Ghostwriting or Sold Your Soul: Myths, Ethics, and Real Advantages

Have you ever come across the term ghostwriting? You surely should know what it is, especially if you’re a student or you’re in academia or writing world. So, what does the job of a ghostwriter really mean? Why is it so popular? Is it even ethical? For the purpose of those who find the term strange, let's start with the definition.

Definition of Ghostwriting and Why It is so Popular

What is ghostwriting?

Ghostwriting is a very popular service among celebrities, executives, renowned politicians, and the average person. They use this service when they have to write or create a work, either for personal or public use. A ghostwriter, often called a ghost, is a person who writes books, reports, stories, articles, scientific publications, etc. for another person who takes the credit.

Why is it so popular?

Ghostwriting is becoming increasingly popular because of the rise of digital media and the growing demand for contents. People hire ghostwriters for different reasons. Most clients who hire ghostwriters are oftentimes busy entrepreneurs and renowned people who would ordinarily not have time to write an autobiography of several hundred pages, an entire book or an in-depth article, as the case may be. They may not possess the writing skills they need for writing a long book that is commercially viable. Therefore, they often hire writing companies like essayhave for ghostwriting.

Academic Ghostwriting

One of the most popular forms of ghostwriting is academic ghostwriting. Needless to say, it is common in the educational world among high school students and university students. In this case, ghostwriting service is applicable to college essays, lab reports, thesis, and dissertations. Those involved in academic ghostwriting include students, freelancers, and essay writing companies.

According to a study, 80% of students in universities use online writing services for their essays. The reasons for the spike in this trend in recent times are; the burden of academic pressure put on students, the need to meet deadlines and the sudden rise of the internet.

While the ethics and legality in the use of ghostwriting services for academic papers are still in debate, many teachers and professors also patronize academic ghostwriters. Although this is often considered ethically wrong. Furthermore, some academicians use academic ghostwriting platforms like edubirdie to check for plagiarism.

The role of the ghostwriter   

Ghostwriters can have various degrees of participation in the completion of different works. They can review or edit an existing work or do most of the writing. They can even carry out an important part of the research in a given field.

Ghostwriters often spend a lot of time – as long as months or years, searching, writing and editing jobs for clients. People pay ghostwriters in different ways: per page, with a flat rate, with a percentage of sales royalties or a combination of these. Cost of hiring a ghostwriter depends on the complexity of the article and the expertise of the ghostwriter.

The division of labor between the ghostwriter and the credited author can vary widely. In some cases, the former may have to rearrange a draft or nearly completed manuscript. In this case, the general line, the ideas and much of the language used in the book or article are those of the author. In other cases, the ghostwriter plays the most important role. He can elaborate and expand the basic concepts and ideas provided by the credited author.

Depending on the field of expertise, there are many types of ghostwriters. There are autobiography ghostwriters, academic ghostwriters (for example, essayshark), fiction ghostwriters, business report ghostwriters, blog ghostwriters, speech writers, newsletter writers, and many more.

Some Myths about Ghostwriting

Over the years, many things have been said about ghostwriting which are completely false or not totally true. Let's discuss some of the most popular myths and misconceptions in the world of ghostwriting.

1. Ghostwriters are always anonymous

In most cases, the ghostwriter doesn't get any recognition for the job. This is often discussed prior to the award of the task. However, sometimes, the ghostwriter receives a partial recognition on a book, expressed by the shortened word "con..." on the cover. This recognition can also appear in a thank-you message in the acknowledgment section of the book.

For non-fiction books, the ghostwriter could be mentioned as a "contributor" or "research assistant". In other cases, the ghostwriter does not get official recognition for writing books or articles. So, if the credited author or publisher or both wish to conceal the role of the ghostwriter, they may ask him to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This agreement prohibits him from revealing his role as a ghostwriter.

2. Ghostwriting is an act of plagiarism or cheating

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, plagiarism is an act of stealing or passing off words or ideas of someone else as your own. It is the use of a production that is not one’s own without giving credits to the source. Based on this definition, ghostwriting is not an act of plagiarism because there are always some contributions (whether in idea or through direct input) from the owner of the ghostwritten work.

3. Ghostwriters write from thin air magically

This is not true. It is rare for a ghostwriter to prepare a book or an article without any instruction or information from the author; in the minimum case. The author provides the basic ideas or comments on the final draft of the ghostwriter. For example, domywriting will always ask you for some guidelines before writing your essay.

For an autobiography, the ghostwriter usually interviews the credited author, his colleagues, and family members. He searches for articles, interviews, and videos (sometimes "off the air") on the same author, to assimilate his arguments and points of view.

Shakespeare and Ghostwriting

William Shakespeare is undoubtedly the greatest English playwright of all time. However, there are several theories about alternative authorship of the texts that are credited to the Bard of Avon. There are specialists and theorists in the literary world who claim that Shakespeare did not have the artistic training or the appropriate sensitivity to write such amazing books.

So, who could be the author that would have chosen to hide behind the mask of Shakespeare and why? Some argue that this ghostwriter was no one other than Francis Bacon. Others point to Christopher Marlowe, and Edward de Vere.

There are coincidences, situations, and aftershocks that have attracted the attention of scholars. Other authors have been proposed by the followers of the conspiracy theory, but these theories did not gain a significant number of followers.

As far as the authorship of the most fascinating English dramas of all time (Shakespeare plays) is concerned, whoever the author or authors were, what gives immortality to these tragedies are the hundreds of characters that Shakespeare has created.

