Have you run out of creative ideas for your next novel? Perhaps you spend your days staring at a spreadsheet, wishing you could exist in a world only you control. Maybe that smile saved only for customers is wearing a little thin?

Fear not: no problem is insurmountable.

You’ve come to the right place because this article could help loosen up that writer’s block and offer those trapped by the world of tedium into a more exciting universe of ideas and the written word.

Discover the pros and cons of writing for a living, and exploring the benefits of ghostwriting (while recognizing its main downside).

How do you make money as a writer?

Establishing your name as an author takes time, effort, tenacity, and lots of patience. You might be lucky, and your first novel might land on the right agent’s table, launching your career faster than you can pen your next outline or best-seller.

But for most writers, establishing their early works and earning a living aren’t always compatible pursuits.

Indeed, making a living as a named writer is tough. However, you could earn good money as a ghostwriter in the meantime.


What is a ghostwriter?

Ghostwriters write on behalf of somebody else — adopting their voice to create content that’s sold under the client’s name.

They might write:

  • A novel
  • An Autobiography
  • An article
  • A training manual
  • Website copy
  • Social media content

You can earn a good living as a ghostwriter — but there are downsides:

  • You lack creative control
  • You get no credit for the work
  • It’s hard to develop a reputation

What are the disadvantages of being a ghostwriter?

There are actually way more pros to being a ghostwriter than cons. But, for the sake of balance, we’re going to start with the disadvantages of being a writer for money.


Are you satisfying your passion?

One of the joys of writing is the crafting of words, accurately mirroring the images and stories we have in our heads. And that affords a massive degree of creative satisfaction for a writer.

However, as a ghostwriter, you’re telling someone else’s story.


In my experience, ghostwriting offers a similar level of creative satisfaction. Sure, you might not be directly expressing your personal passion on the page, but that certainly doesn’t mean you’re overlooking your craft.


The craft of ghostwriting

In many ways, ghostwriting requires equal (or perhaps more) control over the written word because you’re:

  • Expressing someone else’s vision
  • Representing and organizing their thoughts and ideas into a palatable narrative, and
  • Adopting their voice

And that requires great versatility.

While ghostwriting can certainly sustain your joy of the craft, at the same time, it also helps hone your skills (more about that later).

And let’s face it: ghostwriting is infinitely more rewarding than spending eight hours a day answering the phones for a customer service department or selling radiators to builders.


Credit where credit’s due

Well, this isn’t the case at all for a ghostwriter because you’re rarely credited for your hard work. But that’s not always such a bad thing.

There’s minimal risk involved as a ghostwriter — you’re the one getting paid; it’s the subsequent owner of your words making the financial investment.

Of course, they’ll use you again if the project goes well and the book hits the best-seller lists. But at the same time, it’s not really your problem if the book fails to sell — you get paid either way.

You may negotiate a royalty split, in which case, the book’s success is also yours. But many ghostwriters choose to work on a fixed fee basis — that way, you’re supplying the product and can walk away with a healthy bank balance at the end of the exchange.

So, if a book flops, it’s not in your name. And that’s a significant advantage!


Developing a reputation as a ghostwriter

This has to be the most challenging aspect of any jobbing ghostwriter: building a portfolio that effectively demonstrates your prowess.

In reality, there’s quite a high expectation that you’ll sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that prevents you from mentioning that you worked on a project, let alone using a section for your portfolio.

However, there is room for negotiation, so this isn’t an insurmountable problem.

Indeed, there are ways to showcase your work without breaking the terms of an NDA, but developing a usable portfolio is a significant challenge.


Creative control

While it’s a little simplistic to suggest you have no control over the creative direction of a ghostwriting job, it’s true to say that someone else has the final word over the content you create.

Ghostwriting projects work in various ways, but there’s almost always ample opportunity to exercise your creative prowess.

