Your Fast Track to a Bestseller


(with apologies and thanks to Steve Harrison)

If you’d like your title to be a bestseller — maybe even a New York Times Bestseller — then this post is for you.

An author emailed me after one of my recent panels on ghostwriting. She said, “Claudia, you know so much about the book business. What do I have to do to make my book into a bestseller?”

She had been writing all her life and had a Creative Writing degree from an impressive school. Her teachers loved her book. Her friends and family raved about it. She got 4 and 5-star reviews on Amazon.

But when it came to actual sales — those just trickled in.

I suspected the reason her book wasn’t selling well had nothing to do with her ability to spin a tale, create wonderful characters, or bounce nouns off verbs.

She obviously had good writing skills.

What she didn’t have was a formula for taking her ideas from concept to bestseller status.

So I sent her the seven simple questions below.

(If you’d also like your book to be a bestseller, ask yourself these questions and see if you can answer “YES” to each one.)

Question #1 — Do you have a strong first draft, AND a well-structured second draft, punchy lined-edited third draft, and carefully copy-edited fourth draft?

Question #2 — Do you have the three strongest, most diverse BISAC Subject Headings attached to your nonfiction ISBN? Do you have the best-niche BISAC Subject Heading attached to your fiction ISBN? Do you have the three best categories and 10 top keywords to position your book as a bestseller?

Question #3 — Do you have honest reviews from total strangers who you haveNOT paid but who have actually read your entire book?

Question #4 — Do you have a list of high-volume buyers AND a one-sheet that gets them to say, “Wow, this is great! We need your title”?

Question #5 — Do you have a marketing kit that connects your title to a current, hot, or “sexy” news topic?

Question #6 — Do you have a business plan for online AND offline marketing and promotion? Do you have a list of organizations and groups that need to hear about your book AND a one-sheet that gets them to call you to speak?

Question #7 — Do you have a ready supply of physical books to sign and sell at the back of the room?

My new pen pal responded “NO” to most of the questions. (She had written a strong first draft and she had a supply — a large supply, in fact — of physical books to sell.)

So I wrote back, “That’s wonderful–now you know the missing pieces you need.”

This is the Point Where I’m Supposed to Pitch My Services-

…but I really meant to write more of a post than an advertorial, so let’s leave it here:

If you answered “NO” to any of the questions and would like my help filling in the gaps of your “bestseller plan,” email me at or call me at 1-800-641-3936 (USA) or 1-714-954-0580 (International).

If you want to do the heavy lifting yourself and need a coach or a guide, I’m here for you.

If you want referrals to other great people who can help you, here’s my short list:

Flo Selfman’s copy editing
Devon Blaine’s book publicity
Penny Sansevieri’s online marketing
And (of course) Steve Harrison’s publicity and speaking programs

I look forward to seeing your bestseller!

Today’s “Old School” Editors are Ghostwriters

I constantly field questions about ghostwriting, the book industry, and the Ghostwriting Professional Designation Program. I’m happy to provide as much information as I can in short phone and email queries, but I always seem to forget something important. Ergo, the info below, while it may seem promo-y, is really just my way of addressing the most common issues as succinctly as possible.

Why Would Anyone Need a Ghostwriter

In the Introduction to Shawn Coyne’s The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know, Steven Pressfield wrote:

“Do you know what an editor does? I don’t either. All I know is it’s make-or-break, do-or-die, indispensable, can’t-do-without, gotta-have-it.

“But there’s one problem:

“Editors don’t exist any more, at least not in the grand Old School sense.”

Steven is absolutely right: publishers can no longer afford to employ the kind of editors that can advise, rewrite, restructure, line edit, and hand-hold/ encourage/ listen/ guide/ and cultivate new authors.

But authors still need all that attention and encouragement, which is why “Old School” editors now provide their services as independent contractors.

They’re called ghostwriters.

A ghostwriter is, at once, a creative artist, a project manager, a best friend and confidante, a therapist, an industry insider, a publishing guide, a writing-and-life coach, a mentor, and a business person.

