I founded Alternative Medi4 in an attempt to come out of the shadows and begin publishing material under my own terms, after I was first introduced to the online publishing industry as a ghostwriter. More importantly, after selling close to 300 articles online, I realized that I didn’t actually have anything I could include in my personal portfolio.
What makes my experience unique is that the entire time I worked as a ghostwriter, I also worked closely with several other ghostwriters and activists from around the world. I was even paid to generate content and re-package material for other ghostwriters to write about themselves. It is an interesting set of circumstances which has given me a unique perspective/insight into the digital publishing industry and how commercial websites work and operate behind the scenes.
What is a Ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter is someone who either writes under an alias or writes material for someone else to publish under their name. In either instance the ghostwriter behind the physical work doesn’t usually receive direct recognition for the product they have produced, they only receive financial compensation.
You might then ask, why do people ghostwrite instead of publishing for themselves or how does someone even become a ghostwriter in the first place? Well, I am glad you asked…
As far as the latter, just like anything else in life, I suppose you have to be in the right place at the right time. In my experience, I tend to notice that many ghostwriters either did not get a college degree “officially” declaring themselves to be a “journalist” or never attended college in the first place. Others simply ghostwrite for hobby or part time as an additional source of income. Regardless, this line of work always starts with a general interest in writing.
As for an answer to the first question, in an article published on 9/2/2016, I briefly discussed how the print media industry is struggling to stat afloat after losing tremendous amounts of money to digital publishers. As a result of this phenomenon many media outlets have begun to downsize and the number of jobs available to mainline journalists has dramatically fallen in recent years.
Speaking from personal experience, as a writer I have applied to dozens of online news agencies without receiving so much as an interview and I know I am not alone. The fact of the matter is that there is a surplus people who want to write for a living, but there just aren’t enough positions available for them to fill. As a result of the current job market a prospective journalist/writer is then left with two options:
(1) Establish a website, produce all your own material and publish it for yourself in hopes that your product will grow organically over time and become popular or (2), take contracts and sell your work to the highest bidder. Take a look at all of the positions available on freelance job boards, most websites are looking for discrete ghostwriters to quickly and discretely put together material – usually for click-bait websites to fill up with ad space.
Read More About The Modern Spread of Click-Bait Journalism: https://altmedi4.com/2017/02/20/fox-marketing-staff-publicly-apologizes-for-running-multiple-fake-news-websites/
Option 1 will be expensive and there is no guarantee of success. You may write good pieces of material but because your reach is almost non-existent, your work may only be seen by a handful of people – which can be discouraging. For example, I have spent well over $7,500 trying to establish Alternative Medi4 and maybe get an average of 8-16 views on any given piece that I write.
When you really think about it, technically speaking, every hour you spend writing content for yourself is another hour your are not getting paid to write content for someone else. This certainly adds up over time.
To better understand why some people choose option 2, allow me to set up the logic for you. As a ghostwriter, lets say I take a job writing a piece for a New York Times author who is backed up on their work. Lets say for a 500-750 word article I make 35-50$ and spend 2 hours putting it together. Not only will I be receiving money for my effort, but I know that whatver piece I write will be seen by potentially millions of people through the New York Times digital platform.
Remember, if I produced the same article on my site it would have only been seen by maybe 8 people. Believe it or not, there is a certain sense of satisfaction you get as a writer, in general, seeing anything that you write reach a large number of people – even if no one knows that you actually wrote it. I have personally seen articles Ive ghostwritten for others get over ten thousands of likes on Facebook and even though I did not get acclaim for it, it did make me happy knowing so many people read my piece. I actually get more satisfaction from that than I do getting 20 people to read a piece on Alternative Medi4.
So far I have only discussed ghostwriting in terms of journalism and online news, but this is not all that ghostwriters do.
Speechwriters Are Glorified Ghostwriters.
Nearly every politician you have ever heard speak in public has hired a speech writer to put together material for them. Look at Donald Trump, he is always looking to his left because he is reading straight from a prompter and you can thank Steve Bannon for anything you hear come out of Trumps mouth.
The bigger the name and the busier the person, the more dependent these politicians become on their speech writers to help them look good. So, when you hear someone say something like “Obama gave a really good speech tonight, you can really tell that when he speaks about something that he really cares,” what they actually mean to say is that Obama’s ghostwriter did really good job.
Earlier this year a ghostwriter came forward and made national headlines when he, in an interview with The New Yorker, explained how he “deeply regrets his role in constructing Trump’s public persona” – by ghostwriting “The Art of The Deal” for Donald Trump in 1987. To understand the impact some ghostwriters can have, this particular book went on to become a New York Times best seller, sold well over a million copies and helped propel Trump into the national spotlight as an elite business man with something interesting to say.
Tony Schwartz’s, the ghostwriter in question who produced the book on behalf of Trump in 1987, went on to add how he feels “a deep sense of remorse” for “contributing to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” In 2016 Donald Trump is a multi-billion dollar business manager, present leader of the Republican Party and nearly 30 years after”The Art of The Deal” was first written, the book is still mentioned in contemporary Presidential speeches and commonly referenced by international business moguls.
All of this information explains how ghostwriters, people you may never know about, influence much of the news you hear, see and read everyday. There are more of us out there than you realize.
This article (You May Not Have Heard of Them Before, But Ghostwriters Shape More National Dialogue Than You May Care To Realize) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article using a creative commons license with attribution to Brian Dunn and Alternative Medi4.