Ghostwriting is the practice of writing something either in long form – such as a manuscript for a novel, or an autobiography – or in short form – such as a blog post, a thought leadership feature article, or a whitepaper for commercial marketing purposes.
Like everything in life, there are pros and cons to this particular writing practice, which I aim to elaborate here, based on several years of working on paid ghostwriting assignments and projects, to help you decide whether this is something that you wish to do – or not.
How I got into ghostwriting in the first place
Any writer worth their salt, whether they’re just starting out, a seasoned professional or anything in between, will want to see their name or pen name being accredited to the piece that they have created.
Yes, there are some whose poetry has remained anonymous to us and whether this is deliberate is something we may never know. Some also choose to write novels anonymously because of the nature of the content that may cause us, the world at large, to question them, judge them, berate them, or even stir up harmful intentions on to them and their families.
Some find themselves writing up stories or biographical works on behalf of more well-known personalities, who may not have the writing talent per se, but are magnetic and engaging enough to pull their audiences into reading and consuming any content about them.
For the writers, this means being (oftentimes suitably) financially rewarded as well as having the exposure and experience of writing for big projects. It’s just that they aren’t directly accredited for their creative labours.
I found myself ghostwriting through circumstances at work. I normally prefer to be accredited for any articles, poetry and digital content that I create on my own website and for other commercial or creative platforms.
In fact, let me make it clear: I don’t subscribe to ghostwriting at all – I love seeing my author by-line on my creations and strongly believe writers should be credited. Always.
For the past 8-9 years, I’ve adapted content marketing as my main profession which involves creating textual, audio and visual content for business websites and their social media channels.
What this also involves is adapting my writing style and tone of voice to align with the ways brands communicate to and with their audiences, which then consequently means that I lose or merge my own voice and style with the brand’s during this creative process. This gives the brand a more personable, identifiable aura with which audiences connect and engage with and then buy into.
Where does that leave me and credit for my work? Does credit for my efforts even matter here?
It doesn’t on both counts, and I will tell you why.
For one, before I sign up for the work, I am usually made aware of what my role and duties will be and the fact that I am comfortable with my authorship not being acknowledged is ascertained. This is where prices for my content creation and ghostwriting services are negotiated and decided upon.
For the other count, some of my detailed, often technical, blog posts and video content have actually been credited with my author by-line, as this helps convince website visitors that there are actually people behind the design, construction and operation of the website and social media channels. Plus, of course, it means I can add this on to my portfolio of published work too.
But the point here is that the brand and its messaging take more importance. Indeed, business comes first. Customers, whether they are existing and brand-loyal or prospective in nature, are only on a branded website because they are after something or interested to know more about a product or service offering. They don’t have much time nor the inclination to know or care about who it is that’s creating the content, unless they happen to be an aficionado on a particular product, brand or topic and really dig your content, in which case they will interact with you directly via social media. Yes, you do get some recognition through this line of work occasionally!
To me this is the only way ghostwriting seems to be justified but that hasn’t stopped me and a bunch of like-minded people in the global content marketing and commercial writing communities taking to social media to whinge about not being given credit where credit should be due.
Here’s what to consider for taking up ghostwriting work
I’ve now come to a juncture, where I find myself strongly intending to only write for websites where I can get a publicised author by-line. If you can see a leeway for this to happen, regardless of whether the platform you’re targeting your content on is commercial or a creative publication, then I would urge that you get your name out there and ensure your work is credited to you, especially if you wish to make it big through your work, through your words and through your own, unique voice.
Only take up ghostwriting work if:
- You want your words, messages, thoughts and feelings to resonate to as many people as possible and you aren’t actually bothered whether they know you per se or not. If this is you, then I salute your detachment to fame and recognition! No, seriously, I do. Respect!
- You feel you’re more of a kingmaker (or queenmaker) rather than the king/queen themselves. You feel there’s more power behind the scenes than there is up front and relish the joys of anonymity rather than being accosted by (usually well-meaning) fans via social media and in real life.
- You don’t think the world is ready to associate your distinctive writing style or perspective with you and your identity as yet and you only wish for the story to be told because it needs to be told.
- You are happy with the way your services are being compensated, be this financially and otherwise.
In a nutshell, ghostwriting isn’t for everyone, but satisfaction can be enjoyed from this craft if you are willing to give your claim to fame away.