The Pros and Cons of Ghostwriting (and Why You Should Hire a Ghost!)

Ghostwriting! Let’s take a look at it from both sides: As a writer (the pros & cons) and as a client (why you should hire a ghostwriter).

Illustration by Ramiro Roman
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

The 7 Great Things About Ghostwriting

As a writer, there are several advantages to becoming a ghost in the business. Here are 7 of them:

1. It’s not always books.

No, really. That’s just a myth/misconception. As a ghostwriter, you could end up writing articles, newsletters, website content, commercials, or any number of other things! Don’t feel daunted thinking that overwhelmingly huge projects (i.e. books) are the only tasks ghostwriters take on. I’ve been a ghost on several Twitter accounts (140 characters 5 times a day isn’t so bad, right?). Of course, you can write books if you like. That’s definitely an option.

2. Finding clients is slightly easier for ghostwriters.

Not everyone will want to give you a by-line (credited work is very competitive), but think of all the people you’ve met in your lifetime who’ve said, “Gee, I wish I could write a book/newsletter/script/advertisement…” Now they can: Through you!

3. Sometimes you do get to show off.

Yes, sometimes you’ll be under strict contract not to tell a soul what you’ve written (see the “Cons” section below!), but there will be plenty of projects that you do get to show off. And those pieces make great portfolio samples.

4. Great at interviews? You’ll be great at ghostwriting.

Love to conduct interviews? Love to listen to other people’s stories? You’ll be great at ghostwriting. Half of the battle is writing in your client’s “own” voice. Which you can pick up by talking with them (interviewing/listening). Speaking of which…

5. You get great practice with “tones.”

You get to write in a variety of different voices! How fun is that?

6. No ego needed.

According to professional ghostwriter Eva Shaw, “If you can put your ego aside and think of ghostwriting as a business, you will succeed.” Which brings me to my personal favorite:

7. It pays more.

Yes, yes, getting your own by-line is thrilling… But few things are sweeter than cash. And ghostwriting pays well. Very well. To compensate for a lack of a by-line, you can command a slightly higher price. In the 2013 Writer’s Market price rate chart, ghostwriters who get an “as told to” credit pull in about $100 per page while ghostwriters who get no credit pull in about $500 per page. There’s no guarantee you’ll pull in those prices (they’re from the higher end of average), but still: Not bad, eh??

The 5 Disadvantages to Ghostwriting

It’s not all great…

1. Deadlines. Deadlines. Deadlines.

Since you’re working not just for someone else, but as someone else, there are often more deadlines than a “normal” writing project. If you do take on a book-writing gig, you may have to turn it in chapter-by-chapter with a separate deadline for each section–and you’ll have to meet each of those deadlines with excellence. Because you’re a professional.

2. It’s not just you.

It’s you and the client…and whoever else they drag into the project. An illustrator? An editor? An extra researcher? All possibilities–and all people you’ll have to “check in” with every time you start your next move.

3. It can be a lot of research.

If research isn’t your thing then you probably shouldn’t attempt ghostwriting. The variety is fantastic, but it also means you’ll be in unknown territory a lot of the time–and you’ll have to research your way out of it.

Tip: Get all the details before agreeing to work on anything. And never work without a contract! Figure your research time into the price you quote your client and be sure to add a limit/cap to any free revisions you offer in your contract. $10,000 may sound like a great big hunk of money for “one lil project,” but once you factor in all the time it takes to research your project and then actually write the darn thing, you could find yourself working for less than minimum wage. Believe me: I’ve done it. NEVER AGAIN. Learn from my mistakes.

4. Overly demanding clients.

No clients, at least in my experience, are more demanding than ghostwriting clients. Because, let’s face it, whatever you’re writing is their baby: You’re just the surrogate.

5. Sometimes you write something AMAZING…and you can’t tell anyone.

I wrote a small e-book a couple years ago that I still think about sometimes. I was really on point with it! But I cannot tell you what it was or who I wrote it for UNDER PENALTY OF DEATH! Well…under penalty of being sued for contract violation. Same thing. And sometimes that really sucks.

Why Should I Hire a Ghostwriter?

There are several wonderful things you could get out of hiring a quality ghostwriter.

Here are 5 reasons you might want to get yourself a ghost:

  • You have a great story…but you’re not a great storyteller.
  • Your ghost may know your audience even better than you do. (Or at least be able to provide valuable marketing ideas).
  • You can save time to focus on what you are good at. You might not be the best at writing, but you probably have other skills that are top notch! (Promotion? Illustration? Teaching?).
  • Your English needs to be better than it is normally. The best ghostwriters have a great grasp on the English language. Many of my own clients that I’ve ghosted for have been ESL .  They had a message to get across to their audience but lacked the English-speaking/reading/writing skills to do so with ease.
  • You simply don’t want to write whatever-it-is yourself. Maybe you are a great writer (kudos!), but you simply don’t want to write this particular project yourself. For whatever reason, it’s just not your cup of tea…but you still want to take credit for it. Outsource it to a ghost!

Have your say!

Have you ever worked as a ghostwriter? (Did you love it? Hate it?)

Have you ever hired a ghostwriter to write something for you? (How’d it go?)

Leave me a comment!

2 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Ghostwriting (and Why You Should Hire a Ghost!)

  1. Hi Lauren!
    Thanks very much for these awesome tips. I have battled with # 5 in the disadvantages section quite a bit. However, new ideas and approaches never seem to run out for me. It’s exciting nonetheless.

    I ended up in the writing business part-time inadvertently but I am enjoying it. I know about the minimum wage bit, that’s a nightmare and you end up asking yourself if it was worth it. The thing about that is that when it’s done it’s done and you had the experience which you can use moving forward.

    Thanks again for your input. I have certainly learned a lot and have already bookmarked this page. I am a follower now. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *