FAQ: How Common Is Ghostwriting?

Christy Walters


June 22, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

person in ghost costume standing in middle of a yellowed field with the ocean in the background to represent how common is ghostwriting

Do you know who writes your favorite content? You might think your favorite celebrity wrote a memoir, an athlete wrote that tweet, or a politician wrote a touching, actionable speech. But did they? Sure, some of our favorite authors and figures write their own works, but just as many use ghostwriters, or people who do the writing but don’t get the credit. But how common is ghostwriting? Today, we’re tackling all your big questions with topics like:

How Common Is Ghostwriting?

Depending on the source you use, as many as 50% to 90% of nonfiction autobiographies and memoirs have a ghostwriter. But ghostwriters aren’t just for telling people’s life stories. Fiction, songwriting, and content marketing all have their fair share of ghostwriters, too. If you have something to write, you can hire a ghostwriter to do it. You may wonder, “well why isn’t there an exact figure?” We know you want numbers and data. But there’s no concrete data because ghostwriting is sort of a hush-hush topic in writing. The term ghost right there in the name gives it away.

Do you think your favorite celebrity wants people to know that they’re not the ones answering those fan questions on Twitter, but they have a social media team to handle it? No. Most people know it happens, but nobody wants to admit to it. And sometimes they can’t talk about it at all thanks to nondisclosure agreements. That makes it harder to get reliable data on the topic.

What Counts as Ghostwriting?

person in ghost costume standing in middle of a yellowed field with the ocean in the background to represent how common is ghostwriting

Image via Unsplash by @tandemxvisuals

People traditionally think of ghostwriting as one person writing content and putting someone else’s name on it. While yes, that is ghostwriting, it’s not the only way to do it. Sometimes ghostwriting is a collaborative process, not just one person doing all the work for another. The exact specifications of what “qualifies” as a ghostwriter depend on the project.

For some, the actual author, whose name appears on the content, collaborates with the ghostwriter. They do some of the writing themselves, but work with an expert or professional consultant to make sure the content flows and stays consistent. Or the ghostwriter might help with things to speed up the timeline of a project, like research or interviews and writing sections of content based on that work.

In content writing for business, ghostwriters may develop pieces on their own or in teams to present as thought-leadership content for a brand. Social media ghostwriters work as a team to answer questions for a figure or brand, share content, and interact with an online community.

Related: The Voice Behind the Curtain: How Do Ghostwriters Work?

How Do Ghostwriters Know What Topics To Cover?

Choosing topics for a ghostwriting job depends on the project. For some assignments, the client or company has a clear vision for what they want and how they expect it to turn out. In this case, the ghostwriters know exactly what topic or topics to cover because they’re provided in the project brief.

But in content marketing, when ghostwriting for an agency or another business, it’s not always that straightforward. For example, if your agency is ghostwriting for a credit union, they might tell you “we need content in finance and loans.” There are so many subtopics that fall into those categories. How do ghostwriters know which ones to pick? They do their research. Ghostwriters conduct keyword research and competitor research to discover what topics best suit their clients and put them in the right conversations to reach their target audience.

CopyPress makes this research easy, no matter your client or industry. Request your free content analysis report today. It shows how your clients’ content stacks up against their top three competitors. It also gives a suggested list of content gaps. Use these to find the right topics to cover for your ghostwritten pieces to target exactly what your clients’ audiences are looking for.

“CopyPress gives us the ability to work with more dealership groups. We are able to provide unique and fresh content for an ever growing customer base. We know that when we need an influx of content to keep our clients ahead of the game in the automotive landscape, CopyPress can handle these requests with ease.”

Kevin Doory

Director of SEO at Auto Revo

Is Ghostwriting Illegal?

No, ghostwriting is not illegal. If you hire someone to complete a service, both parties meet the criteria set out in the contract, and the ghostwriter gets paid, there’s nothing illegal about it. Some people get the impression that ghostwriting is illegal because writers don’t talk about it. There was once a stigma that followed ghostwriters and authors or subjects who used them. The writing community viewed these writers as sellouts in the industry because they didn’t pursue their own creative projects and worked for someone else. The public viewed people who used ghostwriters as dishonest cheaters.

In a way, these are valid observations. Nobody likes to be tricked, and it hurts a person or brand’s credibility if you find out they lied to you. But shaming ghostwriting isn’t practical, especially in content writing. Companies with large audiences and followings put out multiple pieces of content per day on a variety of platforms, from blogs, to emails, and social media. Anyone with common sense knows that there are just not enough hours in the day for one person to handle all that work.

Because of this, it’s becoming more and more common for businesses to use ghostwriters and content teams. It’s not a bad reflection on the writers or the organization. Instead, it shows smart content marketing and the ability to hire and curate a team of writers that provide the best content possible to your audience.

