5 of the Biggest Myths about Ghostwriting
Many people have heard of ghostwriters but may not be exactly sure what they do and how they work. Ghostwriters are writers who work behind-the-scenes to craft documents on behalf of their clients, typically anonymously. Most people get that. But there are some common misconceptions about ghostwriters and how they work and I’d like to clear up a few of the big ones:
1. Ghostwriters magically create material out of thin air.
No, they don’t. Ghostwriters don’t make things up on their own. They work at the direction of their client, which means their client needs to provide input and direction about what information the document should contain, in what order, alongside what research data, etc. Clients can’t just assign a project, such as a blog post, article, or book, and then walk away expecting the ghostwriter to understand their viewpoint.
In many ways, ghostwriters are mediums – that is, they speak for others, namely, their clients. They communicate what it is their clients want to say but don’t have the time to, or maybe don’t have the interest or ability to. But it’s their client’s ideas, opinions, perspective, and information they are organizing and developing.
2. Ghostwriters are hard to find, working only in the shadows.
Ghostwriters do tend to take a low profile, primarily because they are often contractually prevented from disclosing who their clients are or what projects they’ve completed. Some clients are more comfortable revealing they used a ghostwriter than others but most ghosts keep quiet about their work.
That doesn’t mean they are hard to find, however. Do a search for the term “ghostwriter” or “business ghostwriter” or “ghostblogger,” for example, and I assure you that Google will present you with a number of options to check out. Ghostwriters do try and let people know what they do in the hopes that interesting projects may come their way. Do a little research and you’ll find a bunch.
You can also use the Association of Ghostwriters’ Find a Ghostwriter service to be connected with ghosts who have the experience you’re after. Or do you own research through the AOG member directory to see if anyone catches your eye.
3. Any writer can be a ghostwriter.
No, writing in someone else’s voice is not a skill all writers have.
Some exceptionally talented freelance writers and authors have their own highly developed writing voice, or style. They will always sound like them in their writing voice. To be a good ghostwriter, you need to be more like a chameleon, able to change tone and style to match your client’s.
4. Splitting book sales is typically how ghosts are paid.
Ghostwriters are hired to handle a wide variety of writing projects, from articles to blog posts to speeches to white papers, case studies, and more. But the most common association people have with ghostwriters is as book authors. Writing books for clients can be a substantial project for both ghost and client, in terms of workload and payment.
Although many clients would like to pay ghostwriters based on sales after the book is released, few ghostwriters are willing to work that way. The main reason is that very few books ever sell more than a few thousand copies. So unless they are being paid $100+/book, it is a money-losing proposition for a ghostwriter to be compensated that way. More fair is to be paid for their services as the project progresses, much like a general contractor. They get a down payment and then progress payments along the way.
Another reason being paid based on book sales is not attractive to ghostwriters is that the only thing they can possibly control, at a minimum, is the quality of the content in the book. They have no control over how the book is being produced or promoted. So if sales are flat because the client didn’t invest in marketing, it is the ghostwriter who is hurt worst of all in these scenarios.
5. In person meetings are critical to a quality finished piece.
Yes, face-to-face meetings can help ghostwriters picture their clients when they’re writing, but that’s not essential to producing well-written content. Clients who insist on finding a ghostwriter in their local area severely restrict themselves and run the risk of hiring a less experienced ghostwriter, or someone who isn’t the best fit.
A better approach is to use today’s technology, such as Skype, email, and phone, to communicate regularly with a ghostwriter who has the experience in your subject area, rather than the same zip code.
What are some other myths about ghostwriting that you’ve encountered?