A ghostwriter is a professional writer who is paid to write books, articles, stories, reports, or other content which are officially credited to another person. Celebrities, executives, and political leaders often hire ghostwriters to draft or edit autobiographies, magazine articles, or other written material. In music, ghostwriters are used in classical music, film score composition, and popular music such as top 40, country, and hip-hop. The ghostwriter is sometimes acknowledged by the author or publisher for his or her writing services.
For an autobiography, a ghostwriter will interview the credited author, their colleagues, and family members, and find interviews, articles, and video footage about the credited author or their work. For other types of nonfiction books or articles, a ghostwriter will interview the credited author and review previous speeches, articles, and interviews with the credited author, to assimilate his or her arguments and points of view.
Ghostwriters are hired for numerous reasons. In many cases, celebrities or public figures do not have the time, discipline, or writing skills to write and research a several-hundred page autobiography or "how-to" book. Even if a celebrity or public figure has the writing skills to pen a short article, they may not know how to structure and edit a several-hundred page book so that it is captivating and well-paced. In other cases, publishers use ghostwriters to increase the number of books that can be published each year under the name of well-known, highly marketable authors.
According to Ghostwriters Ink, a professional ghostwriting service, this flat fee is usually closer to an average of $12,000 to $28,000 per book. By hiring the ghostwriter for this negotiated price, the clients ultimately keep all advances and post-publishing royalties and profits for themselves.
In Canada, The Writers' Union has established a minimum fee schedule for ghostwriting. The total minimum fee for a 200-300 page book is $25,000, paid at various stages of the drafting of the book. Research fees are an extra charge on top of this minimum fee.
In Germany the average fee for a confidential ghostwriting service is about $100.00 per page.
There is a recent trend of outsourcing ghostwriting jobs to offshore locations like India, to save up to 80%. Outsourced ghostwriters whose qualities are at par with US, UK or Canadian ghostwriters, based in countries like India, complete 200-page books for fees ranging between $3000 and $5000, or $12–$18 per page. This sharp price cut in ghostwriters' fees is encouraging more outsourcing.
Sometimes the ghostwriter will receive partial credit on a book, signified by the phrase "with..." or "as told to..." on the cover. Credit for the ghostwriter may also be provided as a "thanks" in a foreword or introduction. For nonfiction books, the ghostwriter may be credited as a "contributor" or a "research assistant". In other cases, the ghostwriter receives no official credit for writing a book or article; in cases where the credited author or the publisher or both wish to conceal the ghostwriter's role, the ghostwriter may be asked to sign a nondisclosure contract that forbids him or her from revealing his or her ghostwriting role.
In some cases, such as with some "how-to" books, diet guides, or cookbooks, a book will be entirely written by a ghostwriter, and the celebrity (e.g., a well-known musician or sports star) will be credited as author. Publishing companies use this strategy to increase the marketability of a book by associating it with a celebrity or well-known figure. In several countries before elections, candidates commission ghostwriters to produce autobiographies for them so as to gain visibility and exposure. Two of John F. Kennedy's books were almost entirely ghostwritten. Most recently American presidential candidate John McCain used the aid of ghostwriters to produce his best-selling book. Former President Ronald Reagan also released a ghostwritten autobiography.
A consultant or career-switcher may pay to have a book ghostwritten on a topic in their professional area, to establish or enhance their credibility as an 'expert' in their field. For example, a successful salesperson hoping to become a motivational speaker on selling may pay a ghostwriter to write a book on sales techniques. Often this type of book is published in the vanity press, which means that the author is paying to have the book published. This type of book is typically given away to prospective clients as a promotional tool, rather than being sold in bookstores.
Additionally, publishers use ghostwriters to write new books for established series where the 'author' is a pseudonym. For example, the purported author of the Nancy Drew mystery series, "Carolyn Keene", is actually a pseudonym for a series of ghostwriters who write books in the same style using a template of basic information about the book's characters and their fictional universe (names, dates, speech patterns), and about the tone and style that are expected in the book. (For more information, see the articles on pseudonyms or pen names.) In addition, ghostwriters are often given copies of several of the previous books in the series to help them match the style.
The estate of romance novelist V. C. Andrews hired a ghostwriter to continue writing novels after her death, under her name and in a similar style to her original works. Many of action writer Tom Clancy's books from the 2000s bear the names of two people on their covers, with Clancy's name in larger print and the other author's name in smaller print. Various books bearing Clancy's name were written by different authors under the same pseudonym. The first two books in the Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell franchise were written by Raymond Benson under the pseudonym David Michaels.
