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Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Big Reason Writers Don't Ghost--and A Way Around It

I want to address a problem many writers have with the concept of ghostwriting—they don’t want to work “in the dark.” In other words, the idea of spending months laboring over a book and having no one ever know about it rubs them the wrong way. And I can understand that—because I felt the same way for years. (Plus, I only wanted to write my own books. The idea of penning someone else’s held no appeal for me. An epiphany changed my mind.)

If being recognized for your work is important to you, you may not be interested in abandoning your byline. Fair enough. But have you considered working as a coauthor on book projects? Coauthoring, where you collaborate with another person and share credit, gives you an opportunity to expand your platform, and command bigger advances than you would on your own—and be recognized for it.

I approach coauthoring and ghosting projects the same way—the only difference is that in the former cases, I get a byline and in the latter, I don’t. (If that’s the case, I’ll try to negotiate more money for giving up my byline.) But many clients are willing to share their byline—provided their name is first, and in bigger type on the cover.

The advantages to coauthoring are the same as ghosting, too. You can make more money as you’re typically not responsible for actually marketing the book when it comes out, so you spend less time on each book. You’re able to command a bigger advance with a well-known expert than you could on your own. And you’re not responsible for coming up with a book from scratch—your client provides you with ideas and, if you’re lucky, research and other material you use as a starting point.

I once said, “I would never want to write someone else’s book.”

Well, guess what? I was wrong. Today I enjoy writing other people’s books. Part of the reason is that I take on clients who are smart; who have interesting ideas; who pay well (and promptly); and who respect me and my work. Is that worth trading my byline? To me, yes…but I realize that other writers may not feel the same way. I’d suggest that you consider alternatives before insisting that any kind of collaborating isn’t a good fit for you.

Want to know more about coauthoring and ghosting--even if the latter isn't of interest? Check out Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer's Guide to Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books, and as always, let me know if you have any questions about the field.


  1. It's so funny that you posted about this today...I've been thinking a lot about coauthoring lately. Thank you for the excellent advice!

  2. Good post. I love your attitude. I considered ghostwriting -- even tried it once, but it was a bad experience working with a difficult person, and I was relieved when she fired me about halfway through. (I charged by the hour, so I got paid for what I did.) It made me realize that my own ideas are the reason I write, so it was a good lesson.