Mirriam-Webster defines ghostwriting as “to write (a speech, a book, etc.) for another who is the presumed or credited author.”
That’s about how I would explain it, too.
But there are some misconceptions surrounding ghostwriting.
First, it is not just for celebrities. You may have really only heard about it in relation to famous people wanting to write their autobiographies and having a writer interview them, follow them around, and then write it. This is how I used to think of ghostwriting!
Ghostwriters are used often for nonfiction and even fiction books from *gasp!* non-famous people! There are many intelligent people with a story to tell, but who are not good writers.
Second, it is not just for books. Many websites and companies want weekly blogs but have no time to write it themselves, no inclination to pen them regularly, or do not have the ability.
So, they pay a writer to write weekly blogs relevant to their company and the posts are put on their website — almost never under the writer’s name. It is almost always someone high up at the company. This is also considered ghostwriting!
Third, it is generally not advertised or known that a piece was ghosted. This can be for many reasons. It can be about not sharing credit, or sales based on the authors name, reputation, or more. But in the end it doesn’t matter. Ghostwriters are paid up front and hold no rights to the finished piece.
In fact, in many cases, ghostwriters sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) stating that they will not tell people they helped write the book or use it as a writing sample for future work.
In fact, one of the reasons I wrote my own book in the first place was because I cannot use books I have ghostwritten as samples of my book writing ability.
The main difference between a ghostwriter and a co-author is that typically a co-author has their name on cover with the other co-author(s) and is generally paid from royalties/book sales. Ghostwriters are paid up front and have no stake in book sales.
Ghostwriting costs depend on many factors, including length and topic of book, deadlines, writing style, and the writer themselves, as they set their own costs. There are definitely ones that cost a lot less than the celebrity-level ghosts!
For me, one of the most difficult parts of ghostwriting books is when the author does a lot of editing and changes to the work. I have to continuously remind myself that it is their book, not mine. They have the complete right to go in and slice and dice the writing until it says what they want it to say.
It took some time for me to be able to step back and take that kind of criticism. At the same time, it is NOT criticism of me and it’s not about my soul on the page, it’s about their story. After all, their name is on the cover.
I like ghostwriting. I don’t do the traditional interviews and then go off in a room somewhere and write. I like to do weekly calls with my authors and talk over the next part, ask questions, and then write it in Google docs, which they have total access to. They go in and edit, answer questions, make suggestions, add stuff.
It’s awesome. It’s very collaborative and the result is always incredibly interesting.
Have you ever ghostwritten or wondered what ghostwriting is all about? Ask questions, let’s talk about it!