Should I Use a Ghostwriter for My Content?

We can’t tell you whether you should or shouldn’t use a ghostwriter because every company or agency’s situation is different. You may use ghostwriters for some projects and not others. You may want to hire full-time ghostwriters or keep a content agency on retainer to get their services whenever you need them. What we can provide are some options to consider when trying to decide if ghostwriting is right for your project or business. These questions include:

Do You Have the Time To Write?

Business owners and executives have a lot of responsibilities. Even companies that start as a one-person show have to expand their staff and delegate responsibilities as the company grows. Consider if you have the time to write quality content yourself. Are you able to devote the time to research, interviews, outlining, writing, editing, and publication? Are you able to dedicate time to some of these tasks but not all of them? Will the quality of your work suffer if you try to do this and keep up with your other responsibilities?

Remember, ghostwriting doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing experience, especially in content marketing. If you’re able to conduct the interviews but not outline and put the thoughts on paper or the screen, you can still hire a ghostwriter to help. You can also do the reverse, and have someone else do your prep work and you can write the final copy if writing is one of your strengths. Either way, working with a ghostwriter saves you time and allows you to put out more quality content faster to grow your business and satisfy your audience.

Do You Need a Professional?

Ghostwriters are professional writers. This is what they do all day, every day, for multiple clients. A lot of people think writing is easy and that anyone can do it. While that’s true in some way because we all learn to write in school, just getting the job done and doing it well are two completely different things. You wouldn’t ask a professional baker to fix your car engine or an accountant to rewire your house. So why would you hire anyone less than a professional writer to handle your content marketing?

Does Your SEO Need a Boost?

Ghostwriters, especially ones who work in content marketing, understand the value of incorporating SEO strategies into their pieces. Whether your team asks for that service or not. It’s common sense in their line of work. If you’re hiring them to produce great content and help your brand awareness or lead acquisition, they want their pieces to rise to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). This helps you meet your goals.

The more relevant keywords they help you rank for, the better your chances of capturing traffic online. They’re also clued in and in tune with user search intent. This is the reason why people search for certain things online. Ghostwriters who know search intent help your content get not just more reach but the right reach. They find potential clients and customers that have problems you can solve.

Related: Search Intent: An Introduction for B2B Marketers

Do You Need an Authentic Voice?

Ghostwriting is not illegal. It’s not shady, shameful, or a dirty little secret, especially not in content marketing. The truth is some people are better at writing than others. And everyone can’t be an expert at everything. When you realize you have one of these situations on your hands, it’s better to call in the professionals. Recognizing you need help is smarter than being stubborn and thinking you can handle everything on your own in the name of “authenticity.”

It’s more inauthentic to force out a piece of content that’s under-researched or poorly written just to say you did it yourself. If it’s not valuable to your audience or wasn’t written by someone who knows what they’re talking about, it was a waste of time. This type of content can hurt your company instead of helping it. Ghostwriters actually bring authenticity to your brand. They’re experts in their niches and skilled at sharing complex information with audiences of all levels. That authenticity shines through to readers when they understand and connect with your ghostwritten pieces.

Are You Interested in Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic these days. You may wonder if you can avoid the whole ghostwriter thing altogether and rely on a computer program instead. But does AI copywriting actually work? That depends. By work, do you mean do AI copywriters produce content free of grammatical errors, at the length you specify, in the right language? Sure, they do that.

But does AI write content that’s easy for people to read and understand? Does it produce pieces with an intuitive flow for a human reader? Does it understand human emotions and how to get people to connect with a piece rather than just spewing fact after fact? No, it doesn’t. If you want to see a shady writing process, using AI should be even more taboo than using a ghostwriter. How did you feel the first time you found out the Nancy Drew books or a majority of James Patterson’s books were ghostwritten? Did you feel lied to or cheated?

Now, imagine you didn’t just find out those books had a ghostwriter, but that a computer program wrote them. It wasn’t even a human. Wouldn’t that make you lose faith in the author? It’s the same thing for ghostwritten content writing. People know big names like Neil Patel aren’t sitting at their keyboards all hours of the day popping out blog posts. Common sense tells us they have a team to help. But a team of people is a lot easier to accept than a team of robots.

Turn To a Solution You Can Trust

Ghostwriting is a very common practice in content marketing. Whether you’re an agency looking to serve your clients or a company looking to outsource content creation, you want the best. CopyPress is your solution for those needs. Our creative team works as ghostwriters for you, working in a variety of niches and matching your brand voice. But we do more than just write great content.

With a focus on SEO for every piece and the help of our data-driven research program, Thematical, you can rest assured that whatever goals you hope to reach with your ghostwritten content, we deliver. Schedule your free strategy call with us to get started.

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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