26/05/2020

What is ghostwriting?

Our English and Creative Writing degrees can lead to a broad range of careers. One option is ghostwriting. What are the pros and cons of following this path?

Ghostwriters are hired to prepare novels, autobiographies, business books, speeches and blogs. Taking the outline of an idea, they write to fulfil the brief. The credit for this work is given to another; the named ‘author’, the industry expert or the politician for example.

Ghostwriters are used for several commercial reasons. The celebrity of the moment may not have the skills to ‘tell their story’, the industry expert might lack time to write a best seller or business blog, the publishing company might need a successful author to produce a series of books to keep pace with demand.

Famous books which were not written by the author

The author of the Nancy Drew series is Carolyn Keene, but she never existed. These girl-detective novels were first created by many freelance ghostwriters and published in the 1930s. The popularity of the series meant that a total of 175 titles were completed over 80 years; that would have challenged the most prolific of authors!

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey were completed by ghostwriters. Not all Jack Ryan novels were written by Tom Clancy and ghostwriters worked on The Pursuit of Happiness by Chris Gardner and Richard Branson’s Losing my Virginity.

The advantages and disadvantages of being a ghostwriter

A professional writer can spend years developing characters and plots before trying to find a willing publisher or following the self-publishing path. They have a vested interest in promoting the book, which involves travelling the country to do interviews and book signings. If the book is a flop, their efforts may generate a minimal financial reward. If successful, there is pressure to follow up with another, and another, captivating bestseller.

A ghostwriter is paid to complete the project. They receive the same financial reward no matter how well the book sells. Often happy not to be in the limelight, they can avoid promotional events and move onto the next project. They can also avoid being tied to a particular style, genre or subject matter, so work can be more varied.

On the flip side, ghostwriters have to accept that someone else is getting full credit for their work. Evidencing what you have written is difficult, and this can impact on career progression. While the financial risks are low, you can miss out on considerable earnings if the book is a hit. Would you consider this option as an English graduate?

 

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Part of the University of Bolton Group

Bolton college
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