Everything you need to know about the not-so-spooky world of ghostwriting

Kevin Dowling

Kevin Dowling Consulting

What is ghostwriting?

Of all the different forms of writing, there are, ghostwriting is a particularly specialist skill. It’s the art of writing something, it could be an article, a book, a speech, anything really, on behalf of someone else.

You do the work, they get all the credit. But you do get paid, so there’s that too.

Ghostwriters are adept at ‘tapping in to’ the personality of the person they are writing for. This requires a keen eye and ear for detail, and the ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes.

Of course, ghostwriting is also something of a hidden art. The life of a ghostwriter is one where you don’t expect to win many accolades.

You can’t point to your work, because it doesn’t have your name on it, and the best you can hope for is praise being heaped on the subject for their outstanding piece.

Who uses ghostwriters?

You’d be surprised. It’s not just rappers (Dr Dre, Drake), actors making awards speeches (Brad) and celebrities with autobiographies who use ghostwriters.

Most CEOs and business leaders are too busy to write their own content, so they will often use a trusted ghostwriter to do the writing for them.

It’s a very effective way to delegate an essential task to a professional writer with the required skill sets needed to achieve it to a high quality in a quicker timeframe.

What are the business benefits of hiring a ghostwriter?

Most CEOs and senior management teams are extremely busy. Even among those that recognise the importance of creating good content, and sharing their knowledge and inside, the majority simply don’t have time to give it the attention it requires.

And let’s not forget, writing is a specialist skill that not every leadership person has. Even highly experienced people sometimes struggle to know what to write about, or they find the writing process itself quite time-consuming or stressful.

Working with an experienced ghostwriter means those people can still get their opinions, values and insights out into the wider world, they just don’t have to go through the worry and stress of doing it themselves.

As well as giving senior people their valuable time back, hiring a professional ghostwriter gives a business confidence that they will receive the content they need, when it’s needed.

Ghostwriters are used to writing to meet tight deadlines, and they usually write better under pressure than non-professionals. Hiring a ghostwriter gives you the reassurance that you’ll receive something to a high standard, in a structure that is really clear and easy to read.

How does ghostwriting work?

Usually, the subject provides the topic and the direction of the piece (either through an interview, email or phone conversation), the ghostwriter then does the writing using the same style and voice as the subject.

The piece is only considered finished when the subject is 100% happy with it. After all, it’s their name that will be attached to whatever you write, so it’s essential that they stand by it.

Is ghostwriting ethical?

Absolutely. Think of it as delegating or outsourcing to a professional who can do the job quicker, to a higher standard and in the timeframe you need to get it done.

Don’t expect your ghostwriter to do all the work, though. It’s important to remember that the ghostwriter isn’t there to write up their own opinions, they should be receiving those from the subject, so that they then just get to write up the article.

What should you expect when you hire a ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter will need to get a good understanding of the topic they will be writing about, so a well-documented brief is absolutely essential.

Also, it’s crucial for the ghostwriter to get access to the subject even if it’s just a 30-minute phone call or a conversation over email. That should be the starting point when you’re trying to capture the personality of the subject.

What if people find out you’ve used a ghostwriter?

They won’t. When you hire a ghostwriter, discretion is assured.

Ghostwriters are perfectly happy to live life under the radar, do the work and then see the subject’s name in print getting all of the praise.

For a ghostwriter, the real job satisfaction comes from knowing that you helped the subject deliver something that reached an audience and allowed the subject to show the very best of themselves.

How did I get into ghostwriting?

I’ve been ghostwriting for more than 15 years. Initially, I started writing articles on behalf of fund managers and senior figures within investment companies – on topics such as the credit crunch and global financial crisis. I’ve written articles, blogs, speeches, film scripts, presentations and many more.

Since then, I’ve gone on to write for CEOs, chairmen, company founders, directors and other senior figures within several different organisations. I’ve also written for a world-renowned entrepreneur who unfortunately has to remain nameless.

It’s something I really enjoy because it gives you the chance to inject personality into the material on a much more human level than, say, writing a company brochure or website. And you can win readers over with wit and warmth that they may not have been expecting.

What’s the secret to being a ghostwriter?

There’s no secret. You just have to imagine yourself in the shoes of the subject and start there. It’s your job to get behind the business profile that senior people project, and to find their internal drives and motivations, and the things about them that make them unique.

It’s their thoughts, their words and their personality that you’re representing. It’s important to be brave, and push the subject as hard as you can to get the best out of them. The subject needs to recognise that it’s a collaboration and that the subject needs to play their part too.

What’s the best thing about ghostwriting?

When the subject gives you positive feedback along the lines of “it’s like you read my mind” or “you said it better than I could”. That’s when you know you’ve done your job well.

If your business could use some ghostwriting support, call 07824 703101 or send me an email and let’s have a conversation.

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