The downside to ghostwriting vis-à-vis its upside
The dopamine rush that an aspiring writer feels upon seeing his or her by-line in a magazine or newspaper is beyond description.
Double, maybe even quadruple, of that happy hormone seizes a writer as s/he holds a copy of his/her first published book.
Such emotions are unforgettable.
I was twelve when my first article about two lady DJs was published in a music magazine. So what if it was a fluff piece? Seeing my by-line in print gave me a kind of high that was strange to me.
After 20 years, which were peppered with various types of writing, my first romance novel saw print publication.
Of course, I knew it was going to be published; I received my first royalty cheque (and for my second book as well) months before. But to actually hold a physical copy of my book, my by-line on the cover staring at me? It felt as if I was on Cloud 9, instead of National Bookstore in Manila.
But what happens when, years later, a band of cunning plagiarists cause havoc and disruption in this romance publishing sector?
Or, perhaps, the editor of the publication you contribute stories for have pinned the sign on the glass door of the office: Contributions on hold for the next three months?
Bounce out of your niche box!
If you are a niche writer, a worthy option is to diversify. Get out of your niche.
A creative writer can write about anything, be it fiction or non-fiction which includes personal essays, and interview and research articles.
The trick – if you can call it that – is to further increase the amount of reading and learning you do habitually. Best if this habit is developed well before you even consider writing as a career.
A writer should not limit his or her expertise in just one or two or three fields. This is easily doable by lots of reading, being eternally curious, and being open to any kind of learning – even if you think the subject is drab.
There is always a nugget of knowledge or fresh impression to be gained even from things that we believe to be uninteresting.
Another good option when the publication we regularly contribute to is to ghost for another.
Ghostwriting, admittedly, is not every writer’s cup of tea, or coffee.
There is only one downside to ghostwriting, and that is not seeing your by-line as the author of the piece. Not all writers fancy writing their best only to see their best piece being credited to another – the one you ghost-wrote for.
Why would a self-respecting wordsmith work hard in writing a piece and have another take the credit for it?
But let me share a quote from a management guru who encouraged Andrew Crofts, also known as the “king of the modern ghosts”, to become a ghostwriter (highlight is mine) –
“I’ve been commissioned by a publisher to produce a series of business books… I’d like to do them because it’s good for business, but I don’t have the time. Why don’t you write them for me? I’ll get the glory and you can have the money.” (Confession of a Ghostwriter; p9, 2014)
Crofts has written over 80 books, 14 of which were in the Sunday Times number one bestseller list. Referencing ghostwriting, he admitted that he had stumbled upon “a path that was paved with a constant stream of adventures” (Confession of a Ghostwriter; p1, 2014).
(And money, he wasn’t quick to add that. You have to read his book to fully appreciate the advantages in ghostwriting.)
Choosing to pass up glory and opting to just take the money
For sure, the luck and break that came the way of the king of modern ghosts and other successful ghostwriters like Mark McCrum, Rebecca Farnworth or Pepsy Dening could not be duplicated by every writer.
But a writer who chooses to pass up the glory and just opt for the money, i.e. ghostwrite, has to start somewhere.
The best way is to do a search online. When you type in “ghostwriting jobs” on the search bar, you will be amazed at the number of hits that would pop up on your screen.
But, and this is a big but, before sending in your application, CV and links to your writing portfolio, perform due diligence first as follows:
- Check if the ghostwriting service you’re interested in has a sterling reputation.
- Read reviews about them.
- Check with your contacts who may be writing for any of those ghostwriting services.
- Check the pay rate.
- Do they pay on time?
- Does the service protect its ghostwriters?
- Can you deliver quality work to the client’s satisfaction, and in a timely manner?
I must admit that I did ghost for a ghostwriter herself very briefly, years ago. The pay wasn’t worth the hours and hours of research, but that was me. I always give my best effort in any writing project on my plate.
What I gained from that short stint of ghostwriting are insights that are invaluable. It opened the world for me and its limitless possibilities for a hard-working writer.
And, even if I produced my best (that’s my personal opinion, mind), that were credited to another, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
The windows of education that opened up for me were immense. I couldn’t put a price tag on that, even my by-line in the biggest possible font.
So you, too, can take a shot at ghostwriting. Take an alternative route to further learning while earning.
Perhaps add ghostwriting to your side hustles, or seek a “path to constant adventures” – like what Crofts has stumbled upon.
First published on Medium.
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