And we need more of them.

Why Ghostwriting Professional Designation Program

GPDP is the only program that trains students in the specific skills, theory, and politics of ghostwriting before teaching them how to find clients and close deals.

While most Americans seek training to fill corporate jobs, a substantial and growing segment of the population opt to provide independent or freelance services to those “regular folk.” Ergo, with the number of people looking to write and publish a book continuing on an upward surge—industry estimates number in the hundreds of millions—qualified editorial-service providers are in constant and increasing demand.

Professional ghostwriting is a recession-proof and lucrative career if one has the specific skills, theory, and political savvy to:

  • Understand the job
  • Do the job
  • Bid on and contract the job
  • Extract referrals from the job

A one-of-a-kind online course, GPDP is intense, hands-on, and serious fun. It not only prepares students for a career change, it changes the way they read and write for the rest of their lives.

Who Should Attend

  • Career editorial-service professionals who want to augment their expertise
  • Freelance editors, journalists, and writers interested in pursuing a ghostwriting career
  • Writers who want to upgrade their skill sets
  • Aspiring authors who want to improve their chances of success in the marketplace
  • Anyone who wants to know the truth about today’s publishing landscape


Although this is a Master’s level course of study, a college degree is not necessary. The class is open to anyone with a writing, journalism, or editorial-service background. Students must be able to:

  • Accept new concepts that challenge or contradict their current knowledge base
  • Spend 4 to 12 hours a week on assignments
  • Sign and adhere to a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA) prior to receiving the workbook
  • Ask for help rather than fall behind

Advantages of Certification

Certified Ghostwriters command higher ghostwriting fees. Graduates typically earn $35,000 or more on their first project and are able to handle three to five projects per year.

  • They have more confidence
  • They understand the realities of the book industry
  • They are skilled in the apex of editorial skills
  • They can find and exploit the strengths in any manuscript
  • They understand the full scope—and limitations—of being a ghostwriter
  • They present as top professionals
  • They know how to avoid or troubleshoot any problem
  • They have a growing support system of Certified Ghosts to back them up

The Program

Part 1 Modules (3 hours/Week)

  1. Introduction to Ghostwriting (2 weeks)
  2. The Book Industry (3 weeks)
  3. MS Word for Writers (3 weeks)
  4. Nonfiction A&Rs (4 weeks)
  5. Nonfiction Structural Edit/Rewrite (3 weeks)
  6. Nonfiction Ghostwriting (4 weeks)
  7. Nonfiction Line Edit/Rewrite (4 weeks)
  8. Nonfiction Book Proposals (3 weeks)

 Part 2 Modules (3 hours/Week)

  1. Introduction to Fiction (2 weeks)
  2. Fiction A&Rs (4 weeks)
  3. Fiction Structural Edit/Rewrite (3 weeks)
  4. Fiction Ghostwriting (4 weeks)
  5. Fiction Line Edit/Rewrite (4 weeks)
  6. Fiction Synopses / Proposals (2 weeks)

Final Module (3 hours/Week)

  1. Politics of Professional Ghostwriting (2 weeks)

Total: 47 weeks, 141 hours

What to Expect from the Program

This course will initially overwhelm, then challenge, and finally guide the student to change the way they view and manipulate the written word. Those already providing editorial services will discover fresh perspectives and approaches to their work. Those new to the field will break through the limitations of their traditional education.

Modules are concentrated with real-time deadlines. Materials will be beyond most students’ knowledge base and may be outside some’s comfort zone. Students must sign nondisclosure agreements before receiving their workbooks.

Class size is kept small so everyone can receive individual attention. Sessions are recorded, and students are encouraged to review them as often as necessary. The instructor and teaching assistant(s) are available via email and pre-scheduled phone calls.

Every assignment will be reviewed with comments and given a number grade based on the individual’s demonstrated grasp of the material.

