Thoughts on Ghostwriting

This post is just my opinion on the topic of ghostwriting.

There are two main reasons I can see someone using a ghostwriter.

1. You have a story idea or know a nonfiction subject matter really well, BUT you aren’t good at communicating those thoughts through writing.

Some people have a ton of great ideas, but their strength just isn’t in presenting it in written form. Communicating through the written word is a craft that comes more easily to some people than others. This isn’t to say you can’t learn the craft. You can. But sometimes it’s not practical to devote the time and effort needed to learn a craft. It could be that you’re better off using that time and effort into something else that is a strength for you already. A ghostwriter can assist in this area by taking the burden of that job off of your hands.

Going along with the idea of writing not being someone’s strength, let’s say that you also hate writing. To you, it’s a chore you’d rather not deal with. You don’t have the desire to even learn the craft. But you still have some ideas that you’d like to offer the world in written form. Maybe you’re a great speaker, so you can give online presentations and give public speeches, but you also want to have your material available in written form for people who’d rather read it. In this case, a ghostwriter can be a good thing.

2. It’s best for your business.

There’s a growing trend in the indie writing community that involves the use of ghostwriters. Indie publishing has done away with the myth that excellent writers can’t write fast. A lot of them do. But even a fast writer needs a break. People aren’t machines. They can’t write all the time. The human brain needs time to relax. So writers who rely on their writing income to make a living might find it necessary to hire ghostwriters.

Earlier this week, I saw a posting for ghostwriters wanted. This was specifically for the romance genre, and the ghostwriter would be expected to write about a certain word count a week and had to be able to commit to writing an entire series for the author who hired them. The ghostwriter would have to agree to receive no credit for the work.

I think we’re seeing a growing need for ghostwriters in the indie community because of the increased pressure authors feel to get more and more books out. And the fact is that some retailers reward a rapid publishing schedule. The quicker you can get books out, the better your chances are of making more money.ย  Also, I hear a lot of romance readers say they read 1-2 books a day. I can see how speed gets rewarded with money. The more books an author puts out, the more money they usually make. And if this author has done a great job of building up a fan base, then it makes sense to put out as many books as possible.

We can argue the ethics of a fiction writer using a ghostwriter all day long, but my point is that if you’re a business-minded person, you’re going to do what is best for your business. The truth is, it is harder to sell books if you’re writing at a slower pace AND if you don’t write to market. I’ve been tracking financially successful romance authors for years now, and it’s become clear to me that to better your odds of making money, you need to get books out quicker AND write to market. Right now, I’m seeing authors producing a book or two a month. Some do it more frequently than that.

I think a wise author is going to utilize the help of a quality ghostwriter to maintain this kind of production because if the author doesn’t, the author risks doing serious harm to their health, their sanity, and/or their relationships. The human mind was not created to act like a machine. It requires breaks. Our minds are connected to our bodies, so it’s best to take care of both. If you don’t give yourself time to rest, something is going to give.

Just the other day I was watching a You Tube video where this very issue came up, and I think it’s worth listening to. I’m linking to it below. Sarra Cannon mentions an author she knows who ended up in the hospital due to major fatigue and burnout. This is a good moment to reflect on the dangers of pushing yourself to write too much to often. Start at 14:56 and goes through until 16:10 to hear her warning. (If you want to listen to the other stuff she has to say, feel free. It’s a great video.)

When you take care of yourself, you’re taking care of your business.

***

The reason I can see someone not using a ghostwriter.

To help give this blog post some balance, I will add a thought on why a writer should not get a ghostwriter.

I’m the kind of writer who needs the story to be exactly the way I want it to be. This is why I went into self-publishing to begin with. I wanted 100% control over my story. I didn’t want a publisher coming in and telling me to change anything.

A ghostwriter is providing a service, but they are the ones creating the story. Even if an author gives them the idea, they’re executing it, and in my experience, two people can start with the very same idea (say a plot where a father is forcing his daughter to get married to someone she doesn’t want). Regardless of the fact these people are using the exact same plot idea, the two will produce two different stories. There might be some similar points along the way, but in the end, the story is unique because the creative mind takes all kinds of twists and turns along the way.

