It can seem a bit strange to hire a ghostwriter, it’s a lot to get your head round. It’s not uncommon for people to wonder if ghostwriting is ethical, and if it’s something they want to be involved in at all. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the rights and wrongs of writing as someone else.
The ethics of ghostwriting can depend a lot on the context. We can all agree that a student buying an essay and submitting it as their own work is unethical. They are claiming that the ideas in the essay are their own, when in fact they may not even know what it says. Not only that, the student might gain qualifications based on the ghostwritten work, and as a result could be given responsibilities which they are not prepared for. Not a good situation.
But what about other contexts? It’s very common practice for blog posts to be ghostwritten, for example. In fact, most people don’t even think of that as ghostwriting. Just a brand hiring a writer to produce marketing material, and there’s nothing unethical about adding a new team member! So long as the blog posts represent the views and approach of the company, then all is well.
When it comes to ghostwriting books I think a big factor is the amount of research the writer does.
At one end of the scale someone could simply pay for a book on a particular topic and have no more input than that. The writer would have to research the topic and come up with all the ideas and themes for the book. They would decide the structure, and the voice would be there’s. That’s probably OK if the book is going to be “authored” by a big organisation, but if it will have someone’s name on it then I’m not so sure.
At the other end of the scale the client provides all the ideas, anecdotes and stories. The writer’s job is to take that information and craft it into a readable book. They might do a little research, just to flesh things out, but the aim is to represent the client’s ideas in the client’s voice.
When you read a book you form an opinion about the author but most of that is based on the ideas and themes in the book rather than the clever way they word a sentence. A good ghostwriter knows that. They become so invisible that even the client feels like they could be reading their own words. Nobody is being misrepresented or misled, what you read comes directly from the author – it was just put together by an expert.
No book is truly the work of one person. There are always proofreaders and editors, especially if it’s traditionally published. Some books are published in more than one language and rewritten by skilled translators. A book is a collaboration, adding a ghostwriter to the mix doesn’t change that.
My aim is always to write your book. The book you would write if you simply had the time (and perhaps the skill). I spend a lot of time exploring your content to make sure that I represent you accurately and I think it’s the greatest complement when a client says “It’s like reading myself!”
The ethics of ghostwriting depend entirely on context, and I only do the ethical kind.