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Monday, May 31, 2010

5 More Reasons to Ghostwrite

Last post, I talked about how ghostwriting eliminates the need to promote and sell a book after it’s published—that’s the client’s job. That huge time savings (and potential money-making factor) is, in my opinion, the biggest advantage to ghostwriting but there are other advantages as well:

Bigger advances. If your client is a subject matter expert or well-known person, it’s likely you’ll get a bigger advance (even if you only get a portion of it) than for a book under your own name. Today publishing is driven all by platform—to get a book contract, you’ll need platform, and the bigger, the better. As a fulltime freelancer, chances are your platform isn’t too big, but as a ghost you don’t have to worry about that.

You can write about subjects that conflict with (or at least don’t contribute to) your overall reputation as a journalist. I’m known as a health, fitness, and nutrition specialist but ghostwriting lets me tackle different subjects without “diluting” my platform. If you’re a well-known parenting writer, for example, you can still ghostwrite a raunchy bio for a former porn star and your readers (and Facebook fans) will be none the wiser.

If a book doesn’t sell, it won’t hurt you. If you publish a book under your name that sells poorly, that may hurt your chances of selling another book in the future--or at least your chances of getting a decent advance. (Unfortunately I’ve experienced this firsthand.) But with a ghosted book, poor sales figures aren’t your problem.

You can stretch yourself as a writer. Last year I worked on a memoir for a client that was a far cry from the “how-to” service journalism I typically do. I had to develop a narrative arc, employ telling characterization and dialogue, demonstrate conflict, and develop symbols and an overall theme for the book. Revisiting these skills (I’m a published novelist) strengthened not only my client’s book but my current writing ability as well.

You can step outside yourself. As a freelancer, you're usually writing in your own voice. It comes naturally. When you ghostwrite, you have information to convey—whether it’s a compelling life story or a new technique to beat stress—and you have to convey it in someone else's words and someone else's voice. That forces you out of your usual writing style, and makes work that may have become rote much more challenging—and fulfilling.

How about it? Let me hear from the ghostwriters out there…what do you find fulfilling about ghostwriting?


  1. Another reason for me is the collaborative process. Writing for yourself is very solitary, but ghosting/collaborating is a much more social experience.

  2. Very good point, Melanie! And you're's really gratifying to actually work *with* someone as opposed to *for* someone. Often two minds work together bring much more to the project than you'd think.

  3. Kelly, thanks for all this great information. I'd love to know how to get started in ghosting books. Is having your own book necessary to begin? Do you contact agents or publishers? And how do you let agents/publishers know you're available for this kind of work?

  4. Mridu, I do think you have to have a book under your belt before you can start ghosting for clients. Sending an LOI (letter of introduction) to agents, editors, and book packagers is a great way to start, but most of my ghosting and collaborating has come through word of mouth. (A lot of it is health, nutrition, and fitness-related, which is one more reason to specialize.) In a future posts, I'll talk more about ghostwriting and how the process works.