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What is a Ghost Writer?

By Garry Crystal
Updated Feb 03, 2024
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A ghost writer is someone who writes a book or articles for someone else. He or she is paid a sum of money to write the material needed and hand it over to the payee. The person who has paid for the work will then assign his name or someone else’s name to claim the work as his own.

There are numerous reasons why someone may employ a ghost writer. Many celebrities from the media or sports world hire one to write their biographies. The celebrity may not have the time or the word skills required to complete a book on her own. Someone may also have the idea for a novel or an interesting life story, but may not have the experience to put it down into words.

One of the biggest skills a ghost writer needs is the ability to grasp the personality of the person he is writing for. If the writer is writing for a celebrity, she must have the ability to take on the celebrity's manner. The finished book must read as if the celebrity had written it. He or she must be able to highlight the important parts of the life of the person he is writing about. This may take the form of interviewing the person many times during the time it takes to write the book.

It is not just celebrity biographies that get ghost written. Basically, anything that can be written and sold can be ghost written. Companies can farm out the content writing of their brochures or websites to ghost writers. The finished product should look as if it has been written by someone who either owns the company or knows the running of the company inside and out.

Many reporters sell stories to a number of newspapers to be used as if the newspaper reported on the story. Politicians often use a ghost writer to write their speeches for them. It is usually a case of the writer having the skills and word dexterity to assist the person she is writing for.

Ghost writing is a big part of the film business. Scriptwriters sometimes bring in uncredited writers to help polish a script. In some cases, entire scripts are sold to other people to be used under the buyer's name.

The work of a ghost writer is a two-way deal. The writer is able to use his writing skills and earn money for them. In a lot of cases, such writers are able to earn a reasonable sum of money and do something they love, writing.

Fees for a good ghost writer can vary. These writers not only have to be excellent writers, but at many times, good sales people. Large sums of money can be made from writing for celebrities, but writing for companies and websites can also bring in a decent wage. Remember, though, once the book is on the shelf, you can not take any of the credit for it.

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Discussion Comments

By anon324113 — On Mar 08, 2013

I think that some people don't want the credit or are simply good at writing down other people's thoughts and just want that little extra pay. Personally, I wouldn't be able to be a ghost writer because I want the fame and credit for my work.

By anon153148 — On Feb 16, 2011

My opinion is that ghost writing is simply another instance of deceit by people who can use dishonest other people to line their own pockets. The first sin was the first liar.

By FrameMaker — On Sep 01, 2010

@ Glasshouse & GlassAxe- there is also a risk for those who hire ghostwriters for things like blogging, tweeting, and even writing reports.

One of the most important aspects of marketing oneself is controlling the message. A good ghostwriter will be conscious of the overall message that someone is trying to convey to his or her fans, boss, coworkers, etc. If the wrong message is published, the individual who hired the ghostwriter will suffer the consequences.

In the case of research ghostwriters, the accuracy of the message is equally as important. If the research is flawed or inaccurate, then the professional’s reputation is damaged.

Hiring a ghostwriter does not mean you can skip out on the responsibility of controlling your message. Regardless of how talented a ghostwriter is important messages should always be proofread and edited. It is hard to tell your fans that you are retracting something you said because you didn't actually write it.

By Glasshouse — On Sep 01, 2010

@ GlassAxe- Many everyday professionals often hire ghostwriters or ghostwriter services to do research writing for them. They will hire writers to write reports for them. Once these reports are written, they will review the reports for accuracy change the report to personalize it. The ghostwriters save these professionals valuable time, allowing them to focus their energy on more important tasks.

These ghostwriters are often paid by the piece, and if the piece is published online, the writer may be paid a bonus for the number of hits and comments the article receives.

By GlassAxe — On Aug 31, 2010

Many celebrities, professional athletes, and musicians hire a ghostwriter to write blog posts, update social networking sites, and tweet for them. In a society so consumed with instant communication, fans have come to expect their favorite athletes and celebrities to blog or tweet about their life. This can be a time consuming activity, so many celebrities hire people to become part of their entourage and update their fans.

There was even an article about modern ghostwriters (I think it was in Entrepreneur magazine or fast company). Ghost writing has become a niche occupation for professional writers/marketers. They often have a regular clientele that they ghostwrite for, and who share similar personality traits.

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