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Updated: Nov 24, 2016
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To ghostwrite means to write something (an article, a column, a book, a blog, a newsletter) for someone else, and whatever is published is done so under that person’s name – and not the person who actually wrote it. Ghostwriting means writing an article, a column, a book, a newsletter for someone else and, whatever is published, is done so under that person's name - and not the person who actually wrote it.


Ghostwriting involves writing content for another person or some other organization, and the person who wrote that content does not get a byline – which appears in newspapers, magazines and other publications naming the writer of the article.


How Is Ghostwriting Practiced?

Ghostwriting is a common practice in the literary and publishing industries, a practice that is as old as publishing and writing itself. It’s also, for the most part, accepted by the public. When big-name celebrities like Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards publishes a book about their life in their name, there are people behind the scenes doing the writing but not getting the credit. But they are still getting compensated for their work.


These books are ghostwritten because book sales will be based on the celebrity’s name printed on its cover, only these celebrities generally have no skill, time or motivation to write the book themselves; in this scenario, a real writer is called in to produce the book, of course, while getting paid for the work, but they do not receive the credit – at least as it is printed for the public to read and buy. When there are blogs written by actors and athletes and well-known business owners, they are often written by a ghostwriter and not themselves.


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Maybe a publication enlists a well-known person to write an article or column, only that person is not a skilled writer. Most times, if a publication views a person as a selling point, (because they are well branded, readers will buy or pick up this magazine to read these people’s work), a ghostwriter may or may not be administered to write the article or column for that person. This is part of the everyday process in several industries across the world.


A ghostwriter is generally a skilled writer with extensive education and experience in various writing fields, whether in journalism or publishing, or even in marketing materials (like press releases and blogs) and politics (since many wordsmiths often end up writing speeches for politicians and businesspersons). Ghostwriters are not only well versed in their language, but skilled in understanding the kind of writing needed by certain companies in certain industries. Also, most times these ghostwriters have a beat they mostly cover, a subject or issue (such as health, sports, nutrition, exercise, etc.) they have become experts in. Organizations or people in need of ghostwriters will be cognizant of this when choosing the best writers for a job or project.

Ghostwriting Is Often a Question of Ethics

While some ethical questions are raised regarding ghostwriting, it is still a highly practiced endeavor by people and organizations all over the world. Does that make it ethical? It depends on the eye of the beholder. Some may argue that as long as there are multi-million-dollar book deals, multi-thousand-dollar speaking engagements, there will always be people behind the scenes doing the writing for these engagements and projects.


However, other critics may argue that because most ghostwritten material or content that does not credit correct person, the book publisher is essentially lying to the reader. They feel it is a question of integrity.


But, once more, ghostwriting has been around for quite a long time and doesn’t seem to be heading into any kind of obscurity. In truth, probably the opposite is true – that, in the digital age, the practice of ghostwriting will only develop and grow and become more ubiquitous than ever.


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