I sometimes think that ghostwriting is something almost everyone has heard of, but very few people out there actually understand how the process works. For ghostwriters, creating new and original content for our clients is the business we’ve found ourselves in. But the other side, that prospective client considering their options, is often left to wonder what kind of help a ghostwriter can offer them. In this blog, I’m going to try to explain how ghostwriting and publishing fit together.
As I like to do in my blogs, I’m going to open up with some definitions.
On a fundamental level, we know that ghostwriting is the process by which a professional writer writes original content for a client without receiving credit. You pay me and in turn, I will write your project. When it is done, your name goes on the cover.
In a world where written content can help define a business, or provide the backbone of a project, ghostwriters are the solution for high-quality, market ready results.
The publishing market has become, especially in recent years, a little harder to define. If I was writing this blog in 2003, or even 2013, for that matter, the most realistic definition of the publishing market would come together through what we refer to as the “traditional” process today. A writer creates a book or story, they shop it to agents, publishers and producers in the hopes that they will champion the book, bringing it the rest of the way to market.
But that’s not how publishing works anymore. At least not exclusively.
Beyond the traditional route, filled with industry assigned gatekeepers and tastemakers, there is an entire universe of independent publishing. An author can, if they are feeling so inclined, act as both the author and publisher of their story. This is what we call self-publishing, and it is a revolutionary movement that is changing how books and written and content are being produced.
How do ghostwriting and publishing work together? In both traditional and self-publishing worlds, these two things are closely aligned.
Ghostwriting and Publishing: Market Realities
No one can accurately cite what percentage of books are the product of ghostwriting. The nature of the working relationship between a ghostwriter and their client, usually bound by both a contract and non-disclosure agreement, is protected.
Why is this? Because to the client, most often, the value in a writing project is having their name on it. They are establishing their value or authority in a specific area.
Anecdotally we know that a considerable percentage of non-fiction books are the product of professional ghostwriters. I’m talking about memoirs, biographies and business books, just to name a few. The bigger the name on the cover, the more likely that person had professional help.
This doesn’t mean that the subject had no role in the creation of their book, or that the results are somehow less important or legitimate. It does, however, considering the number of units these kinds of books sell, point to a reality: ghostwriting and publishing are closely aligned.
But the above example is referring just to non-fiction. With the rise of the “rapid release strategy” in the world of self-publishing (we’re talking about authors putting out a large number of books in a short period of time) we’ve seen an increasing number of ghostwriters involved in self-publishing.
Do you need help outlining the next book in your series? What about rewriting a troublesome draft one? Wherever there are books needing to be written, re-written or finished, you’ll find ghostwriters helping the process move along.
Cost Effective Solution?
I’ve been around this business long enough to know that there are good ghostwriters and others whose work is of questionable value. I want to tread respectfully while also being clear. Not everyone who claims to be a professional pen is worth what they want to charge for their services. How do you keep from hiring someone that fits this definition? I have written a whole book about the topic of interviewing techniques for hiring a ghostwriter.
But, with the right person on board, ghostwriting can be a cost-effective solution to the problem of creating new, high quality content in an efficient timeframe. The reality is that a good ghostwriter can write the book or article you’re dreaming of and help you get it to market much faster than if you tried to do it yourself. This is especially meaningful for high-earning, high demand professionals who are too busy to take the time away to write. Their schedules are too full to devote the time to writing.
If that sounds like you, a ghostwriter might be your best option.
Ghostwriting And Publishing: Ethics
I get asked this question a lot. Is it ethical to hire someone to write a book or article and then put your name on the final product.
In short, the answer is yes. It’s perfectly ethical.
Ghostwriters work under a contract. This means that before writing the first word on a project, they have agreed on, the working arrangement. They are being paid a contracted sum of money to write and will, in the end, not receive credit for the finished product.
The questionable ethics come when that contract is broken, or modified, without consent from both signed parties. While a rarity, this happens from time to time.
If you want to hire a ghostwriter to help bring your project to life, it’s important to be clear about the relationship you’re creating. What are you receiving? Define the end product. In turn, what are you paying for that service? This is defined by the financial terms.
Ghostwriting and publishing have worked together harmoniously for a long time, and they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.