Confessions of a Ghostwriter
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of ghostwriting. I pen thought leadership pieces for execs, and they run in major media outlets and industry trade pubs like AdExchanger, MediaPost, and TechCrunch. I also write articles for business leaders to share on LinkedIn, Medium, and company blogs. I love what I do, and I don’t do it “for the glory.” I like helping people convey their unique viewpoints. I like trying to capture their personality and cadence with my word choices. I genuinely enjoy working together to build on their ideas and to find examples to illustrate their points.
I agree wholeheartedly with a professional’s decision to hire someone like me, not just because it pays the bills, but because it’s a smart example of time management. People hire ghostwriters because they 1.) Don’t have the time to produce content themselves and/or 2.) Don’t have professional writing skills and understand that partnering with a pro will improve quality and, in turn, results.
But if I am honest, I sometimes wish I could share clips I’m particularly proud of, and I wonder how I can best showcase this type of writing, which has become a sizeable part of my business, on my social media channels and in my portfolio. Although many people enlist the help of a ghostwriter, it’s not usually something they want to advertise. I liked a solution proposed in Lauren Ingram’s article for Contently’s The Content Strategist, “Is it Morally Okay to Ghostwrite Thought Leadership.” She writes, “When some celebrities sign book deals for memoirs, co-writers are included in the byline, just in a smaller font. It might seem strange at first, but why couldn’t bloggers use this same system? Or at the very least, put some sort of disclosure at the bottom of the story to acknowledge the name of the person who actually wrote the post.” This solution would allow ghostwriters to share their work and help get their names out to potential new clients.
For the record, I have no moral qualms about what I do, or with the folks who ask me to do it. I work with clients who want my writing to sound like them. I take time to understand their position and personality. We communicate as often as necessary to make sure I am presenting their ideas and vision. Sure, I elaborate and improve as needed, but I don’t think there is anything unethical about that. (But I sure am glad I am not Tony Schwartz.)
This is a little cheesy, but I think it is an honor to have someone choose you for something so personal. Plus, I get to learn a lot about a ton of different industries and issues by speaking firsthand to industry leaders in ad tech, travel, and health care. It satisfies my innate curiosity and propensity for boredom in a way that other careers could not. I am proud of my ghostwriting. It’s not just about being a good writer, it’s about understanding your client and capturing his or her voice. I like the challenge. I like the work. Sure, I wouldn’t mind a byline here or there, but that (kinda vain) longing isn’t enough to take away from my love of the job or my appreciation for my clients.
By Jacqueline Lisk