  • 100 = full
  • 90 = strong
  • 80 = adequate
  • Below 80 = insufficient

What the Program Expects from Students

  • Notify the instructor prior to missing any class session, and review the appropriate recording as soon as possible
  • Be prepared with all readings and research for each class session
  • Participate in all class discussions
  • Complete and submit all assignments before the week’s grading day
  • Revise and resubmit all assignments graded below 80 by the following grading day

What Students Say

GCT is the best investment I’ve made in my business and education. I spent six years in higher education earning a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree; for two-and-a-half years, I ran my own business. Hands down, GCT provided more practical information and training than any other class, course, seminar, etc. I’ve taken. Derek Lewis, Certified Ghostwriter

Your contract and all the work you did with us on presentation in the last two weeks of class help me avoid my typical bad business situation—working for less than I’m worth and doing way more than I ever agreed to do. I stood calm and strong—she would have signed for $25,000 and my shopping the book for her. Then she offered to pay me $15,000 to write part of the book. I said NO (though I could really use the money). The conversation started off very emotional on her part. By the end, she was calm, thoughtful and thanking me. Beth Brand, Certified Ghostwriter

I‘m enjoying the class, and learning a lot (though I still wish you could hear us laugh). You really are an excellent teacher. I am determined to complete the course and get my certification. I was disappointed, however, to learn that for nine weeks this summer I won’t get to learn anything about ghostwriting!Stephen Cobb, GPDP student

I had no idea what to expect from this class, so it would be impossible for me to say it was what I expected. But it was much, much more than I could have possibly imagined. Here’s an analogy that you’d have to be at least a certain age to identify with:  When Star Wars came out in theaters for the very first time, they would show trailers on T.V. for it, and you would have no idea what this crazy movie could possibly be about. But I remember that after seeing the movie and then seeing the trailer on T.V., my brothers and I would point to the T.V. and say to our mom, “Look – this is amazing! You have no idea how amazing this movie is!” and we’d get very excited. So, that’s what I would say about this course to someone looking in from the outside: “You have no idea how amazing this course is!”
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to share this amazing journey! I enjoyed every minute, challenged myself beyond what I thought I could do, and came out feeling truly transformed. Sue Briggs, Certified Ghostwriter

Claudia, you really launched me. Every one of your “Rules” has been absolutely essential. I finished that book on PTSD I wrote for the 94-year-old survivor of the Bataan Death March. Just hooked another client (97-years-old, and sharp as can be). He didn’t balk at the price, and I was sure to include the “death clause” in the contract! God, this is so fun. What can I say? You are a genius. Jane Ploetz, Certified Ghostwriter

Thanks so very much, Claudia, for an excellent class, your warmth and encouragement, and for jump starting my new career about which I’m very hopeful and excited. I’ll just echo you in saying, ‘It’s been a delight working with you.’ A grand stroke of luck, in my opinion…. I love your humor; think I laughed through 1/2 the class last night 🙂 Sabriga Turgon, Certified Ghostwriter

For the love of god, I am glad I took your course. I am not sure if your new students would find an after-action review useful coming from a fellow noob, but I will share my notes when I finish with this client. Short version: needy and a minefield of emotions that will explode under the pressure of unicorn tears. But, because of your tough love on my A&Rs, I am able to handle it–so far. Alan Hester, GPDP Student

The range and depth of information satisfied my need for professional development and enrichment. I now have a much greater understanding of ghostwriting protocols and the ghostwriting business. Plus, the course has given me more confidence and clarity about how to pursue ghostwriting as a lucrative and viable career. Karen Propp, Certified Ghostwriter

The most unexpected thing about the class was how much I enjoyed the fiction section. I remember originally wishing I could have just taken non-fiction a-la carte (even as a lover of fiction). In fact, I recall asking a somewhat snarky question about getting clients at the end of the non-fiction section hoping I could just get the keys to the kingdom and weigh the option of taking the second half of the course this spring or saving it for a time when I had a little more disposable income. The split appeared to me to be impractical as I thought so much of what we would be doing would be nonfiction. I’m sure our careers will show whether or not that’s true, but the fiction section is essential to understanding what it really means to ghost. If ghostwriting is, as Claudia says, the Apex of writing, then ghosting fiction is the apex of ghostwriting. I never would have expected I would have liked/been helped by the fiction portion of the certification as much as I was. Emphasize that to students that both halves are necessary to getting it! The idea of saving the $ for the second half of class now seems absurd, as I think Derek Lewis said in his intro the textbook, how can I afford not to take the (fiction part of the) course? Alex Dwyer, Certified Ghostwriter

