Five things you didn’t know about ghostwriting in 2021

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Gotham Ghostwriters are a US-based ghostwriting agency with a pool of some of the best and most specialized editorial pros in the country. Founded by Dan Gerstein in 2008, the agency offers a one-stop solution for any author or speaker looking for help telling and selling a story – whether they’re working on a big-think book, speech, white paper, memoir, corporate or family history, cookbook, or screenplay.

We spoke to the team at Gotham about the history and evolution of ghostwriting, and the current swing back to its original collaborative approach that’s proving to be a boon for writers and readers alike, to bring you five things that you might not know about ghostwriting today.

A version of this article was originally published as part of the Ghostwriting Confidential 2021 blog series in collaboration with United Ghostwriters in the UK.

1. The definition has changed to include a wider variety of roles

The common definition of ghostwriting is the act of one person writing in the name of another person, group, company or institution without receiving a byline or public credit. Ghostwriting can also often be a customized form of collaboration, covering a range of relationships and services tied to the authors’ needs, objectives and work style. Although the common definition is still prevalent, it is changing as people become more exposed to the wide spectrum of roles that ghostwriters play.

For example, the author and the ghost might share writing responsibilities or work on certain components, such as writing the stories and case studies or shaping the narrative of a novel or memoir, with the author supplying the original concepts and research. Ghosts also can coach authors to develop a concept and organisational structure, identify their target audience, capture their authentic voice, manage the project, conduct interviews, serve as developmental editors, line editors and book doctors – polishing, revising, and revamping manuscripts that need improvement before being published. The division of labor can vary from one collaboration to another, and is based on whatever makes the most sense for the success of the project. 

2. Ghostwriting is one of the oldest professions

While the general public’s awareness of ghostwriting is a relatively recent development, ghostwriting and collaborative storytelling have been around for as long as the written word. Writing by committee was the norm until the Enlightenment, and some of the oldest known “texts” aren’t attributed to a single author, but rather are the accumulated reflections and contributions of entire cultures. 

It wasn’t until the rise of the French auteurs in the 18th and 19th Centuries that the activities of ghostwriters and other writing collaborators became more covert, with individuals increasingly being credited and seen as sole creators of their stories – both within literary circles and the imaginations of readers – and the initial stigma of ghostwriting began.

3. It’s status has evolved from stigma to standard practice

Many esteemed writers over the years who dabbled in ghostwriting also grappled with the “sellout” stigma. Notably among them were American novelists William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Aldous Huxley, who each went out to Hollywood after the advent of the talkies to become screenwriters/rewriters – an aspect of the movie and screenwriting industry depicted in the 2021 Oscar-nominated movie “Mank”.

The taboo around ghostwriting also applied not only to the ghost but to the author – that claiming someone else’s words as your own is a form of cheating or an act of dishonesty. However, anyone who’s been part of a creative writing endeavour knows that collaboration is all part of the process. This holds true for the creation of books, with countless works of fiction and non-fiction shaped, reshaped and even rewritten by anonymous editors like Maxwell Perkins, a giant within US publishing circles, whose substantial revisions to Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby were widely credited for its success. The book’s vision and story was the author’s, but the text was the product of a collaboration.

4. It’s becoming more and more common for ghostwriters to receive public recognition

The contributions of ghostwriters have become increasingly known and appreciated – with some writers even extending cover credit to these editorial partners – and especially when we consider the rise of celebrity culture. Most Hollywood talent agents, top PR executives, brand-name CEOs and political leaders will be able to tell you not only what a ghostwriter does but the immense value they deliver.

The Internet has also played a pivotal role in bringing ghosting out of the shadows and breaking the stigma. Through the ubiquity and transparency of the web, not only did we know that Barack Obama didn’t write his own speeches, but his young speechwriter Jon Favreau also became a celebrity in his own right. What became known then became normal, and as such accepted by readers.

5. Ghostwriting can make or break a books’ success

For authors, the benefits of collaborating with a ghostwriter can be multitudinous. Writing a book from scratch can be intimidating, and if it’s a debut, it can be overwhelming and downright scary. There is wisdom for some in working with a professional who not only is a skilled writer but also has extensive experience collaborating with authors and understands the trepidation some authors naturally have.

Timing, generating the right hook or starting point and having the right combination of skills can also be a significant factor for authors seeking to use ghostwriting services. With ghostwriters by their side, many are starting to tap into skills, expertise and knowledge that will make their books a success.

You can read the original article here.

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