A writer who is paid to write articles, books, reports, stories, website material or other content which is officially credited to another person is called a ghostwriter. Political leaders, celebrities, website owners, and executives often hire ghostwriters to draft or edit their written material.
In music, ghostwriters are used in classical music, film score composition, and popular music such as top 40, country, and hip-hop. Sometimes the author acknowledges the writing services of the ghostwriters.
How Does Ghostwriting Work?
The division of work between the ghostwriter and the credited author varies a great deal. In some cases, the ghostwriter is hired to polish and edit a rough draft or a mostly completed manuscript. In this case, the outline, ideas and much of the language in the finished book or article are those of the credited author.
In other cases, a ghostwriter does most of the writing, using concepts and stories provided by the credited author. In this case, a ghostwriter will do extensive research on the credited author or their subject area of expertise. Seldom does a ghostwriter compile a complete project with no input at all from the credited author; at a minimum, the credited author usually jots down a basic framework of ideas at the outset or provides comments on the ghostwriter’s final draft.
For an autobiography, a ghostwriter will interview the credited author, their colleagues, and family members, and find interviews, articles, and video footage about the credited author or their work. For other types of nonfiction books or articles, a ghostwriter will interview the credited author and review previous speeches, articles, and interviews with the credited author, to assimilate his or her arguments and points of view.
Ghostwriters are hired for numerous reasons. As is often the case, public figures and celebrities cannot possibly have the time or writing skills to write a “how to” book or autobiography.
Even if a celebrity or public figure has the writing skills to pen a short article, they may not know how to structure and edit a several-hundred page book so that it is captivating and well-paced. In other cases, publishers use ghostwriters to increase the number of books that can be published each year under the name of well-known, highly marketable authors.
Payment and Credit for Ghostwriters
Ghostwriters will often spend from several months to a full year researching, writing, and editing nonfiction works for a client, and they are paid either per page, with a flat fee, or a percentage of the royalties of the sales, or some combination thereof.
Ghostwriters can charge anything from 10 cents to $4 per word – often more – depending on the writer’s reputation and skills, and the detail required of the article.
Sometimes the ghostwriter will receive partial credit on a book, signified by the phrase “with…” or “as told to…” on the cover. Credit for the ghostwriter may also be provided as a “thanks” in a foreword or introduction. Sometimes the ghostwriter of nonfiction books will be credited as a “research assistant” or “contributor”.
In other cases, the ghostwriter receives no official credit for writing a book or article; in cases where the credited author or the publisher or both wish to conceal the ghostwriter’s role, the ghostwriter may be asked to sign a nondisclosure contract that forbids him or her from revealing his or her ghostwriting role.
Types of Ghostwriting
Whatever the genre of writing being published, there is the opportunity for the work to be ghostwritten. These include: