Bonnie Chamberlain

Bonnie Chamberlain

What is a Ghostwriter?

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A ghostwriter is a skilled professional who is hired to create content with the knowledge that they will not be credited as its author. In other words, the “ghost” in the term implies the writer is unacknowledged. Oftentimes, another individual, such as the client, will be credited as the author of the ghostwriter's content.

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Have you ever dreamed of writing a book or creating a blog, but you find you struggle to put your thoughts into words? If so, a ghostwriter may be just what you need. Let’s explore this interesting job title and what it entails for both the writer and their clients. 

What is a Ghostwriter?

One distinct element turns a professional writer into a ghostwriter, and that’s the agreement between the writer and the client that the writer will not receive credit for their work.

At first thought, this may seem like an entirely unfair arrangement, but it’s one of the most popular methods employed by celebrities, politicians, and public figures when they want to publish a book in their name. Countless other individuals and businesses can also benefit from ghostwriters.

Is Ghostwriting Legal?

Ghostwriting is completely legal. It is an exchange of the writer’s services for an agreed sum of money, usually a flat rate, but occasionally including a percentage of royalties. 

A ghostwriting contract will make you the copyright owner of all content the ghostwriter creates for you, allowing you to use the content in any way you choose.

Being the copyright owner of a ghostwritten work, you can say you authored the content. While the term “author” is usually defined as the “writer of a book,” more accurately it is derived from the Latin word “auctor,” which means originator, i.e. a client who originates an idea and asks a ghostwriter to bring it to life.

Traits of a Great Ghostwriter

Being a ghostwriter takes a great deal of skill. If you have your own distinct writing style that you find hard to “turn off” or change, being a ghostwriter would prove extremely difficult. The main words that come to mind when describing a talented ghostwriter are adaptable and versatile.

#1 Interviewing and research capabilities.

A client may give a ghostwriter a very vague idea and it’s the responsibility of that ghostwriter to build upon it and turn it into an engaging piece of content that fits their vision. This involves asking the client the right questions to abstract information from them. Ghostwriters also spend a great deal of time researching, whether they’re learning about the topics at-hand or exploring the works of authors the client wishes to emulate. 

#2 An adaptable writing style.

Since a ghostwriter is producing content that’s going to be marketed as the creation of another brand or individual, they must be able to adopt any number of writing styles based on the client’s request. The best ghostwriters will hear accolades like, “It’s as if I wrote it myself!” Being able to adopt another person’s voice, along with their opinions and viewpoints, is crucial to a successful project.

#3 The ability to start from anywhere.

Oftentimes, a ghostwriter is the person behind-the-scenes who finishes a project for an author who couldn’t or didn’t want to. The ability to pick up where the client left off is crucial, as a ghostwriter may receive anything from a loose outline to an almost completely finished book. The best ghostwriters can seamlessly blend their writing into the materials given to them, smoothly weaving in new information where needed.

Do Ghostwriters Get Paid?

While, presumably, someone could agree to write a piece of content for free, professional ghostwriters always get paid for their hard work. Oftentimes, ghostwriters can charge much more due to the fact that they are not receiving author credit and the nature of the content they often create (i.e., memoirs for high-profile people).

How Do Ghostwriters Charge?

Like other writers, a ghostwriter may charge a per-word or hourly rate for their work. The writer may receive some or all of their estimated pay up-front and an additional lump sum upon the project’s completion. The per-word or hourly rate a ghostwriter charges is based on their experience, the size of the project, and similar factors.

Do Ghostwriters Earn Royalties?

A “royalty” is a small percentage of the profit generated by a sale. Some ghostwriters work royalties into their contract, especially if they’re creating a book or other content product that will be sold over and over again. However, most ghostwriters create articles, courses, and other short-form content that isn’t sold as a product. In these cases, royalties are rare.

Royalties are rarely taken in lieu of up-front payment as there’s the risk that the book or project doesn’t generate enough sales for the royalties to be worthwhile. Additionally, it may takes months for a book to get published after the ghostwriter has created it, and even longer for the ghostwriter to receive their first royalties check. 

If royalties are part of a contract, the ghostwriter is likely charging a fair up-front price for their work and they are requesting royalties on top of it. Most ghostwriters only hassle with royalties if they have reason to believe the content will produce major profit for their client (i.e., the client is taking the book through a major publishing house, the client is a public figure, etc.). 

Are Ghostwriters Co-Authors?

The terms “ghostwriter” and “co-author” can spark a bit of confusion, but the two are not interchangeable.