We should also not forget the scopes and sobs, the betrayals and the passions, the tears that will never stop pouring, the hands forever stained with blood and dreams, that for all eternity will be pale imitations of death.

Real Advantages of Ghostwriting

Many ghostwriters don't like the idea of ghostwriting; but they do it anyway, due to the benefits they derive from it. Here are advantages of ghostwriting, for the ghostwriter and for the hirer.

1. It saves time

Of course, having a blog with compelling articles, creating an e-book, sending email marketing to people on the site and creating posts for social networks is key to many businesses. But it turns out that this content marketing job gets to be out of the question when you think of the time it will take to accomplish it.

Even more so, considering that it is not simple to do for those who do not have the necessary technical knowledge. By choosing to hire a good ghostwriter, the hirer can put all the energy into other less operational but also very assertive actions of business. He can leave the writing activity to the ghostwriter and spend time on other tasks such as sales, finance, administration, and more!

2. The hirer has the opportunity to earn more

It's not difficult to hire a ghostwriter, especially when you realize that having someone to do this work helps you gain more time to get new clients, study new products, and create smart processes.

And the more you engage in these actions, the more chances your business will have to make profit.

But the ghost writer's own work is an extremely strategic prospect. It can also bring a lot of money to the entrepreneur. After all, the little you spend on an article can return on many conversions and leads for your company.

3. Real source of income

If you have to sell your soul, you want to sell it for the right price, right? As a ghostwriter, you receive an income that gives you stability. According to The Writers Market, a ghostwriter earns $1.65 per word on average; 50 cents on the minimum and a maximum of around $3 per word.

However, a highly-experienced writer who has a track record that is verifiable can earn between $10,000 and $20,000, or even more, per project. The Canadian Writers Union, for example, sets a benchmark of $25,000 as the lowest fee you can pay a ghostwriter for a book project.

4. Writers get paid to hone their skills

There is no better school for a writer than the practical experience of the work itself. Therefore, through the projects a ghostwriter embarks on, he has the opportunity to manage time, to work by deadlines and objectives. You discover that work is more important than inspiration, and you will be able to motivate yourself at the end of each draft.

5. A ghostwriter is always in the shade

According to the ethics of ghostwriting, the hirer who bears the author’s name bears the responsibility for the content. While the original writer can avoid receiving negative reviews from readers.

However, if you think about it, it also keeps you away from receiving positive reviews.

Why Many Writers are Reluctant to Sell Their Souls

There are many writers who would prefer not being a ghost. Also, there are many who have gone through this line but quit along the way. This is not unconnected to the fact that a project which doesn't give you the chance to have an author’s name doesn't ever let you build your CV. Names like J. K. Rowling, John Grisham and Stephen King would be under the cloak if they had chosen to be ghostwriters. Being a ghostwriter means you may never be known and get deserved credits.

In most cases, being a ghostwriter means selling your copyright. The client has the unlimited right to publish your works to as many websites or blogs as he likes. Although, many writers prefer to lose the authorship of their works as long as the pay is right.

Is ghostwriting ethical and legal?

Beyond copyright laws, there are conflicting opinions regarding ghostwriting. In particular, the questions that people continually ask are; is it an ethically correct concept? Should we consider it legally unacceptable?

Communications experts Cheryl Conner and David Gruder have thoroughly studied the issue of ghostwriting from an ethical point of view, starting from the importance that ghostwriting assumes in politics. Despite the ambiguity and the apparent negative characteristics of the profession, it has become part of the radical society in which we live in. The phenomenon that it causes us now seems completely natural.

Conner considers the double aspect of this phenomenon. Firstly, ghostwriters are part of a brilliant idea, since there are business executives or political leaders who are excellent in what they do but are not great writers or speakers. Hence, ghostwriters can ensure that what leaders wish to convey are really pleasant to read. Secondly, the ethical question arises when the information produced by a ghostwriter is wrongly attributed to the person for whom the writer worked.

In this regard, many professional journalists and many communities adopt standard and strict criteria. Sometimes, for the aforementioned and other reasons relating to integrity, accuracy, and others, ghostwriting is usually prohibited. However, it doesn’t change the fact that ghostwriting still remains a legal business.

Some questions relating to ethics in ghostwriting

In the book, Ethics in Human Communications by Richard L. Johannesen, the author listed a short series of useful guidelines for establishing the ethics of ghostwriting.

  1. What is the intent of the communicator and what is the degree of public awareness of the audience on ghostwriting?
  2. Does the author use the ghostwriter to pretend to have communicative qualities that, in reality, he does not possess?
  3. Is the author obliged to use the process of ghostwriting due to precise circumstances surrounding his job?
  4. In what proportion does the author participate actively in writing the messages? The more the owner contributes, the more ethical the process is.
  5. Does the credited communicator assume responsibility of the message he presents?

Finally, Johannesen believes that whoever owns the speech or text which the ghostwriter created should take responsibility for the truthfulness of the information he shares.


Ghostwriting has a lot of contributions to the academic world, politics, business world and literary field. However, the ethics of ghostwriting is a delicate issue. Generally speaking, it is always morally correct to give credit, one way or the other, to all writers who have worked on a book or project.
Talking of author credit, many people are of the view that since ghostwritten contents are usually written from scratch with the input of the author’s ideas and guidelines, he deserves the credit. Irrespective of the various perspectives that people have about the argument, the need for and concept of ghostwriting will always remain relevant in our society.

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