With the decline of long-form journalism, magazines, and the newspaper industry, many writers have turned to careers as ghostwriters. Ghostwriters are increasingly seen as a vital part of the publishing industry. With so many celebrities bringing out ghostwritten memoirs and autobiographies, do ghostwriters actually write the whole book?

Ghostwriters write the entire book unless the clients specifically hire them only to write part of a complete work. They conduct interviews, research, and fact-check as necessary for a professional piece of writing. They also create and revise a manuscript that meets the client’s approval.

Ghostwriters collaborate with their clients and transform their experiences and vision into professionally written manuscripts for publishing. They then credit the client with authorship of the novel and usually accept a flat fee for their services or ask for hourly rates. If you are interested in what a ghostwriter does and how much work they do in creating their client’s published works, please read on. 

Ghostwriters Are Responsible For All Of the Written Content

While a ghostwriter’s client may provide interviews and information regarding the content, the ghostwriter is largely responsible for creating the written work from start to finish. Although most ghostwriters will outsource an editor for the final draft, they create the written work in its entirety, from outline to last revision. 

Ghostwriters write a lot of the words themselves and create their client’s written works from the layout to the revised and completed manuscript. Through collaboration and research, the ghostwriter transforms information and data regarding their content into a publishable and professional book

Although a client provides much of the information in the finished piece, the ghostwriter arranges the data and communicates the information in a professional manner. 

They bring extensive knowledge of the writing craft to transform raw information into a literary work.

Ghostwriters are usually incredibly versatile and can also mimic other authors’ writing styles to ghostwrite fiction. Often we will never know if it was a ghostwriter that penned some of our favorite novels, as the writer behind the works never claims credit. 

Ghostwriter Job Description 

A ghostwriter contributes to the creation of a literary or journalistic work that another writer then takes authorship of. Ghostwriting can take a variety of forms, including:

  • Speeches
  • Memoirs
  • Autobiographies
  • Magazine articles
  • Screenplays.

A Ghostwriter’s Duties

What are some of the duties that a ghostwriter has? Here are some of them:

  • Preliminary interviews: This stage is where the client communicates the vision, guidelines, and content they wish the ghostwriter to cover. The interviews may be pretty in-depth, depending on the project.
  • Original research and fact-checking: Once the ghostwriter has a clear outline of the client’s subject matter and guidelines to follow, they will spend time fact-checking, reading, and outlining their task.
  • Preparing a rough draft manuscript: The ghostwriter will then prepare a rough draft that matches or exceeds the word count stipulated by the client.
  • Revision stage: A ghostwriter will typically make two rounds of client-supervised revisions before submitting the final draft.
  • Editing/formatting: Depending on the level of the ghostwriter, they will typically hire an external editor to shape and polish their final manuscript.

Reasons Why Clients Hire Ghostwriters

Politicians or celebrities often hire ghostwriters to write their memoirs or autobiographies. People hire a ghostwriter for the following reasons.

The Client Does Not Have Sufficient Time 

The client is a busy public figure and does not have the time to write their own work. Often state figures and celebrities hardly ever have the downtime to hack out a novel or memoir. 

Busy CEOs and even Popes often hire non-official ghostwriters to fulfill their literary output.

Renowned authors are not above slipping in a ghostwritten novel amongst their own works, although these instances are sometimes closely guarded secrets. Other writers, such as Tom Clancy, openly used a bevy of ghostwriters, but are open enough to credit their contributions. 

The Ghostwriting Client Does Not Have Sufficient Writing Skills

Writing well is not an easy task, and many celebrities, athletes, and politicians lack the literary skills to communicate themselves via the written word adequately. Rather than create a poor piece of writing, these figures collaborate closely with writers to combine their life experiences with professional writers’ skills.

The Client Wants To Maximize Their Literary Output

Authors who write series-style books often benefit from ghostwriters who can professionally “mimic” their voice and writing style. Ghostwriters in these situations aid the author in creating works more consistently and efficiently than they can on their own.

With the rise of digital nonfiction, many brands seek ghostwriters to increase their reach, and the best way to do it is to keep creating trending online content. 

In these cases, ghostwriters are an essential part of sustaining productivity.  

Why Don’t More Ghostwriters Reveal Themselves?

More ghostwriters don’t reveal themselves because they are contractually obligated to nondisclosure agreements before commencing writing. These contracts legally bind the ghostwriter to anonymity and relinquish their rights to their ghostwritten work, including film, foreign and audio rights. 

Make sure to contact a lawyer before acting on any legal information contained in this article as we are not lawyers.

When a ghostwriter enters into a contract with a client, they legally have no claim to the work published in the client’s name. All rights revert to the person’s name under which the book is published and typically the ghostwriter is legally bound to a nondisclosure agreement.

Often ghostwriters write for themselves at the same time as writing for others. 

Their clients may be high profile and better known than themselves, and they stand to make more money that way. In these cases, anonymity works in the ghostwriter’s favor and makes them reluctant to reveal themselves. 

Closing Thoughts

There are many reasons why professional writers turn to ghostwriting as a career, and it’s often not the exploitative process that many people believe it to be. Some ghostwriters command top dollar for their craft and happily forgo celebrity for behind-the-scenes revenue.

Although the ghostwriter is responsible for writing the entire book, many are happy to accept their understated role for adequate remuneration. In fact, as more public figures open up about the scribe behind their names, ghostwriting is seen as more of a collaboration than exploitation. 

Categories: Publishing

Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol 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.