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  • Writer's picturealisonkilian

Ghostwriting 101: Do You Still Want to Be a Writer When Nobody Knows Your Name?

Updated: Mar 24, 2022

I thought I wanted to write because I'd get to see my name in print. It turns out I wanted to write because I simply love to tell a story.

I began my career as a journalist. To this day, I can still remember the rush of seeing my name in print for the first time. I was interning at a Canadian fashion and lifestyle magazine in Montreal and I LOVED it. The editorial team there was incredibly kind to me and gave me a fantastic feature piece that had my name in HUGE LETTERS at the top. That moment clinched it for me—I wanted to write. I was 20 at the time.

And I did. Now, more than 15 years later, I am a full-time writer making a good living for myself—certainly more than I anticipated ever earning as a writer. I'm self-employed, working with my laptop when and where I want, and the demand for my services is more than I can handle. I have worked very hard to get here but I also count myself very lucky.

While I've achieved my goal of writing for a living, one big thing has changed: I very rarely—almost never—see my name in print. Why not? The bulk of my work is ghostwriting, penning words for other people. They retain the rights and get the full credit for the words I write in the public sphere. I am just the shadowy figure behind them, hunched over my keyboard in the corner.

At 20, this arrangement would have seemed unfathomable to me. Why write when you're not getting the recognition for it? Well, my ego has luckily simmered down a bit since my early twenties ;-) I got to see my name in print plenty of times as a journalist and, I will admit, the novelty wore off. And ghostwriting is a niche that has opened opportunities I would have never dreamed of.

As a ghostwriter, I've had the chance to sit down with everyone from pharmaceutical executives to Fortune 500 CEOs. I get the chance to pick their brains, hear their tales, and then help them convey their stories to the world. I'm always learning something new. No two days are the same and no two projects are identical. My work is always inviting me to further my education, deepen my understanding, and see the world from a new perspective.

As a ghostwriter, I also get to unleash my creativity. Although the bulk of my ghostwriting is non-fiction (books, blogs, white papers, etc.) I also ghostwrite fiction. I've written everything from scripts for gaming companies to romance novels (yes, some of them were steamy! No, of course I can't share the titles). In exchange for my written words (and an iron-clad NDA), I get paid an upfront sum—then my clients do the tough work of marketing and promotion, and I get to quietly sit back and watch words I wrote climb best-seller lists. My name may not be on the cover, but the secret success is a rush nonetheless.

Best of all, as a ghostwriter, I get the chance every day to help someone tell their story. Storytelling is why I got into writing. It's what I love to do. As long as I can continue doing that, I don't need my name on the title page. So, I carry on, lurking in the background, a shadowy presence—a happy ghost.

Thank you for reading my blog! This is a space where I share personal thoughts — an opportunity for self-expression that has nothing to do with my professional writing. None of the thoughts or opinions expressed in this blog should be construed as anything but my own, nor should they be affiliated with any company or person I contract with or write for.

NOW that that's done... I'd love to hear from you about this blog post in the comments!

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