Are Ghostwriters Really the Slimebuckets of the Planet?

Somebody has written a sales page that most cruelly slanders ghostwriters.  I will not post the URL and give him the benefit of a link, but the challenge cannot go unanswered. My comments are in RED below. Once you have read his sales pitch below, it’s your call whether he is:

  • A demagogue, lying about ghostwriters to make a quick buck
  • The most incompetent person you will ever have the misfortune to meet
  • Stark, raving mad

START SALES PITCH

What do you do if you have a story or expertise to share, but are not a writer yourself or simply don’t think you have the time to write a book? The typical belief is that you need to hire a ghostwriter. You Don’t!

I’ve managed dozens of ghostwriters for clients over the years and now work with best-selling authors and writers at the highest level. Let me share with you what I have learned, and the reasons I no longer hire ghostwriters for my clients. Let me save you from the aggravation, unhappiness and wasted money (Read on to find out why this guy wasted so much of his client’s money!) that I’ve seen too many endure. Then, once you’ve heard the reasons why you should not hire a ghostwriter, stick around and I’ll share with you what I believe to not only be the better approach for your voice and your message, but also the less expensive option!

Remember the movie where the guy hired a hitman to kill his wife? A ghostwriter is kind of like the hitman: they both walk away when the job is over. And they both want the money up front.
Remember when you wanted someone to build an addition on your house?  Remember when you needed someone to sell you a car?  Remember when you wanted someone to fly you across the ocean?  Remember when you wanted someone to provide you with a TV or a computer or a sound system?  Remember when you wanted someone to rent you a hall for a wedding or a baby shower or a 50th anniversary? They also wanted to be paid.  And they all walked away when their job was done, to serve their next clients – the way they are supposed to.
When was the last time you saw a ghostwriter touting his new book in a local newspaper? Never, because he’s a ghostwriter. It’s not his book. He has been paid and has moved on to another project. Where do you think that ghostwriter will be when it comes to marketing, branding, packaging, and publishing your book?
Probably the same place as the marketers, branders, packagers and publishers were when the ghostwriter was writing your book. (I was advised by one of our writers, to resist the temptation to say “Du-uh” here.)

Although some of our ghostwriters do help with publicity and occasionally we do, too, but it is not a service we market. In many cases, our clients don’t want us to be further involved. That’s why they seek out a ghostwriter. In the words of Kristin, one of our top writers, “There’s such a thing as privacy and anonymity that the clients themselves insist in. Some are downright paranoid.”

Ghostwriters don’t need to make nice with publishers or literary agents, but they like to pretend they have a proverbial foot in the door to gain your business. You may be dazzled by their so-called industry connections, but you’ll be sorely disappointed when you discover these connections are nothing more than cousins, friends, and college roommates.
Industry connections? Ha!  We are ever-so-forthright with potential clients that we don’t have many contacts with publishers and even the ones we do are irrelevant, because publishers have in mind what they are looking for, and they do NOT base that on who they know.  And most ghostwriters who contact me to work with us are just as candid.  It makes me wonder under what rock he found the “dozens of ghostwriters” he managed for clients.
Are you a good manager? We hope so. Because that’s part of the role you’ll play when it comes to hiring most ghostwriters. With their “You are not the boss of me attitude”, ghostwriters aren’t particularly motivated by your looming deadlines, pleas for urgency, or even whip-cracking threats.
So…just exactly what rock did he find those “dozens of ghostwriters” he managed for clients. I have yet to meet a ghostwriter that fits any of those descriptions.
Excuses. Tantrums. Drama. Personal problems. You’ll foot the bill for all these little extras when you work with many ghostwriters. Shouldn’t the drama remain in the writing?
OK, I admit – now I am totally baffled. Not only have I never met a ghostwriter with this description, but how would a ghostwriter’s personal issues cost a client more money? Certainly at The Happy Guy Marketing, the price is the price. You don’t pay a penny more, nor a penny less, than what was quoted…unless you change the specifications of what you want us to do. (Are you sure I can’t say “Du-uh”?)
Pull out around $30 grand from your savings. Wait, you don’t have that much expendable cash? How about your 401k? Wherever you get it, you’ll need a boatload of cash just to finish your book using a ghostwriter, leaving you little for your marketing.
Ah, OK. Now we get to something that at least we can reasonably talk about. There are some high-end ghostwriters, such as those who write for sports celebrities and elder statesmen who are used to being paid $30,000 per book. Some much, much more, in fact. Occasionally one of those approaches me, and I just have to tell them that we don’t have work for them. We have regular clients for the most part, and the typical manuscript is written for $8000-$15,000.
Did you grow up dreaming of writing a book that sounds like it was done by someone else? Probably not. But what sometimes happens is the words that end up on the page read like they came from a ghostwriter’s pen not yours.
That is true. If you hire a crappy ghostwriter, the words won’t sound like yours. So again I find myself wondering…if he managed “dozens of ghostwriters”, did he not vet any of them before he hired them for his clients?
When you make a huge life decision, you only ask the opinion of one person you barely know, right? Of course not! So why would you trust your manuscript, the one you’ve labored over forever, to a lone stranger, hoping he can make the words from your soul sing?
So… you go to court without an attorney, because you hardly know him? Smart move. Perhaps you remove a tumour on your own without asking the opinion of a cancer surgeon you barely know? Oh, yeah. Well, this bright chap seems to do things that way (which might explain why he hired dozens of over-priced, tantrum-throwing, attitude wielding writers incapable of adapting to the client’s voice).

