, editors, designers and marketers — was looking for more book ghostwriters to join its platform. Was I interested?
I was, at least mildly. I know that in general, mass platforms that aggregate writers together and pit them against each other in a race to the bottom on price aren’t a great place for writers to hang out.
But I was curious. Unlike most content mills, which offer low-paid blog-post and article gigs, this was for book ghostwriting…
Which is the exact type of writing I’d recently narrowed my focus to, as far as the ideal client for my own freelance writing biz.
I’d done my first ghostwritten book in 2012, and had always wanted to do more in this vein. So I decided to check Reedsy out to see if it really was a viable place for a book ghostwriter to find clients.
Checking out the rates
I had some back and forth with the manager who’d emailed me the invite, to learn about rates.
What I heard didn’t excite me — many book-writing jobs appeared to be at rates far below the professional rate of $35,000-$50,000, for a full-length book. More like $5,000-$10,000 or so, as I’ve heard goes on (or less, even) on some content mills.
But they had traffic, and a lot of leads coming through. So I decided to sign on as an experiment, and see what happened.
Could I find a pro-rate client on here?
After all, what did I have to lose by posting a profile and seeing what developed? Maybe there were some gold nuggets in there, among the lowballers.
So I signed up.
Over 2 years later, I’m back with my report on trying to get hired as a book ghostwriter on Reedsy. Read on for insider tips, on what I’ve gleaned since.
Set up a book ghostwriter profile
Your first step on Reedsy is to apply — they do vet their talent and look for experienced creatives. If you’re approved, your next step is to set up your profile.
I didn’t take this step all that seriously in the beginning. After all, I have a writer website with scores of links to clips. Can’t the Reedsy prospects just look there?
No. No, they can’t.
I was slow to catch onto this, but when prospects find you on Reedsy:
- They can’t see your identifying details
- You can’t link out to portfolios elsewhere.
- Why? Reedsy wants your entire interaction to stay on Reedsy (more about this challenge below).
But I was foolish at first. I basically just wrote a quick bio, added my photo, and uploaded a couple of my more recent books and e-books to my Reedsy profile.
Instead of fleshing it out with all my books/ebooks, awards, and social-proof of blogging success. That would come later, after an editor pointed out to me I should put it all on Reedsy.
At first blush, I just put up the basics.
Then, I sat back to watch what would happen.
Payments and commissions
Big thing to know about Reedsy:
You’ll need a Stripe account.
Fortunately, I already had one, from an earlier experiment with accepting credit cards, so I just kicked it back to life and hooked it to Reedsy.
- Don’t skip this step. If you’re hoping to browse around and decide about using Reedsy later, if you get a paying gig, bad news — you can’t bid on any offers without the Stripe account. You’ll need to set it up from the start.
Commissions on Reedsy total 20%, which yes, is steep. The good news is only 10% of it comes off our fee — the other 10% is charged to the client, on top of your fee.
Wait and watch
First thing to know about Reedsy: You don’t gain access to a database of clients looking for writers or projects you can bid on.
This is a passive situation
Your profile advertises you on Reedsy, and all you can do is wait for someone to discover you and ask you to bid on their writing job.
- Clients can invite up to five writers per job — so it’s not exactly a cattle call, which is nice. But you’ve gotta be invited.
- When a client does invite you to bid on their offer, you get an email notice. Then you can log into Reedsy, read their offer, and respond from there. That’s it.
On the plus side…
Reedsy doesn’t take much of your marketing time. On the minus, you have no control over how fast this process rolls, or how many offers you might see.
I did start to get nibbles soon after I completed my profile — and made a discovery about Reedsy’s clientele.
It’s not all books
I learned right away that Reedsy isn’t just about book writing jobs. For example:
My first lead was from a startup CEO who wanted a blogger. He was hoping to do a series of blog posts and then turn that into a book.
This isn’t an entirely bad idea, but tends to result in far lower fees for us, as the book ghostwriter, due to the fact that blog-post rates are generally low out there. It also takes a year or more to play out and get all those blog posts written and published.
Think about it like this:
Blogging is pretty much the gateway drug for freelance writing — the bottom rung we often start on. So that wasn’t super-exciting.
I was busy at the time, so I referred this lead to one of my coaching students from my Freelance Writers Den learning and support writer community. Not sure the CEO ever followed up, as his job is marked ‘overdue’ and open on Reedsy, to this day.
Ten more leads trickled in over the next year, but none were of high interest to me.
