What is a Ghostwriter

What Is a Ghostwriter? (And How Do I Hire One?)

We live in a world that feels busier than ever (COVID-19 notwithstanding). Our modern world is also always hungry for content. We see this in our personal lives with our Netflix binge-watching, but it’s true in business as well.

There are more demands for content than there have ever been, and many businesses are struggling to keep up. Working with ghostwriters may be the answer to some of the content demands in your industry.

Now, if the term “ghostwriter” conjures up an image of an apparition sitting at a typewriter, don’t worry. I’ve got your back. (And a Scooby-Doo GIF, probably.) Below, I’ll explain how ghostwriters relate not just to novels and memoirs but to everyday content creation. I’ll also give you some insights into how to hire ghostwriters to help with your content needs.

If you’re wondering whether a ghostwriter could help you meet your specific business or personal goals or objectives, then this article is for you.

ghostwriter
Ghostwriters are writers who complete projects for money without credit or byline.

What Is a Ghostwriter?

So what is ghostwriting, exactly? Or what is a ghostwriter? In short, a ghostwriter is a person who gets paid to write material for another entity, usually invisibly or without credit or byline.

Ghostwriters use a mix of technical knowledge, creative skills, and marketing insights to create content that others need. But for a variety of reasons, they do so in exchange for payment alone, rather than payment and attribution. Ghostwriters also generally don’t retain creative control of the work they generate.

Given that definition, you might wonder why anyone would choose to be a ghostwriter. Wouldn’t all writers want credit for their work? 

The short answer is no. Quite a few writers make a good living writing for “no credit,” and there are several personal reasons why someone would want to do this. Though there are plenty of opportunities for freelance writers to get a byline in an industry publication, some just don’t care about having their name attached to a piece of work. In the end, quality ghostwriters are just looking for writing jobs that fit within their interest, skill level, and pricing requirements.

Before we dive into the why someone might hire a ghostwriter, let’s unpack the concept of ghostwriting a bit more.

Most people think about ghostwriters in terms of book writing, though that’s certainly not the only kind of content ghostwriters write today. Examples from the book world are many, so we’ll start there.

What Is Ghostwriting? Examples from the Book World

How many of you read Nancy Drew novels when you were younger? The listed author for all the novels in that series is one Carolyn Keene, and it’s not unreasonable that she could have penned all those early detective tales. 

Of course, the fact that new Nancy Drew stories continue to be published 90 years later gives us some clue that something’s amiss, as does the prodigious output.

The truth is, Carolyn Keene never existed. She was a made-up persona to give continuity to a series of novels written by a range of writers. Mildred Wirt Benson wrote the first 23, and many other authors contributed in the following years.

The same thing is true with books in the Hardy Boys franchise, where “Franklin W. Dixon” is another fictitious author.

Other ghostwriting examples include R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series. Here, Stine wrote the original novels, but many over the years have been ghostwritten. No one besides Stine, his publishers, and his ghostwriters knows precisely which are which.

Still another category of ghostwriting is editorial series like cookbooks or the …For Dummies books. These may not credit an author at all or may credit celebrities who had some small degree of input. For example, Football for Dummies lists Hall of Famer Howie Long and TV football consultant John Czarnecki as the authors. Still, it strains believability that they actually wrote all the content.

Why did these series use ghostwriters? There are many reasons why people employ ghostwriters to create content. We’ll dive a little deeper into this later.

Ghostwriting Isn’t Just for Books

When people talk about what ghostwriters are and what they do, they’re usually thinking about fiction or non-fiction books. But there is a whole world of ghostwriting that never goes into physical print. Individuals and companies the world over regularly hire ghostwriters to create all sorts of digital content. This digital content includes web page content, blog posts, email sequences, white papers, e-books, video scripts, and more.

Nearly any written content that any business puts online could be ghostwritten. It isn’t all done this way, and there are some types of content that are easier to contract out than others. The point here is that the possibilities are nearly endless for getting discrete help from professional writers.

Ghostwriters
Ghostwriters help you get more done.

Reasons People and Businesses Hire Ghostwriters 

If you were to search online for “What is a ghostwriter?” or “what is ghostwriting?” most of the results would focus on those writers who ghostwrite books. This is a little weird to me. Yes, those ghostwriters are the more well-known variety (by ghostwriting standards, anyway), but they are also comparatively fewer in number.

