Ghostwriting is weird. It makes people feel icky. There is no more eloquent way to put it. But it exists for a very logical reason. Remember high school economics? Way back when? I don’t remember it very well, but one thing I’m almost certain I learned was opportunity cost: the idea that basically says whenever you are doing one thing, you could be doing another thing. Ghostwriting rests on this concept. While I’m ghostwriting a series of adventure novels about globetrotting archaeologists (something I’m actually doing), I could be writing my own books for publication where I’m entitled to royalties.
There are several reasons why I’m not doing this. The first and most obvious is that I’m a graduate student and at the moment money means more to me than literary merit, at least on a day-to-day basis. That being said, I don’t think I’m selling my soul, and I am writing my own work and getting some of it published. (More about that later.) Another reason I ghostwrite is that it is a legitimately good way to practice writing. It’s not the kind of practice I get from an MFA workshop of my work, but it’s valuable all the same. In the real world, writers have to write for deadlines, and nowhere is this more true than in ghostwriter world. (Not a real world to my knowledge.)
But back to opportunity costs. I am not giving up my rights to royalties simply because it’s good practice and I don’t have the time to send out endless query letters. I’m also doing it because in the time that I could be spending sending out query letters I can make real money doing real writing. That is the ultimate goal of the career writer isn’t it? At this point in my life, I am not ashamed to look myself in the mirror and say that (x) amount of money for my 60,000 words is more than I could get for it on the market in its entire shelf life. And that’s because I don’t have the infrastructure that the publishing companies have to get my work into the hands of readers. That may not always be the case, and when the scales tip, I will change my plan. But for now, I’m happy to be writing for someone else.
Next time I’m going to go into some more detail about writing techniques that I find useful when ghostwriting a novel that has to be fast paced. Hint: always look to those who do it best.