What is a Ghostwriter?

Do you believe in ghosts?

They are mostly unseen. Unnoticeable. And believe it or not they are moving behind the scenes in the publishing industry. If you’re lucky you might catch a fleeting glimpse. They are officially called ‘ghostwriters’.

A ghostwriter is a writer who writes on an assigned topic under someone else’s name, with their consent. They often write books completely from scratch but sometimes their work involves rewriting or polishing an existing work.

Most books by famous personalities are actually written by ghostwriters. When you see an autobiography or memoir from a politician, businessperson, or celebrity, chances are that it has been written by a ghostwriter.

Here are a few examples. The autobiography “Ronald Reagan: An American Life” was ghosted by Robert Lindsey. “Learning to Sing”, the autobiography of American Idol star Clay Aiken, was written with ghostwriter Allison Glock. The autobiographies of Doris Day and Sophie Loren were written by A.E. Hotchner.

So how popular is ghostwriting? Statistics are hard to come by since many people don’t want to reveal that their book is ghosted. Some industry estimates suggest that up to fifty percent of all non-fiction books are ghostwritten.

A client may decide to hire a ghostwriter because the client does not have any writing talent or because they are too busy. Ghostwriters, for their part, are usually well-established writers already, and are selected on that basis.

What do Ghostwriters Write?

Ghostwriters are hired to write many types of documents, from autobiographies for famous personalities to e-books for internet marketing gurus, and even letters for politicians.

They also write fiction. Sometimes it is for a series of books written by several ghostwriters under one name, as with the stories of Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. Ghostwriters also continue to write novels under the name of popular authors who have died, as in the case of Robert Ludlum.

Is Ghostwriting Ethical?

Although ghostwriting is a widely accepted practice within the publishing industry, some people outside of the industry complain that ghostwriting is deceptive. But that is not necessarily true. Consider for a moment the ghostwriting process. The client is the author of the work in that they are the person who is really behind the content. It is the client’s ideas, the client’s stories and experiences. It is the client’s words recorded on hours of interview tapes. The ghostwriter is a professional consultant providing expertise in the area of bringing together all the information, organizing it, and writing it up in a way that will produce a marketable and readable masterpiece.

What Skills does a Ghostwriter Need?

A ghostwriter must be a good writer.

He or she should also have good interviewing skills, since they will spend many hours and days interviewing clients. They should have the ability to ask good questions that will draw out the best aspects of a story.

Another skill – which may need to be developed – is the ability to maintain the client’s voice so that the book reads like the client, not the ghostwriter.

How is a Ghostwriter Paid?

Ghostwriters usually charge a flat fee for their work.

Sometimes they will reduce their ghostwriting fee in return for a percentage (perhaps 25-50%) of the royalties, or in rare cases they may waive their fee in return for a percentage of royalties.

The advantage of a flat fee is that a ghostwriter knows exactly how much he or she will be paid. The risk of relying on royalties is that even if the book is well-written, the ghostwriter has no control over the book’s marketing and promotion.

Does a Ghostwriter get Any Credit?

More often than not, the public never knows that a book was ghostwritten. Sometimes ghostwriters are even legally bound to not reveal that they have ghosted a particular book.

Occasionally ghostwriters will receive some credit. The writer’s name may appear on the cover as a co-author or it might read “as told to Jenny Ghost.” Another way to thank the ghostwriter is under the acknowledgements, for example “…and thanks to Joe Ghoul without whom this book would never have been completed”.

Are You Thinking of Becoming a Ghostwriter?

It could be an excellent career move. You’ve probably heard it said that everyone has a book inside them. Well, the fact of the matter is that not everyone has the time or the skill to write it.

As long as there is a story to be told, ghostwriters will continue to be in demand.

Copywriters and Ghostwriters – Two Different Entities Or One and the Same?

There seems to be some confusion when it comes to the titles given to some writers nowadays. Copywriter, ghostwriter… what does it all mean?

To clear up the mystery, copywriting and ghostwriting are really very much the same thing. No matter what you want written, if you hire a writer to get the job done for you then that job could be referred to ether as copy writing or ghost writing.

Ghostwriting is the more glamorous sounding term, but all it refers to is the fact that a writer will create your work and you then put your own name to it. So you could ask a ghostwriter to write ten articles for your website, and when you upload them you would add your name as the author instead of theirs. They are paid to provide the content and nothing more. The term copywriting meanwhile comes from the fact that some written pieces are sometimes referred to as ‘copy’ rather than writing.

You will sometimes notice that certain types of writing are referred to more as ghost writing than copy writing, or vice versa, and this is largely where the confusion over what each term refers to comes from. For example some celebrities ask professionals to write their autobiographies for them, and this is most often referred to as ghost writing.

So in essence it doesn’t matter what kind of work you need to have done. It could be an e-book or a press release, an article or a sales page. Whatever it is, you can look for both ghostwriting and copywriting services when you are searching for a writer to take on the work for you.

In truth you shouldn’t worry about the term a particular writer or writing service uses to describe what they do. What matters is whether they have any experience of doing the kind of work you require. If you look for a ghostwriting service to take on your e-book for you, you could miss out on the best writer for the job, who just happens to call themselves a UK copywriter instead.

Sometimes what you need to know isn’t in the job title – it’s in the job itself.

Who Should Self Publish Their Book and Why?

Why are you writing you book? Do your core values match these:

Explaining how you function to your specific target audience

Most companies make the mistake of thinking that their customers either know how their business works, or that the process is too complex for them to understand. In both cases, the stronger the reason to explain to your audience how your business runs and why you are different. It would be pleasing to hear that clients are interested in knowing and if explained well, it could quickly become your USP as many competitors don’t do this. Be the first. A book is an excellent way of sharing information.

Example: If you are a dental cosmetic surgeon who is looking at increasing sales of a particular procedure, and there is cut-throat competition, it might even be a good idea to write a small 75- page book and self publish it for free distribution among potential prospects.

People like to have precise information, and will not mind paying for knowledge, more so if they perceive you to be an expert in your field. It would however not be a great idea to publish such a book using a traditional approach and sell your book in bookstores since your target audience is too selective. Imagine running an advertisement in a paper and offering a free book on the procedure. A lot of people might call for it, and would also create a higher closing ratio.

Making more profits on book sales, but you have your audience to sell to

This is a good idea for motivational speakers or people who generally address an audience and quite often a book makes a great product to sell. But it is only for those who know how to sell it. The advantage over traditional publishing is that here you have all the profit, only incurring a nominal printing and logistics fee.

In a nutshell, I would recommend self-publishing only if you have a very specific audience to target and you are sure you know how to do it.