Demystifying the Supernatural Job Description: Ghostwriters and Where to Find Them

Posted on July 16, 2014


images I used to think ghostwriters were mysterious creatures who visited authors while they slept and wrote books for them. The reality is not much different, though ghostwriters are significantly less enigmatic than they sound. The 2010 film The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski, depicts the story of a ghostwriter who is hired to write the British prime minister’s memoirs. In the process of researching, he discovers important secrets about the prime minister’s life. He also encounters several dilemmas while writing: Should he reveal the unfavorable truth, thereby risking ostracism from his employers and the entire British nation? Or should he turn a blind eye to the facts and simply produce what he was asked to write? I won’t spoil it, or Ewan McGregor’s stellar performance; you’ll have to see the film.

Though much dramatized in this particular instance, ghostwriters can deal with similar situations when they work with clients.

Ghostwriters are commissioned by those with good ideas, but who otherwise struggle to put those ideas into writing. These can range from busy and popular writers who scramble to create content as fast as the market demands, to those with time-consuming jobs, like CEOs and presidents. For example, Ronald Regan employed a ghostwriter to pen his autobiography while he served his term in office.

An added benefit to enlisting a ghostwriter is his or her ability to translate a client’s personality onto paper, perhaps better than the client is capable of doing him or herself. As a writer of a few memoir pieces and personal essays, I can attest to the difficulty of constructing oneself on paper. Especially in a memoir, writers need to create a self that is not necessarily their entire self, but an aspect of their self that fits the purpose of the memoir. Ghostwriters can act as ventriloquists for their authors by speaking through the author’s persona and interpreting his or her voice.
You may question using a ghostwriter at all, but it is important to remember that ghostwriting has grown so common among popular authors and CEO-types, that it should not be considered an underground or dishonest collaboration. Occasionally, ghostwriters are even credited for their work as an “editor” and are given a small percentage of the profit from a book’s sales.
Ghostwriters have even described their job as earning “easy money,” as most ghostwriters get paid a large amount for each book or article they produce for their clients.

Ghostwriters will usually conduct interviews with potential clients to understand both what the client’s book or article is about as well as what type of voice the client should present. They might start by writing a chapter with the author in order to test the compatibility of the ghostwriter/author working relationship. Once a ghostwriter has been hired, he or she will write rough drafts, share them with the client, and work with the client to ensure progression of the book or article. The relationship between ghostwriter and client is beneficial. The client no longer has to agonize about finding the time to write a whole book, and the ghostwriter is recompensed for time and skills.

While reading about ghostwriters and their work, I found myself thinking about Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and his pre-band days as a session guitarist. In the early ’60s, Page recorded overdubs for bands whenever they needed someone in the studio. He also wrote jingles for companies, but was not necessarily credited for his work. He was a ghost guitar player for the music industry. After a few years, Page got depressed by the pattern and process of session work and repetitive jingles and wanted to create something of his own.

The ghostwriter Demian Farnworth felt similarly when he was “ghost wrote” articles for nine months and found he wanted more authority over his writing. Name recognition can seem small, but it meant everything to Page and Farnworth. Ghostwriting isn’t for all writers; it can render some uncreative and uninterested in their work if they are not receiving attention for it.
Ghostwriters can be easily located via the internet, more specifically through the Association of Ghostwriters. This is a good place for ghostwriters and clients to connect. Other groups include Gotham Ghostwriters and Ghostwriters Ink. Ghostwriters can be found with publishing companies as well, but more often they work as freelance writers.

Since ghostwriters need to be invested in their work to create a well-written product for the author, it’s important to find a good ghostwriter who collaborates well with you. Without a beneficial working relationship, you would be better off writing the book on your own.

Anine Sus, Writer and Editor, Asta Publications

Asta Publications has a long history of helping writers tell their stories and get published. Since 2004, Asta Publications has helped hundreds of authors bring their book concepts to life and we are ready to help you too! Our dedication to our authors is unmatched. We deliver first-class products and services that are accurate, high quality, and exceed our authors’ expectations.

Posted in: Publishing