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Ghost Writer

You've probably seen books by celebrities on the best-seller lists. If you look closely, you'll see that many of those books were written by someone other than the famous personality.

A ghost writer usually writes the memoirs. Very little of the writing comes from the icon whose picture is on the cover.

How does it affect one's ego to be an unsung hero? A ghost writer?

"It doesn't bother me I don't receive the credit. Our customers pay us well. Their compliments on my work are sufficient recognition," replies Paul Christian.

Christian is a ghost writer for real estate agents and companies. For a fee, his clients get the right to publish Christian's material and use it as their own. His copy appears as part of ads in newspapers and magazines all around the world. But there is no reference to him in any of his writing -- which is the idea of ghost writing.

Can ghost writers earn high wages? The answer is yes.

"I've just finished ghost writing a financial planning guide that was released this fall by a major Canadian publisher. Ghost writing is very interesting -- and lucrative," says Mark Zuehlke. He is a member of a writer's union.

Magazine articles commonly bring the writer $500. Or the writing fee can be an hourly rate of $50 to $60. Writers earn the most when they receive a percentage of what their work fetches in the marketplace.

"Self-employment is becoming evermore the norm and will continue. It makes a lot of sense for both writer and client," says Zuehlke.

"The writer retains a great deal of freedom over the path of his or her career, being able to set rates and move nimbly around in various fields of writing. I think the days when a writer can generally earn a living doing just one specific type of writing are fast fading."

Human resource specialist David Pearce Synder agrees. "The list of fixed skills and responsibilities we call a job will be a thing of the past," he says.

Jobs with newspapers and publishing firms are disappearing. Increasingly, companies are farming out writing assignments. Downsizing makes firms eager to hire freelance writers -- some of whom will be ghost writers.

Ghost writers have the potential to be everywhere. Technology permits a writer to live in Palm Beach and send articles to an editor in Winnipeg.

The global outlook for writers is promising. Jobs are increasing faster than average. Technical writers are in high demand. The need to communicate scientific and technical data is growing.

"For most of my life, I presumed -- most likely as you have done -- that everyone wrote their own work start to finish. Authors wrote their own novels. Screenwriters wrote their own scripts. Politicians wrote their own speeches," says writer David Woolfe.

"How could I have known that ghost writing is one of the pillars of publishing? Of course, it is often called something else -- generally 'editing.' But a rose by any other name...."

Many professionals hire ghost writers. Tycoons, self-made millionaires and Hollywood stars all use ghost writers to draft their memoirs.

"Anyone can do it, any time they please. All it takes is some marketing savvy, and an interesting style," says Christian.


The Art of Ghostwriting
Learn what makes a good ghostwriter a great one

The Ghost in the Machine
The section called What Is Ghost Writing? is worth a look

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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.