Shadow Writing: What Is It and Who Is It For?

A ghostwriter is hired to write literary or journalistic works, speeches, or other texts that are officially credited to another person as the author. Celebrities, executives, participants in timely news stories, and political leaders often hire ghostwriters to draft or edit autobiographies, memoirs, magazine articles, or other written material. Memoir ghostwriters often pride themselves in “disappearing” when impersonating others since such disappearance signals the quality of their craftsmanship.[1] In music, ghostwriters are often used to write songs, lyrics, and instrumental pieces. Screenplay authors can also use ghostwriters to either edit or rewrite their scripts to improve them. Usually, there is a confidentiality clause in the contract between the ghostwriter and the credited author that obligates the former to remain anonymous. Sometimes the ghostwriter is acknowledged by the author or publisher for his or her writing services, euphemistically called a “researcher” or “research assistant”, but often the ghostwriter is not credited.

Ghostwriting (or simply “ghosting”) also occurs in other creative fields. Composers have long hired ghostwriters to help them to write musical pieces and songs; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is an example of a well-known composer who was paid to ghostwrite music for wealthy patrons. Ghosting also occurs in popular music. A pop music ghostwriter writes lyrics and a melody in the style of the credited musician. In hip hop music, the increasing use of ghostwriters by high-profile hip-hop stars has led to controversy.[2] In the visual arts, it is not uncommon in either fine art or commercial art such as comics for a number of assistants to do work on a piece that is credited to a single artist; Andy Warhol engaged in this practice, supervising an assembly line silk screen process for his artwork.[3] However, when credit is established for the writer, the acknowledgement of their contribution is public domain and the writer in question would not be considered a ghostwriter.

What is Ghost Writing? How to Become a Ghost Writer? Tutorial & Tips for Beginners

What does a shadow writer do?

A shadow writer creates original content for paying clients, knowing that the author will not receive credit for their work. Here are some of the most common duties of a shadow writer:

Shadow writers may complete entire pieces on their own or work in collaboration with their client. For instance, a celebrity may hire a shadow writer to author their memoir in its entirety. An esteemed academic writing a book about a theory or study may hire a shadow writer to split the workload in order to create and publish the content more efficiently. Here, the client may choose to write the chapters of their book while the ghostwriter can write supplemental information, like case studies or footnotes.

What is a shadow writer?

A shadow writer, or ghostwriter, is an author hired to write pieces for clients with the condition that the author doesnt receive writing credit. They typically have their work attributed to another individual or entity, or it may simply lack a byline after publishing. Clients seek the services of shadow writers based on their quality of work, as opposed to their name recognition or reputation.

Shadow writers often work as freelancers, creating their own standards and fees for their work. Employers, such as a publishing agency, may hire internal shadow writers to create content for their business regularly. Marketing, advertising and public relations agencies may also seek shadow writers to create content for corporations, public figures and other entities.

Is a shadow writer different from a copywriter?

While often categorized as part of the same industry, shadow writing and copywriting are two different professions. The fundamental difference between the two has to do with the purpose for which clients hire them. Copywriters are writing professionals who typically work as freelancers or as part of the internal staff at an advertising or marketing agency, as opposed to the journalism and book-writing that shadow writers usually do. Copywriters produce content for businesses, typically for marketing. However, similar to shadow writers, many copywriters dont receive a byline with their name.

Copywriters can include their work in their portfolio and may share their published work as examples when applying for jobs. Shadow writers, however, are often under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), meaning that they cannot take credit for their writing under any circumstances not outlined by the client. This is the major distinction between the two professions, and often the one that influences aspiring writers to choose one path over another.

How does a shadow writer get paid?

Shadow writers often negotiate their own contracts with clients, meaning they get to choose the fees for which they work. A shadow writer may work for an hourly rate or a flat fee based on the project. Additionally, shadow writers can negotiate with clients and publishers to receive partial profits from their work, even if they dont have proper credits on the piece. For example, a shadow writer may negotiate for 10% of all profits for a book they worked on. If they regularly work on successful, profitable projects, shadow writers can receive a stable and substantial income over time.

Who uses shadow writers?

Shadow writers can find work across various industries. Here are some of the most common shadow writing clients:


Public figures are perhaps the most well-known users of shadow writing services. Celebrities often hire shadow writers to write their memoirs or autobiographies. The process usually involves a one-on-one meeting between client and writer where the client gives an in-depth description of their life story and anything else they want included in their book. Famous people interested in releasing a fictional book or series may also use shadow writers to help conceptualize their stories, split the workload or write the entire novels themselves.


Established authors with a wide collection of work may hire shadow writers to speed up their writing process by splitting work. Authors within academia often hire shadow writers to produce a books technical content, involving research and factual information, while the client may prefer to oversee the commentary and discussion aspects of the project, such as opinions and responses to world issues. In the world of fiction writing, authors of high-profile series may hire shadow writers as collaborators to publish books faster and complete more projects. Authors may give some credit to their shadow writers as an editing credit or listing them as a featured contributor.

Public officials

Politicians and other public officials often hire shadow writers to write speeches or official reports on issues or policies. Public officials inform the public about important events, making it crucial that they communicate efficiently and concisely to their audience. Many public officials lack the expertise necessary for communicating with a large audience through writing, making the services of a shadow writer more necessary for informing the public.


Corporations and other businesses often employ shadow writers to write content for them as consumer reports, speeches, public statements and other forms of communication with their audience. The CEOs and high-ranking officials within these companies may have neither the time nor skills necessary for developing high-quality copy that positively represents their business. Shadow writers are a useful resource for corporations in need of professionally written and informed content to be shared with the public.


How do you become a shadow writer?

What exactly does a ghostwriter do? In a nutshell, ghostwriters are paid to write for someone else. Depending on the job, they’ll write either under their client’s name or be credited as a collaborator. Ghosts write blog posts, books, nonfiction books, memoirs—it’s all fair game.

What exactly does a ghostwriter do?

  • Ghostwriting is a competitive field. There are few opportunities available, and few of them are openly advertised on job boards. …
  • You have to give up a byline. …
  • You have to work for someone else. …
  • There may be strict deadlines and fast turnaround times. …
  • The work may not be very interesting.

How much is a shadow writer?

How to become a ghostwriter
  • Read often. Most writers read a lot, and they read everything. …
  • Build experience as a freelance writer. …
  • Write a variety of content. …
  • Create a strong portfolio. …
  • Learn to write in different voices. …
  • Market ghostwriting skills.

What is a ghostwriter called?

4 Types of Ghostwriting Projects
  • Nonfiction books. Any kind of nonfiction book—whether it’s business, finance, restauranteering, farming—will likely have ghostwritten books in those genres, most times because the person wanting to publish the book is not a professional writer.
  • Speeches. …
  • Internet content. …
  • Book proposals.

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