Post – 4 Tips For Working With A Ghostwriter




a ghostwriter dressed like a ghost in a sheet


Barry Dumka


Ghosts are everywhere these days. It’s reported that the majority of books are now ghostwritten. And ghostwriters also help shape everything from blogs to speeches to artist statements and personal narratives. Working with a ghost can be an essential strategy for building your stature and finding the right words to get you to your goal. But many people are uncertain about the often shadowy ghostwriting world and what makes for a successful ghostwriter/client relationship. Having ghost-written for many clients. in this post I talk about the opportunity and challenges in ghostwriting and offer 4 tips that I believe will lead to better results and greater rewards. 

Did a ghost write this sentence? 

The transparent truth is that I’ve ghostwritten material for many private clients but all those carefully-crafted sentences and compelling narratives are achieved for their credit, their stature and illumination, their resonance – not mine. I’ve written often under my own name which can seem at times too la-di-da over and over again. But it is what it is and my name is there. Still, a ghostwriting project – where I assume the curious burden (and intriguing opportunity) of being someone else by channelling their inspirations and their truth through the prism of my awareness – is a special challenge. And always a unique thrill. 

People are more fascinating than they typically ever reveal in public. And they have a viewpoint worth considering. And stories to tell that will inspire a reader. 


But people are often lost for words, and struggle for a meaningful sense of themselves – or their creative and business purpose, or the book they’ve had in them for years waiting for help to get out. In trying to write about their own individuality, people get muddled up with fear and doubt or perhaps too much self-glory. And then they get tangled up trying to communicate the value and values in what they do in a way that elicits an audience’s attention and care. 


That’s when it helps to believe in ghosts.


Good compelling writing that an audience cares about is a complicated puzzle that can be greatly helped through the proper use of a ghostwriter – that is, a professional writer who understands the needs and nuances of writing not just for but AS other people.  

Ghostwriters bring more than just a keener understanding of sentence structure or editing or what makes a particular narrative stick in the head and heart of others. Good ghostwriters bring their own full life of experience, of doing and reading and listening, while having the agility to understand, empathize with and creatively herald what makes someone else – not them – a unique force worth knowing about, worth remembering. 


It’s an honor to honor other people through language but it’s not a passive position. A ghostwriter isn’t a stenographer – or shouldn’t be. For the best results, and the most authentic insights, the ghost needs not just to listen but to engage. To work consensually with their subject in a supple way, to question and advise and nurture and jostle and jolt. 

And – apparently for one now famous ghostwriter – the job also requires arguing with a stubborn Prince Harry. 


In an illuminating New Yorker essay, J. R. Moeringher, Prince Harry’s ghostwriter for Spare, tells of one contentious exchange that, for a prickly moment, stymied the royal renegade. Wherein the ghost was almost ghosted by his subject. On a key point, Moehringer stood his ground (regarding how he thought the relevant passage should be conveyed) and Harry eventually buckled. At least for one of them, the point wasn’t ego; it was, what is the most resonant way to tell this true story as a compelling confessional. Not everything needs to be said. Besides, being able to have an honest exchange, a (respectful) push and pull, can be very advantageous for any ghostwriting project. It focuses all parties on what matters most.


Perhaps it’s not surprising that the shadowy world of ghostwriting is subject to so many misconceptions or confusion about its methods and standards and best practices. Yet, ghostwriting is now very common in all forms of communication where writing is required – whether books, blogs, articles, website or personal material. Ghosts are everywhere. A recent Medium article stated that “many traditional publishing houses have admitted that 70% of books they publish were written by a ghostwriter. [And] 99% of books published by artists, celebrities, and politicians were done with the help of a talented ghostwriter.” 


The key word there is ‘talented’ – you don’t just need a ghost, you need a talented writer. So whatever you publish under your own name, for your own credit and value, is actually interesting and intriguing, emotional and inspiring, for an audience to read. The name of the ghostwriter doesn’t matter – but the reaction of an audience certainly does. 

To help you get the most out of any ghostwriter/client relationship, here are 4 points that, after years of ghosting, I think will benefit the writing and results. 


1Feel Comfortable

While writing talent is essential, so is feeling comfortable with the writer who will ghost whatever you’re trying to say and achieve. Some clients might be hesitant to be too open at first for whatever reason (whether strategic choice or personal hesitation) but the more comfortable and free-flowing those working conversations can be, the more it will result in writing that hits the mark for authenticity and a resonant message. At best, a ghost needs to inhabit the head and heart of the subject enough to infuse the right ideas and emotions into the written work.


