What Does a Ghostwriter Do?

Asked by Adam Fields on LinkedIn, August 9, 2009.

Real ghostwriting, as opposed to what self-publishing guru Dan Poynter calls “contract writing,” involves writing in another person’s “voice.”

To explain the distinction, contract writing is “Go write me an article/blog post/white paper on topic X, and give it to me when you’re finished.”

Ghostwriting means I sit down with the client and get to know him or her, the way s/he speaks and thinks, what really matters to him or her, why s/he wants to write a book, etc. Then I use materials such as recordings of the client’s speaking engagements, interviews, notes and other written materials the client has (from e-mail messages and blog posts to short articles), to help me build up the book.

Then we pass the manuscript back and forth to make corrections for accuracy of style, tone, fact, and grammar, and finally we have a book that’s a joint effort. The client’s name absolutely belongs on this book: it’s his or her ideas and expertise that the book contains.

My name could go on the book, or not. I certainly appreciate having an acknowledgment. But I get paid for the work I’ve done, and the author and publisher might not if the book doesn’t earn out its initial investment. The obscurity is worth it.

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