Ghostwriting: a Primer Course

               William Shatner, Hulk Hogan, John F. Kennedy, Charles Darwin: did you know that they all share something in common? That’s right! As different as each of them is from one another, they’ve all “written” books that they didn’t actually write — they were ghostwritten.

                To start off this blog, I’m going to begin with a series that describes ghostwriting and what it involves; what it is and what it isn’t.  The biggest issue I find with potential ghostwriting candidates is that there is a lot of confusion and misunderstandings regarding this tool. For this installment, let’s focus on the broad strokes and how to better grasp what it is that so many writers have used — quite successfully — over the years.


What Ghostwriting Is

                I love to start with the easy part! In a very general sense, it’s hiring someone to write something on your behalf. It can be a book, blog, article, report, presentation — really anything that that you may be expected to write. Typically speaking, an agreement is made between you and the ghostwriter wherein certain parameters are put in place and once the work is handed to you, it’s yours. While it’s always best to hire someone you feel that you can trust, it’s still a good idea to have some sort of legal paperwork signed to protect yourself in the future.


What Ghostwriting Isn’t

                Let’s get this out of the way: when used ethically, this isn’t cheating. While of course there are some who pay others to do required work (e.g. school reports), this is only considered ghostwriting in the broadest sense of the term; serious ghostwriters always take the time to get to know their clients and what needs to be done. Even if we’re hungry, we should know when to say no.

                Additionally, hiring a ghostwriter doesn’t mean that you’re lazy or incapable. Most of my clients are well-educated and some (albeit rarely) even write at a higher level than myself! The reason that this is such a common practice is because it often frees up the client to do bigger and better things. Writing can be tedious, time-consuming and draining, which is why hiring someone to do this type of work may be the best option.


Who Typically Hires a Ghostwriter

                In a word: everybody. Seriously. Politicians, celebrities, businesspeople — even other writers! For example, did you know that one of the most famous writers in recent memory, Tom Clancy, used ghostwriters to keep up with the heavy demand for his books?

                We’re not just talking about throwaway pieces, either. Some clients have entrusted the writing of works that would make or break their careers. In the United States, for instance, in the past twenty or so years, most books attributed to famous positions who were often running for the highest offices were ghostwritten. These include Barak Obama, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton and the late John McCain, to name a few.

                In addition to these famous instances, the majority of ghostwriting is never even published since it involves businesspeople or government officials who are writing reports or presentations as well as certain documents that aren’t for general circulation. Personally, while I have written a number of novels for clients, just going by the total number of jobs I have done over the years, the majority of my work has been ghostwritten for unpublished purposes.

                So, if these kinds of people are so capable, why hire someone to write on their behalf? Generally speaking, it’s because of time constraints. Another reason may be that while they’re certainly an expert in own field, that field isn’t writing. Having worked extensively with PhDs and the like, I can tell you that many of the weakest writers that I’ve worked with were in no way unintelligent or unaccomplished in their own right.


                Hopefully I was able to answer some of the most basic questions you have about this legitimate writing option. In the next part of the series, I’ll delve deeper into the process itself and show you an insider's perspective!