The Not So Scary Art of Ghostwriting ~ Outside the Margins with William Cooper

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William Cooper OtM

For a lot of authors, ghostwriting seems to be some kind of boogieman. There seem to be some misconceptions about how ghostwriting works and whether or not it’s ethical to hire ghostwriters. They’re the often blamed parties when plagiarism arises. They’re the ones supposedly going around, stealing your books, and selling them to other unsuspecting parties to make a quick buck.

I’m here to try to dispel some of the myths and superstitions around ghostwriting.


Why would authors want to ghostwrite for another author?

It’s a question I see all the time. Most often, the answer I see is something disrespectful toward the ghostwriter. Some people imply the ghostwriter isn’t talented enough to write and publish their own books. Some imply that it’s some kind of get-rich-quick scheme with half-assed and sometimes stolen books sold.

And yes, sometimes those are the reasons people ghostwrite. To some people, it is a way to cheat the system and make money and vanish before any repercussions hit them. But that’s true with any profession. There are always scammers and people trying to make a quick buck.

To the rest of us, it’s just another job.

I’ve been ghostwriting for a few years now. I’ve done quick erotica shorts, I’ve ghostwritten for a major publishing house, and I’ve ghostwritten romance novels. It’s how I pay my bills.

To imply that I’m a hack writer who can’t make it on my own or that I’m stealing other people’s novels to make a quick buck is insulting. I take pride in my job, delivering the best work I can.

I ghostwrite because it allowed me to pay my bills without having to resort to an Evil Day Job. It lets me do what I love to support myself. Why should I want to go work in an office or go back to working retail when I can make a living off writing?

Sure, I could easily spend my time writing novels and sending them to publishers or self-publishing them myself, but then I’m taking a risk the book won’t sell. Worse, I have to wait a minimum of two months before I’ll ever seen any of the money, even if the book becomes a bestseller.

Which is why I like ghostwriting. The person purchasing the rights to the book from me is the one taking the risk. If the novel tanks, it’s them who lose out, not me. At the same time, if the novel is a bestseller, it’s them who profit off it, and I don’t make any more than my normal fee, so it’s not just a benefit to me.

Often, you’ll see authors who plagiarize put them blame on a nefarious ghostwriter to deflect the blame from them. They’ll claim they didn’t know what the writer was doing and they’d never steal another author’s work.

Does that happen? Absolutely. There are unethical jackasses in every profession. Is it the norm? Not even in the slightest. Most of us take pride in our work and want to deliver quality content. We have to, else we’re left finding another job.


Why would anyone hire a ghostwriter? Why not just write the books themselves?

There are different motivations for each person hiring a ghostwriter. Some of them are honest, ethical reasons, others, not so much.

For some people, they value quantity over quality. That was my first ghostwriting job. The client just wanted to pump out as much erotica as possible, so hired a team of ghostwriters to write the stories quick. He then tossed them up for sale with barely a look at the books.

The black hats and scammers usually fall into this category. They don’t care how good the book is or where it came from, so long as they can add it to their catalog and dominate the market by sheer numbers alone.

For others, it’s because they don’t have the skill as a writer. They’re good at coming up with plots and stories, but not good at telling those stories. So instead of just giving up on the book or writing a sub-par book, they contract the work out.

Think of it like home improvement. You could do the work yourself, and probably learn a lot along the way, but it won’t look as good as you’d like it to. So instead, you hire a professional, tell them your vision, and let them use their expertise to deliver a product you’re happy with.

For others, it’s because they enjoy the business aspect of it. They like doing the cover art, the editing, the publishing. But they prefer that side of the fence to writing the books, so they hire others to write them instead.

It’s similar to how a publishing house is run, but instead of the authors getting paid royalties on each sale and having to go through the editing process and wait months to see a possible payout, they get paid a fee up front.


How does ghostwriting work?

Well, just like most jobs, it varies based on who you’re working for. Just like an editor’s workflow varies based on who they’re working for, so does a ghostwriter’s. Just like it varies why a person hires a ghostwriter, it varies how they work with their ghostwriters. Often, the workflows are directly correlational to what they’re hoping to get out of hiring a ghostwriter.

Here’s a few of the ways it’s worked for me in the past.

When I was doing erotica ghostwriting, I was given a word count target and told to write anything I wanted. Once the story was done, I sent it to my contact and was done with it.  He then paid me, slapped a cover on it, and tossed it on Amazon. I was paid a negotiated amount for each short story I wrote.

When I worked for a publisher doing ghostwriting, it worked very differently. I was given a detailed plot summary that I had to follow when writing the book. At regular intervals, I sent the work back into my contact and received feedback of things to tweak. For this job, I was paid a weekly salary.

My current ghostwriting gig is different still. I have a set word count I aim for and a set pay-rate. I have a few basic guidelines to follow, but otherwise, I have a lot of leeway. I come up with a detailed plot outline and write up the first chapter or so, then send it into my contact. He then either gives me the thumbs up to go ahead and write it, gives me the thumbs up but asks for tweaks to the plot, or says ‘no thanks, come up with something else, please.”

If I’m stuck on a plot or a genre, he’s been extremely helpful with giving me suggestions. Working with this client has definitely been the best experience yet, since it feels more like a partnership than Work for Hire, even though that’s exactly what it is.

Once the book is written, I send it to him and wait for his final approval. If it’s good, he takes it and handles the editing, cover art, publishing, etc. and I start working on my next book for him. If there are major problems with the book, he asks me to fix them before we move on.


Is ghostwriting for everyone?

Certainly not! A lot of authors consider their words to be precious. They want complete creative control over their books from the plot down to the cover art. They’re never going to give up that control for anything, and that’s fine. That’s their way of writing.

Mine is different.

I enjoy writing stories for myself. I love writing Brother/Brother books. I love having the freedom to write whatever genre or plot comes to mind. I enjoy self-publishing and traditional publishing.

But more than that, I love to write.

If I can make my living off writing, then that’s what I’m going to do. Ghostwriting allows me to pay my bills through writing. Sure, I lose a lot of the freedom and have to write what the client wants me to, but it allows me to use my skills (and further hone them) to support myself.

It also gives me the time to write whatever I want on the side. I don’t have to worry about selling X number of copies to pay my car payment this month. I don’t have to chase trends or write what’s selling best just to pay my bills. I get to let my clients worry about that, write the book for them, then go back to my filthy filthy smut.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

~William Cooper

About William Cooper

William Cooper has been writing and reading since he was little. In 2010 he took the first step toward publishing a book and hasn’t looked back since. Whether it’s two men who met in college or brothers who have been in love their entire life, William loves to tell their story for everyone to read.

You can find William Cooper online at:
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Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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One thought on “The Not So Scary Art of Ghostwriting ~ Outside the Margins with William Cooper

  1. wow that was interesting. Thanks I’ve always wondered about ghost writting.

    Question tho, how does copyright work in that case? Are you the owner of the copyright, like an artist is of a cover art or do you sell the copyright away to the person buying it??

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