Article: Five Common Misconceptions About Ghostwriters
Are you spooked by ghostwriters? People who have never used a ghostwriter have several misconceptions about ghostwriting and the process involved. I wanted to clear the air on some of these because I hear them often. Keep in mind that my explanations below come from how I view ghostwriting and practice it.
1. Ghostwriters are paid to simply write something for you for a fee. No. That is not ghostwriting. Let’s say, for example, someone approaches me and says: “I want you to research and write an article for me about how to deal with conflict in the workplace. Have the draft to me in two weeks.” I would have to turn it down, even though as a longtime leader and manager, I know a lot about the subject. Understand that true ghostwriters don’t write for people, they write as them. It is a process in which they get to know what clients value, what their intentions and intended impacts are, how they speak to people when they are talking, what drives them, and what makes them satisfied, invigorated, happy and irritated. All of these things create what I call the “voice,” and it is this “voice” that a ghostwriter writes through as the person.
2. People hire ghostwriters because they can’t write. This is almost never the case. Most of my ghostwriting clients are excellent writers, and some even write for a living. What they lack mostly is the time to devote to an article, a book project or even an important letter. They are too busy doing what they love and what they do best. Also, what they often need most from a ghostwriter is to craft an article that meets the specific audience and publication requirements of an editor or publisher. That is an art, and it helps if the ghostwriter has wide experience as an editor and editorial manager for multiple magazines and journals.
3. The person with the byline is not the real author. Whether it's an article, personal correspondence, a presentation or an entire book, the client is writing through the ghostwriter. The client is the author throughout. These are her ideas, insights and experiences, and they are expressed through her voice. If a client comes away from the process confident in the knowledge that this was her work, then she has been faithfully served by a true ghostwriter. She just had a little help where she needed it, that’s all.
4. Hiring a ghostwriter is unethical. Although I see this as a misperception among people, it is rooted in unethical practices, and it can be true. One example, which became a huge scandal, is when pharmaceutical companies were caught paying “ghostwriters” to produce medical papers touting the merits of their therapies. Unscrupulous potential clients have also approached me. For example, in my career as a freelance healthcare writer, I have received numerous, very generous, offers to write master’s theses or doctoral dissertations from scratch, including doing all of the research, with almost no participation from the client. I have declined every one. I will not play a part in sending an under-qualified person out into the workplace, especially one who will be involved in hands-on patient care.
5. Hiring a ghostwriter is too expensive. That determination has to be made by the client based on what his time is worth and how much the communication means to him. What is a published article in a trade journal worth to a client who is trying to reach the next level of prominence in his field? It can be priceless. Work with a ghostwriter on a fair price for the work. Figure out what you are willing to spend and propose a flat fee for the entire project.
Ghostwriting clients are not lazy, lousy writers. Many are successful executives, business owners and entrepreneurs who need to reach out and communicate, but who are too busy doing what they do best. Others are rising stars in an industry or profession who need to be published in periodicals and online to become more relevant and significant. Some have valuable content that needs to be communicated more effectively to current and potential clients. Others may have decided it's time to write that book they've been putting off for too long.
If a ghostwriter tells you he will write something for you for a fee, look for another writer. Again, true ghostwriters don't write for their clients, they write as them. The goal is to make your "voice" come through in the writing. It's a process in which the ghostwriter gets to know you, what you value, what drives you, and how you communicate, so that it is you who comes through in the writing.