Ghostwriting: trickery or trustworthy?

I was perusing the internet the other day when I came across a website advertising writing services much like my own. There was one service, however, that they would not offer–scratch that–refused to offer: ghostwriting. 

So what’s the deal? Is ghostwriting the publishing industry’s biggest scam, or a legitimate way to get your book from your brain to the shelf? 

Let’s play a little game. Take a moment to scan your bookshelf (or book pile, if that’s your style). How many of those books were written by celebrities? Or serial entrepreneurs? Or pastors? Now take that number and divide it in half. Chances are, that is how many of those books were ghostwritten–at the very least. 

What is Ghostwriting?

Unlike popular belief, ghostwriting doesn’t necessarily mean an author “cheated” by having someone else write their book. The idea, the story, and many of the words (if not all of the words) are original content directly out of the mouth of the author. 

Not everyone has the gift of putting words on the page. In fact, sometimes people with the greatest stories to share have absolutely no desire–or know-how–to sit down and write a book. Does that mean their story should be left untold? 

Ghostwriting is teamwork. It is the joint effort of an author and a scribe. The author has a story worth telling. The scribe listens, takes notes, and puts the author’s story into written form.

Much like scribes of old, ghostwriters have a gift for listening. They know how to structure their client’s thoughts in a way that allows the story to unfold, while still maintaining the storyteller’s unique voice. 

I often like to tell my clients that ghostwriting is a combination of consulting, interviewing, and editing. 

It is the art of bringing someone’s story to life.  

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts

Feeling deceived by the world of ghostwriting is understandable. We all like to imagine our favorite authors sitting at their desks, typing away. We also think to ourselves, “If Reese Witherspoon has time to write a book, so do I!” 

And I really hope that you do–write that book, I mean. If sitting down to type your manuscript gives you chills of excitement, then, by all means, go for it. Get it done. Pursue your dream! There is a world of writers and readers cheering you on. 

If, however, the idea that you’ve been carrying with you for weeks, or years, can’t seem to make it from your brain to the page, it may be time to consider hiring your own personal ghost-scribe. 

How To Choose a Ghostwriter

Just because someone is a ghostwriter does not mean they are the ghostwriter for you. Writing a book, particularly non-fiction, can be personal, emotional, and even cathartic. When you invite someone else on that journey, you need to know that you can comfortably share your life with them. 

Ask yourself these questions before choosing a ghostwriter:

  • Do I trust this person?
  • Do I like this person?
  • Am I willing to spend the next __ months opening up to this person?

Once you’ve determined that ghostwriting is the way forward, make sure you have an agreement in place to protect both you and your ghost. Some ghostwriters will ask for some form of recognition (like being credited as an editor), while others like to remain completely anonymous. The details are up to you. 

Most importantly, find the path that works best for you and happy (ghost)writing! I look forward to seeing your book on the shelf. 


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