They are mostly unseen. Unnoticeable. And believe it or not they are moving behind the scenes in the publishing industry. If you’re lucky you might catch a fleeting glimpse. They are officially called ‘ghostwriters’.
A ghostwriter is a writer who writes on an assigned topic under someone else’s name, with their consent. They often write books completely from scratch but sometimes their work involves rewriting or polishing an existing work.
Most books by famous personalities are actually written by ghostwriters. When you see an autobiography or memoir from a politician, businessperson, or celebrity, chances are that it has been written by a ghostwriter.
Here are a few examples. The autobiography “Ronald Reagan: An American Life” was ghosted by Robert Lindsey. “Learning to Sing”, the autobiography of American Idol star Clay Aiken, was written with ghostwriter Allison Glock. The autobiographies of Doris Day and Sophie Loren were written by A.E. Hotchner.
So how popular is ghostwriting? Statistics are hard to come by since many people don’t want to reveal that their book is ghosted. Some industry estimates suggest that up to fifty percent of all non-fiction books are ghostwritten.
A client may decide to hire a ghostwriter because the client does not have any writing talent or because they are too busy. Ghostwriters, for their part, are usually well-established writers already, and are selected on that basis. Ghostwriters are hired to write many types of documents, from autobiographies for famous personalities to e-books for internet marketing gurus, and even letters for politicians.
They also write fiction. Sometimes it is for a series of books written by several ghostwriters under one name, as with the stories of Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. Ghostwriters also continue to write novels under the name of popular authors who have died, as in the case of Robert Ludlum.
Although ghostwriting is a widely accepted practice within the publishing industry, some people outside of the industry complain that ghostwriting is deceptive. But that is not necessarily true. Consider for a moment the ghostwriting process. The client is the author of the work in that they are the person who is really behind the content. It is the client’s ideas, the client’s stories and experiences. It is the client’s words recorded on hours of interview tapes. The ghostwriter is a professional consultant providing expertise in the area of bringing together all the information, organizing it, and writing it up in a way that will produce a marketable and readable masterpiece.
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