Giving credit to whom it is due isn’t always the goal of an article or eBook. Many articles and eBooks online are actually written by someone other than the byline indicates.
Byline writing means writing and getting credit for the work rather than ghostwriting (or content writing) and letting someone else get the credit. Most of you already know the distinction, yet I thought I would clarify what I meant.
I have written around a thousand articles as a ghostwriter, mostly for business blogs. I worked through broker sites online and got paid around .01 to .05 cents per word. Essentially, I earned around $10 to $50 for each article. The biggest article I ever wrote paid $120 for a two-thousand-word article about elevators.
At the time, I wanted to write for my blogs and as a freelance writer, but I needed to make money and I didn’t have time to develop my freelancing capabilities. I was grateful for the opportunity to refine my craft and make some money to add to my day jobs, yet what did this experience do to my writing ambitions and creativity?
I’d like to say nothing, that it simply helped me become a better and more disciplined writer, yet writing these elaborate industry articles for someone else to claim was strange to me — it just seemed deceitful.
I rationalized the experience by saying I only write about topics I would never write about otherwise, that is, topics that don’t require an opinion and are mostly just explaining a product or service. Actually, the process of learning about all these various industries, services, and products, broadened my understanding of technology and how things work. Even with these benefits, I still found myself wishing I could spend my writing time and effort honing my own writing and building my own audience.
Looking back, I think what happened is ghostwriting for money sort of took away my ambition to write creatively. I tried to keep up with my blogs, yet I could never gain traction and it never seemed like a real audience was being developed. Maybe I just didn’t consider the audience enough, rather I was just writing to get things off my chest, to expose and bring light upon things I thought were worthy. Whatever the issue, the audience never really materialized and my blogging became less exciting.
While I don’t want to attribute the demise of my creative spark to the doldrums of content writing, it seems the correlation has merit when looking at the time frame. As a dedicated truth seeker and blogger, I have continued to find ways to continue blogging, yet writing and growing an audience has still eluded me for the most part.
Do I regret ghostwriting? No, it helped me make money through some hard times; it has been comforting to know I have a way to make some extra money online between jobs. The purpose of the activity does seem to be a waste if one can do otherwise, especially, if someone considers themselves a writer and wants to express their soul through words.
I always thought when I was working on these 600 to 1000-word articles and spending all day researching, writing, and editing them, what if I spent this amount of time on my own articles? I tried later with my blogs and found they were simply published and then lost in the clatter of the internet world. I established a wide-reaching syndication network and joined many social networks, yet still, these efforts were merely represented in views/visitors and mostly spam comments (I’ve since learned to filter out all spam comments on blogs). The audience, the flow, just wasn’t there.
Writing online has been a huge learning curve; included in this curve is becoming a ghost and writing for other people — professionals who many times took the byline. Some of the articles I wrote surprised even me, it was as if I knew what I was talking about with these industries I wasn’t even in, nor had any real experience with. Strange how the internet can make people seem smart with all the information at our fingertips. Maybe the most valuable aspect of writing I’ve learned is the importance of the audience; instead of heading full speed ahead like an elephant in an antique shop, maybe some tact and grace would help…
My personal writings were shock and awe — Boom! Did I consider my audience? Not really, not like I do now. This is part of the learning curve, the life curve. Maybe it was, I wasn’t ready to write with my byline. Even most of my personal writing was with a pseudonym anyway. Now, at 43 years young, God has me writing with my byline. Things seem to click into place even without our purposeful and conscious actions at times.
Recently, during my off-season from being a superintendent/greenskeeper of a 9-hole golf course, I have time to write again. I considered writing as a ghostwriter again, allured by the instant payment for a sold article, yet this has given way to me writing here and at other places with my byline, trying to build an audience and be part of a community. While this doesn’t promise to bring any money, it does give me an outlet for my creative writing passions, connecting me again with that young ambitious writer from 30 years ago who wanted to write stories for his beloved audience.
I can always spot a writer, they are different than other people. I realize there are many people who write, yet I’m talking about those who are writers, who identify themselves as writers. This is my foundation as an adult, this is what I worked for and sacrificed to be, even if I haven’t learned how to turn this into money as well as others. I’m the isolated type, the loner, the introvert (I don’t like that expression), the deep thinker, and the someone who thinks words matter — even if I’m not the best with them.
Ghostwriting was a painful exercise for me, although I think overall it was a positive experience. Regardless, it isn’t something I want to spend my time doing when I have this opportunity to write with my own byline. Hopefully, this has helped you reflect in some measure on the positives and negatives of ghostwriting vs. byline writing. Ultimately, I think it has to do with the inner ambitions and purpose one has in their soul concerning the written word, despite what others may think and how it compares to others, if it is there, it should be given credit and allowed to share in the community of others like ourselves.
Originally published at Medium on Dec. 9, 2022