Choosing a Ghostwriter: 4 Factors, Ranked

Choosing a ghostwriter

So you’ve got a project—a book, series of articles, white paper—big enough, complicated enough, or important enough to necessitate hiring a ghostwriter. What’s the point of doing something if you’re not planning on doing it right, no? Hiring someone to take the job of writing off your plate will be lovely, but now you have a whole new job: choosing a ghostwriter who will be worth your money.

What are the factors you should consider when choosing a ghostwriter? And how should these rank? Well, as an actual ghostwriter, I have a super-insider’s view of what makes a ghostwriter worth hiring. You could say I know exactly how the sausage is made. (As an enthusiastic carnivore, I don’t consider this a disparaging metaphor.)

If I were choosing a ghostwriter, these are the factors I would consider, ranked for relative importance: Read the rest of this entry »

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June 8, 2016

What’s it Like to Write a Book With a Ghostwriter?

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When people ask me what I do for work and I get to answer, “ghostwriter”, I enjoy the confused expressions for a second. Then I explain: “I write books for people based on their ideas and experiences. Or I give them lots and lots of help to write their own.”

I don’t think that answer clears up much for most people. I figure a lot of them are still in the dark about how something like that would work.

So what’s it like to get a ghostwriter to write a book with you?

The quick answer is you get a book that’s informative/interesting/inspiring/(insert your desired adjective) without having to do a lot of work. Plus, it’s work that (if you’re honest with yourself) you’re not all that well equipped to do.

When you hire a ghostwriter, you get a book without having to: Read the rest of this entry »

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May 11, 2016

Hiring A Ghostwriter Doesn’t Make You Less Of A Thinker

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Hi there,

You are a particular type of person: someone who should consider hiring a ghostwriter. I know you pretty well because I’ve worked with others like you. You’re what people call a natural-born leader. And whether you openly express it or not, you also feel that you are a thinker whose potential is not necessarily being expressed.

I just want to tell you that I think you’re right. Please allow me to explain.

Read the rest of this entry »

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November 6, 2014

Ghostwrite the Person Your Client Aspires To Be

Ghostwrite the Person Your Client Aspires To Be

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August 28, 2014

Ghostwriting: How To Overcome The Resentment Trap

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Writers are a funny breed. Like most artists, the writerly personality is often a hybrid of cringing social avoidance and robust narcissistic envy. In other words, the writer is the master of the ‘look at me, don’t look at me’ stance. The creation of a ‘character’ in a work of fiction is perhaps the most ingenious way a writer could ever exercise these paradoxical drives. A ‘character’ can operate both as a decoy that draws attention away from the being of the writer, and as a vessel for the writer’s true self. It’s a way of becoming the center of attention all while appearing to be the ultimate altruist, the one who spends all of one’s vital energies creating new lives and new worlds, perennially tilting the spotlight away from oneself towards the ‘hero of the story’.

I am part of a ghostwriters’ group that discusses issues particular to the profession. I frequently read ghostwriter’s blogs. I trawl through ghostwriter internet forums and conduct searches for online resources. It is possible, even via this superficial skimming of the ghostwriting community, to paint a profile of the typical Ghost, that person who is paid to write words that will ultimately be attributed to a buyer. In my estimation, the quintessential Ghostwriter Type doesn’t deviate too much from the general Writer Type. But with the Ghostwriter, the desire for concealment is perfectly expressed, while the desire for adulation is perfectly frustrated. In ghostwriting, the ‘character’ is a living human being (usually of some social prominence), rather than an invention or an avatar entirely controlled by the author. In ghostwriting, when the ‘character’ takes center stage, nobody is even supposed to assume that there is anybody else behind the curtain.

As a result, most of the struggles centering on the profession are related to the experience of receiving credit—or more accurately, failing to receive it. Sometimes the discussion is couched in terms of ‘ethics’, eg. is it ethical for me to allow the client I have been writing web content for to get credit for a piece of writing that is now going to be featured in the newspaper? It’s not as if ghostwriters don’t contend with valid dilemmas, worthy of analysis and discussion. But still—maybe simply because I know myself, and I know how deeply my own neurotic drives dye my ethical reckonings—I believe I correctly detect that craving for credit near the heart of most of these discussions. We ghostwriters are only human, after all.

It’s extremely common for ghostwriters to struggle with resentment. Some start to think of themselves as Wizards of Oz, wielding great secret powers behind the screens of their clients’ personae. A ghostwriter like this often longs to fling open the curtains so that everyone can finally see who is really pulling the levers, pushing the buttons, and holding the microphone. How can a ghostwriter overcome this kind of resentment?

Although I happen to be a rare master of the maddening ‘look at me, don’t look at me’ dance, I feel peaceful about my ghostwriting activities. I don’t struggle when a client is admired for the words I have ‘supplied’. I enter into many arenas wherein my sizable ego is chafed and prodded, but happily, ghostwriting is not one of them.

I realized something about the profession that has helped me to avoid resentment: anything I have ever, ever ghostwritten is only powerful because I am drawing from the unique well of my client. I am very much using the raw materials of my client’s experiences, insights, personality, and social capital to create my work. When I ghostwrite, I don’t see myself as an artist or a writer so much as a therapist. Just as a (good) therapist doesn’t dominate or predetermine the course the therapy takes, but instead supports the self-directed growth of his or her client, a ghostwriter simply facilitates another person’s expression. That’s it. When I ghostwrite, I do not write what I would say. In fact, whatever I ghostwrite is nothing I have the authority to say in my own voice, underneath my own byline. In reality, good ghostwriting is a collaborative process, and it works because it draws on the strength of two rather than one. Ghostwriting is a fascinating way to serve, support, and learn.

The ghostwriter who is struggling because his or her work is going be featured underneath someone else’s byline should remember that the publication is seeking more than a few artful turns of phrase. They are equally—if not much more so— interested in all of the things your less verbally gifted client is bringing to the table. You have not lived the life your client has. You probably have not accomplished what your client has. It’s possible you don’t command the attention and respect your client does.

In a sense, you are fortunate to be able to utilize your client’s resources in order to achieve your own professional success. This is creative symbiosis, not unrecognized charity. If you can enjoy the liberation your clients feel when they are aided in their verbal communication, it might soothe some of the frustration you feel over your own thwarted self-expression. Or else maybe it’s time to listen to that persistent inner voice that is urging you to come out of hiding. Stop hanging out with the ghosts and take on a life of your own.

 [Author: Kristin van Vloten]

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June 25, 2014