Claudia, I don’t know if I’ve thanked you enough for the value of your course. I’ve learned a lot and have a strong sense of confidence that I can now tackle projects I would have been afraid of doing before. You’ve opened up my eyes to a whole new world of opportunity and knowledge. There have been times when I felt like my head was going to explode with all the new knowledge you were exposing me to. I’ve gained enormous self-confidence. As Michael Levin said, you are the ‘real thing.’ I believe that sincerely. You know your stuff and thank you for sharing some of it with me. Thank you very much! Victory Crayne, Certified Ghostwriter, Editor

I’ve been telling all my writing friends about this course [Ghostwriter Certification Training]. I’d been ghosting (or trying to) for years. I now see where I went wrong in the past and what to do right for the future. It’s intense, it’s fun, and I’ve learned so much. If you’re going to do anything to advance your career, take this course. It’s one rollicking ride. Roxanne King, Certified Ghostwriter, novelist, writing instructor

Thank you for the wonderful experience. I’ve learned so much and grown so much throughout this course, and I look forward to starting my career in ghostwriting. Ruhallah Dharsi, Certified Ghostwriter

GCT is an information-packed course taught by an expert writer/editor/ghost who has finely tuned teaching skills. The material is not available elsewhere, and this course is not just a marketing tool for a freelance writer who needs revenue streams. Claudia Suzanne offers a masters level class that will move the writer into a lucrative ghosting career or any number of other niches. Be prepared to work your butt off. Maryan K. Pelland, Certified Ghostwriter, Journalist, Blogger


I’m already a developmental editor. Will I really learn anything new in this class?

Yes. Ghostwriting’s broad skill set encompasses some aspects of developmental editing but approaches the manuscript from a different perspective with a distinct approach.

Will I learn how to help clients publish their books?

Absolutely. The course examines the pros and cons of today’s publishing options.

I only want to do nonfiction. Do I really need the second part?

Yes. Understanding fiction will help you with your nonfiction clients. Furthermore, the final module, Politics of Professional Ghostwriting, which covers finding and assessing clients, setting fees, bidding on projects, writing equitable contracts, and project troubleshooting, is only available to those who have successfully completed both parts.

Do I have to take the modules in order?

Yes. Each module builds on the knowledge base and skill set of the previous modules.

How many hours will I have to spend on homework?

Students typically spend 4-12 hours per week, depending on the module and their individual learning pace.

Will I learn how to collaborate or coauthor?

Yes—and no. You will learn the pros, cons, and differences between ghostwriting, collaborating, and co-authoring, which will allow you to determine your own career path.

Will I learn about how to find clients?

Yes. Please see above.

Will I learn how to write contracts?

Yes. Please see above.

I only want to work on memoirs/fiction/business titles. Do I need the whole class?

To receive certification, yes.

How much will I be able to earn after taking this class?

Students typically earn upwards of $35,000 on initial projects and increase their fees as their confidence and credit list grows.

Is “Certified Ghostwriter” recognized in the marketplace?

Not yet, but graduates report potential clients find the designation impressive and a deal closer.

Will this class help me get a corporate writing job?

Probably no, unless the job you want includes writing in the boss’ voice. One graduate credits the certification with why they beat out 179 other candidates for a job writing judicial opinions.

What are the technical requirements?

  • Reliable Internet access via a Broadband connection (DSL or faster)
  • The latest Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, or Mozilla Firefox browser
  • A soundcard, microphone and speakers, preferably in a headset
  • The latest Flash Player (available free from Adobe web site)
  • Microsoft Word 7 or later

Can I take the class using a Mac/MacBook/tablet?