In the last two decades, content marketing has become a much more common space for finding ghostwriting projects. Millions of businesses rely on ghostwriters to implement all or part of their content marketing strategy. And this type of ghostwriting is dear to my heart since it’s a significant part of what I do.

Let’s examine the reasons people hire ghostwriters for both use cases.

Reasons to Hire Ghostwriters in Conventional Publishing

In the conventional (book) publishing world, there are several reasons people hire ghostwriters:

  • ​Lack of time, interest, or capacity
  • Lack of expertise
  • Lack of writing ability

Lack of Time, Interest, or Capacity

There’s some truth to the idea that name recognition sells books more than inherent quality. 

Established authors (like Stine) may not have time to keep up with an aggressive publishing schedule. They may not have the capacity to churn out as many titles as needed to meet their own sales goals. Or they may simply be tired of writing a series but still want to keep making money on their name.

This is the ideal scenario to hire a ghostwriter who can complete book-length projects for an hourly rate or per project cost. By finding a ghostwriter with a similar writing style, popular authors can continue to publish prolifically without burning out.

Lack of Expertise

If you want to sound like a business guru but you aren’t really one, you could hire a qualified ghostwriter to make you sound like a business guru. Of course, I don’t recommend this because it’s dishonest and is unlikely to be successful in the long term. But it happens.

Someone may also hire a ghostwriter to take on particular areas of a book that they lack expertise in. For instance, they may be an expert motivational speaker but need help providing clear and accurate advice on something like business finances.

Lack of Writing Ability

Your favorite sports hero or political figure is, more than likely, not a master of prose. There are lots of reasons they may want to release a book (from making money to increasing political visibility). But they need help turning their core ideas into quality material people will pay to read.

Sometimes people with great ideas aren’t the best writers. This is the most common scenario for ghostwriting work. The celebrity or expert has a lot of great knowledge and ideas but doesn’t have the ability to put them into words and tell their story in a way that’s compelling. Ghostwriters to the rescue!

There are surely more reasons why someone might employ a ghostwriting business, but these three give you a basic idea of how ghostwriters are used in the book publishing industry. Now, let’s take a look at the content marketing world.

Ghostwriting and Content Marketing

Content marketing is a big part of the ghostwriting industry. Or you might say that ghostwriting is a big part of the content marketing industry. 

The content marketing industry is huge: one estimate pegged revenue for content marketing globally at $300 billion in 2019. 

A significant amount of the content generated for content marketing purposes is ghostwritten. In fact, it’s common practice for businesses of all sizes, types, and industries to hire freelancers/ghostwriters for content creation. There are entire ecosystems devoted to this content sub-industry. WriterAccess is one of those ecosystems.

Many of the reasons to hire ghostwriters to help with your content marketing are the same as those listed above:

  • Lack of time, interest, or capacity
  • Lack of expertise
  • Lack of writing ability
  • Lack of SEO skills or lack of experience writing for the web

Lack of Time, Interest, or Capacity

If you’re running a small business, you don’t have time to think about, much less execute, quality blogging on your website. You may already know that doing so will help you boost your search results ranking, but it’s more than you can (or want to) do right now.

That’s where a professional ghostwriter can come in to help you implement your content marketing strategy. While you are not looking to write the next New York Times bestseller, you do want to create consistent content for your website and blog. Finding a ghostwriter who specializes in content marketing is a great first step to making that happen.

Lack of Expertise

You may have content needs that go beyond what you yourself know. Depending on the size, complexity, and nature of your business, you may need to supply a wide range of content in niches that no one on staff can fill.

Rather than teaching yourself to become an expert in every field, you can instead hire a ghostwriter who writes content in that industry. 

Lack of Writing Ability

There are plenty of small business owners who are incredibly gifted at what they do. But they aren’t natural-born writers. Just like I have no business trying to fix my own car, my mechanic has no business writing his own SEO web content. We both need to rely on someone skilled in a craft we know nothing about.

Hiring a blogger, copywriter, or freelance writing guru allows you to leverage their talents as a writer to share your knowledge and experience with your target audience.

Lack of SEO Skills

Lastly, you may have the time, expertise, and writing ability to generate your own content. But web writing is a little different. 

