Ghostwriting

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

GhostwritingGhostwriting…should you or shouldn’t you? Keep in mind that there have always been very passionate opinions on both sides of the ghostwriting debate. However I believe that the meteoric growth of social media not only seems to be fueling a very rapid proliferation of this dialogue, but it also seems to be causing both sides to become more entrenched in their positions. As a backdrop for the text that follows, it is important to understand that we are living in a time where the masses now have a very public voice…everyone is now an author, pundit, commentator, etc., and it is because of this that the masses now have a very vested interest in the ghostwriting discussion. In today’s post I’ll examine the both sides of the ghostwriting debate…

Let’s begin by framing both the affirming and dissenting arguments, beginning with those who staunchly object to ghostwriting as a practice…This group views themselves as purists who perceive ghostwriting to be the antithesis of transparency and authenticity. In fact, many purists feel so strongly in this regard that they see ghostwriting as some kind of literary fraud. Their position can be summed up as follows…any voice other than your own, and especially for which you take credit, is at best a very insincere and disingenuous form of public misrepresentation. The purist believes with all his/her heart that if you didn’t write it, then you shouldn’t publish under your name…period.

The other side of the argument comes predominantly from those who seek the opportunity for leverage. It is a business argument based upon the recognition of the need for, and benefit of, creating content and having a voice. Most of the people who utilize ghostwriting services simply don’t possess either the time, or in many cases, the skill needed to author consistently credible work on their own accord. Therefore they often hire a third party to produce the content for them. So what’s wrong with this? Outsourcing exists in virtually every other industry, why should the creation of content be any different?

The purists would answer the above questions by stating that ghostwriting creates an unequal playing field for those with significant financial resources to flood the market with a higher volume of content thereby gaining an advantage. An example of this would be someone like Donald Trump…do you really believe that “The Donald” writes all his own Tweets, blog posts and books? Yet because he can afford to retain ghostwriters and co-authors, he cranks out new books with great frequency giving him an unfair brand advantage, so the purists would say. Another example would be the larger firm that can afford to hire a a ghostwriter to author a white paper, as contrasted with a smaller firm that has to organically author their own collateral material because they don’t have the budget to hire a third party. It’s just not fair say the purists… 

So where do I stand on the debate? Positionally, I am ghostwriting agnostic…from my perspective ghostwriting is neither good nor bad, but rather a matter of whether it is an appropriate use of resources given the context of a particular situation. I had a Twitter follower ask me last week if I write my own tweets, and what I think of ghostwriting. My answer was that I author all my own blog posts, tweets, columns, articles, books, etc., but that I didn’t really have anything against the practice of ghostwriting assuming that it was used appropriately. After all, if Guy Kawasaki and other well established professionals can employ people to Tweet for them, who’s to say that you shouldn’t do the same? Ghostwriting doesn’t work for me personally, because I’m a writer whose topics are based upon personal experience, opinion, and subject matter expertise. While I choose to write all my own material, N2growth (my firm) ghostwrites content for many of our clients.

Bottom line…I don’t view myself as a content snob, as I can see value in both sides of the argument. My advice is this: if you have the time and ability to author your own content, then I believe you should do so. It’s an intellectually honest and rewarding use of time, as well as an often cathartic retreat from day-to-day operations. Lastly, authoring your own content helps you crystallize your thinking on topics of importance. However, if you have the resources to hire a ghostwriter, and don’t have the time or the ability to create your own content, I’m fine with that too. I have always believed in outsourcing where it creates leverage and economies of scale. Ghostwriting fits this definition for many, and so I see nothing wrong with it.