While you’re telling someone else’s story, you’re still the one sitting at your laptop and crafting the words on the page. And if you love writing, ghostwriting still provides that satisfying kick of seeing a once-empty page full of words.

So, what are the advantages of ghostwriting?

Now we’ve looked at the downsides, let’s explore what makes ghostwriting one of the most satisfying ways to earn an honest buck.

There’s lots of variety

Speak to a bestselling author, and they will almost invariably comment that being responsible for continuing a beloved “franchise” is, on the one hand, a pleasure, but on the other, a real chain around their neck. Because if you’re lucky enough to have continuing success, the reading public will feel like they own your character, and it can become a real grind to churn out another best-selling novel.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it?

However, one of the best things about ghostwriting is that you work on shorter-term projects, and you can pick and choose your next project. This means you’re less likely to get bored!


You may be earning more than the “author.”

In a ghostwriting relationship, you’re the one earning the money.

You’re the one getting the upfront fee, which is more than can be said for most writers who only get paid if they recoup their expenses and turn a profit or attract the attention of a publisher.

Of course, the named author hopes to make back their investment and more, and that’s great if that happens, but there’s no guarantee that the book will succeed. As a ghostwriter, the outcome of the publication is unlikely to make any difference to your fee — ultimately, you don’t carry the burden of the book’s success.


You’re learning your craft

While you might not be writing your magnum opus, you are learning about the publishing world while working on a ghostwriting project. And, ultimately, you’re getting work finished!

You’ll likely work alongside an editor, so you’ll learn how to craft a book or article as you go.

And that learning is priceless. And when you’re ready to tackle your own story, you’ll have lots of experience crafting a project from beginning to end.

For example, The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins credits her early commissions as a ghostwriter as excellent training for developing her fiction writing skills. She states that ghostwriting allowed her to flex her fiction muscles, try things out, and play with structure, which all paid off when she eventually penned her first novels. 

This leads us conveniently to our next advantage: Inspiration.


The kernel of inspiration is supplied

Creativity can be tough because you can never quite afford to sit on your laurels. You’re only ever as good as your last project, after all. Equally, fiction writers are likely to run out of ideas occasionally.

This is because remaining continuously creative is exhausting for even the buzziest of inspirational powerhouses, and sometimes, it’s nice for someone else to come up with the story’s shape.

At Relay Publishing, we assign writers to editors, providing as much support as the writer needs. More experienced writers might need a basic idea and rough plan to get them started, while less experienced writers often require a more thorough beat sheet that breaks down each story element.


Ghostwriting is a great stop-gap

You’ll enjoy a well-deserved rest if you’ve just finished your most recent novel or article. But can you really afford to take that much time off?

So, what do you do in between books?

This is where many writers enjoy a ghostwriting project — it will earn them good money, after all.

Consider ghostwriting jobs as a return to training — many people consider writing reliant on muscle memory. So, if you’re continually writing, you’re more likely to build up the financial reserves you’ll need while working on your next book or personal project.


You can try out different genres

Established authors often find themselves pigeonholed by the industry. You write thrillers, so your publisher expects a new action-packed romp with a ticking timebomb punctuating the climax.

However, pigeons don’t stay in holes (it’s a stupid expression, in fairness), and neither do writers. So, what do you do with your new romcom?

Ghostwriting offers the ideal opportunity to try out a new genre, especially when working with a small expert editorial team experienced in your aspirational niche.

So, whether you’re an experienced author or looking for a big break, many ghostwriting opportunities provide a platform to learn, grow, and develop your portfolio in fresh directions.

Leading us onto:

Relay Publishing wants you!

We’re always looking for talented writers with a passion for great storytelling — experienced authors and newbies alike.

We’ve been hiring ghostwriters, editors, and designers since 2013, and they’ve all contributed to more than 1500 books published under the Relay Publishing umbrella.

So, if you have what it takes to become a great ghostwriter, get in touch. This could be the start of a beautiful relationship!

Thanks for reading.