Why Ghostwriters Don’t Mind that Someone Else Gets the Byline
“Doesn’t it bother you when you do all the work, and someone else gets the credit?”
As a ghostwriter, I hear this question a lot. For most people, writing feels like such hard work, so difficult, that letting anyone else take credit for one’s blood, sweat and tears seems an insult. The one doing the actual writing should be the one named as author, not the one who took the easy way out by paying someone else to do the heavy lifting.
Usually I say something like, “No, it doesn’t bother me because that’s what I get paid to do.”
But if it was just about money, I could think of many easier ways to earn a living. With 15 years of experience in tax and accounting, and in the midst of a talent crunch, I could make a few calls on a Monday, and be working at a new firm by Friday.
Do you sign all the tax returns you prepare?
In some ways, letting others take credit for my writing isn’t much different than how I worked in public accounting. Except for my first two years at H&R Block, I never signed any of the tax returns I prepared. The partners gave me the clients’ information and outlined any tricky tax treatments for those items. It was up to me to organize, summarize, and report the clients’ information in accordance with the wishes of the partner who would be signing the return. It was the same for essentially all the work I did in public accounting. Whether it was an audit report, a business valuation, or a letter to the IRS, I did the work, but someone else took the credit – and assumed the risk – for it.
I can’t speak for all ghostwriters, but for me, it goes deeper than a simple financial transaction.
Writing is my superpower
As a professional writer, my superpower is finding the best ways to express ideas in words so that a reader can recreate those ideas in their own brain. Since most of us aren’t very good at telepathy, we need words and language to convey our thoughts to others. I love finding the clearest ways of expressing complex ideas in writing. It’s like laying out a trail of breadcrumbs, with each sentence and each paragraph leading to the next.
When I work with a client to put together an article for Accounting Today or to write a book, my starting point is conversations that I record. From transcripts of those recordings, I pull out the most important points to create an outline, then I find the best ways that those points have been expressed by my client. Then I forge those into new sentences that retain their voice, the words they use, the cadence of their speech, and their tone to express their ideas in the clearest possible ways for readers.
Extending the reach of ideas
I get great satisfaction from working with people with more ideas than time and helping them find ways to get those ideas into the heads of more people. Helping my clients with articles or books gives them more time to do what they do best. They can point prospects to those articles to give them a taste of what they do. it gives them credibility with prospects.
It lets people take those ideas on a test drive, and see if they fit. Sometimes those readers decide to work with my clients. Sometimes they get enough from what they read to make a meaningful change on their own. Either way, I’m helping my clients extend their reach beyond their network.
Getting paid to learn
When the education requirement for sitting for the CPA exam was increased to 150 hours around the time I was completing my accounting coursework, it didn’t faze me. I was well on my way to becoming a professional student and had amassed something like 250 credit hours across subjects ranging from calculus to computer programming to linguistics to German literature.
I love ideas and learning, and as a ghostwriter, I get paid to learn from the best of the best. Many of my clients have created successful consulting businesses that teach others how to create better accounting practices and how to become more successful as professionals. I have also expanded my awareness of the profession to whole areas I had zero knowledge of when I was chained to my desk preparing tax returns.
I’ve taken deep dives into the work of accountants in industry, into audit, bookkeeping, and succession planning for accountants. I have access to people who I would never have met had I stayed in the tax department of a local firm. Some of the people I work with today came into my awareness back when I was working as a tax accountant, and I was searching for ways to bring more meaning into my work. Now, instead of paying for their books and courses, they pay me to write those books and courses.
Writing is how I serve
As the Gallup organization has been researching for decades, successful companies tend to have highly engaged workforces. Engaged employees thrive on being part of something bigger than they are. Finding that spot in an organization where we can fully utilize our gifts and contribute in a meaningful and impactful way to an organization in alignment with our own values is what most of us prefer to a fatter paycheck. We’re all looking for a way to serve our families and our communities in a meaningful way.
I’m passionate about moving the accounting profession into the future – a future that embraces technology for the mundane and tedious tasks so that we humans can do what we do best. A future where accountants use their superpowers to help businesses and individuals achieve their dreams. I can do more to move the profession into the future as a ghostwriter for thought leaders than I can as a tax manager or even as owner of my own accounting firm.
When I see that my writing has helped my clients reach more of the people who need those ideas, that is reward beyond seeing my name as author. This is why I don’t mind that someone else gets credit for my words.