Ghostwriters: Word Prostitutes?

A ghostwriter? That’s a writer who tried to be a real writer but failed, right? And now sells herself for rent money?

Maybe Ruth from The Ghostwriter put it best when she asked the movie’s main character (whom she was seducing), “Didn’t you ever want to be a proper writer?”

Recently, I was accosted with a similar inquiry: “Do you really want to be a ghostwriter forever? Will you ever write for real?”

I think the general consensus is that in order to become a ghostwriter, you must:

1. Carry around a delusional dream of becoming a famous author,

2. submit your carefully crafted (but crappy) work to a few publishers,

3. endure rejection until you feel like a pound of ground round,

4. lose the ability to open your mailbox without having a grand mal seizure,

5. and throw your pencil up in a grandiose display of surrender.

Of course, that series of events doesn’t define you as a ghostwriter in the general consensus. That just makes you a failure. In order to seal the deal you must:

1. Swallow your pride and decide not to call your old boss and kiss his ascot,

2. seethe with envy over published authors, blogging about sordid publishing houses and trashing books on Amazon,

3. pick apart nondisclosure agreements in search of loopholes (so you can tell your friends that so-and-so didn’t write their latest article),

4. charge bargain basement prices because you are, after all, a failure,

5. and allow all that bitterness to seep into your finished work.


Of course, there is a small portion of the ghostwriting population that has navigated away from this page because they can’t handle the truth. That’s why clients go to great lengths to protect themselves against loophole-lookers. But I can tell you, for certain, that not all ghostwriters are bitter and washed-up working girls (or guys), selling their words for nothing more than rent. Many haven’t forgotten the lure, the romance, the slow seduction of a well-crafted sentence; in fact, they ask for much more than rent money when giving it up. They also demand plenty of personal satisfaction, writing experience, and priceless relationships, payable during the ghostwriting process.


One response to “Ghostwriters: Word Prostitutes?

  1. Pingback: Two Sides to the Ghostwriter Story « Robert Medak

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