A concept not fully realized by the reading public is the idea of “ghostwriting,” sometimes called work-for-hire. Ghostwriting is when other people pay you to write for them, which they then legally claim and market as their own work—and you can’t.
Ghostwriting is more widespread than most people realize. At some publishers, I’ve heard that ghostwriters produce up to 70 percent of the nonfiction books they publish.
I once ideally thought that hiring a ghostwriter was unethical and disingenuous. It seemed no different than commissioning an artist to create a painting—and then signing your name on it. In essence, using a ghostwriter feels like misleading readers and taking advantage of the writer. To address this, I think ghostwriters should receive some credit for their work.
While I am quick to villainize those who hire ghostwriters without acknowledging the ghostwriter’s role in the finished product, I am not critical of ghostwriters—after all, I am one.
For the writer, ghostwriting is:
- a great way to make money (if you are a good and quick writer)
- ideal if all you want to do is write
- a way to avoid having to build a platform, publicly promote your books, and market your work (which many authors call the dark side of writing)
If it fits you, ghostwriting is a great gig. Just go into it fully aware of the advantages and disadvantages.
However, ghostwriting is not good if you want to see your name in print, receive recognition for what you’ve written, or if you have any sort of an ego. If this describes you, than ghostwriting will be the slow death of your writer’s soul.
A final reminder to those who hire ghostwriters: I implore you to give credit, in some way, to your ghostwriter as your partner in the finished product. It is the right thing to do: for you, them, and your readers.
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.