So before hiring a ghostwriter, start with a good conversation to see if you will feel comfortable and supported and inspired to let a ghost channel your truth and dreams and personal voice. That initial exchange will serve you both well as you dig further into the specifics of a project. If you can start with trust and respect and confidence, the ongoing professional relationship will flow more smoothly and generate richer results. 


 2. Allow for creativity

Ghostwriting isn’t a witness statement, where facts and only facts strictly matter. Even when aiming to be pure to the essence of their client, a writer is well-advised to be creative with the writing. Like a dramatically-styled movie role based on a real-life person, compelling ghostwriting is performative; it steps toward the light rather than shunning it. If you’re going to give yourself a platform, a stage – be it by writing a book, making a speech, stating your creative value, or telling a personal story in a blogpost –  seize that initiative, step into your well-deserved light, and say something original, intriguing, memorable. Ghosts know how to put you in the best light. And help tell your story in a creatively vibrant way so an audience truly cares. 


The amount of books published (and self-published) each year is staggering. It’s thought that “approximately 75 million blog posts are published every day.” And the huge rise in personal brands and solopreneurs – from more artists to more real estate agents, to creatives of all kinds – means there are now so many people wanting, hoping, needing to be heard.  Not just heard – to be valued, trusted, and remembered. To be both respected and relatable  (which can be a tricky balance to achieve). 

In that deluge of people telling (and selling) their story – don’t be dull. Audiences are discerning. They want to know and feel more about a person, but they are looking for an interesting reason to take the time to care.  


 3. Value the details

Good ghosts know how to pan for gold. Well-chosen details – nuggets of information and intrigue and emotional insight that register more intimately with the reader – add golden value to any story or piece of writing. A reader won’t remember every word but key details stand out and get stuck in the head, take hold in a heart. Which details to include and which to leave out, and how to shape their relevance to the greater story, are challenges that come over and over again in any writing. What has value, where to cut, what makes it in. An agile ghostwriter will engage you about what matters most, helping to edit your story for clarity, purpose and what will spark an audience. 


Ernest Hemingway once said – “Details make stories human, and the more human a story can be, the better.” It’s a helpful insight. Whatever you’re writing, you want your message to make a human connection. And the carefully selected details of a story or personal narrative provide insight and context, and act as the stepping stones to awareness and empathy. When we’re trying to understand a person or an experience that might at first seem foreign to us, details offer moments of commonality – things we can relate to. A ghostwriter can help figure out and give proper focus to the details that will help make your message resonate with an audience.


4. Slow down and listen

In the rush of so much written content coming at us – books and blogs and posts and personal statements – the opportunity in working with a ghostwriter is to slow down and listen for what matters most about your own piece of communication, and what you most want and need to say. Everyone now is pressed by so many demands that any singular moment of communication – no matter how important – can get tossed off,  a quick riff and done, onto the next thing. 

But be warned – rarely does rushing inspire revelation. So when working with a ghostwriter on any content project take advantage to puzzle out the true purpose of what you are communicating.


The ghostwriter-client relationship is, for some, akin to therapy. Many of my own clients have mentioned that the engaging conversations that happen over the course of a project are therapeutic, and spark greater insight and clarity. I think the comparison is simply the offshoot of the fact that people have so few other people, if anyone, who will truly listen to their words and ideas and goals. 


But ghosts don’t just listen. They act in your favor. They capture the most compelling version of your voice. They show off your best self. And then they disappear. And the stage, the spotlight and the words become all yours. 

So make sure those words, however they get constructed, ring true to your authentic purpose and will resonate with an audience. In the end, the ghost doesn’t matter but your message, your stature and the reaction of an audience always does. 


Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about ghostwriting or have a project that could be helped by working collaboratively with a professional writer.


Barry Dumka

BCreative Consulting

Andy Warhol's famous 1986 ghoslty 'Self-Portrait"


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Barry Dumka


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Barry Dumka


Contemporary marketing guru Seth Godin states, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” Even for creatives who make art, not “stuff”, it’s a valuable point. The use of stories and storytelling principles in contemporary marketing for creatives and personal brands has become even more essential for building an audience, creating authentic connections and driving sales. In this post, I consider why stories are so important in marketing communication – from blogposts to speeches, personal bios and brand messaging – and why the rise of AI has only increased their value.



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As a freelance creative consultancy, BCreative Consulting gets involved in many unique projects specific to the needs of our clients. We enjoy insightful conversations, positive client relationships and heralding the authentic meaning and value at the core of all creative efforts. It’s a powerful opportunity – and a great challenge – to inspire an audience. 

And we love being part of that process. 

Do you have a project that needs some strategic help?  Or a good story?