for the Writers

In Defense of Ghostwriters

Awhile ago Olivia J. guest-posted on my blog about concerns with the idea of ghostwriters, while I posted my defense of ghostwriters on her blog.

Check out Olivia’s reservations about ghostwriting, and then see why I think ghostwriting has an important place in the literary universe:


What makes ghostwriters the bomb-diggety:

Ghostwriters aren’t quite ghosts, sadly. But they’re still more or less supernatural in their capabilities! They’re the undercover secret agents of the writing world. The trained, the elite, the you-never-saw-it-coming – the ghostwriters 🙂

  • Us regular writers take years of writing to find our own voice
  • Ghostwriters are shapeshifters, finding the unique voice of each person they are writing for


  • Us regular writers mostly write something we’re passionate about
  • Ghostwriters use a magical spell to transfer your passion into their words. Your passion is infectious and as it seeps into them, topics or stories the ghostwriter may have never been passionate about are suddenly passionately written! Teamwork 🙂


  • Us regular writers might be considered semi-narcissistic – speaking of myself here mostly 😉 They devote their life to making their own dreams come true
  • Ghostwriters are fairygodmothers, passionate about devoting their lives to making others dreams come true. How cool is that!


  • Us regular writers are clumsy and walk into doors and walls and lampposts
  • Ghostwriters are also clumsy, but at least they float right through the objects. Or wait, is that just ghosts?


Why readers should care about ghostwriting:

Readers should be ecstatic to support the existence of ghostwriters. Not only do ghosts make for great stories, but *ghostwriters* make for great stories. More quality stories will exist for readers when non-writers choose one of these three options:

1)      share their story in a medium they’re skilled and passionate in

2)      have the passion and take time to gain the skill of writing before putting the story out there

3)      hire a ghostwriter to marry their passion and knowledge of the content with the ghostwriter’s passion and skill for writing


The problem with ghostwriting:

Now here’s the horrid part about ghostwriters – as awesome as they are, they don’t get the credit. Hit the NYT bestsellers list, win the Pulitzer prize, get a movie deal – everyone applauds the author (the person who hired the ghostwriter.) The ghostwriter is, well, ghosted. They generally can’t even say they wrote it, because they *officially* didn’t.



So why does the person who hired the ghostwriter get to be the author? Why do they get credit?

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Scratch that. Ideas don’t cost a thing, in fact, us writers can’t turn them off. So no, a ghostwriter isn’t needing the idea from the author. But what we call the author, the person who hired the ghostwriter, they contribute much more than the idea.

The person called the “author” is in fact the author because it’s their brainchild, their knowledge, their story, their platform, their audience, their marketing, their voice, and their passion.

The ghostwriter alone generally won’t have all those things to get the book into the world as the book actually is. If the ghostwriter alone wrote the book, it may miss the knowledge of the topic or the direct experience with the story. Maybe if the ghostwriter alone wrote the book, it wouldn’t reach as large an audience. Maybe if the ghostwriter alone wrote the book, it wouldn’t have that unique voice, style, or tone. Maybe it would just lack passion.

So on that note, mad props to the author for making all this happen!


How to fix the discrepancy:

I get it. The author deserves a lot of credit for making this book happen. And also, the ghostwriter deserves a lot of credit for making this book happen. It takes two. It most definitely takes great skill for a ghostwriter to take all the author has to offer and turn it into a quality book. And it most definitely takes the author to make the book happen in the first place.

Here’s my proposal, the main thing I’d change about the concept of ghostwriting to give proper credit:

On any ghostwritten book, have the front cover say “Written by [name of supernatural ghostwriter person], Directed by [name of person who had the vision to make the book happen]”. We already do this for movies: listing actors, directors, producers, and all myriad of workers in the credits. Just do that for books with ghostwriters too – give them some credit for their kickbutt magical powers 🙂


What do you think?

What say you? Do you think ghostwriters as an entity should just be called “authors”? Or do you think ghostwriters have their place in the literary universe hidden behind the scenes? Share your thoughts in the comments, check out Olivia’s counter-argument, and join the convo 🙂


9 thoughts on “In Defense of Ghostwriters”

  1. I love the idea of using the credit formula for film. I think the shame needs to be taken out of the equation before people feel comfortable admitting they’ve used a ghostwriter. I have ideas for films that I’d love to make, but my skills aren’t there (at least not yet). If I had a director that could bring it to life, I’d be happy to hire someone to realize my vision and give them credit for the role that they played. i think that the standard of let me pretend I wrote this and take all the credit is antiquated.

    I remember reading a writer who worked as a ghostwriter talk about her sadness at ghostwriting 3 published books while still laboring to get her own published. I think it takes a lot of mental toughness to be a ghostwriter. I would much prefer to know the actual person who wrote what I’m reading and appreciate their skill while acknowledging the vision of the person who had it commissioned.

    1. Yes, I can so appreciate both sides of it – the ghostwriting and the official author – and it would be great to be able to give both credit in some way. And hey, I remember a ghostwriter blogging about that, I bet we’re both thinking of the same one who had that experience 🙂

  2. I love the idea of doing it movie style; written by [ghostwriter], directed by [idea person]! Great post on ghostwriting, it certainly allowed me a view into a world I’ve never really thought of before. 😀

  3. Good and honorable suggestion; however, the author with the brand name won’t want to dilute their brand. Rather, I suggest the branded author up front says the ghostie co-wrote the book like I see Eric Flint do with his books.

    The branded author is more likely to get other such writers come to him or her and better able to leverage their limited time and energy and produce more books.

    And we all know, the more books, the more opportunity to make money.

    1. Good points. I think usually the branding issue won’t be a problem for the author though, because think of all the hands on a movie, yet each person involved is still known for their own style. And the role of any ghostwriter already is to let it still be the author’s voice and not their own, so branding should be less of an issue I think. But a valid concern that could affect it.

      A coauthor is different though, with both putting their mark on something, where it’s not all you and not all them. It works with your brand, but has a different flavor too.

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