What Is a Ghostwriter?
If you’re wondering “What is a ghostwriter anyway?” you aren’t alone. I’ve learned it is a rather unusual concept for many people. Let’s start with a basic definition: Ghostwriters are professional writers for hire who are paid upfront to write for other people.
Some ghostwriters write books, while others write articles. Some write speeches and others write screenplays.
I specialize in writing books, but do sometimes write blog articles and screenplays. A few clients even asked me to pen letters for them. More on that later.
Now, let’s answer a few questions you might have:
Who hires a ghostwriter?
Most of my clients are business men and women who don’t have the time to write a book themselves, but have something important to share. Many want to share their personal life story, while others want a business book to teach others what they know. Sometimes people want to write a best-selling novel and need a little help.
Most books written by a celebrity are actually completed by a ghostwriter. If you want to do a little detective work, check out the acknowledgment section of a book. If a writer is given a credit there, it is likely they are a ghostwriter who helped the author write his or her book. Of course, if the cover bears the name of two authors where one received a “with” or “as told to” credit, you know that a ghostwriter was involved with the project.
Who owns the book in the end?
Ghostwriters hand over the rights to the book when the project is completed and become a “ghost.” As mentioned above, sometimes we get a “with” or “as told to” credit on the cover or an acknowledgement inside, but mostly we are sworn to secrecy.
If you interview a ghostwriter who requests any ownership of your book, walk away. That should never be a part of the deal.
What do ghostwriters write?
Ghostwriters can basically write anything the client needs. Over the last twenty years, clients have hired me to write twenty memoirs, over a dozen fictional stories, and a few business books. I’ve also worked for Yahoo! Small Business where I was a “small business advisor.” I wrote many articles for them.
It might surprise you the varied requests I receive. One client hired me to write a letter to an older gentleman who was on his death bed, while another asked me to pen a letter to the editor regarding a highly controversial subject.
Authors most often ask ghostwriters to write books, because books require hundreds of hours to complete as well as a good amount of experience. Some writers specialize in a particular genre, while others write books in many different genres. I am rather picky about the clients I take on, but I love writing about a variety of subjects.
Isn’t it unethical to take credit for a book written by a ghostwriter?
I obviously feel strongly that ghostwriting other people’s books is fine or I wouldn’t have devoted half my life to helping people complete their book projects. The way I see it, authors wouldn’t finish their books without me, and each of my clients had important messages to share, so it is important that I do what I do.
I do have one exception to this position, though. I feel equally as strongly that ghostwriters have no business writing academic papers for students. When a college student writes and asks me to write a thesis, I decline the job immediately and discourage him from hiring any professional writer.
Now I should point out that stealing someone else’s work and claiming it as yours is not the same. That’s plagiarism and is a crime. Technically, it’s a misdemeanor and is punishable by a stiff fine and sometimes hail time.
My clients and I always have a contract, where we spell out the details of the relationship. Each party understands and agrees to the terms stated. It’s always very clear that the book goes to the author, the person hiring the ghostwriter.
Yes, you ARE the author. Without you, there would be no book.
Okay, now for a pop quiz…
What is a ghostwriter?
A. A writer who writes scary stories.
B. A recently deceased writer who completes a book postmortem.
C. A person who writes for someone else.
If you have an answer E, please email me and let me know!
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