What is a Ghostwriter?

blocks in front of a person typing that spell ghostwriter

Are you sure that person whose book you’re reading really wrote it? Chances are they didn’t, or at the very least, they got help. And I don’t mean the kind of help that an editor gives to every manuscript. I’m talking about the actual writing.

Chances are, the author used a ghostwriter. 

Simply put, a ghostwriter is a writer who is hired to write someone else’s book but receives no credit for it. That person is a ghost, just like the dictionary definition: a mere shadow wandering among people.

Ghostwriters are common, especially with nonfiction books. It’s estimated by several online sources that between 50 percent and 90 percent of all nonfiction books are written by one.

Fiction books get ghostwritten, too. No Hardy Boys mystery was written by Franklin W. Dixon. At least five ghostwriters were used; Canadian author Charles Leslie McFarlane is believed to have written the first 16. The same goes with Nancy Drew mysteries: There is no Carolyn Keene. Mildred Wirt Benson wrote many, but so did 15 others.

The reasons for using one are numerous when you think about it: They might be too busy to write it themselves, which is especially true for celebrities. Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Prince Harry, Andre Agassi, Laura Bush, Demi Moore, Pamela Anderson, Ashley Judd, Leah Remini, Terry Bradshaw, Johnnie Cochran, Leslie Nielsen, Gilbert Gottfried, Denzel Washington and Serena Williams have used ghostwriters.

Or they might be dead. Robert Ludlum died in 2001, but Jason Bourne books were published after that. Ian Fleming died in 1964, but since 1981, seven people have written James Bond books, including 14 by John Gardner.

Eighty-one percent of people say they have a book in them, but not everyone is a writer. They have the idea for a book and really want to write it but don’t know how to organize their time and finances — it takes a lot of time and money to write a book — to get it done. They also might be scared to try because they know they’re not writers, and they fear their book will be ridiculed, or their idea isn’t really worth a book.

Or they try and write it themselves, and one of two things happen: Either they go off on too many tangents and don’t stay focused, or they don’t even know where to go next and .suffer writer’s block. Either way, they abandon the project. This helps explain why 97% of people who start a book never finish it.

But ghostwriters aren’t hired just to write books. They can also be hired to write website copy, speeches, ad and marketing copy, resumes, technical journals, blogs, social media posts —the list is nearly endless. Just about anything that wasn’t written by the named person was ghostwritten.

I used to write for newspapers, so I had a byline. Those stories were written by me. But since 2005, my name has appeared almost nowhere because I’ve turned to ghostwriting full-time.

Using a ghostwriter is ideal if the person has the story but needs somebody else to organize and find the right words. As a ghostwriter in Sacramento, that’s what I do. Contact me when you know your story idea is compelling and worth telling, but you need help telling it.

Let's Start A New Project Together

Contact me and we can explore how a ghostwriter or editor can benefit you.