However, if the response is being sent to a high-ranking official or member of society, a draft of the letter may be given to the head of state or their top advisers for approval—particularly if the letter deals with a politically sensitive issue. Public officials at lower levels, such as middle managers and department heads will often review, request changes in, and hand sign all outgoing correspondence, even though the initial drafts are composed by a correspondence officer or policy analyst.
Since members of the public are widely aware that politicians are not themselves writing routine response letters, it can be argued that these correspondence officers are not ghostwriters in the strictest sense of the term. Public officials may also have a speechwriter, who writes public remarks and speeches, or both jobs may be done by a single person.
Professional medical writers can write papers without being listed as authors of the paper and without being considered ghostwriters, provided their role is acknowledged. The European Medical Writers Association have published guidelines which aim to ensure professional medical writers carry out this role in an ethical and responsible manner. The use of properly acknowledged medical writers is accepted as legitimate by organisations such as the World Association of Medical Editors and the British Medical Journal. Moreover, professional medical writers' expertise in presenting scientific data may be of benefit in producing better quality papers.
Most pharmaceutical companies have in-house publication managers who may either manage the writing of publications on the company's drugs by a team of in-house medical writers or contract them out to medical communication companies or freelance medical writers. Reprints of the articles can be distributed to doctors in their offices or at medical meetings by drug company reps in lieu of product brochures, which might be illegal, if they were to otherwise advocate use of the drug for nonapproved indications or dosages. Payments to medical ghostwriters may be augmented with consulting contracts, paid trips to teach continuing medical education courses, or grants. The academics or doctors are known as "KOLs" ("Key Opinion Leaders") or "TLs" "Thought Leaders").
New blog operators hoping to generate interest in their blog site sometimes hire ghostwriters to post comments to their blog, while posing as different people and using pseudonyms. With more posts and more comments, it is more likely that a blog will have more key words which will bring up the blog during a search engine's search. Once a blog gets more traffic, eventually the number of 'real' posts may increase, and the blog ghostwriters may no longer be needed. While companies providing blog ghostwriters claim that falsely attributed postings are a legitimate marketing tactic, the practice has been deemed unacceptable by a major US paper, The Los Angeles Times. The Times fired Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik for fabricating postings in his blog using alternate 'identities' ("sockpuppets", in internet jargon).
Some celebrities, CEOs, or public figures set up blog websites as a marketing, public relations, or lobbying tool. However, since these individuals are typically too busy to write their blog posts, they hire discreet ghostwriters to post to the blog under the celebrity or CEO's name. As with nonfiction ghostwriting, the blog ghostwriter models their writing style, content and tone on that of the credited author.
Universities have developed several strategies to combat this type of academic fraud. Some professors require students to submit electronic versions of their term papers, so that the text of the essay can be compared against databases of essays that are known to be plagiarized, 'essay mill' term papers. Other universities allow professors to give students oral examinations on papers which a professor believes to be 'ghostwritten'; if the student is unfamiliar with the content of an essay that they have submitted, then the student can be charged with academic fraud.
Musical ghostwriting also occurs in popular music. When a record company wants to market an inexperienced young singer as a singer-songwriter, or help a veteran bandleader coping with writer's block (or a lack of motivation to finish the next album), an experienced songwriter may be discreetly brought in to help. In other cases, a ghostwriter writes lyrics and a melody in the style of the credited musician, with little or no input from the credited musician. A ghostwriter providing this type of service may be thanked, without reference to the service provided, in the album credits, or they may be a true 'ghost', with no acknowledgement in the album. Legal disputes have arisen when musical ghostwriters have tried to claim royalties, when an allegedly ghostwritten song becomes a money-making hit. Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan had a lengthy legal dispute with a musician, Darryl Neudorf, who claimed that he had made a significant and uncredited ghostwriting contribution to the songwriting on her debut album Touch in the late 1980s.
In hip-hop music, the increasing use of ghostwriters by high-profile hip-hop stars has led to controversy, because "Rapping is about you expressing yourself through your own words, not someone else’s. Eye Weekly reported that MC Rhymefest did ghostwriting for Kanye West and Ol' Dirty Bastard, Texan rapper The D.O.C. did ghostwriting for Dr. Dre, and Jadakiss did ghostwriting for Puffy, who later bragged "Don't worry if I write rhymes, I write checks." Critics view the increasing use of hip-hop ghostwriters as the "perversion of hip-hop by commerce." In hip-hop, the credit given to ghostwriters varies: "silent pens might sign confidentiality clauses, appear obliquely in the liner notes, or discuss their participation freely." In some cases, liner notes credit individuals for "vocal arrangement", which may be a euphemism for ghostwriting