What do Ghostwriters Do?

This simple, yet valid question, is the one on everyone’s lips when it comes to ghostwriters. The majority of people are familiar with the term ‘ghostwriter’ but have a fuzzy idea of what a ghostwriter actually does. I often hear questions such as…

  • Can a ghostwriter write my blogs? 
  • Do ghostwriters write whole manuscripts? 
  • How do ghostwriters know what to write? 
  • How does the process of ghostwriting work?

I think that the reason there are so many questions about ghostwriting, as a profession, is because it isn’t a very well-known career and is somewhat ‘taboo’. If you want to learn more about the ethics of ghostwriting, take a look at my last blog post for all the gory details. In this blog post I am going to be super transparent about what ghostwriters do, what my daily schedule looks like, and all the other questions above. I am proud of my career as a ghostwriter and have nothing to hide! 

Let’s start with a definition. The term ghostwriter is defined as, “A person whose job it is to write material for someone else who is the named author.” This is a very basic description of what it means to be a ghostwriter and, in my opinion, only spurs more questions. Isn’t that always the case? So, yes, it is my job to write material for somebody else, who will be named as the author. Which is an insanely cool job if you ask me, but I may be a little biased.

The process of ghostwriting can be broken down into simple steps. The main thing I would like to share with you in this blog post is that working with a ghostwriter is really very simple. Part of my job is to make the process as stress-free and streamlined as possible, while also providing you with a high-quality end product. 

In the first instance a client reaches out to me about their project. This can be through this website, or if you’re interested, through my Fiverr profile (which incidentally I found is a great way to gain new clients). https://www.fiverr.com/users/sarahjules/ 

After a client has sent over a message or email, I will ask for some information about the project. Usually, I will ask about the client’s timeframe for the project and a rough estimation of the size. Then, I will have a look in my diary and see where the project would fit in. During this stage, I might ask for further information about the topic, audience and style of writing. If the project is something I am able to work on, we will agree on the scope of the project. This will include costing, payment, word count and timeframe for completion. We will agree upon how regularly the client wishes to be updated about the progress of the project too, as every client is different in this regard. I will write the project into my diary to begin on a pre-agreed start date. 

When the start date arrives, I will send over a quick email to let you know that I am starting your project and what my next steps will be. The majority of my time at the beginning of a ghostwriting project will be centred around research and creating an outline/plan for the manuscript. Once this is completed, I will share it with the client for their approval before starting the writing process. This allows the client to make any changes they would like. I find that this helps the end result to match what the client pictured in terms of the finished product. 

I will then write the first draft. Some clients wish to be involved in the writing of the manuscript and others do not. Both are absolutely fine! If the client wishes to be involved, we will have already discussed at this stage what that means. It could mean that I send over sections for their comments and questions. Or, it might mean that they may wish to write certain sections themselves for me to re-write. Really, anything is possible at this stage. I understand that having a ghostwriter take on your project can be a pretty nerve-wracking thing to do and sometimes even something as simple as your ghostwriter sending you finished sections for you to ‘okay’ can make it far more comfortable. 

Once the first draft is completed, I send it to the client for their feedback. We discuss the feedback and then I go ahead and make any revisions necessary. Sometimes we won’t need to make any revision, in other instances we might need to make a few. It all depends on the individual client and project. After I’ve made the changes the client and I discussed, either through the first revision or further revisions, I provide you with the finished manuscript. Now, this is where ghostwriters tend to differ. As a ghostwriter, I choose to provide the manuscript as an MS Word document or as a PDF file, others may convert to ebook, etc. 

See, the process of collaborating with a ghostwriter is really that simple. Depending upon the project, it could take a couple of weeks or a few months. There aren’t any hard and fast rules and certain projects take longer than others, especially if there’s quite a lot of research involved. 

Ghostwriters can write blogs, articles and books, amongst other things. Ghostwriters write content for other people to publish under their own name. It’s simply what ghostwriters do. Sometimes I might find myself writing blog posts about surfing, the next day I’m writing a book about medicinal herbs. A ghostwriter can help you out with ANY written content. Some ghostwriters lean towards blog posts and articles, others prefer to write fiction. Similarly, ghostwriters might stick to a specific genre or style of writing. Just as clients are all unique, so are ghostwriters. While I prefer writing books, specifically fiction, sometimes I find myself dying to write a blog post or article. It is always worth reaching out and seeing if a ghostwriter is interested in collaborating on your project!

But ghostwriting isn’t necessarily writing from scratch. Again, in terms of what ghostwriters do, our niche is pretty wide. For example, some clients have a rough draft of a document and wish to hire a ghostwriter to improve upon their manuscript – this is sometimes referred to as being a ‘book doctor’. Ghostwriters can use your document and take it to the next level. Maybe your work isn’t appealing to your chosen audience. Alternatively, you would like to improve the cohesiveness or style of writing in your manuscript. I’ve even had clients provide me with their ‘finished manuscripts’ for me to ghostwrite from. During the initial conversation a ghostwriter and a client have prior to beginning the project, your ghostwriter will be able to advise you on what the next steps would be for your project, whether that be re-writing to improve the structure and tone of an existing manuscript or writing something from scratch. 

What does a typical day look like for a ghostwriter? This is a hard one as no two days are the same. I think that goes for most careers. I can only speak for myself, of course, as many ghostwriters will have different strategies and approaches to their workload. For me, my days are usually planned in advance. I have a very handy little whiteboard where I plan the week ahead.  My diary is usually my first port of call when planning out my week. Before I start working, I do what most writers do and pour copious amounts of coffee down my neck before sitting down at my desk in my home office. Depending on my workload, I might spend five or six hours entirely on one project or I split my day into different projects. If I’m working on a large project, such as a fiction series, I might spend six hours a day for a full month on the project (minus a day or two off, I’m not a machine!). Some weeks I will work on a few different projects, some blog posts or perhaps a non-fiction book or two. The best part of any ghostwriting project, for me, is the research and planning stage. This is where I get to take a deep dive into a new topic and gain knowledge in a new area. 

As a ghostwriter, I am always honing my craft. In order to be a ghostwriter, you need to have certain skills. The main one, of course, being writing. Writing encompasses all things from grammar, punctuation, sentence construction, imagination, communication and writing style. What this basically means is that the ghostwriter can adapt to different writing projects in order to bring your ideas to life. I regularly attend online courses in everything from creative writing to copywriting in order to refresh my skills and bring new ideas to the table. No ghostwriter wants to become complacent in their writing. Taking every opportunity I can to hop on different courses allows me to give my writing a new lease of life. 

In my line of work, I also spend a lot of time reading too. I am fully of the opinion that reading allows for good writing and that when we read we are unconsciously becoming better writers. Take these quotes from Stephen King (god of horror fiction) for example:

“Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”

Essentially, a day in the life of a ghostwriter usually involves some research, some reading, and a whole lot of writing. So, if we look back at the question, ‘What do ghostwriters do?’ I suppose that the answer is research books, read books, and write books. With a hell of a lot of coffee sprinkled in for good measure!

Wishing you love and books that make your heart skip a beat,

Sarah Jules x

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