Over the past few months I’ve received a slew of questions about ghostwriting, such as: “Who hires a professional ghostwriter?”
Other questions included:
- How much do ghostwriters make?
- If I wrote (something) for my client as a ghostwriter, can I do… (fill in the blank) with it?
I thought I’d answer the questions about professional ghostwriting in an article.
Firstly, let’s look at our definition of a “professional ghostwriter.” He or she is a writer or author who’s hired by a client to write something, under a work done for hire agreement, or a specific ghostwriting agreement.
Whatever the agreement is, once the work is created and paid for, all copyright in the product devolves to the hirer.
A ghostwriting agreement usually includes strict confidentiality clauses which prevent the writer from saying: hey, I wrote that… 🙂
Put simply, when you write something as a ghostwriter, once you’re paid, you have no further rights in the work, nor do you get to talk about it. The buyer can put his name on the material, and can use it in any way he chooses.
Who hires a professional ghostwriter?
Lots of people, and lots of companies.
Here’s a short list.
1. Authors hire other authors to write their books
This includes both traditionally published, and indie published authors, who subcontract ghostwriters to write their books.
Some of the authors who subcontract the writing of their books you know well; they appear on bestseller lists. Other authors make great livings by hiring ghostwriters to write “their” books.
2. Traditional publishers hire ghostwriters for fiction and nonfiction
They may hire ghostwriters because a contracted author can’t write: the “author” is a celebrity, or a business person.
Or, as often happens, perhaps the publisher’s contracted author didn’t deliver a book. Rather than having a gaping hole in their seasonal list, the publisher hires a ghostwriter.
A publisher may hire a ghostwriter because another publisher jumped on a trend they didn’t spot, so they want a book delivered fast, without any drama, so they hire a ghostwriter.
Publishers also hire hire ghostwriters to write chapters in upcoming books, as well as to doctor the books their hot-selling authors have written.
3. Marketers hire ghostwriters to write books
There’s money to be made in the publishing space. These marketers set up a publishing company, then hire ghostwriters to write hundreds of books. The marketers push these books in many ways. Some push the books in suspect ways, until Amazon closes off the loopholes.
4. “Thought leaders” hire ghostwriters
These people are hugely ambitious, and want to get to the top of their field: any and every field. They include legal people, business people, and medical people.
5. Hot bloggers hire ghostwriters
These bloggers are smart business people but writing books and blogging takes too long, and requires too much expertise. So, they hire it done. You’ll find these bloggers in many of the hot areas of blogging, like food, fashion, and home renovating.
6. Business people hire ghostwriters…
For everything from company reports to speeches and memos.
7. Academics hire ghostwriters…
Because their jobs depend on it. They hire ghostwriters for articles, books, blog posts… this is a broad field. If you have expertise in an academic topic, you’re made.
How much does a professional ghostwriter earn?
That depends on the ghostwriter and his clients. I wrote about pricing a ghostwriting gig here.
The fees you charge boil down to two questions you ask yourself:
- How much is my time worth, and…
- (Most importantly) how much can the client afford?
Once you’ve been paid for a ghostwriting gig, you no longer have any rights in the material
The type of question often arises: “If I wrote (something) for my client as a professional ghostwriter, can I…”
No, you can’t do anything with that material. You sold all the rights.
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