Ghost writers are essentially writers for hire. They are paid by the named author to write copy but take no credit for the work produced. Books, blogs and social media are all examples of platforms that a ghost writer may be hired to write high quality copy for. According to Ebyline, 80% of published books are ghost written.
As the Washington Post reminds us, ghostwriters have channeled the thoughts of politicians, celebrities and business leaders with little or no credit since the 17th century. Those who hire a ghost writer usually do so because they have neither the time or desire to write. It’s a ghostwriters role to help them convey both the meaning and message of whatever subject is of importance to them.
However, a reader must be convinced that the author has written the copy themselves. Failure to capture the persona effectively can be damaging to the author’s career. Vlogger Zoella’s book ‘Girl Online’ presents as perfect example of ghost writing gone wrong. After failing to capture Zoella’s online identity, readers and journalists hounded the Vlogger on Twitter until she eventually admitted to using a ghost-writer. The scandal forced her to ‘quit the internet’ leaving her 4 million followers behind.
Here are my three tips for successfully ghost writing an online persona:
Who are you writing about?
One of my authors, “X”, is a very successful 62 year old male entrepreneur. I am a 21 year old female graduate who loves a good use of an emoji. Needless to say we have completely different interest, opinions and ways of expressing our thoughts. Understanding the author’s tone of voice is crucial at this stage. If possible, ask to spend time in a meeting where the author will be talking and engaging with others. From this you can begin to analyse their sentence structure, thought processes and expressions.
Understand the purpose.
Whether you’re writing a book, blog or speech you must understand the purpose of the project. For “X” the purpose was to raise the entrepreneur’s profile in order to become a thought leader. For this to be successful, there should always be at least 3 main topics to write around. We sat down with “X” and entrepreneurship, leadership and growth were the topics that were most suitable. I have the general knowledge to write across these three topics, but general knowledge will not convey the appeal of a thought leader. I had to immerse myself in the world of entrepreneurship, leadership and growth in order to not only report on news, but to also have a strategic point of view.
On a visit to “X’s” offices we had overheard his staff talking about their boss’ great new social media page, that was the moment I realised that I had the tone of voice and topics right. People who interact with “X” all day were not aware that a ghost writer was responsible for the content or activity. It wasn’t an overnight process, we went through vigorous trial and error testing for content, sentence structure and opinion.
The real reward for ghost writers comes in the form of successfully remaining unknown to readers.
Image: Flickr CC/BY/2.0 JulienDft_Photo