Should You Do Ghostwriting?

If you’re a freelance writer, you may have thought about adding ghostwriting to your freelance writing services.

But, exactly what is ghostwriting? And, what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of doing this type of writing? Is it ethical? Are such jobs available?

If you’re like many writers, you’ve heard of ghostwriting, but you don’t really know a whole lot about it.

In this post, I’ll answer some of your questions about ghostwriting and invite you to join a discussion on ghostwriting ethics.


What is Ghostwriting?

As you’ve probably already guessed, ghostwriting is NOT writing about ghosts–despite the name. (Okay, that was a bit of humor‚Ķ)

Rather, ghostwriting is writing under another person’s name. Usually ghostwriting is needed because the other person is too busy to write for themselves or lacks professional writing skills. As a freelance ghostwriter, you may tackle projects ranging from blog posts, to books and e-books, to biographies, to speeches, and more.

Ghostwriting has a long literary history. Many literary and historical figures have used ghostwriters to help them produce written material and speeches.

The extent of a ghostwriter’s involvement in a project also varies. A freelance ghostwriter could be asked to do anything from write a complete book from start to finish to help the client polish off and organize a mostly written piece of work. If you decide to do ghostwriting, be sure to get a detailed scope of work before you quote a price and always use a contract. One ghostwriting job is not the same as another.

Here are some additional resources to help you learn more about ghostwriting:

As you can see, there’s quite a lot of information available, and these references are just to get you started.

Advantages of Ghostwriting

The advantages of becoming a ghostwriter are many, including:

  • Pay–Successful ghostwriters are well paid. Many of those who engage the services of ghostwriters are prominent individuals and are willing to pay enough to make sure the job is done well.
  • Work–There is plenty of work available for a talented ghostwriter. Not only that, but the projects tend to be larger than other writing projects (such as writing web content, for example).
  • Contacts–As a ghostwriter, you may have the opportunity to work closely with a prominent or even famous individual. Of course, not all of your clients will be celebrities.

Naturally, you also get the satisfaction of a job well done and the opportunity to continue to hone your writing skills.

Disadvantages of Ghostwriting

Along with the advantages of ghostwriting, come the disadvantages:

  • No credit for your work–No matter how good your writing is, you usually can’t ever take credit for your ghostwritten pieces. Someone else will get the credit for your work. These aren’t writing pieces you can put in your portfolio.
  • Scope changes–Depending on the project, ghostwriting tends to be very personal for a client. In fact, it may even be a memoir. For that reason, there may be multiple revisions and changes until the piece is “just right.”
  • Ethical considerations–Some areas of ghostwriting have fallen under scrutiny. For more details, see the section on ethical considerations below.

Ethical Considerations

Is ghostwriting ethical?

Well, of course every writer will have a slightly different opinion about this.

In a few fields, ghostwriting is frowned upon. This is particularly true in the academic world where individuals are typically expected to do their own writing. In fields like this, ghostwriting may be looked upon by some as a form of cheating.

However, most industries do accept ghostwriters and in some fields (such as politics and entertainment) it is pretty much expected that the major players will get at least some help from a professional writer to write their books and speeches.

Your Turn

Is ghostwriting your freelancing business? Share a few pointers on how you got started. Did I leave anything out?

What do you think about the ethical concerns about ghostwriting? Are they legitimate, or not? Can you think of other concerns?

Image by S. MASH

Comments

  1. says

    Ghostwriting and ghostblogging are part of my writing business, and I tend to do articles and non-fiction ebooks. I don’t ever ghostwrite academic papers for ethical reasons, but apart from that I take a pragmatic approach. Ghostwriting allows me to write about a wide range of topics and get paid, so I like it. Of course, I also like getting the credit for my work, so I’m happy to have a good balance between the two types of writing.

  2. says

    I see nothing wrong with ghostwriting in most instances. In this day and age, where people can’t seem to be able to construct a grammatically correct sentence, professional ghostwriters do come in handy.

  3. says

    Christy–I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Sharon Hurley Hall, I think ghostwriting is a larger market than most people realize. :)

    Hi John! Exactly. And that’s the point of ghostwriting. Someone may be very successful, but not have strong writing skills.

  4. says

    Absolutely Ghostwriting one of good the way to keep connecting with those people who needs some external information he know. Also I’m doing this job for a year or so!

