Want to know a secret? I’ve done a lot of ghostwriting over the years. No, not for people like Real Housewife of New York City Aviva Drescher (I wish! Oh, the fights we could’ve gotten into!), but more for the smartypants set.

So, for example, if you’ve read something by a senior vice president of a major international technology company, you might have read my work. But even if it wasn’t mine, I’d bet my sweet buns (and yours, too) that it was the work of another ghostwriter.

That’s the thing about us ghostwriters – we’re everywhere, and nowhere all at once.

We Are Not Your Dirty Little Secret

People don’t quite “get” ghostwriting, so let me explain how it works. It’s not as dirty as it sounds.

I get paired up with someone who knows a lot about some Big Important Topic. This person is either too busy to write or doesn’t have the skill set to put together an article themselves. (That second bit is no comment on the person’s intelligence. Presumably, he or she has been occupied with developing expertise in a certain subject, rather than honing their writing skills.)

I interview the heck outta that person. I record it. I take tons of notes.

Then I sit back and think. What’s the point we need to make? How can I frame that? And how can I capture the most important ideas to support that while, ideally, making the piece sound like it could’ve been written by the interview subject?

Then I try to channel that person while I write. It’s kind of like acting – I get the chance to be someone else for a bit. And it’s often … fun.

I always learn a lot. I get to help someone craft a message. My words are often published in impressive magazines that I wouldn’t be in otherwise, so that always feels pretty good. Best of all, I get to help educate readers about something interesting or important.

You, Only Better

Now, there are a lot of people who have mixed feelings about ghostwriting. I admit, I’m one of them. In terms of celebrity ghostwriting, I think it can be a little dirty – there’s a direct line from someone’s words to the celebrity’s pocket. (Here’s an interesting piece from a ghostwriter arguing the opposite of this point, btw. I have to admit, the author makes some solid arguments.)

But what I do? It’s content marketing. I’m providing a service and I’m really proud of it. In most cases, the people I’m writing for are intimately involved in the process so it ends up being more of a collaboration.

This recent piece from Forbes is a great discussion on the ethics of ghostwriting. One thing I especially liked was this quote about being transparent about the process:

[From Steve Farnsworth of Jolt Communications via Ragan Communications]

“If someone directly asks you whether you write your posts—or any content with your name on it—you should be honest about the process. In the age of social media, the truth is compulsory. It is important to choose a process you feel comfortable sharing publicly because someone will ask you about it.”

It’s kind of like hiring a decorator. You might sort of know what you want your living room to look like, but you can’t quite pull it off yourself. A good decorator is going to come in, do a lot of listening, figure out what you’re trying to do – and then execute it.

It’s your vision, only better.

Thoughts on this? I’d love to hear ‘em. Tweet me @AccdingtoTrish.