Official definitions vary when defining Copywriting or Ghostwriting — but this is what I found scouring the internet:
Ghostwriter: “hired to write literary or journalistic works, speeches, or other texts that are officially credited to another person as the author”
Copywriter: “hired to write for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. The product, called copy, is written content that aims to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action”
In many ways these definitions are interchangeable. That’s why for the purposes of this post, I’ll stick to calling it “ghostwriting”; because there’s far too much overlap. I’ll also clarify that my thoughts in this post are reflective of my own experience with ghostwriting and not everyone else’s (obviously).
Anyone with a crippling desire to see firm lines drawn between copywriting and ghostwriting can simply add that quandary to their list of homework.
#1 Oh dearie me, So much darn personality
There are a number of reasons why people hire ghostwriters. A lack of time or a lack of charisma to eloquently put their point across. It makes sense, none of us are good at everything — except me, I know everything. (lol relax, that was a joke)
I’ve come across clients that — (how do I put this nicely?) — have terrible personalities.
Having a personality I don’t like isn’t what makes me attribute it as “terrible” . Instead, it’s having a personality IRL that is far removed from who you appear to be when you are blogging.
There’s this lady I did a writing gig for a few months back; a kindergarten teacher. I was drawn to her job offer because she struck me as kind and nurturing. Dealing with kids often requires someone with a level head — how wrong I was, because the beast that lay behind her keyboard was anything but.
If “irrational” could materialize into a human being I imagine it would look much like her.
See, before I do any job, I read what someone has written to capture their voice and understand their head-space.
Short version: What she wrote, and who she was outside her blog were two completely different people.
I immediately understood why she needed me (or anyone else) to inject life into her blog. Must be exhausting keeping up appearances.
Suffice it to say I dropped that gig before it could go any further. Ghostwriting can be lucrative but not at the cost of my sanity. My only hope is that she treats her students with a little more respect; for their sake.
(Don’t worry, she doesn’t know about me or this blog. Doing so would require far too much personality)
#2 Most Are Afraid to be Themselves
Links with the first point. Ghostwriters are skilled, but as much as stellar writing is valued by readers, I believe it’s far more important to be yourself. Especially if you want organic growth.
People often under-estimate a reader’s intelligence. I’ve been writing long enough to know there’s an unseen flow that comes with words drawn from a real place. Readers catch on when you doctor content to reel in the most amount of clicks.
I’m not saying don’t use SEO on your blog. But definitely have more Y-O-U than S-E-O in your posts. At some point you have to consider if you want SEO algorithms to carry your voice or if you want your voice to tame SEO algorithms.
I don’t have a problem with the absence of credit. I’m a Ghostwriter for a reason.
It’s also important to remember that as impressive as “your” creative work is when I give it to you and you publish it; I’ll likely have a far better piece cooking in the oven by then.
I may have written in place of the client, but that entire journey (from start to finish) leaves me filled with opportunities to see the world differently.
Either through the client’s voice or through the subject matter they are passionate about.
(This whole thing does wonders for characterization in stories) so no loss there.
#4 Power Trip
Getting a high from seeing work I’m responsible for boom past the stratosphere? I wish.
Thing is, I know my work is good. All that’s left is for the client and their audience to come to the same conclusion.
Call me arrogant and I’ll politely to ask you to repeat yourself from a mountaintop; because from there I’ll likely hear you less.
Dear reader, I work damn hard. It’s only natural that the results of that hard work show themselves. And if it doesn’t do well? So what?
As soon as I send a piece to its owner, I rarely think about it or even check how it was received — it’s none of my business. I’m already thinking about the next thing.
If you see a ghostwriter in your midst getting a rush from something so simple?
Well, it’s safe to assume esteem issues are the least of their problems.
#5 Surprise-surprise. I don’t like people.
It’s a story as old as this blog quite honestly.
Let me fill you in on my ghostwriting methodology and you’ll see what I mean.
To secure writing gigs I have an intermediary who meets clients on my behalf. Talks to them — engages with all their feelings, dreams and what-not. From there, I take the resulting transcript and pay attention to how the client chooses to carry themselves.
The next step is checking out their work. There’s always a golden thread in how people write; a permeating theme. You’ll find it if you’re lucky — or if they’re consistent.
You’ll soon come to realize that people tend to go all over the place with what they say (as a result of hiring too many ghostwriters or trend chasing). That then leaves me with the aforementioned transcript as the only thing I have to find a shred of their “true” selves.
I prefer going about jobs like this because It allows me to see things more clearly.
It allows me to sieve out parts of the transcript that are relevant without having to hear about how Aunt Carol is snorting lines again or how Peter got knocked out cold at a feminist rally.
I suppose the greatest benefit with this approach is how it lessens the likelihood of me engaging with irrational kindergarten teachers that just want to see the world burn.
#6 Ethical implications
“You talk about authenticity and yet you write for others?”
Yes. Because as I said before, some people have incredible ideas but find themselves unable to express them on paper. Either because of anxiety or disabilities.
See, I love ghostwriting for clients who are unabashedly themselves. It brings me inner joy.
But I have a line though:
I don’t write articles to sell products or services I don’t personally recommend. Writing authentically for a client with a hidden agenda is a serious no-no.
To some of these people, ghostwriters are numbers on a spreadsheet. I don’t hold it against them; if that’s what gets them off they can do that in their free time.
They just shouldn’t try to sneak one under us ghostwriters.
It’s funny how despite my desire to stay far away from interaction, I end up studying people and learning more about them in my free time. What can I say, people are fun to observe — it just becomes a problem when I have to participate in their reality for extended periods of time.
I should also clarify that I see ghostwriting as a hobby. I earn from it because I’m good at it. But I don’t see myself ghostwriting every chance I get; if I can help it, it will always stay a side thing.
I hear many interesting stories from ghostwriters about their clients. If you have one such story, I would love to hear it. There are some crazy people out there.
– O.D. ©2021
Art by: hyamei
Featured Art: SuperPhazed
Fuse, B. 2019. Ghostwriting and Copywriting: Are there really any differences? . Available at: https://baynetfuse.medium.com/ghostwriting-and-copywriting-are-there-really-any-difference-f61ec8b844d4 . Last accessed 29 September 2021.
Fiore, G. 2020. Ghostwriting or Copywriting: what are the differences? . Available at: https://www.fountainpencreator.com/ghostwriting_or_copywriting_what_are_the_differences/ . Last accessed 29 September 2021.