What is a ghostwriter? When an individual wants to write a book or article but doesn’t have the writing experience or time to do so, they may hire a ghostwriter to anonymously compile their ideas, research, or story into book or article.
Since earning his MFA in poetry at California State University, Long Beach, Wilkinson English Professor Scott Creley has worked on dozens of freelance content writing and editing projects, including ghostwriting at least eight projects in the last two years. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he found himself with more time to freelance, and he’s currently working on two book-length ghostwriting projects.
By ghostwriting professionally, Creley has been able to work in the writing and publishing industry and also pursue his own creative interests under his own name.
To writers at any stage of their writing careers, here are five things Creley believes you should know about ghostwriting, and how writing for another lends itself to your own writing pursuits:
Networking Is Key
Like many freelancers, Creley’s client base is built from referrals. For those interested in ghostwriting, he recommends building a network of people both interested in writing and interested in hiring writers.
“One of the ways to do that is being involved in literary communities and events,” he says. “Especially attend events that might be talking about small publishers, independent publishing, editing, publishing, and content writing.”
But simply attending the event isn’t enough. “You’ve got to hang around and eat the cookies and drink the coffee. Approach people and talk to them. You’ll have a common interest; you’re all writers. You all care about creating,” he says.
Then stay in contact with those you meet. The two ghostwriting projects Creley is currently working on came from referrals from people he met two years ago.
It’s About the Client
While there’s some artistry in ghostwriting, at its core, it’s about delivering a product to a client. “One thing that helps me have a good relationship with the people I edit or ghostwrite for is remembering that they’re putting you in a position of trust,” Creley says. “They’re showing you something they really care about. They’ve invested a lot of time into it, and they think it’s important to put it into the world. You have to conduct yourself accordingly.”
In practice, this looks like putting extra work in when necessary, being clear and diplomatic about making changes to the text or story, and always bringing it back to the needs of the client. “If they want to take things in a different direction, I do it because it is ultimately theirs. I’m just facilitating putting it together,” he says.
However, Your Voice Is Not Completely Muted
Because ghostwriters aren’t credited for their writing, it’s easy to assume they don’t contribute their voice to the project, but that’s false. “The final product is very influenced by your voice and your ideas. It’s your language and goes at your pace,” Creley says. “At the end of the day, you’re the one filling in the sentences and getting the chapters from A to B. Even somebody primarily ghostwriting would see their voice out there — it just wouldn’t have their name on it.” Creley points out that ghostwriting asks, “if you think it’s philosophically more important to be contributing to arts and literature than getting credit.”
Pandemic Or Not, Ghostwriting Is Usually Remote Work
COVID-19 has altered most work models, but it hasn’t changed the way Creley works with his ghostwriting clients. Because of its freelance nature, he’s always worked digitally, usually communicating via email and phone with his clients. This allows him to work with clients living outside California or even outside the United States.
It Helps Spur Creative Pursuits
As Creley has freelanced over several years, he’s noticed positive side effects on his personal writing and publishing habits. “Ghostwriting makes me really value the pieces I publish under my own name and ruminate on them more,” he says. “I’ve found I send out more work when I’m ghostwriting than when I’m not, which is strange. Maybe there’s some drive to get my own voice there because I’m writing under somebody else’s voice too. Maybe the more writing you’re doing, the easier it is to write.”