END SALES PITCH

At this point, you might be asking whether I have ever had any problem with ghostwriters – whether there ever was a situation where somebody was getting ripped off by ghostwriters.  The short answer is “yes”.

The long answer is that three times ghostwriters we worked with showed gross ethical lapses.  You see, we can easily screen writers for the quality of their writing, and make a reasonable guess as to how well they will attend to our clients….but we do not have a means to know ahead of time if a writer is likely to reveal herself to be two-faced.

In one case, the ghostwriter tried to make a private arrangement with the potential client, cutting us out of the deal – against both the word of our contract and all manner of ethics.  The potential client informed us, and we immediately stopped using that writer.  Pity, because she wrote well.

In two other cases, the writer tried to extort money from the client.  In both cases, once a contract had been signed and work had begun, the writer asked for more money.  A myriad of excuses were given, but the bottom line was greed.  Unfortunately, the entranced clients would not let us replace them with ethical writers.  So the clients paid the extortion money, the writers finished the job (and did an excellent job, I must say), and we simply stopped dealing with those writers.  Good writers or not, we don’t cheat our clients.  Period.

So, back to the original question…

  • A demagogue, lying about ghostwriters to make a quick buck
  • The most incompetent person you will ever have the misfortune to meet
  • Stark, raving mad

Which is it?  What do you think of ghostwriters?  Have a story to share in the comments below?

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8 thoughts on “Are Ghostwriters Really the Slimebuckets of the Planet?

  1. I think he’s ticked off because he paid the ghostwriter and his client had an unexpected change of plans which left him with the bill. Poor guy.

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  2. Maybe a 4th – all of the above? :-)

    Perhaps it’s because I’ve been around the block a few times that I take such criticism with a grain of salt.

    Creating stereotypes speaks volumes for the person pitching such platitudes.

    If I was one of his clients I would question his skills for hiring. Oh, I forgot, the problem is with ALL ghostwriters, not this person who cannot find a high-quality, professional ghostwriter.

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  3. You can definitely see your expertise within the work you write. The arena hopes for more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

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  4. Well put! A lot of people use ghostwriters for an abundance of reasons. I’d rather have someone write it and have it be a better product than for them let pride get in the way and say “I did it myself” and be a substandard book.

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  5. We don’t use ghost writers but know some, very well for that matter. They care about their work, their profession, reputation and their clients.

    That being said, if you are quoting the author verbatim you really should attribute credit via a site name, even if you choose to omit an unearned link.

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    1. @SustainablePF It’s not hard to search Google or Bing for an exact match from the text to find the site.

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  6. I think the main concern is that some outsourced writers are just terrible (although that risk is always there with any outsourced work). As with anything outsourced there needs to be tight controls, and final payment on sucessful completion of the entire project.

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