Don’t Lose Yourself While Ghostwriting

Posted on March 14, 2011 by Dan R

Ghostwriting can be a lucrative gig if you’re a qualified writer, whether you’re writing daily blog pots for your local real estate agent, crafting a newspaper column under the byline of a neighborhood dentist or jotting down remarks that the community bank president will present in his speech to shareholders next week.

But ghostwriting comes wtih a price: You’ll have to tone down your own personal style. The key lies in doing this without comletely losing your voice.

Here’s an example: I ghostwrite the blog of one of the top-producing real estate agents in my city. I once wrote a post for him about the mortgage crisis. In it, I listed all the culprits whom I believed were responsible for the high number of failed mortgage loans.

On the list? I included real estate agents and mortgage loan officers for not doing their part to warn home buyers from purchasing more house than they could afford.

My real estate agent client — not surprisingly, now that I look back on it — didn’t appreciate this tidbit. We spent a good half hour on the phone talking about why it’s the responsibility of buyers, and not agents or loan officers, to make sure they can afford the homes they are buying.

I don’t agree with this completely. I think that loan officers and real estate agents are paid to provide advice like this to their clients. But the real estate agent was my client, so my opinion didn’t matter, not if I wanted to get paid. So I took the offending clause out. My agent/client was happy.

And truthfully? I wasn’t all that unhappy. You expect some back-and-forth when you’re ghostwriting. And I was able to retain the main point of my post: There are a lot of people to blame for the country’s housing mess, not just buyers who purchased above their financial means.

That’s what’s most important to me when ghostwriting: Even though I had to alter my words to please my client I still was able to share my point of view, and my voice, with his readers.

The time to make sure that your voice won’t disappear when ghostwriting for clients is when you first negotiate a working agreement. I always make sure to tell my clients that there are certain ways in which I won’t alter my voice. First, I prefer writing newsy stories. I don’t like writing PR or advertorial fluff. If potential clients don’t want blog posts that provide real information, then I respectfully beg off the assignment.

I also tell my potential clients that I won’t write factually inaccurate copy. I also won’t serve as a cheerleader if I don’t believe in the message that my clients want me to promote. It’s all about being able to respect myself as a writer.

This stance does sometimes cost me clients, so maybe it’s not the most effective marketing strategy. But it also allows me to keep a bit of my voice — and a bit is usually all you can hope for when ghostwriting — even when I’m writing under someone else’s byline.

Dan R is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments. WriterAccess is powered by ideaLaunch.


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