If the content you’re writing now isn’t performing the way you’d hoped, you may be lacking some important SEO and web writing skills. Hiring a ghostwriter who has these skills might be the easiest solution. They understand what effective web content looks like, and they can make sure that your blog posts, ebooks, web pages, and other content is optimized for search engines.

Blogging
Ghostwriters can help with a wide variety of content marketing, especially blogging.

Types of Digital Content That Can Be Ghostwritten

In the content marketing and web writing space, there are all sorts of content types that can be ghostwritten. Here’s a surface-level overview of these content types and how or why you might hire a freelance writer to assist in ghostwritten content creation:

  • Blogs
  • Social media posts
  • Email sequences
  • Thought leadership pieces (LinkedIn posts, white papers)
  • E-books

Blog Posts

To keep your site current (and to please the search engine overlords), you need regular updates to your content that are high in quality. Blogging is the easiest way to do this, and finding a good ghostwriter to create your blog posts lets you keep focusing on the core of your business or role.

Social Media Posts

Well-crafted social media posts are vital to engaging with your target audience online and increasing brand recognition and visibility. If you don’t have someone crafting these in-house (or your in-house resource isn’t able to keep up with publishing consistency), a ghostwriter can help.

Email Marketing Sequences

The sales sequence is something special, and getting it just right requires a special touch. Your sales team may supply the message and approach, but you may want to contract with an expert to actually craft the email sequence. Finding a ghostwriter that specializes in email marketing can help you take your emails to the next level.

Thought Leadership

Thought leadership pieces serve to make a leader (often a C-suite individual) look good in the industry. These pieces tend to be posted on LinkedIn as a personal post/essay or featured in larger publications like Forbes. If you don’t have the time to write the content yourself (or lack the actual thought leadership or the writing ability), contract it out. White papers can also be used to establish domain authority for a brand, and there are plenty of ghostwriters out there who specialize in developing white paper content for your industry.

E-books

If you have a website and are selling a product or service, you need leads. One of the greatest ways to get leadsis to offer some kind of freebie in exchange for an email address. A short e-book on a topic your audience will find compelling is an excellent way to implement this strategy. And once more, if you can’t or don’t want to write it yourself, go with a ghostwriting service or freelance writer.

How to Hire a Ghostwriter

If by this point you’re sold on the idea of hiring a ghostwriter, there’s still one more pesky obstacle: actually finding one with the skills you need.

There are plenty of ways to try and go about this. On the low-budget end, you could post an ad on Craigslist and see what the cat drags in. 

On the other end of the spectrum, you could work with a pricey marketing agency, one that will do the work of finding niche writers for you (and charge you a hefty premium in the process). 

Or you could hire industry-expert writers directly. The cons with these methods are relatively obvious: quality concerns on the one end and cost concerns on the other.

And what if you are a pricey marketing agency? You likely need writers with skills you can’t find in your personal and professional contacts to help you take on ghostwriting projects like developing a business book on complex subject matter or writing blog posts for an industry you haven’t tackled yet. 

A good ghostwriter will never ghost you.

The Solution: Writer Marketplaces like WriterAccess

The best solutions I know to this quandary are writer marketplaces, like this one. Here at WriterAccess, you gain access to thousands of writers with a variety of skills and expertise. You can post a job notice of sorts (called a Casting Call), letting the talent pool know what you’re looking for. Interested writers will apply, and you can quickly find writers in just about any niche you can imagine. 

And the concierge level of service makes it even easier: the WriterAccess team will provide customized writer recommendations for you based on what type of ghostwriter you are looking for or what type of subject matter you need help writing about.

Quality writer marketplaces are, to me, the ideal solution to the content crisis many businesses are facing. 

Ready to see for yourself? Schedule a demo today.


Joseph H Headshot

Joseph H. has been getting paid to work with words since 2011, both as a freelancer and as a full-time employee at a publishing house. With over 800 projects in on WriterAccess, Joseph specializes in content areas such as consumer technology, digital software and services, B2B technology, digital marketing (inbound marketing, SEO, content marketing), real estate, home maintenance and repair, education, and music (including content for musical instrument stores and music studios). In all these areas and more, Joseph creates SEO and content marketing friendly content with a warm, approachable tone.


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