The Secret Life Of A Ghostwriter
I’m a ghostwriter.
Nah, not the kind that (supposedly) writes Drake’s rhymes, though if you wanted to credit me for the hook on Passion Fruit, I wouldn’t be mad. My ghostwriting is slightly less glamourous than that, but equally as secretive—I ghostwrite content for thought experts and industry leaders, including celebrities and CEOs. I take their thoughts and experiences, dress them up in my fabulous prose, and make it sexy. @@I’m like high heels and red lipstick for other people’s ideas.@@
My resume includes speeches, presentations, and op-eds in some of the biggest online publications. I’ve written for dope people with awesome businesses and interesting platforms. My words have been published under other people’s names in outlets I dream of having bylines in. They’ve been spoken at events I couldn’t get tickets to by people way more influential than me.
Of course, I can’t name names, because that’s the whole point of a ghost—no one is supposed to see me. Plus, breaching an NDA is a legal nightmare and I’m not ’bout that life.
But if you’re a writer thinking of going ghost too, or just curious about the top-secret world of ghostwriting, here are a few things I can tell you.
1. Your fave probably has a ghostwriter
It’s not just rappers using ghostwriters. A lot of those best-selling memoirs, moving speeches, and inspiring articles published by celebrities were more than likely written by someone else. Shocked? That’s fair. Appalled? I don’t think you should be.
I know ghostwriting gets a bad rap. There’s a bit of a stigma because a lot of people think it’s dishonest. I get that. But a lot of ghostwriting is about helping people who have amazing stories but not-so-amazing writing skills put their brilliance into words. Celebrities, CEOs, and industry experts usually have juicy stories to tell and ideas worth talking about—stories and ideas you probably want to hear. Ghostwriters help them make that happen.
2. Ghostwriters are amazing at keeping secrets
Those NDAs I mention earlier are meant to make sure nobody blabs. But ghostwriters—the good ones—know that respecting their clients’ privacy is important, even without the NDA. Because @@when someone trusts us to be their ghost, they’re not just putting their faith in our talent, they're counting on us to know how to keep our mouths shut.@@ So, believe me, we could tell some stories, but don’t bother asking. Our lips are sealed.
3. Ghostwriters make schmoney
Ghostwriting is a lucrative industry. I mean, would I be doing this if it didn’t pay the bills? The really big paycheques are in ghostwriting books, especially for high level clients, but I can attest to the fact that smaller projects rake in a pretty decent chunk of cash too. And there is no shortage of smaller projects because content is always in demand. @@CEOs want to be industry experts. Celebrities need to stay in the limelight. Politicians have to make speeches. Their secret weapon? Ghostwriters.@@
4. Ghosts get around
Don’t get me wrong, ghostwriters are faithful. If we vibe with a client, we’ll stick with them. It makes sense, because ghostwriting is super personal, and honestly, a little invasive. We spend a lot of time rooting around inside people’s heads for their ideas and obsessing over their social media to get a feel for their voice and personality.
But all that connection doesn’t mean we’re going to stick to one client. Ghostwriting isn’t really a monogamous kind of thing. Depending on the size and scale of the projects we take on, we can have multiple clients at a time. Don’t judge; we like to spread the love.
5. It’s a job that breaks your heart
You had to know there was a downside coming. No job is all joy and perks. Ghostwriting can be heartbreaking. I have spent hours—sometimes staying up all night long—making absolute magic out of a client’s story. I’ve written things that have made me so proud, I cried a little. (I’m not even kidding, I’ve literally cried.) And then, I just attached that amazing thing I made to an email and sent it to someone else for them to call their own.
That shit hurts so bad. It really feels like parting with a piece of myself…for money. Sometimes, that can feel like selling out. And crying into my bank account isn’t always comforting. But my sacrifice lets someone else tell their story and speak their truth, and at the end of the day, that’s why I do what I do.
So, there you have it, a little peep behind the curtain of the hush hush business of ghostwriting. Got questions? The comments are open. My inbox is too. I’d love to hear from you.