We Answer All Your Questions On Ghostwriting

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It does not take a rocket scientist to know that to get a book published or to get your blog to the point where it earns you money can be a long path. But how do you pay the bills in the mean time?  One way of receiving an income while you build your reputation is to become a ghostwriter. 

What is ghostwriting?

To most people ghostwriting conjures up images of dark arts but this is no mystical process.  Ghostwriting does not involve ghostly plasma or rattling chains; rather it is the process where you, the writer, write something for a client and then allow the client to publish the piece under their name. 

It sounds very simplistic, and it does include a myriad of potential problems, but ghostwriting is a simple process - you write but take no credit for the piece that you produce.

In addition to the fact that you get no credit for the document you have produced, you will also not own the copyright.  Not owning the copyright means that your client has the right to take your manuscript or article, edit it and make unlimited profits from it.  

Where did ghostwriting come from?

Ghostwriting has been around for centuries and historians have argued for years over issues such as attributing epic poems such as the Iliad and the Odyssey to Homer, or attributing Shakespeare’s plays to other playwrights.  President John F. Kennedy employed his speechwriter, Theodore Sorenson, to help write his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles In Courage. Alex Haley drafted large portions of the autobiography of Malcolm X.

A different sort of ghostwriting is when a series of novels is produced by a team of ghostwriters but published under the name of a single author.  An example of this is the Nancy Drew series where the author Carolyn Keene, is a fictional name.

Perhaps one of the most visible ghostwriting operations is Wikipedia.  This online reference site is the work of countless people from all over the world that have left their thoughts and writing for everyone to enjoy.

What kinds of things are ghostwritten?

The simple answer to this is anything.  In the past, ghostwriting was used by celebrities and politicians to produce their memoirs, and politicians relied on ghostwriters to create their speeches.  Nowadays, with the explosion of the internet, not only do ghostwriters write books or speeches on behalf of clients but ghostwriters commonly write blogs and SEO pieces.  

When ghostwriting for bloggers, the kind of jobs that you may encounter range from articles that require substantial research and writing to works more akin to serious editing.  You could be asked to take the draft of an article, edit it and perhaps rewrite sections to make it more readable.  You may be required to take a rough outline from a blogger and create a simple article from it.  As your relationship with a particular blogger develops, you will be asked to take on tasks such as researching and writing blogs where you will simply receive a title.  Eventually, you can get to the stage where you propose blogs, and if the blogger likes your idea, you go ahead and generate the piece.

Ghostwriting a book is a serious undertaking and though this can give you a big payday, these jobs require a serious investment of time and effort to ensure that the end product has the voice of the client and that it is factually correct in every way.

Why would anyone hire a ghostwriter?

There are two simple reasons that people hire ghostwriters.  The first is that they do not believe they have the ability to translate their ideas into the written word successfully.  The second is time; many people do not have the time to write.

Choosing Freelancer.com to hire ghostwriters would be an excellent option to fulfil your requirements.

What is in it for the ghostwriter?

There are some good reasons for ghostwriting as well as some downsides.  Let’s look at both sides of the coin from the writer’s point of view.

The Good

Ghostwriting for blogs and other online sources will give you regular infusions of cash.  These jobs, especially when you have built a relationship with the owner of the blog, can pay very well. 

If you get to work regularly with a well-known blogger, you will develop a relationship with them.  A relationship such as this may lead to any number of exciting opportunities that could result in more work coming your way.  You will also get an insight into how a successful blog works and this will be invaluable should you decide to go forward and blog for yourself.

Similarly, if you ghostwrite for a celebrity, you will develop a relationship there, and if the book is successful, you can ask for referrals, again leading to a more regular influx of high paying jobs.

The Bad

You will get no credit for the work that you are producing.  Online blogging sites will not credit you with the articles you write and to at least get a mention on the inside cover of books that you write will take negotiation at contract time.

The lack of recognition will mean that you are unable to build a brand identity for yourself so you should ensure that you are adequately compensated for this.  It is not unreasonable to ask 15% - 20% more than you would for articles that carry your byline.

The Ugly

The question of ethics will also raise its head.  Is what you are doing ethical? You are writing a piece, and it is being passed off as their own by someone else. 

If you take the ideas from a blogger or a rough outline and expand and flesh it out, this is not unethical as you are using the person’s ideas.  You are only putting it into a pleasing format for other people to read. 

Ethics are an issue if you create an original piece with no input from the blogger and they then pass it off as their work.  Here the followers of the blog are expecting to read articles written by the owner.  Even worse is if the work produced is an e-book, where the “author” has had no input to the selection of the topic and has relied upon the ghostwriter to come up with a subject, research it and produce a book ready for final editing and publication.  This is not a desirable situation at all.

As a ghostwriter, you will have to decide for yourself, where to draw the ethical line. 

Another fact that you will have to get used to is seeing another person taking all the accolades for an excellent piece of writing that you produced!  Seeing your work lauded under someone else’s name can be very difficult, and anyone would feel a little slighted to see their work praised under some else’s name.  The only way to look at this is to realize that this recognition should lead to you being asked to produce more pieces for the same blog.

The ethical and recognition issues are difficult problems with which to deal, but if you can reconcile them, ghostwriting can provide a steady income that will allow you the time and space to build your blog and eventually hire ghostwriters!

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as your voice on this widely opinionated topic would be very welcome. 

Posted 28 August, 2017


Freelance Journalist & Reporter

Alice is a Community Correspondent at Freelancer.com. She drifts between London & Sydney.

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