Is Hiring A Ghostwriter Legitimate?
As I wrote previously here on Medium, ghostwriting is a field saddled with various myths and misunderstandings.
Lumping completely different forms of authorship under the one heading.
For instance, rap ghostwriting and business ghostwriting have almost nothing in common.
Likewise ‘academic ghostwriting,’ which involves plagiarizing coursework for a student and which I have previously called an unethical field (and I stand by that).
The aforementioned activities vary wildly in terms of their content, ethical standing, and industry. In fact, the only commonality between these activities is that they are both commonly referred to as ‘ghostwriting’ and those engaged in the authorship of these formats describe themselves as ‘ghostwriters’.
‘Writing,’ in general, is not a monolithic activity with a monolithic pool of authors all doing the same type of work.
Most people understand that there are large differences between screenwriters, technical writers, and book authors — as well as the output of each author’s work.
It’s the same thing with ghostwriting.
At the most basic level, ‘ghostwriting’ simply means writing something which doesn’t carry your attribution/byline wherever it is ultimately published.
To understand the difference between different types of ghostwriters, a good (and simple) operative question might be “what do you write?”
In ghostwriting, the pieces of writing which ghostwriters work on can be attributed to another person (classic ghostwriting), to a group of people (such as a marketing department), or to nobody specific at all (such as a company; and note: unattributed works are not commonly thought of as ghostwriting, although definitions are becoming more fluid as times goes on).
Thinking that ghostwriting entails engaging in some dubious activity.
Because the name ‘ghostwriting’ can be applied to just about any activity in which a writer is being hired to write under somebody else’s name, it is almost bound to be caught up in the dragnet of some dubious activity.
As I highlighted above, academic ghostwriting — in which ghostwriters are hired to author students’ coursework — is effectively facilitating disguised plagiarism. Ghostwriting can also sometimes refer to writing work under a pseudonym. The material, in these cases, might be provocative enough that the author wouldn’t want to attach their personal reputation to the work.
Now that we’ve established that ‘ghostwriting’ can mean several different things, let’s look at the specific kind which people often bear in mind when they ask the ‘ethical question’: ghostwriting, including writing books, for businesspeople, individuals, and companies. For convenience let’s call this ‘corporate and book ghostwriting’.
Here are some reasons why, in my view, this type of ghostwriting is perfectly legitimate.
It Maximizes Resources
A foundational principle of international trade is that countries should focus on producing the things which they are best at producing — and import the factors of production they don’t have, or aren’t adept at, from other nations.
When every country plays to its strengths by exporting its best human know-how and raw materials, the overall efficiency of the market is increased. Needless to say, if countries didn’t trade their skills and physical resources in the way we take for granted, the world as we know it simply couldn’t exist.
The same principle is at work when ghostwriters pair with authors to collaborate on writing projects.
Those that want to publish a book, and which have the resources to see the project through to completion, tend to be established businesspeople, entrepreneurs, or those who have simply lived a colorful life and which have a story to tell.
But getting those stories on paper, for the world to enjoy, can represent a real impediment — and sometimes an impassable one.
For one, the would-be authors might detest writing. As the originator of the story, they might also be too close to the text, and their narrative, to see which parts are likely to be of interest to others and which parts might loose their attention. It’s also almost impossible to see a full length book through to completion without at least mildly enjoying the process — and that process requires time and energy.
Here’s the irony. Disproportionately, the individuals best placed to author memoirs and biographies also tend to be overbooked and overcommitted. In other words, the type of people that most commonly want to write a book are often (conveniently for ghostwriters) those which would most benefit from external writing support.
Ghostwriters specialize in taking great ideas and working with authors to get them down onto the page in the most engaging possible manner for their readership.
By focusing on this activity they become specialists at it through dint of repetition. As such, experienced ghostwriters follow time-tested methodologies for getting to know their authors, onboarding and organizing the material they have collected, and getting it onto the page.
Ghostwriters typically offer contracted writing services. But many have nevertheless developed a good understanding of the publishing world and a network within it. This means that they can advise their author upon what their best route to publication might be — or connect them with an appropriate literary agent that can open doors at publishing houses.
A good ghostwriter can accurately capture the voice of the author. Such that both the material and energy that makes it onto the final page are really, in a sense, still the author’s own. They’ve just traveled through the conduit of a third party who happens to be a writing professional skilled in extracting, organizing, and recording the author’s thoughts.
In essence, the ghostwriting relationship involves pairing professional writers with those who have great stories to tell but who couldn’t, otherwise, get them into writing for the general public to enjoy.
It’s the ultimate symbiotic pairing.
Through bringing together those with great stories to tell and those who make a living by getting them onto paper the reading world at large stands to benefit.
It Is Widespread
Think that your favorite politician juggles jetting around the country attending rallies with penning great lines for his upcoming speeches?
More often than not, the task of speechwriting — particularly at senior organizations levels — is left, at least in part, to speechwriters. And speechwriters, when you think about it, are just ghostwriters that specialize in authoring a specific format (and writing for the ear).
From my perspective, the above point would be enough to put to bed any lingering doubts I might have about the legitimacy of ghostwriting: it’s a practical writing collaboration and, if ghostwriters didn’t exist, the world would be a poorer place bereft of the writing that they help bring to market.
But it’s also worth remembering that ghostwriting is both commonplace and ancient.
The (non-exhaustive) list of organizations and businesses that can and commonly do get involved in ghostwriting for their clients:
- Personal assistants
- PR companies
- Communications managers
Ghostwriters commonly produce output that straddles many different formats — ranging from op-eds contributed to major newspapers to speeches at industry conferences and books that appear non non-fiction bestseller lists.
The range of individuals who can be called upon to lend their services as ghostwriters is likewise wide: They can be professional writers, communications professionals, or even family members that were coopted into the writing process.
Ghostwriting is widespread. And so long as there are authors whose writing proficiency and schedules inhibit them from getting their great perspectives and stories to a wide readership, there will be a demand for ghostwriters.
There’s Nothing Shady About Ghostwriting (At Least Most Of It)
In my admittedly biased opinion there is nothing shady about ghostwriting — at least if we’re talking about the type that I professionally engage in (business ghostwriting and nonfiction).
Ghostwriting is a valuable form of professional collaboration that can help authors get their ideas out to the reading public.
As such, it continues to fulfill an instrumental role in our society — whether those picking up books (or e-books) realize it or not.
DSR Ghostwriting specializes in providing business ghostwriting services — with a specialty in thought leadership writing for technology clients. Ghostwriting services offered include: articles and blogs, e-books, speeches, and nonfiction books and memoirs. To learn more, visit dsrghostwriting.com.
Originally published at https://dsrghostwriting.com