What Is A Ghostwriter?

Apr 16, 2020 | Ghostwriting

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How to Hire a Ghostwriter

Before taking a new ghostwriting job, I usually perform an interview with my client. One reason I like to do this is it’s good to be aware of any expectations going in, in-depth.

Another reason is I like to be extremely clear about how I operate.

Most important of all though, I like to interview because when most of my clients Google “how to hire a ghostwriter” they’re not really sure what they’re going to get back.

Hopefully, this blog will help clarify some of the baselines of what you should expect.

What Is A Ghostwriter? They Are A Professional:

I know of a few ghostwriters who moonlight. They take on assignments to fund their vacations, children’s college funds, student loan burdens, etc… By and large, however, a ghostwriter offers a professional level writing service as a prominent part of their living.

I hate to cut so quickly to the chase, but if a ghostwriter doesn’t get paid, a vital part of the equation is missing. You wouldn’t expect your mechanic to work for free because he loves cars, would you?

Paying for a service assures both parties of getting what they need. The ghostwriter is afforded the time and space to complete the contracted work to the best of their ability, and for the client, that professional connection assures that they get what they want.

You’re more likely to demand what you want if you’re paying for it, right?

Ghostwriting Means No Credit:

This may be one of the few carte blanche statements I can make here. The “ghost” in “ghostwriting” implies invisible. A ghostwriter gets paid. You, the client, gets the credit for the work (as well as the future payments, royalties, and any of the juicy franchise rights to follow), which ends up being a pretty good return on investment.

Often, I’m approached with offers of credit in exchange for my services. The offer usually plays out something like you take some partial credit for the project for less (or no) money. I understand the impulse to ask.

A top-notch ghostwriter can cost some money. Frankly, no matter how many times I hear it, I respectfully listen. But each time, I decline.

Here are a few of the reasons.

I like to tell prospects that if I wanted to work entirely on spec, I would write my own book or screenplay. Working on spec is a lot of risks, so why hand it over? A clearly defined arrangement allows everyone to focus properly. Usually, I request that my clients begin the process of marketing themselves, or their book, as soon as I start writing the project. I can’t market and write, it’s not time effective.

Without a shared effort, the project has less of a chance to sell.

Ghostwriters Are (Mostly) Flexible:

You’ve likely gathered from this blog that ghostwriting can look like a variety of things. I like to say, I’m not out here selling car wax (if I was, it would be a lot simpler!). Because of the broad, open definition, there is a flexibility to the scope of work, project benchmarks, pricing and agreement structures.

Ghostwriters need payment, something upfront usually, but after that the breakdown is open. A freelance ghostwriter is even more flexible. After fifteen years in the business, I have seen everything. I say that though, knowing each time I’m sure that statement is true, I find myself in a new, extraordinary project.

The moral of the story is to ask.

Ghostwriting Is Ethical:

Once in a while, a well-meaning prospective client will express some misgivings about our arrangement. If you do the writing, they say, I feel bad taking the credit. Something is wrong in that, right?

The answer every time is, no.

There is nothing wrong with that at all. Plagiarism is stealing. Thankfully, most people are instinctively averse to the idea of stealing ideas. Our arrangement doesn’t amount to stealing though. The client provides the story, experiences, ideas. They are the source of the intellectual property, the IP.

My role is to turn that IP into a marketable product. Ghostwriting can lead to a slippery slope though. What I mean by that, once again, is I’m not out here selling a new-fangled car wax, a business where the definitions are at least more clear.

The definitions of “first draft” or “final draft” or “re-write” are not easy to define, which leads to…

Ghostwriting Is A Service:

A poorly organized ghostwriting project can spiral out of control, for both the writer and the client. Knowing this is why all of my projects are structured on a contracted basis.

That contract is there to protect both sides. It is not simply as an assurance of payment delivered. A simple “ghostwriting terms of service’ is written out, discussed with specifics negotiated before any money is sent, or pen hits paper.

I describe each definition, discuss industry-specific “ghostwriting” terminology and spell out timelines.

Do you have tips for ghostwriter services that you would like to share?

If so, leave them in the comments. I would love to hear more