Characters evolve as the story is being told, and what one character does for one author, another character one won’t for the other author. That’s because each person writing the book is coming at the plot idea with two distinct personalities, two distinct backgrounds, and two distinct likes/dislikes. The subconscious mind takes over the creative process in subtle ways. That’s why you won’t get the same exact story from the same plot idea.

That’s the beauty of storytelling, and it’s why I love it so much. I never know what will happen. Each story starts out as a blank map that is filled in along the way. Granted, I don’t plot first, but I imagine even when a writer sits down to plot, they don’t know everything that’s going to happen when they start plotting on a blank piece of paper. That stuff usually gets filled in as the story comes together in the writer’s mind.

So if I were to tell a ghostwriter, “This is my idea, and I want Character A to be like this and Character B to be like this,” I doubt the ghostwriter would write the exact story I want, and I would not be happy with the story. I would have to rewrite the story so that I’m satisfied with it. If that’s the same case with you, a ghostwriter probably isn’t good for you, and it’s a good reason not to use one.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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15 Responses to Thoughts on Ghostwriting

  1. I don’t agree with you about ghostwriters being a good thing (I rarely disagree with you, LOL). Here’s my take. You are putting out a story, calling it yours, and you didn’t write it. You don’t say it was ghost written, the ghost writer gets no credit, and it hurts authors who are trying their best to put out good stories that they HAVE written. It just seems dishonest to me. I know it’s a business decision, but many business decisions are dishonest. It feels unethical. So my own personal conscience wouldn’t allow me to do it. I could see one person having the idea and another person doing the writing and both of them taking credit. And they would have the right to decide how to manage the royalties. That would be fair and honest. But I just can’t condone ghostwriting. That doesn’t mean it’s NOT okay because I can’t answer for anyone else’s conscience. It means that in my mind, it’s not okay. My conscience, my opinion.

    • First, I want to say I appreciate you commenting. I enjoy hearing differing points of view, and I’m glad you shared them with me! I think it helps people see both sides of the issue when there’s another viewpoint to add to the discussion.

      I can see your point. At the core of this whole thing, you’re claiming to write something you didn’t. You’re letting people believe it’s your creation.

      I was just approaching this situation from a business mindset. An indie author who has a large readership isn’t going to make much money off of a book if they let people know a ghostwriter wrote the book. The name of the author is what is selling the book. In my personal experience, every time I did a collaborate work (whether it was a single book or an anthology), sales were dismal for the book. Only when it was just me writing the entire thing did the book sell well. This is why I think authors aren’t telling their readers when they use a ghostwriter.

      • I was hoping I didn’t offend you. ๐Ÿ™‚ One thing that bothers me besides the fact that it’s a little deceitful is that so many authors work so hard to put out their own books, and it doesn’t seem fair that others are using ghostwriters and not working hard like the rest of the authors. Do you see what I mean?

        • No. You didn’t offend me. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s hard to ruffle my feathers.

          I agree that it does make things harder for authors who are putting in the work. My gut feeling is that authors who keep writing their own books will end up better off than those who aren’t. Readers get used to a writer’s voice. When I see reviews on books that say something like, “This doesn’t sound like the author I’m used to reading” or “the quality isn’t what I’m used to”, I suspect those are ghostwritten books. Even if a reader can’t put their finger on it, they probably figure there’s something “off” about the story.

          I think in the long run, it’ll be authors who keep writing their own stories who will stay relevant. I see ghostwriting being propelled largely by the need to get books out faster and faster (which is something KU has rewarded). You can only publish so fast before the method stops working. This is another marketing strategy that will end up falling apart. Other marketing tactics have fallen apart over the years. The only thing that doesn’t fall apart is good storytelling.

  2. While I’m not the type to use a ghost writer, I don’t begrudge anyone who does. HP Lovecraft did some ghost-writing back in the day, and it’s through those stories that we get glimpses of creations that were only mentioned by name in his main body at work, like the fertility goddess Shub-niggurath.

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