Ghostwriters in the Sky
What is a Ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter is a person who writes all or part of an article, manuscript, or book without receiving any recognition for their writing. The ghostwriter completes the assignment for a set fee and, once paid, they own no further rights or interest in the piece of writing.
So Who Gets The Kudos For Their Work? And Why?
The work may be attributed to a generic name chosen by the person publishing the piece (someone who does not actually exist but who the publisher has created as a viable entity) or it may be attributed to a real person who now will pose as the author of the work.
Numerous celebrities have produced biographies due to the demand for such works but often these stars are not writers nor do they pretend to be. In these cases, they enlist the services of a ghostwriter to create the book. Sometimes the hirer works closely with the ghostwriter to craft the writing and sometimes the ghostwriter is left entirely to their own devices.
So why would a ghostwriter allow their work to be owned by someone else? Ghostwriting is a job like any other. The benefit of ghostwriting is that you can treat the assignment as a task to be completed, you get paid, and then you can forget about. The ghostwriter does not have to bother about marketing, reviews, or anything else which follows the publication of the writing assignment. And a good ghostwriter can make a very livable wage from their profession.
I Still Don't Get It. A Ghostwriter Could Be Famous - Why Are They Doing This?
As stated previously, producing words is a job. And some people are very good at producing words but they feel no need to have ownership of the words they have strung together.
I spent several months ghostwriting for a company selling (in their words) "white label SEO services". In this role, I was handed random assignments on topics ranging from exotic wood to baby blankets to Las Vegas weddings to the latest model SUVs, and I was required to write SEO-friendly articles on each topic for different websites. These articles were then passed to the purchasers to feature on their website as if someone from within their company had written them (or, a generic person's name was attributed to the writing of the article). The work was varied and interesting but it required a lot of research. However, once the article was done I could collect my pay and walk away from it. I felt no need to own any of these articles and I certainly wasn't interested in associating my name with them.
Besides, it's all writing practice and a ghostwriter is basically getting paid to hone their craft. They find out what works and what doesn't and what their audience is seeking. Works for me!
Famous Ghostwritten Works
Remember the hugely popular R L Stine Goosebumps and Fear Street Sagas books of the 1990's and early 2000's? Wikipedia states that several of these books were ghostwritten and several authors have stepped forward to claim that they wrote some of them. R L Stine claimed to have written all the books himself, in which case he is a very prolific writer - but some people are. Not everyone takes two years to create a manuscript so the jury is out on this one.
American Sniper (subsequently made into an Oscar-nominated film) was written with the help of two ghostwriters.
Keith Richard, co-founder of the Rolling Stones, hired a ghostwriter to pen his biography, Life. The book became a national bestseller.
James Patterson's books are frequently placed on the New York Times bestseller lists but he has never denied that he utilizes ghostwriters to create some of his books.