Ask the Coach: what does a ghostwriter do?

Ask the Coach, Beth Mende Conny: What does a ghostwriter do?

Q. What does a ghostwriter do?

A. Generally, a ghostwriter is a hired hand who writes a book, article, blog or some other work in someone else’s name. That someone is considered the “author.”

The ghostwriter and author agree verbally or in writing on the scope of the work, who will get credit for it, and if and how profits will be assigned. Projects vary, as does the relationship between the parties. Using books as an example:

  • The ghost is invisible, namely, anonymous, although he/she is sometimes mentioned in the acknowledgements (by name, not necessarily by role).
  • The ghost appears on a book cover as an “and” or “with,” signifying that the book is a joint effort. Joint doesn’t mean equal, however. The ghost may well have done the lion’s share of writing, but it the author who has the credentials or notoriety that attracts publishers and readers.

You can tell much about the relationship between the ghost and author by whose name appears larger on the book cover. Another indication: the bio information on the back flap or last page of a book. Are both given equal play?

The ghost may well have done the lion’s share of writing, but it is the author who has the credentials or notoriety that attracts publishers and readers. For this reason, ghostwriters sometimes approach experts, suggesting that they work together.

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