This article isn’t entirely against hiring a ghostwriter. That’s why the title says “Be Cautious,” not “Avoid Completely.”
There are some definitely legitimate reasons to use a ghostwriter. For example, if writing isn’t your natural skill set and you don’t have the time or inclination to make it a learned skill set, then ghostwriting could be a great resource.
It’s not the job or the act that’s problematic. It’s the potential intent and results that make an editor want to cringe.
Here’s what I mean…
If you’re slapping your name onto a piece of writing, whether a blog post, business article, marketing copy, entire book or some other kind of editorial expression, you’re claiming it. You’re saying, “This is my work. My words. My connection with you.”
But is it really if someone else put in the bulk of the work, came up with most of the words and therefore created the majority of the connection?
Honestly and ethically, the answer can be yes.
But it can also be no.
It greatly depends on how involved you are in the process. People who generate their own ideas and then do the necessary research to support their blog post, business article, marketing copy, entire book or other editorial expression already have a decent ethical platform to stand on.
Did you give your ghostwriter a good outline to work with? That platform just got strengthened.
Are you involved in the writing process, where the ghostwriter writes the blog post, business articles, marketing copy, book chapter or other editorial expression, sends it to you and you mark it up with changes, questions and feedback?
That platform just got solidified. You’re good to go. Anyone who wants to paint you as dishonest or unethical isn’t really worth debating.
That’s your work and your connection with the reader. You just outsourced the writing part.
The problem is when you don’t take a hands-on role. Because the less you do, the more you’re lying.
Someone else is putting everything into portraying you and projecting you. They’re claiming to be you, and you’re claiming they are.
I’ve never understood why that’s not downright illegal. But nobody can claim it isn’t intensely shady. Not without being dishonest, anyway.
The other risk in not being involved in your ghostwriter’s process is that he or she might be misrepresenting you. You can have the purest of motives in letting this person run free with the editorial copy you plan to claim as your own. But that doesn’t mean the outcome changes.
This isn’t an automatic insult against ghostwriters either. How can they know what you want if you don’t tell them?
As last week’s blog post, “Is This the Year You're Going to Write a Business Book?” put it, “Despite their name, ghostwriters aren’t supernatural creatures. So they can’t read minds.”
No matter how good they are or how much experience they have or how well-recommended they come, they’re not going to be able to write your blog post, business article, marketing copy, book or other kind of editorial expression unless you’re a hands-on client from start to finish.
Not an obnoxious one, mind you. Just editorially involved.
2 ½. Dissatisfaction
Or you could just have a really bad writing representative who doesn’t care about anything but taking your money. There are, unfortunately, those types out there.
So be very, very careful in hiring a ghostwriter.
Interview them first. Pay attention to any warning signals you get, overt or otherwise. And don’t let them sweet-talk you into signing on with them until you’re as sure as you professionally can be.
Not to encourage you toward turning into a control freak, but when you’re not writing your own piece – whatever it is – you’re not the one in charge. Therefore, there’s plenty of room for mishap.
Hiring a ghostwriter is a big step. So is making sure they work right. For you.