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. That’s what I do, so contact me when you know your story idea is compelling and worth telling, but you need help telling it.

Lee Barnathan

Lee Barnathan

Imagine cradling your book in your arms. See yourself thumbing through the pages, reading the words, recognizing that what’s contained therein is your story, laid out for all to see. This symbol of your life is part catharsis and part healing. Your journey is complete, and you’ve reached the people who needed to hear your story.

You have a story that just has to be told. If you don’t get it out of your head, you will regret it. You know that if people just could tap into the wisdom that's inside you, their lives would change for the better.

You’ve probably been feeling like you need to sit down and get it on paper. But you haven’t made it a priority. Maybe it’s because you hate writing or you don’t consider yourself a writer. Perhaps the thought of you dedicating hours a day to organizing and writing your story is too overwhelming when piled on top of life’s demands.

Or maybe you’re beset with terror: "What if my story isn’t interesting or compelling enough to reach a wide audience? Am I good enough to tell it? Can I make it irresistible, a must-read?"

You're not alone. The vast majority of people who have experienced what life has to offer have a story to tell that’s worthwhile, unique and compelling, but they never get to do it for a wider audience.

Why is it so hard? Why are you like the 97% of people who start their book don’t finish it? There is a world of difference between having the story in your head and being able to get it down on paper.

What most people don’t realize is that having the story and writing the story require two different skill sets.

The more worthwhile and compelling your story is, the more critical it is to have a professional writer give it the treatment it deserves so it will touch lives in the way you envision. That’s why it’s so important to partner with a specialist who’s an expert in the art of storytelling. Your story is too important to leave to an amateur.

Let's start a new project together.

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