7 Ghostwriting Pros and Cons (They’re Solid Pros)


What people see as pros and cons of ghostwriting, I see as pros.

Last week, I wrote about why ghostwriting is expensive. Some people consider that a reason not to use a ghostwriter. I believe just the opposite: Since you get what you pay for, it’s actually a positive to fork over good money for a good ghostwriter.

I’ve come to realize that so many cons about ghostwriting are actually pros, and I’ve compiled a list of some common cons I found online with my explanations for why they really are pros.

You might have to write about subjects that don’t interest you. Not true. If a ghostwriter is going to invest at least a year—the normal amount of time it takes to complete a book project—he or she will make sure the person and the story are compelling enough to spend all that time.

You might have to write about subjects that you don’t know enough about. It doesn’t matter. The ghostwriter is never going to be the expert; the client will take care of that. The advantage here is that the roles are clearly defined: The client is the subject expert and the ghostwriter is the writing expert. If the two sides understand this and respect each other, there won’t be a problem.

In fact, I enjoy learning about new topics. I’ve been exposed to telecommunications, marketing, child protective services, PTSD, crashing award shows and IndyCar pits, Palm Springs travel and tourism, depositions, real estate, and various businesses, philosophies, and points of view I never would have considered learning about had I not worked with the clients I’ve had.

You won’t get credit for your work. Who cares? I spent decades as a journalist, so I’ve enjoyed the thrill of the byline. That doesn’t matter anymore. To paraphrase James Carville, it’s the story, stupid. Telling compelling stories is far more important now.

You can’t do this by yourself. So what? If I wanted to do this myself, I would write my own book (and I’ve done that). Ghostwriting is the ultimate collaborative effort, when two experts, the one who knows the story and the one who knows how to best tell the story, come together to get the information out of one’s head and onto the page.

There is a stigma around ghostwriting. Dan Good reported how Millie Bobby Brown was criticized last year for using a ghostwriter for her novel Nineteen Steps. I believe the stigma is vanishing because more and more people use ghostwriters. If you’ve read any Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew books, you’ve read ghostwritten books. If you’ve read books by Andre Agassi, Prince Harry, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, Kristi Noem, Tori Spelling, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, and so many others, you’ve read a ghostwritten book.

“Book writing isn’t easy, and there’s no shame in getting a writing assist,” Good wrote on LinkedIn. “Brown showed a lot of maturity in crediting her ghostwriter. If only her critics could do the same and stop singling out a 19-year-old woman.”

Ghostwriting is competitive. So what? That doesn’t mean there aren’t ample opportunities. True, people might have to start out charging less to get their feet in the door (and there are plenty of people doing that on upwork.com and, to a lesser extent, on indeed.com), but persistence pays off.

Deadlines are a bitch. So what? As a newspaper journalist, I dealt with hard deadlines every single day I worked. Ghostwriting deadlines are nothing by comparison. I tell the client when I’ll have the next portion done, and I do it. If life gets in the way, I let the client know—just like I let me editors know—and we’ll revise the deadline.

While ghostwriting is like any other industry in that there are negatives, these seven perceived negatives are really positives.

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