What is a Ghost Writer?

December 3, 2020
Last updated:
Table of Contents
Join Our Community of Writers and Editors Now
Apply Now

Ghostwriters are writers for hire who are paid but receive none of the credit for the work produced.

There are generally two parties involved in this professional relationship:

  • The “author,” who hires the freelance writer to produce content for an agreed upon fee, takes the credit for all the original work produced.
  • The “ghost,” the freelance writer who is generally paid in advance of completing the job, gets the money as a “work for hire” job and assumes none of the credit for their ghostwriting work.

Reasons to Hire a Ghostwriter

Ghostwriting is a common practice, though it isn’t often publicized. When someone wants to create new copy for a website, a ghostwriter may be hired to rewrite existing copy. There are many similar jobs such as writing ad or business copy, or supplying new or rewritten material for personal or professional use, all of which are great ways to get paid to write. The ghost is hired primarily as a professional freelance writer, in order to produce high-quality writing copy that reads professionally.

A paid professional freelance writer is often the only source to turn to get sparkling, well-written website copy or other quality content. A ghost is hired to bring this about, either as an on staff writer or as a freelance writer who is paid specifically for the job at hand.

Ghostwriters are also hired to write books for people. In such cases, the author of the book is the person who hires the ghostwriter, unless the book author wants to share some of the credit with the ghost. In this case, the ghost may be listed as a coauthor or as the “editor” of the book; generally, this is listed somewhere in the acknowledgments page.

Sometimes the well-known “As Told To” line with the name of the ghostwriter is included on the cover of a ghostwritten book. This is often the case when well-known ghostwriters are used by the books’ actual authors.

Can You Make Money Ghostwriting?

Ghosts often work for very large amounts of money, although with recent competition from other countries like India and China, and with bidding service agencies looking for the highest bidder on ghostwriting projects, this is not always the case. But in many cases, a ghostwriter will charge a fee of $10,000 to $25,000 to produce exceptional quality, sterling book writing over three to six months.

A ghostwriter is hired for his or her quality of work, and not necessarily for his or her “name” as a book writer. But there are many kinds of deals that a ghost can “cut” with the book author in order to produce a fair deal for both parties when the contract is signed between the ghostwriter and the book author.

For example, the ghostwriter can take a lower fee in the case of a book that’s expected to sell widely and well, such as $10,000 paid in advance to write the book, a sum which can be paid all or partly out of a book advance. Then the ghost may take 10-20% of the book’s gross profits over time as it is sold, perhaps with a ceiling cap the ghost is allowed to make from the book’s gross profits. This method is only used when the book is nearly guaranteed to be published and to sell at high profits.

Alternatively, the ghost can take a lower fee if credit is shared with the book author. Again, this is only suggested when the book is guaranteed to sell well or for some reason the ghost especially wants his or her name on the book as one of the book’s authors, for reasons of prestige or other needs.

At any rate, it is up to the book author and writer to determine whether or not:

  • the ghost should take their payment in advance for a “work for hire” job, or
  • the ghost should share credit with the book author, or
  • the ghost should take a percentage of the book’s gross profits over time as payment for their work.

How to Become a Ghostwriter

However you slice it, the ghostwriting business can be quite lucrative. In order to become a well-paid ghost, you should have plenty of experience as a freelance writer. This could be demonstrated by having books published under your own name or years of experience writing websites and other types of copy for businesses.

Even when the economy suffers, there is always room in the writing profession for another freelance writer. Once you know how to handle its ins and outs, and how to deal with clients professionally, ghostwriting can be very lucrative.

Join Our Community of Freelance Writers and Editors

Make money writing for Compose.ly. We offer our freelance writers and editors access to great benefits and even better clients.

✅ Get consistent, quality work
✅ Be apart of a writing team or directly with a client
✅ Part-time and full-time opportunities available
✅ Work from anywhere, anytime
✅ Earn extra money with competitive rates
Apply Now

Speak with us to learn more.

Let us make content marketing easier for you. Fill out the form below, and a content specialist will get in touch with you in 1 business day.
Close button icon