Writer’s Toolbox

Ask The Writer

Your most pressing and perplexing questions about writing answered here by Gotham teacher Brandi Reissenweber.

What is a ghostwriter?

Not everyone who has something important to share knows how to write well. That’s where ghostwriters come in—they are professional writers paid to write under the name of another person. Celebrities, politicians, and executives have been known to hire ghostwriters who can take their story and fashion it into a compelling narrative. Ghostwriting is most common with nonfiction books. The relationship is collaborative, and the distribution of work depends upon the specific people involved. Generally speaking, the credited author supplies the details and information while the ghostwriter develops and writes the text.

Ghostwriters usually go without public credit—their names do not appear on the cover of books. Occasionally, ghostwriters are indicated as co-writers, but more often they are named in the acknowledgments section of the book as a “contributor” or “researcher.” It’s quite common for a book to have no trace of its ghostwriter’s name at all; some people wish to conceal this hired help. Credit comes in the form of payment, which may be a flat fee or a percentage of the royalties.