The Nightmare Of Being A Ghostwriter

I blame my depression. Okay, maybe not, but I'm not far off the mark.

It was during one of my most devastating moments of depression while talking with my doctor that he asked me, "What is it that you want to wake up doing and what you think about doing each night as you go to sleep?" 

My answer, "Why do you ask?"

"Because the only way you are going to be happy is if you do that one thing you dream of waking up to and that one thing on your mind at night."

That one thing turned out to be writing. After that conversation, my life flashed before my eyes. I saw how unhappy and depressed I was not being able to live my dream. Years later, I quit my job and determined to find a way to make a living while writing. 

I know many people will say they write for the love of it and not money. Some people have even turned up their noses at people who write for a living, saying we don't love writing enough. But I say you are a hypocrite, given that you know that writers must also pay bills, eat and have a roof over their heads. 

I asked myself, what was the best way to do what I love everyday and still pay those bills, buy my groceries and do whatever I wanted? After trying blogging, affiliate marketing, content writing, I found out about ghostwriting. It's been five years since I started on this journey and now my brain refuses to do it any longer.

Slowly my dream job became a nightmare. Writing is still my passion, but most writers are vain and crazy people, they would rather starve and see their name on a  book than write so that someone else  takes the credit. 

I became one of those crazy vain writers. I got tired of turning over story after story without any recognition for my hard work. 

Ghostwriting drains your energy, so that when you open your own book file, you draw a blank. You can never get enough time to do your own books, because as you build your reputation you are in demand. People will email you out of the blue asking you to take on their work.

After building your brand as a ghostwriter who turns over great stories, you don't need to search for jobs, jobs always find you. Then your bills and everyday living take center stage and you find that you work on two or three novels at a time for different clients, so you are always working. Good… right?

Not! Your bills are being paid, but what about those goals you set for your own career as an author? What about those three dozen half done novels you have saved on your PC that hasn't seen the light of day since way back when? What about your retirement plan? Who will remember you as a ghostwriter?

Slowly you begin to feel frozen. 

Here is what happened to me. 

When I started out as a ghostwriter, I was an amateur. Slowly, I honed my craft until I became good at it. But I found that as time went on and I began to resent writing for others, my work started to look rushed and unsatisfactory. I was now putting out mediocre work. Clients didn't seem to notice but I began to feel that I was not doing my best. I also started to feel like I was cheating myself of my own opportunities to publish my work. I began to miss deadlines and didn't much care. What used to take me a day to write, now took me a week. I found that my brain froze up when I write for clients. 

It's not so with writing my own books. My words just flow when I write for me, it's just the client's work that suffers.

Downsides to ghostwriting:

  • You get one payment for your story. You do not earn royalties or commission.
  • Once you are paid, the copyrights belong to the client, unless otherwise stipulated in a contract. You may retain copyrights for plot and character if you make it clear from the beginning. If the client has paid you separately for plot and characters, then the copyright for said plot and characters belong to client.
  • Your name will never appear on that piece of work, you get no credit.
  • You cannot use that piece of work at any point because all rights now belong to client as stipulated above.
  • Most clients pay below industry standard. Most clients on outsourcing websites such as Upwork (formerly Elance and oDesk) will only pay one cent per word. Only a few clients pay more.

The only positives to ghostwriting that I can see are:

  • There are many jobs available as non-writers want to get into the business of publishing. I have several clients who published dozen of books, none of which they have written themselves.
  • You get paid when your work is complete so long as you go through the right channels. These include signing with a website that secures your payment (escrow). has a safepay here you client is asked to fund the account and when you complete the job, they are invoiced. Upwork has a similar system, but Elance was the best at securing your funds.

In conclusion, I will be bidding the world of ghostwriting goodbye. I am not certain exactly when, because the bills still need to be paid. However, it might be sooner that I anticipated.

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