To be sure, a ghostwriter receives payment for the work completed for a client, whether it’s a book, an ebook, a series of articles, a blog, or any other form of writing. But the ghostwriter does not get to see her name associated with the writing. That’s because the ghostwriter is a “writer for hire.” She is a skilled, experienced wordsmith who is hired to generate content for someone else.
How does this work?
Here’s an example to illuminate the process. Let’s assume Dr. Smith is a busy, successful veterinarian and an expert on treating housecats. He wants to write a mass-market book about health tips for cats aimed at cat lovers. Dr. Smith has plenty of information to fill a 200-page book, and when the project’s done he plans to self-publish.
What he doesn’t have is time to write. Nor does he have the writing skills to put together an engaging book that will hold the readers’ interest. He’s used to writing in an academic style for professional journals, but for this project his intended audience is the general public. His material needs to be presented in an informative yet accessible manner. High-level technical ideas have to be explained in a way that the average person can comprehend. And for the book to sell well, the material needs to entertain in addition to inform.
Since Dr. Smith knows what he wants but doesn’t have the right skills to put it together effectively, he hires a ghostwriter (we’ll call her Jane) to develop the manuscript for him. Jane has been a professional writer for twelve years. She’s written articles for magazines and websites, she’s worked as a copywriter for the healthcare industry, and she’s ghostwritten seven books – two memoirs, a couple of books for doctors, a cookbook, and two self-help books. Jane knows how to put a full-length manuscript together.
After they sign a contract, Jane and Dr. Smith begin their collaboration. She interviews him to gather information. He supplies articles he’s written for journals as well as ideas he’s written down for this book. Jane puts together a basic outline, which will serve as her roadmap; after making a few changes to it, Dr. Smith gives her the green light to proceed.
For the next five months, Jane writes the manuscript, a chapter at a time. She sends each completed chapter to Dr. Smith with an accompanying invoice, which he pays in a timely fashion. They communicate by phone and email whenever Jane needs a point clarified or Dr. Smith needs to add more information.
Through this back-and-forth process, the manuscript takes shape and reaches completion. The concepts and ideas came from Dr. Smith. The writing expertise came from Jane. When the manuscript is converted to a self-published book, Dr. Smith appears as the author, not Jane. She has done her job as a ghostwriter, and she’s moved on to other projects.
This example presents an accurate description of a ghostwriter’s job. It takes a certain set of skills to be able to write convincingly in someone else’s voice. Ghostwriting isn’t for everyone, but for the person who loves to write regardless of who gets the credit for the writing, this job can be lucrative and rewarding.