That was my next big lesson…
Just because someone fills out an offer form on Reedsy, doesn’t mean they know a single thing about the process of creating and marketing a book. Or have a great idea for a book that you’d want to devote 4-6 months of your life to working on, either.
Few clues, few responses
In short order, I found myself browsing through a series of unfocused ‘offers.’ One literally described their writing request as ‘Not Sure Yet.’ Rarely were any book outlines, chapter drafts, or related materials uploaded to give you a sense of the current state of the project, like:
- Was the book just a gleam in the author’s eye?
- Do they have a rough or partial draft, a stack of interview tapes, speeches they’ve given on the topic, a dissertation that’s a starting point?
- How will we put this book together?
Worse, few had a vision of what they wanted to do once the book was written, which affects how you tackle the book project. Few said whether they:
- Planned to self-publish
- Seek an agent or traditional publisher, or
- Whether they perhaps already had representation or a book deal
That’s important to know. With self-publishing, we can dive right into outlining and/or writing the book. So I’d offer a quote for one of those services.
In the latter, the normal procedure would be to first create a book proposal. This is a different project than writing the book itself, and usually includes:
- Table of contents
- 3 sample chapters
- Bio on the author and how their POV on their topic is unique
- Competitive analysis and positioning for this book
- Marketing plan for how the author will promote the book
Frequently, I’d find myself asking in Reedsy’s message board for clarification
- Are you looking for a writer for a book proposal?
- A book outline?
- Book ghostwriter services to produce a draft from an existing outline?
Nine times out of ten, the answer would be: Silence. They’d never respond! Poof, they’re gone.
It seems like when you confront these aspiring authors with the concrete realities of the various steps it would actually take to get their ideas into a finished book, and the publishing decisions that shape those steps, many simply fold their tents and run away.
There appear to be a high percentage of writers whose first language is not English. These aspiring authors are hoping a native-speaking writer can clean up their work. Which I totally get — great opportunity for us.
But if you don’t enjoy grappling with that, it’s something to know off the bat. It’s possible the language barrier also stands in the way of getting answers to questions about the state of their project and what writing services they truly need.
It was feeling like Reedsy wasn’t going to be worth my time… until EVERYTHING CHANGED.
Along comes COVID
This was the state of things. I got about 15 offers total with no closed deals, in the first 18 months or so.
Then, COVID and the recession came along — and things blew up.
Since February, I’ve had 25 offers on Reedsy
Basically the rate of incoming offers roughly quadrupled. Here’s a recent screen shot of the past couple months (names redacted to comply with Reedsy’s terms of service):
The quality of leads seemed to improve right along with the quantity, too. Quite a few have been from clearly monied, thought-leader/CEO type clients who were serious about hiring someone to ghostwrite a book. Almost all my meetings with Reedsy leads have come since the pandemic hit.
I’ve got a theory about why:
Many thought leaders who may be looking for their next great corporate role — or just people who have a book in them and want to leave a legacy — see this as downtime in which they could get that book done. (With the threat of Covid, they may be thinking of their own mortality, too, and that if they don’t do it now, they might be robbed of that chance by the virus.)
Instead of sitting on their hands during slow economic times, they could emerge ready to level-up their careers, or get that long-dreamt-of book into print.
The book is something they can do, right now, when so many things are impossible to do.
This seemed more promising. But as I started to get on first client meetings, I ran up against one big challenge of working through Reedsy.
Keeping it all on Reedsy
One very legit-sounding contact who wanted a corporate case-study based book created sent me a link to a Google Teams meeting to learn more. But when I went to join it, the link didn’t work.
And here you bump up against a problem…
Through Reedsy, you can’t give out your personal email. We could have exchanged phone numbers, but hadn’t, so I had no backup.
- Fortunately, I had connected on LinkedIn (because LinkedIn marketing is my primary HQ for finding clients these days) and was able to raise them in time to find a workaround, and we hopped on my Zoom link.
- Sadly, they ghosted me after, even though I seemed like an insanely perfect fit, as their book was formatted exactly like one of the others I’d done in the past. Another downside to Reedsy — people sort of disappear, and you never know why.
Big tip: When you get on a first client meeting, make sure you’ve got their phone number! Ideally, one you can text in case of problems.
If you try to pop your email or writer website URL into a Reedsy message, the platform just strips it right back out again. Same on the client side. And yes, it’s frustrating.
They do seem to allow Zoom or other meeting links to come through, so that you can connect on a video call, thankfully.
Want to try to work around these rules?
Good luck. Any mention of emailing a prospect outside the platform or connecting on social media will draw a cautionary note from Reedsy’s admins, and may risk getting you kicked off the platform.
