Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ghostwriting -- the Ultimate Edit

Ghostwriting, as the name suggests, implies that the actual writer is unknown or not acknowledged. In other words, a ghostwriter pens a book for someone else, and that “someone else” gets credit for it.

What do ghostwriting and editing have in common?

Ghostwriting turns a writer’s raw manuscript (notes, research, etc.) into a polished book. Working from whatever material the “author” provides, the ghostwriter develops the topic (or story) and creates a smooth, cohesive, interesting—perhaps even compelling—book that could become a bestseller, for which the “author” (a.k.a. employer) takes credit.

Substantive editing addresses a number of the same areas: flow, continuity, holes, gluts of unnecessary information and information dumps, reordering (or even removing) text, rewriting, and so forth. This work parallels much of what the ghostwriter does when sorting through, researching, ordering, and presenting the “writer’s” information.

Despite the absense of real-writer credit, ghostwriting is not without its rewards. Many celebrities and other well-known persons want to write a book, but circumstances (lack of time or writing ability for example) dictate that they hire a ghostwriter. This type of writing pays very well—minimally more that $10,000 and perhaps even over $100,000 per project. That’s tempting money for writers who are struggling with sales their own works to make ends meet.

For authors who want or need to consider a ghostwriter—or for any who may be interested in becoming a ghostwriter—one or more of the following Web sites may be helpful. This list does not constitute a recommendation, but rather offers source material that needs to be evaluated by the writer.


Linda Lane is a writer/editor/publisher who promotes excellence in independently published and self-published books. Editor and designer of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association newsletter, she urges all writers to work with a competent editor before taking their books to press.

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  1. Yes, there are a lot of name authors out there offering ghostwriting services!

  2. All that work and no glory. Seems a shame, but maybe the money is good.

    Morgan Mandel

  3. Very interesting post, Linda. Thanks for the links, too.

    It's more fun to see your own name on a book, but it's also fun to deposit a check in the bank.

    Straight From Hel

  4. Thanks for this post Linda. I have been a professional ghostwriter for more than 16 years and it is a rewarding career. Just FYI - you list a few ghostwriting services in the post and I thought you might want to be aware that in his book "The Fine Print of Self-Publishing", Mark Levine lists Arbor Books as a "Publisher to Avoid", including their ghostwriting services. (However, I have no first-hand personal experience.)

  5. It would have to be a very big cheque. I have too many of my own books I'd rather be writing.

  6. I've done a couple of projects for others, although not celebrities that could pay as much as quoted here, but enough that it was worth a couple months of my time. In some ways I hated that my name was not attached, but I just considered it a work for hire, put the money in the bank and went on to write something I could put my name on.

  7. I read that Hilary Clinton's ghost writer received $250,000 for her contribution, but that was but a mere drip in the bucket compared to the millions of dollars in advance Ms. Clinton received for publishing her memoirs or whatever drivel it was. :) I could use $250,000...matter of fact, I could use $2.50. *lol*

  8. Thank you for the heads-up on Arbor Books, Laura. I know nothing about the credibility of the sites I listed, which is why I didn't recommend any of them. If anyone knows anything about the others I mentioned--or if you have any other recommendations based on knowledge or experience, please share with all of us. Thanks much!

  9. I've been a ghostwriter for over 10 years now, and although sometimes my ego whines a bit because I get no credit or glory, I Love My Job! I feel honored that people share their stories and ideas with me, and allow me to present them to the world. Just because someone is not a writer does not mean they don't have stories or ideas that are worthy of a book. The fact that ghostwriting is an expensive service makes their trust in me even more of an honor. I am now working on a class on ghostwriting for other writers who want to try their hand at this immensely satisfying field.

    Kim Pearson


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.