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What Is a Ghostwriter? Info for Writers

by | Sep 30, 2022

Of all the types of writing work out there, being a ghostwriter is easily the coolest-sounding job. 

If you’ve been around the world of writing for some time, either from the perspective of an active writer or just that of a reader, you will almost certainly have heard of the term. But what exactly does it mean? What is a ghostwriter? What do they do? And could you become one yourself?

This article will give you a solid understanding of what a ghostwriter is, what they do, and how you can explore whether this type of writing is something you want to incorporate into your writing career.

What is a ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is someone who produces written content that is then published under the name of another party. The ghostwriter is the producer of the work but their name is not associated with the project and they are typically not publicly linked to it. 

Let’s consider this further with a brief example. Imagine there is a man named John who wishes to be the author of a mystery novel. For whatever reason, whether lack of skill, time, or motivation, John does not wish to carry out the actual process of writing the book himself. Instead, he offers you a sum of money to do so.

Although you would be the person who writes the book, John would be the named author associated with the book. This is how ghostwriting works in a nutshell.

Why are ghostwriters needed?

Ghostwriters are needed for a whole host of reasons that typically relate to either a lack of time, money, skill or a combination of several of these factors. 

To better understand why ghostwriters are needed, let’s take a look at some practical examples.

  1. Someone has an idea for a book but doesn’t have the writing skill needed to produce it.
  2. Someone is releasing a book for a purpose, such as to promote their business, and has no interest in writing it.
  3. A book is being ghostwritten on behalf of a celebrity, whose time is booked up with their core work, such as acting or making music.
  4. A writer wishes to become an authorpreneur. Even though they have the skill and experience to write books on their own, they are limited by their time. Therefore, they hire ghostwriters to work for them according to their style and specification. This allows them to publish a greater quantity of books in a shorter space of time than would otherwise be possible. 

Ghostwriting work has been around for a long time and isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, due to how easy it is to publish a book in this day and age, the need for ghostwriters will only increase, as more people wake up to the benefits of a book for their bank balance, business, and potential to impact the world through information or entertainment.

Are ghostwriters paid well?

Like all forms of writing, ghostwriters are paid variably depending on their level of skill, experience, and the difficulty and prestige of a particular project.

Let’s consider a few examples. At the lower end of the ghostwriting pay ladder, a small business might need a few articles for its blog. They don’t have a writer on the team so they are interested in contracting you to produce them on their behalf, even though they will be published under the name of their CEO. For this type of short nonfiction article, you might be paid something like $50 a time. 

On the other end of the scale, imagine you are a talented writer with decades of experience under your belt writing in a specific and challenging field. Top leaders within the industry might seek you out specifically to ghostwrite their next book, expected to be a major work within that field and a top seller. You might make upwards of $50,000 for such a project.

If the financial side of ghostwriting is important to you, reach out to ghostwriters within your area or niche and politely see if you can pick their brains as to your potential earnings. Compare how much you will make from ghostwriting with how much you might earn from other types of writing work.

And, most of all, remember that the type of earnings available to you through ghostwriting will be a lot less when you’re just starting out. Building skills and experience both take time. So if the amount you can earn from ghostwriting seems a little low at first, make sure to see it as the floor rather than the ceiling. It’s just the first step on a path toward more lucrative ghostwriting opportunities further down the line. 

What type of skills are needed to be a ghostwriter?

At this point, you probably have a good idea of whether the idea of being a ghostwriter is or isn’t appealing to you. If it is, the next step is to consider whether you already possess the skills needed to successfully work as a ghostwriter, or whether they are something you will have to develop. 

Broadly speaking, skills needed to successfully ghostwrite fall into two main categories. First, skills related to writing itself. Second, skills related to client management and everything else surrounding the process of finding ghostwriting work and getting paid for it.

Let’s look at each in turn.

Perhaps the most important ghostwriting skill that sets it apart from other forms of writing work is the ability to not only convey someone else’s ideas but to do so in their voice. Say, for example, you are writing a book for a person who comes across as lighthearted, fun, and positive. If you were to write a book for them in a serious and formal tone, it wouldn’t sound like their work at all.

As well as being able to write in someone else’s voice, it’s essential to be able to write to a deadline and to respond rapidly to client feedback. You need to always keep in mind that this isn’t your project, it’s theirs. Therefore, you have to be able to march to the beat of their drum and prioritize what they need over any opinions you may have.

Aside from the writing work itself, a key component of being a successful ghostwriter is the ability to seek out clients and manage the financial side of the work. This involves invoicing, getting testimonials, managing your workload, and other similar skills. 

Where can I find ghostwriting work?

There are many different routes to becoming a ghostwriter.

Major freelance sites such as Upwork usually have a wide variety of different ghostwriting jobs available. These typically cover the whole spectrum of complexity, ranging from a few short articles, all the way through to entire books, However, the competition for this work is often fierce and the pay is less than you mind find elsewhere.

You can also find ghostwriting opportunities through social media. Making it known you’re a ghostwriter on LinkedIn is a great way to find opportunities, either through potential clients reaching out to you or vice versa. There are also ghostwriting groups on Facebook you could consider joining.

Finally, one of the best ways to find ghostwriting work is to keep your ear to the ground through your network and outreach. Make it known that you’re looking for ghostwriting opportunities and encourage people to pass on that info through word-of-mouth referrals to their network.

Hopefully, you now have a thorough understanding of what a ghostwriter is, what they do, and if it’s the type of writing work you would like to try. We wish you every success.