  • A co-author acts as a partner to the author, providing ideas and feedback, and sharing the revenue of the finished product. 
  • A ghostwriter creates the content according to the author’s instructions and that’s the extent of their involvement. 
If you need an individual to provide feedback on your writing or ideas rather than someone to create content for you, you should consider a “developmental editor” instead of a ghostwriter. 

Types of Ghostwriters

Ghostwriters are far more common than you might think, producing content in both the fiction and non-fiction realms. 

Non-Fiction Ghostwriters

A non-fiction ghostwriter must be able to thoroughly research a topic and produce seamless, engaging, accurate content. Non-fiction ghostwriters may produce advertising copy, product descriptions, social media posts for brands, articles for businesses’ websites, and memoirs for individuals. 

Fiction Ghostwriters

Fiction ghostwriters are extremely creative and know how to tell a story. Like any other author, fictional ghostwriters tend to have an area of specialty, like romance or sci-fi. If you’re hiring a fiction ghostwriter to write a story for you, they’ll likely charge substantially more if you have them write it from scratch. Most clients approach a fiction ghostwriter with a story idea already in mind. 

When Should I Hire a Ghostwriter?

There are many instances where hiring a ghostwriter is a smart move. Here are some common examples.

  • You want to credit yourself for the content. Hiring a ghostwriter enables you to list yourself as the author, even though you didn’t write the content.  
  • You want to credit someone specific for the content. Hiring a ghostwriter enables you to list someone else as the author, such as your company’s CEO, even though they didn’t write the content. 
  • You don’t want to credit anyone for the content. Hiring a ghostwriter enables you to not give anyone credit, which is perfect for website content, social media posts, and marketing copy.

Note: If you want to credit someone else for a piece of content, you have to have that person’s permission to do so. For instance, you can’t just randomly say your CEO wrote your last blog post about life in Alaska, nor can you credit content to friends, family, or other people unless they say you can. You can, however, come up with a fake name or pen name and credit content to that imaginary person. 

So, what if you do want to credit the person who actually wrote the content? Ghostwriters are just one type of freelance writer.

Common Types of Freelance Writers

Ghostwriters are far from the only type of write for hire. There are countless types of freelance writers whom you can employ to produce content for yourself or your business.

As you go on learning about the different types of freelance writers, you’ll begin to see a lot of overlap. Copywriters create all sorts of content, although many associate copywriters strictly with ad copy. Advertising copywriters specialize in ad copy, while other copywriters may cover anything from something highly technical or medical to a simple blog post for a small business. 

To further confuse you, copywriters don’t always request or require credit for their work, but they’re really acting as a ghostwriter in those instances. Ultimately, most freelance writers dabble in a little bit of everything, even if they specialize in one specific niche. For instance, you might find a highly skilled writer who knows the ins-and-outs of bodybuilding, and can create informational content for your website, type up some ads to sell your protein drinks, and even ghostwrite your next big presentation. 

Ghostwriters

Ideal for content where you want to give yourself credit or credit no one at all. 

General Copywriters

Ideal for articles, blog posts, and other content where you’re able to credit them as the author. 

Advertising Copywriters

The go-to professional if you need content to advertise or market a product or brand.

So, what kind of writer do you need? It all comes down to the type of content you’re looking to produce. The first thing you should look for when qualifying a writer is not whether or not they’re a ghostwriter (as even a writer who markets their services with no mention of ghostwriting will likely still accept a ghostwriting position).

Instead, focus on finding a writer who has knowledge in your industry and is able to demonstrate a versatile writing style that matches your brand. From there, you can discuss the specifics of your project and come up with a suitable solution. 

Where Can I Hire a Ghostwriter?

There’s no shortage of ghostwriters for hire, but finding the right one can be tough. Ultimately, you have two options:

  • Hire a freelance ghostwriter directly, like through their own website.
  • Go through a content writing platform that can match you with qualified writers. 

If you have a one-off project, like a memoir, hiring a ghostwriter directly gives you the most freedom and flexibility. You can contact as many ghostwriters as you want and talk to them directly, without having to sign up for a platform.

On the other hand, a content writing platform is ideal for someone with on-going content needs. The best content writing platforms provide you with a dashboard where you can manage multiple projects at once and communicate with your writing team. Most platforms also offer a variety of services that can help you build a brand, like keyword research and search engine optimization.

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Featured Author

Bonnie Chamberlain

Bonnie Chamberlain

Bonnie is a professional ghostwriter specializing in content about family, lifestyle, and fitness. Since she began her career in 2006, she's taken on a multitude of projects that have helped her refine her engaging writing style and learn the ropes of SEO.

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