Ever wonder how famous authors manage to continuously publish new novels, year after year, to a seemingly endless success? Could it be that these literary heavyweights use ghostwriters to produce their best-selling, list-topping, millions-making titles for them? It certainly would explain a few things for the rest of us.

Some famous authors do use ghostwriters, yet many don’t. Still, this typically isn’t public knowledge unless the author shares it. Often, ghostwriters are legally required not to take credit for publications, and well-known authors are unwilling to admit they hire ghostwriters for help.

Ghostwriters are prevalent and utilized more often than you might think. Keep reading to learn how common it is for famous authors to use ghostwriters and if any of your favorite writers have a secret pen working behind the scenes! 

Why Authors Use Ghostwriters

Ghostwriting can get a bad rap at times, as some tend to think of it as “someone writes a book, but credit goes to someone else.”

A ghostwriter is better described as a creative assistant, in a way, who helps to bring an author’s ideas to fruition. These professionals support the author’s processes and expand artistic visions to help bring character to life and provide details to a general storyline. 

Generally speaking, authors stand to gain several benefits from hiring a ghostwriter, including potentially becoming famous. 

Here are some of the more common reasons authors use ghostwriters:

  • Ghostwriters make the writing process more manageable. Not everyone has outstanding writing skills, which is why a ghostwriter can be very useful. Still, even those who are crafty with words can benefit from having someone to help when writer’s block strikes.
  • Ghostwriters help save time and resources. Having a ghostwriter to help with research and the general workload can help significantly to improve productivity and the overall quality of an author’s story. Notably, ghostwriters spend their entire work day on a single task, which is writing, and stay focused on getting the job done.
  • Ghostwriters help to build a brand quicker. High-level business professionals may hire a ghostwriter to publish stories monthly or once a quarter to help promote and develop their brand. A great ghost can also help amplify a company leader’s voice. If done well, it doesn’t matter who is writing, as the message is what’s important.
  • Ghostwriters know how to write what sells. Consider the quality control that comes with a ghostwriter. Since much of their success depends on knowing and understanding audience trends, ghostwriters know what sells and, just as importantly, what doesn’t. They can help ensure your story includes the latest themes, personalities, and other hot topics currently in demand with readers. 
  • Ghostwriters create authentic content. Plagiarism benefits no one, and it certainly doesn’t pay the bills. Besides, ghostwriters aren’t trying to manufacture recycled content in the author’s name. Instead, they’re paid to create authentic content in the author’s likeness. And since the ghostwriter’s livelihood hinges on the author’s success, there tends to be a commitment to deliver the goods. 
  • Ghostwriters know SEO. When it comes to marketing, ghostwriters understand SEO and know how to utilize it for optimizing content writing. Ultimately, this can lead to more website traffic or ebook sales.
  • Ghostwriters are knowledgeable professionals. They can help with all aspects of writing, including developing ideas and delivering clear messages. Throughout the process, they often act as a sounding board, while having the prowess to transform brainstorming sessions into superb content. 

Famous Authors Who Use Ghostwriters

It’s fairly well-known that many entertainers, professional athletes, politicians, and other prominent figures use ghostwriters 99.9% of the time for their biographies, memoirs, and tell-all books, even if they don’t admit it. Although, publishers have been known to spill the beans on some less-than-truthful celebrities claiming to have written their books themselves.

Moreover, ghostwriters are sworn to secrecy not to reveal themselves as the actual author of a title, restrained by legal binding potentially for life. Still, while they may not always get credited with their work, those haunting secrets are hard to bury and known to escape the crypt on occasion. 

Famous Celebrities and Politicians Who Allegedly May Have Used Ghostwriters

  • Ashley Judd
  • Chip and Joanna Gains
  • David Beckham
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Hilary Duff
  • Hillary Clinton
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Laura Bush
  • Leah Remini
  • Nicole Ritchie
  • Pamela Anderson
  • Pete Wentz 
  • Ronald Reagan

Well-Publicized Alleged Ghosts

  • Carolyn Keene: The Nancy Drew mystery stories (“Carolyn Keene” is actually a pseudonym under which a team of ghostwriters built this brand).
  • Alexandre Dumas: Famous author of The Count of Monte Cristo and Three Musketeers faced legal battles with at least one known ghostwriter.
  • Raymond Benson: Best known for his titles in the James Bond books and the spy-thriller franchise, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.
  • Peter Lerangis: Young adult novel fans may be familiar with Lerangis, but many don’t know that he also ghosted many books for tweens, including titles for The Babysitters Club as well as the Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High collections.

Authors Who Became Famous Then Allegedly May Have Used Ghostwriters To Help Meet Demand

  • Robert Ludlum: The Jason Bourne Series
  • Ian Flemming: The James Bond novels
  • R.L Stine: The Goosebumps series
  • Tom Clancy: Many ghostwriters have been hired for various projects related to Tom Clancy novels.
  • James Patterson: “Co-authors” often get some credit for these works.
  • Michael Crichton: Notably, only books published posthumously in Crichton’s name may have been ghostwritten in his style using detailed notes found after his passing. He didn’t have a ghostwriter while alive.

Conclusion

When authors create literature resulting in a mass of fans, it’s pretty common for them to hire ghostwriters to help with the heavy workload.

Ghostwriting is an accepted routine and, indeed, an essential part of the writing world, with many available writing jobs posted as ghostwriting gigs, perhaps more now than ever. In fact, with good networking and dedication in collaboration, you could find yourself as the ghost behind the next airport bookstore sensation!

Categories: Publishing

Oliver Adams

Letter Review was founded by Oliver Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Oliver Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. He has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.