As an author entrepreneur, I get a lot of questions about writing (Does it still matter? — “More than ever!”), publishing (Traditional vs. Self? — “Self.”), and what I think the future of books looks like in a digital era (“Promising” is my most common answer).
I don’t get too many questions about ghostwriting, but the ones I do get confirm for me how little is known about this hidden side of the writing world.
What Is a Ghostwriter?
In a nutshell, a ghostwriter is hired to write something — usually a book — for someone else. The ghost’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in the book, and no public credit is given to the ghost. Celebrities, politicians, and high level executives are common ghostwriting clients. They rarely write the books you see on Amazon or in bookstores that have their name and picture on the cover. Those books are the work of ghostwriters (who can earn upwards of $250K per writing project once they’ve established and earned a great reputation in the ghostwriting space).
While big pay days like this aren’t very common, many ghostwriters make handsome annual six-figure incomes writing on behalf of other people.
5 Little Known Facts about Ghostwriting
Many people are surprised to learn that ghostwriting pays pretty well. Here are 5 more little known facts about ghostwriting:
1. Ghostwriting isn’t just for books. Many big name music artists use ghosts to write lyrics for them, taking full credit for the work. Ghosts are also hired to write speeches, corporate communications, and content for big online sites like the Huffington Post and Tech Crunch.
2. Some people prefer ghostwriting because of its anonymous nature. For some writers, ghostwriting is the ultimate profession. They get paid to do what they love — write — while maintaining their privacy in an age when privacy is on the brink of extinction. Many ghostwriters make very good livings quietly penning for other people, and wouldn’t want to be in the spotlight if their lives depended on it.
3. The demand for ghostwriting is growing. More people than not have negative memories of their high school English classes, and have no interest in writing another piece of content as long as they live. Yet with the need for publishing weekly (if not daily) content to online platforms, writing is an essential component to life as we know it. The scales are tipped in favor of the ghostwriter for hire who can help develop well-researched and well-written blog posts, articles, and eBooks on a regular basis.
4. Ghostwriting is an established practice in the publishing and speech-writing world. Some literary experts believe the Old Bard himself — William Shakespeare — employed a stable of ghostwriters to help him produce the mammoth number of plays credited to his name.
5. Writing is a solitary act, but ghostwriting isn’t. The romantic myth of a writer socked away alone in a book-lined artist’s studio hunched over his keyboard, cigarette dangling from one corner of his mouth, whiskey bottle half empty on his desk as he tries to conjure up material from his own imagination on behalf of his client is just that — a myth. To create a great product, ghostwriters must collaborate with their clients to get the material. Only then do they retreat to write what was discussed in solitude.
A Ghostwriting Surprise
One last surprise about ghostwriting is in some cases, collaboration between client and ghost can lead a client to change the ghost’s status to co-author. (I recently experienced this situation with one of my clients, and it’s very exciting!) For some ghostwriters, co-author status is negotiated at the beginning of a project. With the amount of time and energy that goes into completing a ghostwriting project (often a year or more), belief is growing around the idea that it’s only fair to give the ghost co-author status when hiring someone to help you write is the path you choose.
In the end, details of who gets what credit have to be determined by the client and ghostwriter. Each situation is unique, and when negotiated effectively, very rewarding for everyone involved. One thing’s for sure: in a world where content continues to be in high demand, ghostwriting has a very bright future for people who want to get something written and for people who want to write for others.
What surprises you about ghostwriting? Share your thoughts in the comments below.