  5. says

    A large percentage of my freelance writing business comprises ghostwriting articles, white papers, eBooks, reports and blogs. It’s also the most lucrative portion of my portfolio. After a long career in journalism i have no ego when it comes to seeing my byline in print, in fact after seeing what some editors did to my copy i often would have preferred that my byline wasn’t used, but that’s another story. I also write under my own name, so as Sharon mentioned, there is a good balance and i don’t feel totally anonymous.
    i believe ghostwriting is a challenging endeavor because it involves real understanding, trust and the ability to write in different voices and styles. it’s not for everyone but i really get a (secret) kick out of it. I don’t ghostwrite for students for ethical reasons.

  6. says

    This is an interesting one. I write articles for other blogs, which is kind of ghostwriting, but there are areas I wouldn’t touch. Last year I wrote some academic papers for someone and went back and forth as to whether I thought it was ethical or not. In the end I decided that they were all relatively short papers and thus I was going to do it; I know she wouldn’t have been able to pay what I’d have charged for a large paper.

    As to the other point, I think the reason I haven’t put myself up for bid to ghost-write a book is because I’d want some kind of credit for it, and of course it wouldn’t be forthcoming. Of course there’s this thing about is there a price that I might do it for and not accept the credit, and in that case I’d say that if someone paid me $100,000 to do it then I would. But since I don’t see that coming I think I’m safe on that count. lol

  7. says

    A good portion of my business is ghostwriting articles and blog posts for businesses. I love it.

    I have a health care niche and write for busy executives that want to be known as thought leaders, but don’t have the time (or desire) to do their own writing.

    From the writer’s perspective, what I love is there is no chasing down queries to magazines or pitching ideas (other than the initial one to my future client).Your client pays you and typically submits the articles to an industry publication or local business news journal.

    I find once you get your foot in the door and do a good job for them, you have a continuous supply of projects.

    But, here’s the thing-there is an art to being a ghostwriter. You need to take on the voice of your client or it just doesn’t work right. I find that to be one of my favorite things about ghostwriting. It’s their ideas, their passion. You are just helping them express them.

    The other thing is (like you said, Laura) if you have a problem with not having a byline, this work is not for you. You also have to let go of the work once you release it. If they change it, they change it. There may be times you’re glad you don’t have a byline. ;-)

    Gee, can you tell I’m a fan of ghostwriting. :-) Like Sharon, I find other ways to get my name on the byline. In the meantime, I find ghostwriting endlessly fascination and a great way to be inspired by people passionate about what they do.

  8. says

    I started out primarily as a ghostwriter & never really thought twice about doing it. It was an easy was to make a little cash, compile clips & make connections in my market. I actually decided to give ghostwriting a little more critical thought after a prospect grilled me about it during an initial consultation.

    You can read them here.

    Ghostwriting: Is It Selling Out?

    http://writenowindy.com/blog/2011/04/21/ghostwriting-is-it-selling-out/

  9. says

    I also do ghostwriting. I write academic papers for students. Well, you are right, there are ethical considerations involved. I am not proud of what I do and I always find the right words to say when people ask me about what I do. But, it brings food on my family’s table. So, I just try to become the best in what I do.

  10. Jaymia says

    I have been doing ghost writing since 3 years. I don’t like the idea of writing papers for students, doing academic writing. But the job pays me well and allows me to make both ends meet.

  11. says

    Academic ghostwriters come from all kind of backgrounds with a distinguished career in their respective field. From my perspective and experience in recent years the demand for assistance to complete academic assignments has increased constantly and this will not change in the long-term. In other words, ghostwriting will prevail forever and it is definitely a “big business” with tremendous opportunities for ghostwriters. The reasons for clients to require such services differ for various reasons like time constraints, needed academic support to develop own ideas, difficulties to access valuable literature, deficiencies in academic writing skills and so on. So, there is the momentum where a qualified and experienced academic ghostwriter can close the gap and accomplish a “mission” for a client in need!

  12. says

    I have been ghostwriting several dissertations in German over the last years and I don’t consider it as unethical as many people do. In a success driven society, it has become an obligation to have a certain degree. People are not measured by their specific qualifications, but by their degree. Therefore it is not absurd that some people who don’t have the time or capabilities to write a PhD dissertation, find a ghostwriter to push their career. Actually, the main purpose of a PhD dissertation became a “career boost”. With the Bachelor’s and Master’s dissertation, it is different since students also have to write exams and hold presentations.

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