A Career to Consider: Ghostwriting

A Career to Consider: Ghostwriting

by Erika Ferris-Baker
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

Not everyone is given a natural knack for putting words together. Often practice is enough to foster and fine tune writing skills, but not everyone has the time or the motivation. Do you ever see the latest celebrity autobiography on display at your local bookstore and wonder how that vapid starlet managed to pen 500 pages? Or ponder over how James Patterson seems to put out books faster than seems possible to even write them up? In both of these cases, a ghost writer comes into play.

A ghost writer’s duties can range from editing and touching up an already mostly completed piece, to fleshing out an entire outline on their own. In most cases a ghost writer isn’t even credited- in fact, it’s usually part of their employer’s contract that the extra help should remain anonymous. There are a variety of situations in which a ghost writer could be brought on: an already established author, for example, could hire a ghost writer to mimic their style in order to get more of their books out on the shelves. A business person or a doctor wishing to establish themselves as a professional in their field may bring on a ghost writer to research and write a book under their name.

Regardless of the circumstances, a ghost writer is rarely given any kind of credit for their work, and the general public goes on unaware. A ghost writer can be paid a flat fee, a per-page rate, a portion of royalties from book sales, or some combination of those. If you’re not worried about getting your name out there it can be a very profitable career for a writer: the person who helped pen Hilary Clinton’s memoirs, for example, is reported to have received $500 000 for the job.

There’s no one way of going about training to be a ghostwriter. While many people pursuing this career choose to go to college for a degree in English or journalism, it isn’t strictly necessary. Mostly what you need is to be a strong writer, and a good set of interpersonal skills. A ghostwriter must be able to capture their client’s voice, as well as understand and produce their client’s idea of an ideal end product.

If a career in ghostwriting interests you, the best way to start would be to write as much as possible. Join the school paper or year book committee, start a blog, look into whether the local newspaper has a student co op program. Acquiring references and experience is a good way to start on your path to becoming a ghostwriter!

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