If all you want to do is write, you should be a ghostwriter. Ghostwriters don’t need to seek an agent, sign with a publisher, or promote their books. They just write. The downside of being a ghostwriter is they seldom receive recognition for their work, just a paycheck.
In some books, the ghostwriter is mentioned, following the official author (that is, the person who will promote the book and paid the ghostwriter) using the words “with,” “and,” or “as told to.” Their name is in a smaller type than the official author’s. Other times the ghostwriter won’t make the front cover but will appear on the title page or maybe in the acknowledgments section. Usually, however, the ghostwriter’s identity is kept a secret, especially with fiction.
I recently started a blog writing and content marketing service. Sometimes I receive the byline for my work, and other times I don’t. I thought I’d be okay with this, but it’s not always true.
The first time I saw my words – really good words, if I may say so – with someone else’s name attached to them, I was taken aback. It was disconcerting.
Yes, I was paid for my work as agreed. But in retrospect, it wasn’t enough. I should have asked for more if my name was to be omitted. The next time I did.
Why is receiving credit for my work so important to me?
I suppose ego is a part of it, but a bigger issue is the realization that I can’t use those words again. I can’t repurpose them for a book, put them on my blog, or turn them into an article. I sold them; they are gone.
A few years ago, I was commissioned to write a biography. Naively, we never discussed who would get the byline. I finished the book and was paid, but for reasons outside my control, it wasn’t published. Had it been published with my name on the cover, I would have been happy with the money I received. However, if someone else’s name would have ended up there instead of mine, I would have felt undercompensated. I think I would have wanted twice as much or negotiated for a percentage of the sales.
I’m convinced ghostwriting is a viable option for writers. Since my first work-for-hire experience, I’ve ghostwritten many more works, from blog posts to books and everything between. I just ask if my client will list me as a coauthor, and then I charge appropriately.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.