I had several lively conversations with the Reedsy staff who invited me onto the platform, knowing the portfolio and audience I have, about the absurdity of asking people to not connect in any other way.
Their point of view is that you’re going to void their protection guarantee if you do some of your communication elsewhere. They need to be able to see it all to guarantee you.
So. I get that. But let’s say I’m not looking forward to trying to manage a complex book project entirely through Reedsy’s messaging page.
My stats on Reedsy
What’s the bottom line? After 2.5 years on Reedsy, here are my results so far:
- 4 live meetings taken
- Ghosted by 2 sources after the meeting
- 2 offers accepted
- 4 offers declined
- 16 leads ‘closed’ or ‘cancelled’ their offer without explanation
Bidding on offers
Sometimes, I just went ahead and bid on the offer, without asking for a meeting. If the offer seemed sketchy, I wanted to quickly ballpark my rate with some, to see if there was a real lead there or they wanted a book written for $300.
The come-and-go cycle
Often, offers seem to come and go on Reedsy — they pop on, you ask a question, and then next thing you know, they’ve closed or cancelled and you’ll never know why. They choose one of the standard pre-written lines like ‘went with a more suitable writer’ or just vanish.
So don’t expect feedback.
I certainly think a couple of the offers I sent were probably too high for that author. Remember, people, that ordinary individuals who just want their memoir written usually don’t have the budget to hire a pro writer.
You might be wondering what the two writing jobs are that I’ve landed so far. Here’s the details on that:
My 2 writing jobs on Reedsy
The first gig that I got hired for through Reedsy was a position paper/special report piece for a group of pension-fund consultants and wealth managers in Indiana.
- What they needed was highly specialized — a piece that spoke to lay sheriffs with no financial training about their pension plans. This is the kind of crazy thing I seem to attract, that draws on my business-finance background.
Dorkalicious! Right up my alley. They were in a huge rush, we took a meeting, and I was quickly hired. I bid $1500 and they didn’t blink. Quick yes.
- They actually wanted the piece for an upcoming in-person conference (in July 2020!), which then, of course, got cancelled. They said there would be more work on offer, but the cancellation gave them more time to continue playing with the first piece… so to date, nothing more.
But it was a quick and fairly easy $1,500. With potentially more to come.
The other Reedsy client is the big fish I’ve been hoping to land…
- A $35,000 book-ghostwriting deal, with a business consultant who does public speaking. My longtime background as a business reporter talking to CEOs and writing about corporate governance was a perfect fit.
We began with a $2,000 book-outline project, since the existing outline was very sketchy. In about three sessions, we took his scant notes, talked through the rest. Then I walked him through reliably successful book structures that get books read, we chose one, and came up with the chapter headings and subheads.
This is pretty much my dream client. This consultant works with many CEOs every year, so he could be an incredible referral source for me as well.
So — I’m excited!
We wrapped the outline project this week, he’s verbally agreed to my fee, and we’re just drawing up the contracts. This project is a go.
It took a long time, but I finally found the client I was looking for on Reedsy.
Reedsy: Yes or no?
I hope my experience helps writers understand the opportunities on Reedsy. I’m excited to have finally landed what looks to be my first real book-ghostwriting client in a long time.
My experience also shows that yes, professional rates ARE possible on Reedsy — but there are a lot of lowballers, too.
- As with any platform, you can see that getting accepted to one of these is far from a ticket to instant riches. Or an excuse to stop doing your own, proactive marketing.
- Always think of any platform you sign up on as a supplement to directly targeting prospects and actively pursuing new leads on your own.
I did, and have qualified two other inbound leads from my own LinkedIn activity and just my portfolio that’s all over the internet, of similar caliber. Don’t only look in one place for clients.
More Reedsy features
If you have other services you offer, such as editing, design, or book-marketing, those are other areas where you might connect with clients on Reedsy in a similar fashion, posting a profile and responding to offers. I only know the writing side.
Anecdotally, it sounds like editing rates on Reedsy may also be quite low, but I’d love to hear from other Reedsy members in the comments.
Should you be on Reedsy?
That depends on your goals for your writing business, and whether you want to take the time to wade through the dross to find a possible client. If your rates are lower, you’ll likely see more wins on Reedsy than I have.
Reedsy definitely has a stream of leads — now more than ever, if my personal experience is any indicator. Bring your gut instincts, ask questions… and keep an eye out for quality clients, I’d say.
What do you think about Reedsy and book ghostwriting platforms? Let’s discuss in the comments.