What is Ghostwriting?

What is Ghostwriting?

You might already have some hazy ideas about ghostwriting. When I first heard of ghostwriting, I thought it was just used for celebrity memoirs. It turns out memoirs are just the tip of the iceberg. Ghostwriting is everywhere — from independent authors using Amazon’s Kindle book publishing to popular bloggers using WordPress.

So what is it? When you ghostwrite, you let someone else put their name on your work. That is, you don’t get any credit — at all. Typically, the person who commissions the work will own the copyright, which also means they can modify or republish the work in any way they see fit.

So why would someone hire a professional ghostwriter? Are they too lazy to write their own book or come up with original work or ideas? Not necessarily. People hire ghostwriters for many different reasons, but the most common ones are:

  • Their business has grown so much that they no longer have time to write (all) their own material.
  • They have a wealth of expertise or an exciting story to tell, but they don’t enjoy writing or they’re not very good at it.

It’s nothing new, either: ghostwriting has been around, in one form or another, for centuries. To give you a better idea what being a ghostwriter may involve, my own ghostwriting has included:

  • Taking a rough draft, editing it heavily, and expanding on it where necessary.
  • Taking a blogger’s rough notes and transcribing them.
  • Putting together short, functional blog posts (e.g., announcing a new writing podcast).
  • Taking an assigned topic and very brief outline, then writing a post in the client’s voice and writing style.
  • Writing a post based on a title and nothing more.
  • Coming up with ideas, getting them approved, then ghostwriting the posts (though this is rare!).

As you can see, ghostwriting has a spectrum from something akin to an editing relationship to writing a piece from scratch.

And it’s growing in popularity. The demand for high-quality ghostwriters is so high it’s now taught in schools — California State University, Long Beach offers a Ghostwriting Professional Designation Program led by Claudia Suzanne.

Of course, I’ve only ghostwritten for blogs. Authors like Roz Morris and others have written whole books (nonfiction books, New York Times’ bestsellers, etc.) as ghostwriters, which is a far more involved process that includes extensive interviews with the client.

But Why Would You Let Someone Else Take Credit for YOUR Writing?

Assuming you want to build up your own brand as a professional writer, why would you want to be a ghostwriter? After all, you won’t get any of the credit. Your name won’t appear anywhere on the piece, and you probably can’t tell anyone you wrote it.

So why do so many writers ghostwrite, and why do so many love it? Well, because there are major benefits:

Benefit #1: Being a Ghostwriter Pays Exceptionally Well

One huge reason to get into the ghostwriting business is money. Ghostwriting tends to pay better than regular freelancing.

After all, having your name attached to your words is valuable for you as a writer. When you have a byline, you can use that piece of work to showcase your talent, build your reputation, and potentially attract new clients.

So it’s appropriate (and standard practice) to increase your hourly rate to compensate for the loss of these advantages.

There’s no exact rule of thumb for how much extra you should charge for ghostwriting over regular freelancing. Personally, I tend to increase my fee by about 15%–20%.

On top of that, once you’ve established a ghostwriting relationship with someone, it often results in ongoing work for you. Most people want their writing to be consistent, so it makes sense to stick with the same writer.

In other words, you have consistent work at a higher rate than usual. That’s quite a plus, isn’t it?

Benefit #2: Ghostwriting Lets You Develop Closer Relationships with Big Names in Your Field

As a ghostwriter, you’ll normally work quite closely with your client. You may be privy to their rough notes or mind maps, or you might interview them on the phone or in person.

Chances are, you’re also focusing your ghostwriting on a particular area of expertise (especially if you’re writing for a blog).

This means you’ve got a brilliant opportunity to get to know and be affiliated with someone well-established in your field.

You’ll find that you get valuable insights into the “behind the scenes” of a top blog, or you get a clearer idea of how a big-name author works and thinks.

This may be eye-opening! It could give you some ideas for how best to move forward with your own business when you start your own blog.

And as you build up closer relationships, or even friendships, with your client, they might share your other work on social media, bringing you a lot of extra traffic. (Several of the people I ghostwrite for have supported me in that way.)

If you ever need a favor or need some advice, there’s a good chance they’ll be very happy to help.

So much of blogging success depends on getting a helping hand from other bloggers — particularly those with a large audience and a great reputation in their field.

Ghostwriting brings you into close contact with exactly those people.