Keeping Ghostwriters Honest

Lately, ghostwriters have gotten a bad rap..similar to that of snake oil salesmen of the early 1900’s.

The majority of ghostwriters are good, hard-working writers that just want a fair pay for their efforts.

The reality is also that at least 15-30% of ghostwriters (my rough estimate) are ripping you off blind by submitting stolen content to you as original. Your reputation is highly at risk.

Here’s how you can hold your ghostwriter accountable:

First, setup the expectations that you will not tolerate under any circumstance any non-original works from your ghost writer. This means that he or she must understand that they will not get paid for sending any articles that have any complex sentences that were written by anyone else. Tell them fair use doctrine doesn’t even apply here because you want 100% original content from the mind of your ghostwriter based on the topic, length, etc. guidelines that you’ve outlined for the job.

Second, review what you’re asking for vs. what you’re paying for. After a few hours of talking with various levels of ghostwriters — you should begin to get a good feel for whether or not ‘it’s too good to be true’. Cheap ghostwriters are (this is common sense) more likely to cut corners and should be more suspect than higher priced ghostwriters.

Third, check references. Ask to see testimonials that you can then quickly verify.

Fourth, Trust No One. Not even your precious expensive ghostwriter with multiple positive references. You must subject 100% of what they submitted to your own tests.

A simple test to check for originality:

Take 3 random complex sentences within the works submitted and do exact match searches in Google, Yahoo and MSN’s search engines. You should not be able to find any results when you do these searches. If you do, confront your ghostwriter and don’t use the works.

You can also use service providers that help you protect against plagiarism:

Fifth: If I had a dime for every article marketer that got busted for sending in non-original works, said: ‘but I hired the ghostwriter from Elance.” That’s a clue. The large brokerage places are a poor source of quality ghostwriters.

If you’re looking for a ghostwriter, post your request here:
(I’m sure someone will get back to you, if not multiple replies)…but again, trust no one and check everything.

Summary: Your reputation is at risk, and your pocketbook too as you will be held accountable for the works that you purchase. Check everything with complex exact match searches and a healthy dose of paranoia will help guide you through these waters.

If you are an author or article marketer and have any other tips or suggestions on how to keep your ghostwriter honest, please post a comment to this blog entry. Thanks! :-)


Dina Giolitto writes:

Being a ghostwriter myself, of course this is a tempting topic – and not just for opportunistic reasons.

I see this whole web content thing as divided between People Who Care and People Who Take the Easy Way Out. The latter classification gives a bad rap to those in the former group.

One of the reasons why I’m such a huge advocate of this website is because it’s clear that the folks running it really do care.

As a professional copywriter who also really cares, I would NEVER EVER dream of stealing someone else’s copy. In fact, that would be the lowest of the low – for me to call myself a writer and then turn around and rip off someone else’s material! I know some other writers who would agree. Yet, it happens every day.

Recently, I did some research for an e-book, and in the stack of information pages I printed off the net, guess what I found? FLAGRANT PLAGIARISM. Identical copy in two places. Unbelievable. Mind-boggling, even!

It’s just too easy to get away with spewing crap on the web because you want people to know your name. It shouldn’t be so easy, and it makes me slightly irate to watch people junking up the web in the same way that people have junked up the planet.

If I wasn’t so tired from trying come up with original ghostwritten e-book material for 14 hours today, I’d be pretty worked up right now.


Comment provided August 25, 2005 at 10:16 PM


Lance Winslow writes:

Indeed Dina, I feel your pain. I have written 1777 articles on this site and thousands on my own sites (different ones). Written and co-authored books, e-books, community based manuals, business Operations manuals of over 2500 plus pages. All sorts of things.

After 300,000 page views on this site alone I see these articles getting picked up and they are all over the Internet, occassionally with someone else’s name attached or no name at all and I have actually found my articles copied and someone else claiming to them “By Joe Blow”. I have to wonder why they bother? It seems silly. But humans are very innately imitators by nature it appears. Very few original ideas out there or writing. Those who have such creative abilities, like yourself should be celebrated for thier insight and skills (you have great articles). People should hire you to be their ghost writer.

When we reward cheaters like those you are discussing, we get more cheaters. Addionally I have to wonder why we deny the innate characteristics of the human animal to copy things. In a way and it has been said that; “imitation is the highest form of flattery.” So I wish to thank all those who cheat and copy my articles, even those who wish to get thier names out there by stealing the work. I have often thought of writing under the name; “Anonymous” that way if anyone steals it, I have given it to them in advance, so I will not be bothered by such human traits.

Writing for a living wage, ghost writing, to get your name “out there”, to attacted people to a website or sell them something must be difficult, I empathize with you indeed. Human knowledge is to be shared, I wonder if it really matters in the end, who said it or wrote it, but I totally see your point here. I applaud your high road travels, even if the trail is filled with bumps and ruts along the way. Keep on keeping on.

Comment provided August 26, 2005 at 4:34 PM


Dina Giolitto writes:

Hi Lance,

Thank you for the nice words.

People pick up your articles because you’re a pay-per-click advertiser’s dream come true. (Also because they’re lively and entertaining and full of facts – but I’m referring primarily to the type of people you describe who pick them up and don’t give you credit.) You’re the topic master. What haven’t you written about here, maybe religion?

I’m sure that in many but not all cases your articles are used by others strictly to make a quick buck off the pay per clicks. And that’s who I’m referring to when I mentioned “those people who take the easy way out.” They’re not giving back.