Technically, yes, provided your device meets the above requirements. However, as we do a great deal of screen sharing, a mobile device’s small screen may impede your ability to keep up with class discussions.

History of the Program

Claudia Suzanne created the first version of ghostwriter training in the late 1990s to provide her clients with a replacement in the event of what appeared to be her imminent death.

Once she conquered her health problems, the program grew from 5 off-the-cuff discussions to a 7-week seminar series.

When Claudia earned her Master Trainer Certificate from Performance Solution, she lengthened the tutorial to 15 weeks. After writing the “seminal textbook” on ghostwriting, Secrets of a Ghostwriter, she expanded the course to a 15-week hands-on workshop, then to a 30-week college-extension certificate program, and finally to its current 47-week module-based professional-designation curriculum.

About the Instructor

The founder/chair of Ghostwriters Unite, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to the professionalization and proliferation of ghostwriting via education and community, Claudia Suzanne spearheads the movement to transform ghostwriting. Her Ghostwriting Certificate Program, invited into California State University, Long Beach in 2013, remains the only ghostwriter training program in the world and has upgraded “Certified Ghostwriter” to an academically recognized Professional Designation.

A generalist ghostwriter, Claudia has ghosted approximately 140 nonfiction and fiction titles in myriad subjects. She has also penned five titles under her own name, including the internationally popular This Business of Books, considered a standard of the industry by college professors and librarians across the English and Chinese-speaking world, and Secrets of a Ghostwriter, the only textbook that deconstructs the theory, skills, and politics of how ghostwriters do what they do.

Claudia is the Founder/Creative Partner of Wambtac Communications LLC, a literary organization dedicated to providing editorial-service excellence. Her dual missions are to launch new ghostwriting careers and to raise the literacy level of the book industry, one author at a time.

Claudia knows more about publishing than most people ever will. She is the consummate ghostwriter/teacher, understanding what authors need in order to successfully complete their book dream, and she has a finely honed talent for communicating what she knows to her students and clients. One of the most savvy business people I have known. Trustworthy and supportive. Awesome dry sense of humor and spontaneous wit. I recommend her without qualification.M.K. Pelland, Certified Ghostwriter


Students: 79

Graduates: 62 (78%)

Typical post-grad first project fee: $25-40,000

Proprietary Techniques and Tools

  • A&Rs (Analysis & Recommendations)
  • Charting (Nonfiction Structural Edit/Rewrite)
  • Action Maps (Fiction Structural Edit/Rewrite)
  • Author “Tells” (Nonfiction/Fiction Ghostwriting
  • Line Edit/Rewrite Process (Nonfiction/Fiction)

More Information

To register for the current Part 1 session, Click here.

To reserve a seat in the next Part 1 session, contact Penni Wells, Program Developer, CCPE/CSULB at 562-985-4486 or


To speak with Claudia Suzanne, email or call 1-800-641-3936.

For module descriptions, Click here.

Why a Ghostwriting Conference?

Because we need each other.

We need to shake each other’s hands and look into each other’s eyes. We need to sit down and gab without the constraints of keyboards, clients, and kids. We need time to get to know each other and share experiences, advice, and warnings.

Those of us who make more money as freelancers need to help those who are struggling to make any money. And those who are new to the business need easier access to those of us who have been around the block a few times.

Because we are a unique assortment of literary artists, and we need community.

That’s why Ghostwriters Unite! will happen this May 3, 4, and 5 in Long Beach. Join us at

Ghostwriters Unite!

Ghostwriters Gather from Around the Globe for Unique Conference (via PR Newswire)

Now open for registrations, Ghostwriters Unite! pioneers education and community for “invisible” freelance writers and editors SANTA ANA, Calif., March 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Writers, ghostwriters, editors, and industry experts will convene at Ghostwriters Unite at the Hilton Hotel in Long Beach,…


GCT Certificate

Apparently, the universe is tapping me on the shoulder to hold one more private class before I take Ghostwriter Certification Training into CSULB.

