I’ve never understood some people’s reactions to ghostwriting: “So you write for other people? And you don’t get the credit?”
Sometimes I even hear jokes about “Ghostwriter,” the children’s mystery show from the 1990s, or ghost-riding the whip. (I won’t share a video of the latter, as I would lose your attention forever.)
Jokes aside, this tells me is that not enough people, many working in related industries, understand the value of the craft and how it plays into the news we consume daily.
You know that article you shared recently? The one penned by the CEO of that startup that’s creating colossal waves? Ghostwriters, often with communications or brand journalism backgrounds like me, help top-tier executives and other busy professionals turn their ideas into publishable articles, helping to establish them as innovators in their respective fields.
I wouldn’t by any means say that I write articles for them. It’s more collaborative than that: It’s a convening of ideas, a funneling of voice, a structuring of thoughts.
“But don’t you want the credit?” friends have asked. My rebuttal: There is glory in helping others share their stories with the world. There are universes of information out there to learn and absorb, and ghostwriters get a front-row seat to the action.
Many ghostwriters develop key niches that help them establish their own areas of expertise within the profession. For me, it’s writing for women in leadership roles and a few other areas of focus including PR-tech, brand journalism/content marketing strategy, etc.
‘This work can be seductive’
Other ghostwriters might write specifically for those in the medical field, or they could focus on writing books for celebrities. William Novak is often regarded as the king of the latter.
In an interview with the LA Times, he comments on the profession, “No kid ever grows up believing he wants to be a ghostwriter… And as a writer, obviously there are things I want to do on my own. I plan to do them. But this work can be seductive. Very seductive indeed.”
Ghostwriting is nothing short of thrilling. If you’re doing it well, it means that there are CEOs out there who believe in your work so much they’re willing to put their names on it. It doesn’t get much more exciting (or flattering) than that.
In “Ghostwriting: The Complete Guide,” best-selling author and veteran ghostwriter Eva Shaw describes the work as “a professional writing service that leaves the client free to pursue their career field.”
It’s so true. Ghostwriting allows busy executives to share their stories while staying focused on what they do (instead of writing, editing, redrafting their work, and spending time learning about the latest platform where they should be publishing).
Leaving it to the experts
You wouldn’t remodel a room in your home without the help of a contractor unless you’re willing to spend time learning how to do it well, and even then all the how-to videos in the world couldn’t replace the value of years of practice and experience. The same logic applies when you’re looking to publish an article.
Ghostwriting is also a playground for the curious. Because you’re often researching specific areas of expertise, you learn about new topics at a rapid speed. You’re exposed to knowledge and perspectives you may have never had access to otherwise. Plus, getting face time with CEOs will inevitably sharpen you (beats writing blog posts in a vacuum).
Recently, Phoebe Chongchua and I talked about taking away the taboo of working with a ghostwriter in a segment for The Brand Journalist Advantage Podcast. Listen in, and whether you’re an upper-level executive looking for help delivering your ideas or a writer considering letting go of the ego tied to your own glossy byline, you’re sure to find a takeaway or two.
Have you ever worked with a ghostwriter? Let’s hear about it. What advice would you give to others looking to work with a ghostwriter for the first time?
A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.