Ghostwriting 101

A beginner's guide to ghostwriting

Published in September, 2021 by FireGhostWriter

When I was still starting my writing career, I did not have an idea that there are different kinds of writers. All I knew was that I wanted to write but I was not actually aware of what do I want to write in the long run. At first, I thought that I was born to become a journalist. And then I dreamt of writing my own book. I tried freelancing as well. But after years of experimenting and trying out things, I fell in love with ghostwriting. So, what is it exactly?

What is ghostwriting?

Before, I thought that ghostwriters are the writers who are already dead. Silly right? Or maybe stupid is the better way to describe it. But honestly speaking, I used to hate ghostwriting because of the negative connotations that come along with the "profession". Besides, who wants to write and then never get the credit due for it, right? I bet most of us would not. Some even think it is illegal. Yet upon taking time to understand what ghostwriting is and how it actually works, I eventually learned to embrace it for the way it is. 

Technically, ghostwriting is the act of writing any kind of written content for someone else and not getting the credit or ownership rights after. Instead, the byline is given to the client or the one who hired the ghostwriter. Most clients hire ghostwriters for reasons like lack of time and lack of desire or ability to write. Contrary to the notion that ghostwriters are only those who write memoirs and biographies of famous people, there are also ghostwriters behind songs, academic and website articles, essays, and even best-selling books.

How much does a ghostwriter earn?

The main reason why a lot of excellent writers choose to take the path of ghostwriting is because this line of work PAYS A LOT. According to, the average annual pay for a ghostwriter in the United States as of August 2021  of Aug 27, 2021, is $63, 915. This is even below the report of PayScale saying that a typical ghostwriter earns an average of $45 per hour which means that a full-time ghostwriter can actually make six figures a year.

How does a ghostwriter earn? Usually, we are paid either per word, per page, with a flat fee, or from a percentage of the sales. Rates can even be based on th eestimated length of manuscript, the amount of research necessary to accomplish it, and the level of client involvement.

How does it work?

Every ghostwriter has their own set of rules and policies. Some write only articles but others can write a whole book. Some wants it with the direction and participation of the client while others prefer writing from scratch. Some get partial credit while most do not. No matter how you run your own service, what's important is that you do it with complete awareness of your limitations, principles, and responsibilities. Most of all, you always do your best.

Hiring Process and Services Offered

Ghostwriters are usually hired by clients who lack the time or the ability to write. Any ghostwriter who offers ghostwriting services can decide the limitations of their service. This means that they can offer to write only articles or they can also offer to write a whole book. Once hired, they do extensive research on the task, topic or niche assigned to them and they strive to complete the work within the agreed length of time.

Level of Client Involvement

Being hired by a client who lacks time and/or ability to write doesn't necessarily mean that the client is not capable at all. They can have the magical idea behind the work but do not have the time to write it or do not have the right skill set to put this idea into words the way readers will like it. Thus, a ghostwriter can either work as someone who edits, proofreads, and fills an outline or manuscript draft from the client which already contains the main points and just needs to be polished. Meanwhile, the ghostwriter can also start from scratch usually just working with a given topic or keyword. They also write either from the tone of voice of the client or have the freedom to write using their own. 

Getting (or not) the Credit 

Ghostwriters usually do not get the credit for the written work they complete for their clients. For such instances, they usually sign a non-disclosure agreement which legalized the transfer or ownership rights from the original writer to the client. However, there are also instances when the client gives acknowledgement to the ghostwriter who helped them with their book once it is published. Such acknowledgement does not necessarily mention the term ghostwriter but may come in the form of a researcher or an editor.

Why and Why not?

GHOSTWRITING MAY BE FOR YOU if you are the kind of writer who: 

- can work out his/her limitations, drawing the line between when ghostwriting is ethical or not

- wants to earn more than the usual freelance writing profit

- work for famous personalities

- extend his/her knowledge and expertise on various niches

GHOSTWRITING MAY NOT BE FOR YOU if you are the kind of writer who:

- has personal issues and reservations with the ethics of ghostwriting

- is not comfortable with seeing your work published under someone else's name

- wants to build his/her own name in the industry

-wants to narrow down or specialize on a particular niche

A message for fellow and aspiring ghostwriters ...

Demian Farnworth in his article entitled: The Brutally Honest Truth About Ghostwriting said that "The first thing every writer should ask is this: What do you want to accomplish as a writer? Is building a personal and visible platform important to you? Will it help you in the long run? If you have to ghostwrite to make ends meet, fine. But beat a hasty path out of the business as soon as possible. It’s your turn to run the show."   I couldn't agree more with him. As a ghostwriter myself, I am contented and proud with my craft. It helped me grow in a lot of ways especially in terms of finances and knowledge. However, if you have the opportunity to build your own name and platform while or after working as a ghostwriter, grab it. Let your readers hear you for who you really are and continue to grow the way you are supposed to.

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    2 replies to "The Beginner’s Guide to Ghostwriting"

  • Ann

    Hmm, first of all, thank you for explaining it clearly. On one side, I feel that ghostwriting would be a way to get started. But, I would not like to do this forever. I don’t want to give my best years of writing to somebody who will never credit me. But the truth is that one never knows when a masterpiece is coming out of our typewriter.

    • Fire Ghostwriter

      Hi Ann! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Not getting the credit for your work is definitely one of the downsides of ghostwriting. It also took me so long before I eventually made peace with myself regarding that matter. If you believe ghostwriting is not for you, don’t worry because there are other paths you can take as a writer. You can even pave your own. Feel free to message me if you have further questions. Otherwise, I wish you luck in your writing career.

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