Who you gonna call? Ghostwriters!

“Writers Wanted.”

You don’t see that sign in the windows of any businesses. Plenty of “Help Wanted” and “Cooks Wanted,” but no such pleading for writers. While perhaps not always wanted with our propensity to correct grammar at the drop of a dangling modifier, writers are needed daily by individuals and organizations around the country. Indeed, nearly everyone and every organization has a story to tell and, brilliant and successful as they are in their world, they often do not possess the time, skills, or discipline to write professionally.

Who they gonna call? Ghostwriters!

Everything you read has been written by someone. Yes, obvious, and books, articles, and blogs immediately come to mind. You can’t imagine how many books, articles, and blogs are crafted entirely or in part by ghostwriters (for celebs, sports stars, politicians, business execs, and regular folks for any multitude of reasons). Less obvious are other pieces of writing we encounter every day such as assembly instructions, that IQ test you took online, training modules, compliance courses, website text, speeches, even the directions on your shampoo bottle. “Wash, rinse, repeat,” someone was paid to write that—probably a ghost.

Ghostwriting has a long—and yes, storied—tradition likely with its infancy in the very dawn of writing. Think of those nameless scribes crafting text for royalty when few could read or write. Some even theorize that certain cave drawings were ghosted. Having grown into its own profession, ghostwriting is as robust today as ever. With hundreds of thousands of books published annually and individuals and organizations seeking to get their message and information out, in addition to all the other bits of writing that flow through our daily lives, the demand for ghosts is scary.

Ghosts can engage in any or every phase of the writing lifecycle including advising, conceptualization, structure and organization, research, writing, editing, proofreading, and formatting; and projects can vary in length from days to a year or more. Often ghostwriters will specialize in certain disciplines or genres. The ghost’s name may be on the final product, but probably won’t. We do this for the love of writing, and to sustain ourselves as we pursue our own literary passion.

The reality is that most writers do not support themselves with their own publications. Unless you’re independently wealthy, have a trust fund or patron, or are fortunate enough to live off your spouse without guilt (for some, the hardest part about being a writer), you must support yourself by other means. Through history, writers have worked about every job imaginable to keep the creditors at bay. If you love the challenge of writing as I do, I can’t think of anything that strikes as close to home for a living as ghostwriting.

Ghostwriting is serious business and we are hired as one would engage any other professional. Some of us work full-time and some work part-time. In 20 years as a ghostwriter, I have written nearly everything conceivable, worked with countless individuals and organizations (including projects that lasted for years and continue today), had my brush with the famous and infamous, had clients share more than I ever needed to know, and had my life threatened once! Seriously, who threatens to kill the writer? Sure, lawyers, accountants, even the piano player—that makes sense. But shoot the writer?

I’ve loved every minute of it—met people beyond my world, gained knowledge I may not have been exposed to, all the while honing my writing skills and paying bills along the way. I choose writing because I’m not much good at anything else and I’ve been told I’m better on paper than in person which I’ve ghosted into the compliment I’m certain it was intended to be.

Interested in learning more about life as a ghost? Join Axel for his upcoming class, “Author for Hire: The Joys and Challenges of Ghostwriting” on Tuesday, April 23, from 6 to 9 pm.

Axel Dahlberg has been a professional ghostwriter for nearly 20 years. He has helped countless individuals and some of the largest organizations in the nation conceptualize, structure, write, edit, and format their texts; working in subjects, genres, and industries he hadn’t dreamed about. Axel holds an MFA degree in creative writing from Arizona State University (where he taught writing) and a BA in English from the U of MN. He is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction book, Forever Hellos, Hard Goodbyes, endorsed by Make-A-Wish, the National Institutes of Health, the Society of Pediatric Nurses.