What is a Ghostwriter?

By - July 19, 2014

Ghost WriterAs a ghostwriter you write articles, books, reports, or any other texts that are officially credited to someone else. This is common online, and a lot of what's out there has been written by someone other than whoever has the byline.

Flickr photo by hobvias sudoneighm

You do the work and they get the credit. That's okay as long as you get paid well enough for your time. Keep in mind though, that the pieces you ghostwrite will not help you get your name out there and you can't even put them in your portfolio to show other potential clients -- unless you get permission from the clients for whom you have ghostwritten.

The basics have been covered before on a page here about ghostwriting jobs. By the way, I paid to have that page written, and I could have chosen to have my name put on it, but I thought the writer, Eric Hammer, should get the byline. I just needed the content for my website, after all, and I wasn't paying enough (in my opinion) to take the credit. In any case, this article is about my experience and about the two types of ghostwriting.

Ghostwriting: Type One

Recently, after years of writing for my own books and websites, I started working as a freelance writer. Most of the articles and blog posts I write for others still have my name on them. Some don't, making them ghostwriting. But these are still "my" writing, even if they do appear with someone else's name on them or no name at all. I got to write in my style, and even chose the topics.

So that's one kind of ghostwriting. You just write as you normally would and allow someone else's name to be put on it. This is perhaps the easiest and most common job (especially when writing for websites and blogs) you'll have as a ghostwriter.

Ghostwriting: Type Two

Now, with some projects, I've branched into the second type of ghostwriting. What's the difference? I'm writing specifically as if I am the person who will have the byline. This is much trickier, and more work, but a fun challenge too.

The first of these jobs was several articles for a travel blog that promotes high-end stylish clothing and accessories. In that case the byline was given to the company. I had to drop my frugal, t-shirt and jeans personality and think like I was young, wealthy, and knew what was in fashion. I had to write from that perspective.

That wasn't so tough. But writing as though you are a specific person is more difficult, and I have done that too. In those cases you generally have to research and interview the person unless you already know her really well. After all, when you write, "One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is..." it better be one of her favorite ways. Her name will be on that article and if done right it actually will be her article in a sense. In other words, you are being a researcher and editor as much as a writer.

A friend, with whom I occasionally play chess, has been a ghostwriter for many years. He does what is perhaps the toughest type of ghostwriting; autobiographies. Now you might wonder if a book can really be called an autobiography when it's ghostwritten, but again, as the writer of such books you are as much researcher and editor as writer. The stories all belong to the life of the person you are writing for, and even the sentiments expressed in each chapter are his or hers if you're doing your job right.

That's quite a challenge. You have to think as though you are your clients whenever you write "I," "me," or "mine." You have to relive their stories in your mind.

Ghostwriting is interesting work, and not as difficult to get into as you might think 9at least for the first type). Now I can add being a ghostwriter to my list of the 100 or so ways I've made money. Or should I add it as two different ways, since I have done both types?

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