Blogger: Wendy Lawton
So. . . what about ghostwriting, anyway?
Last week when I wrote about strategies for reinventing oneself as a writer several of you asked questions about ghostwriting and I promised you a blog dedicated to the subject. As I began sketching out my thoughts, I realized one blog post won’t do. I’m going to break the subject up into three parts. Today I’ll discuss the practice of ghostwriting. Next Tuesday I’ll talk about what you need to be a ghostwriter. And the following Tuesday I’ll address how a ghostwriter does his apprenticeship and how he ultimately finds work.
So let’s talk about ghostwriting. First of all, I’m using the term ghostwriting for simplicity. Ghostwriting means writing someone’s story without receiving byline or cover credit. Collaborative writing means co-writing with the “author” of the book where the collaborator still writes the book but receives cover credit– either “and” or “with” credit. You see this on many books. Charles Colson with Nancy Pearcy, for example. Both ghostwriting and collaborating require similar skills and both are needed in publishing.
On last week’s blog someone commented, “If someone buys a book because they think it was written by a famous person but it was actually ghostwritten they’ve been cheated and that’s dishonest.” Let me address that. When it comes to nonfiction, I disagree. A good ghostwriter interviews, listens, reads everything ever written about his subject– the one we call the author. Yes, the one whose story is being told is the author even if he never writes a word of the book. The words all come from his life so it is not a stretch to call him the author of all that is in the book.
The ghostwriter is a servant in the best sense of the word. So is the editor for that matter and yet you never hear criticism for not having an editor’s name on the cover of a book despite that, in many cases, a good substantive editor will reshape a whole book. The ghostwriter doesn’t mind who gets credit, he is all about helping the author get his ideas on the page or to get his story told.
Some wonder why a publisher or author prefers a ghostwriter over a collaborative writer. Here are a few reasons:
- I’ve ghosted four nonfiction books. (No, I’m not telling which ones.) The reason I chose to stay in the background? I don’t want to confuse my own brand. I want to be known as an agent first. Some also know me as a writer of middle grade historical fiction. That’s enough.
- If the author is a well-known name– say a celebrity or a known personality— it reduces confusion to have only one name on the cover.
- It may be a brand issue. If Donald Trump were the author, say, a second name would only drain his brand.
- The ghostwriter may not want his name on the book if the author has a different take on things.
- The publisher may simply insist on a ghostwriter.
So my question for you is, what about ghostwriting? Do you think it’s dishonest in some way? Let’s hash it out.
What’s the story on ghostwriting? Click to Tweet
Ghostwriting pros and cons. Click to Tweet