Why Do Former Journalists Make Great Ghostwriters?


… because the skills needed to be a great journalist and a great ghostwriter are very similar.

A journalist spends much of their time meeting new people in new situations. They have limited time to gain their subject’s trust and enable them to open-up. They need to quickly find the nub of that all-important story that will inform, entertain, persuade or enlighten their readers and consumers. They need to be great listeners, great probers and great questioners. This experience is a perfect foundation for a career in ghostwriting.

Independent research is another notable ghostwriting skill that journalists possess. A ghost may not necessarily be party to all the information needed to write the book or document and will often have to source their own research and background material. A thorough understanding of research methods is a boon.

Working at speed is another journalistic skill required in ghostwriting, especially if the ghostwriter is writing marketing material with a commercial deadline or if the book they are working on is particular ‘timely’.

Alan Samson, publisher at Weidenfeld and Nicolson says former tabloid journalists often make good ghostwriters because, ‘The new breed of modern ghosts have to be able to ask searching personal questions, sometimes be as bold as brass, and of course be able to write. These multiple qualities are what many tabloid journalists possess and that is why they can add value to a book project’.

However, ghostwriting is ultimately about storytelling. It’s about taking a series of sometimes unconnected events and turning them into a structured narrative complete with rising action, conflict, denouement and resolution.

Whether journalists or novelists make the better ghostwriters, one primary skill they both need is the ability to listen and to be truly engaged and interested in their subjects. Curiosity is a good thing … it doesn’t kill the cat in this instance. They also need to be confident and up-front in their questioning abilities.  Shy ghosts make bad ghosts.

Ghostwriter, Katy Weitz is a proponent of what she calls ‘full-immersion’. She says she is happy to ‘…root around a subject’s home, get close, sniff around their fridge, meet their mother, look at their photos. You have to be them so you have to know them inside out. I really need that full-immersion.’

It sounds rather like method acting for writers.

If you are considering ghostwriting, hone the following priceless journalistic skills:

·      Successful interviewing skills

·      Effective listening skills

·      Effective questioning skills

·      Solid research skills

·      Efficient time management skills

·      Valuable interpersonal skills