It doesn’t seem fair that Joe Blow should be allowed to throw up an article that you or I or anyone else here spent hours toiling over in the hope of doing some good for ourselves and for the world, and make money off that article without giving back something. I have joked about this before, wishing I could tack on a “not for use on crappy websites” clause.

So how can someone who makes money off articles “give back?” Take some of that money and put it to good use by creating a service that people can use. For example, this website.

What the heck – having easy access to great articles is really convenient. I just lifted five from to use in a newsletter last week. Awesome.

Sites that serve no purpose other than for the owner to reap financial reward should be removed. At least that’s what the idealist in me thinks. But then the pessimist answers back, no way, sister… that’ll never happen!

Comment provided August 26, 2005 at 10:41 PM


Lance Winslow writes:

Dina, Indeed, I agree and have had the same thoughts. In a way I suppose they might argue that they are giving out information free (even though they are often stealing it). The information from our articles, which is of benefit to the world in one way and in another way it totally junks up the Internet with crap. I believe however Google is doing some good for the world as they now have an informational TV program broken into quick 7-minute segments, about the maximum allowable for the modern human brain to maintain attention to? (forget I said that!). So what is the answer?

Google owns the search engine and is in business to make money. They benefit for pay per click ads. Unfortunately everyone has jumped onto the band wagon setting up sites which pay per click, which are search engine optimized, two things happen, eventually people ignore them and secondly they leave a site when they see the AdSense type side bars or become skeptical of the information immediately and give it a once over but in their mind start their elimination process of the site as relevant and prepare to dust the site and click out.

I cannot imagine anyone just putting up endless sites, copying formats of everyone else, putting up junk and calling that their income. But then again I see many people on this site writing articles and ebooks telling them how to do it. So are the article writers who write how to put up a quick cheesy site and wait for their Google checks in the mail also to blame. If everyone does that, it will add to the size of the internet indeed and Google profit and help shareholders and second public offering price, but for all humanity it is a negative trend. I wish people would not plagiarize, but even kids in school do this. It is a problem with human beings, it is tough for them to reason an ethical standard of appropriate behavior in this realm, because it is too easy and human nature is to try to get more for less. That is to say; Trade, cheat, deceive, etc., as those are innate and perhaps indeed a reason for our larger brains, to keep track of all this behavior and remain in a good social standing with the group to continue to get what we want with the least amount of effort. Not such a good depiction of mankind. But by applying such observations of various upright walking primates and chimpanzees to plagiarizers, it seems to help one understand them better. And since these cheats are all part of us, the problem is that we all accept this behavior and reward it. Additionally the Internet is the best communication device ever created and you can immediately see those innate negative aspects of the human species quite easily, as they use the Internet to hide in broad day-light. One of the reasons I do not bother to use the articles to promote anything is that there are so many who are also using it to promote crap that I do not wish to be anywhere near them. Yet on this site I see many good folks with good information who write articles to give good information, while simultaneously self-promoting, but they are generally doing this without crossing the line of poor ethical behavior. I think we must reward them, as Chris does.

Comment provided August 27, 2005 at 3:21 PM


Chris Knight writes:

Bingo Lance!

That’s right…we often talk about the 5-15% that abuse this medium, but we must not ignore the 70-90% of the good, honest, and quality authors who submit quality original works for everyone to benefit from.

Often times I find myself humbled by the quality of the works submitted. There are some top class articles in this site and if we really put an indepth research project together; I am positive we would find a higher quantity of quality articles than crap…

Just like the Google search engine: They work hard, day in and day out to present their users with QUALITY search results and not crap. We have the same mission and the measuring stick is our usefullness to all of the stakeholders that use

Comment provided August 27, 2005 at 3:40 PM


Lance Winslow writes:

Dina, I am certainly glad you mentioned stakeholders. We authors are stakeholders and that is how I feel about the site. Gosh, you bring up another good point, a study ought to be done on the find of this site. I met a Lady, an online e-commerce researcher with the University of California at Riverside about six months ago and I bet a group there would be willing to assist and even underwrite the project. God knows we have enough relavent data here to complete the study. The psychological aspects of win/win Western Culture business methodology as it relates to the “Information Selling”, consumer trust, self weeding systems (ridding the snake skin oil salesmen) and the buy in of a group of generally solo type practicianers (authors typically are like artists). The idea to study this is a smart idea. This site has the workings and is a complete study of the evolution and progress of the Internet medium in modern commerce and why it must be allowed to excel for the benefit of the forward progression of humankind in broadening and uniting all civilizations of this modern period.

Comment provided August 29, 2005 at 6:43 PM


Dina writes:

Hi again. Stakeholders wasn’t my word, that was Chris talking. But I’m flattered to be credited with such a slick term. :)

In regard to stakeholders: I feel like the quality bar can once again be raised if even more top websites are alerted to the superb content living here under the umbrella of this site.

Call me crazy but it seems like there’s some cyclical thing going on. I guess your first round of authors got broken since last winter? Seems like there’s a surge now, lots of new faces on the scene. Maybe some basic crash course is needed to bring these people up to speed…

Meanwhile, how about an aggressive “let’s take it to the next level” for the expert authors.” Granted I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes – given the ongoing rewards I’ve seen here, maybe there’s something big just around the corner.

I for one want to see even more pickups. More, more, more. How do you like your article? (Short, sweet and to the point of course.)

Comment provided August 29, 2005 at 8:10 PM


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