Wednesday, September 01, 2004


One of the less glorifying works that a writer can do for a living is ghostwriting. Ghostwriting, as the name implies, is about writing a piece of work on behalf of someone else. The writer is the ghost and the person who hires the writer is the owner and author credited for the written book.

As a ghostwriter, one does not get the satisfaction of seeing his or her name in print. What is seen is someone else claiming authorship to the written work, which is an experience that can be painful for one who has put in many hours of work and in some ways, degrading. However, ghostwriters are often well compensated in monetary returns in disclaiming association to the written work, and this in itself may provide consolation to the writer.

Ghostwriting entails many areas of considerations in practice and this article hopes to detail some of the guidelines that will be useful in understanding the procedures that may be necessary for providing this service.

For starters, the ghostwriter should understand that it is usually someone who wants to publish a book under his or her own name that will contact the ghostwriter for the assignment. Once contacted, the task of the ghostwriter will be to first estimate the time and cost required to complete the desired writings, computed in dependency to the complexity of content and the need for research. A book project will normally completes within four months of the start date, but this is dependent in part on the ghostwriter's availability, the length of writings required, and the topic.

The hirer of the ghostwriting service will first provide the story or ideas in a two to three pages sample in draft or outline format, and the ghostwriter will then produce a custom sample for the hirer to evaluate the style of writing before the hirer officially invest and hires the ghostwriter for the work. A precise quotation of the price will accompany the sample so that the hirer can know exactly what is entailed in the complete investment.

If the hirer accepts the sample and wish to proceed with the project, he or she will make a 25 per cent deposit of the project cost which will be non-refundable once approval to commence is given. The ghostwriter will begin writing and send chapters along the way for approval, in which any number of revisions will be permitted at no additional cost. The only time revisions become an additional cost is when acceptance of the individual chapters have been confirmed and approved, as any revisions at that point will affect the remainder of the story.

When the book is halfway through completion, another 50 per cent deposit will be requested and on receipt of payment the writings will continue as per normal. Upon reaching 100 per cent satisfaction with the completed book, a final payment will be collected.

The remainder tasks upon completion will be the actual production and publication of the book, and these are not included in the cost quoted for ghostwriting. A reasonable price to charge the hirer for the service will depend on the market price in the country of service provided. This can differ very widely, depending on familiarity to the topic of writing, the research requirements and others. As a ghostwriter usually requires 'full time' concentration for a few months on the project, a good guideline for pricing will be to calculate the opportunity cost and opportunities lost as a result of taking up the project. In addition, the price should also include goodwill for 'selling' one's right to authorship.

With all these aspects considered, it is ultimately up to the writer to decide whether he or she is willing to participate in this less glorifying role of writing as a ghost. If monetary returns are important, then ghostwriting may be the ways to go, depending on its demand.


Jin said...

i used to read nancy drew and wondered why this 'carolyn keene' has the patience to write SO MANY nd books, only to realise the geniuses behind these intriguing detective tales are unidentified ghostwriters =\ so sad.

graceshu said...

thanks for sharing, and keep up the good work!

Kahani said...

Is it true that most celebrity autobiographies are written by ghostwriters? There's even an urban legend that the newest ones are all written by the SAME ghostwriter who's making a bundle.

Writer n Journalist said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Writer n Journalist said...

kahani ... it is as you say an urban legend. It need not always be true, but it certainly is possible!

Jin said...

hiee spidey. thanks for your mms ^^ exams in four days time for seven consecutive days. been slacking so its time to buck up =\ thanks for your concern. it meant lots (:

Spidey said...

jin ... work hard n best wishes 4 ur exams!

Felix Flauta said...

I have students do this. They interview someone and rather than have them write a standard Q&A interview I force them to think from this other person's perspective and ghostwrite their autobiography.