This past week, as the department head and I worked out the particulars of expanding GCT into a 2-semester program at a cost approximately 4 times its current rate, I’ve received a number of calls asking about an immediate class. So….

I will teach one last 15-week class on Saturday mornings from 9 AM to Noon PDT starting Nov 3 and running through Feb 9 at the current low price of $1080 plus $130 books.

For a list of topics covered, go to

To read what grads say about the class, go to

To register—and I do mean NOW–go to or call

Due to scheduling concerns, I can only make this offer for an extremely limited time. If the class doesn’t fill immediately, it will be cancelled. Ergo, if you’re interested, please register now!

What’s Going On

It occurred to me that an awful lot of things are going on around here in the background, and I haven’t shared any of it on my blog, which is, theoretically, where I’m suppose to share these sorts of things. So here I go, sharing.

In January, I stopped being a freelance ghostwriter and became the Founder/Creative Director of Wambtac Communications LLC, a one-stop literary shop. We ghostwrite, we educate, we publish. Sounds succinct, doesn’t it? It’s actually a bit more elaborate than that.

We–meaning myself, my partner (aka daughter) Lona Nicholle, our teachers Liv Haugland and JD Moore, and our current intern Teri Stevens–ghostwrite books for people who have wonderful ideas. We are implementing a rather elaborate (read “time consuming and costly”) marketing/advertising campaign to let literary agents, publishers, CEOs, and one-percenters know that we have a growing cadre of professional Certified Ghostwriters who will do an excellent job on their or their clients’ books. Our intention is to spread those clients among the members of the Ghostwriter Guild, which is still in development but will be comprise our graduates from Ghostwriter Certification Training.

We’re expanding GCT to a three-semester program: Nonfiction, Fiction, and Business, which includes the politics we cover in the class now plus a strong grounding in the book industry itself. Until then, we’re offering Level II classes in Line Editing, A&Rs, Book Proposals, and The Industry.

The idea of taking GCT into Cal State U Long Beach Extension Education is still being bantered around between the parties (them and us), but has not yet come to fruition. Obviously, eh?

Our consumer-ed classes (The Story in Your Head, What You Know, Writing Your Life, Before Copy Editing, etc.) are also in development. Discussions are ongoing with for some of those, but most are going to come from us at

The publishing part is semi-new. We’ve always been the ones to put out the four editions of This Business of Books (5th edition in the works) and Secrets of a Ghostwriter. Now we’re expanding to also publish other titles for writers, editors, and educators via On The List Publishing and general trade titles via Iridescent Orange Press. Our ebooks and multi-media products, such as MS Word for Writers, will be produced by Bad Walnut Media.

Sounds kinda ambitious, doesn’t i? It’s a great work-in-progress with a three-way mission: to help raise the literacy bar of the industry, one author at a time; to train/retrain displaced writers for lucrative ghostwriting careers; and to publish the good works they create if those authors cannot land a traditional New York publisher. We’ve got a fantastic operations director, Kata Schuyler, a great bookkeeper, Nyx Goldstone, a wonderful go-to assistant, Ben Picker, a good publicist, Devon Blaine, and an in-the-wings marketing guy who’s waiting for us to get our act (read $$) together. Which brings me to the logical wrap-up of this piece.

Every pitch session I’ve gone to lately insists one should always end on what one needs, so I’m sharing that, too. We’re a small, literacy-oriented organization, so of course we could use some seed money to launch these programs and products a bit faster. We’re also looking for a location so we can hold workshops and classes, and we could use a few extra pairs of volunteer’s hands around the office for our marketing campaigns.

Should I be putting all this in a blog post? Let’s be real: if I was the kind of person who worried about what I should and shouldn’t do, I wouldn’t be the kind of person of thought up such an elaborate scheme, brought three strangers into my house and made them family and now staff, or taught more than thirty people how to make a living ghostwriting for the absurd cost of approximately $8/hour for my time!