We should not see print and electronic literature as in competition, but rather in conversation. The more voices that join in, the richer the dialog is likely to be. —N. Katherine Hayles

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In books or articles where ghostwriters are being used, the division of work between the ghostwriter and the credited author varies a great deal. In some cases, the ghostwriter is hired to polish and edit a rough draft or a mostly-completed manuscript. In this case, the outline, ideas and much of the language in the finished book or article are those of the credited author.

In other cases, a ghostwriter does most of the actual writing, using concepts and stories provided by the credited author. In this case, a ghostwriter will do extensive research on the credited author or his or her subject area of expertise. It is rare for a ghostwriter to prepare a book or article with no input from the credited author; at a minimum, the credited author usually jots down a basic framework of ideas at the outset or provides comments on the final draft.

For an autobiography, a ghostwriter will interview the credited author, colleagues, and family members, and find interviews, articles, and video footage about the credited author or his or her work.

For other types of non-fiction books or articles, a ghostwriter will interview the credited author and review previous speeches, articles, and interviews with the credited author, to assimilate any 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, he or she may not know how to structure and edit a large manuscript 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.

Ghostwriters will often spend from several months to a full year researching, writing, and editing non-fiction works for a client, and they are paid either per page, with a flat fee, or are given a percentage of the royalties of the sales. Having an article ghostwritten can cost $4 per word and more depending on the complexity of the article. Literary agent Madeleine Morel states that the average advance for work for major publishers is between $30,000 and $100,000. In 2001, the New York Times stated that the fee that the ghostwriter for Hillary Clinton's book received about $500,000 of her book's $8 million advance, which is near the top of flat fees paid to collaborators.

A 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 client ultimately keeps all advances and post-publishing royalties and profits.

There is a recent trend of outsourcing ghostwriting jobs to offshore locations like India, saving 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 fees is encouraging more and more ghostwriting jobs to get outsourced. Huge outsourcing organizations employing hundreds of ghostwriters have come up in Indian cities like Bangaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, New Delhi, and Pune.

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 non-fiction 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.

Types of ghostwriting include:


Ghostwriters are widely used by celebrities and public figures who wish to publish their autobiographies or memoirs. While a film star, rock singer, diplomat, or war hero may have led an exciting and interesting life, he or she may not have the time or writing skills to structure and edit a book-length manuscript.

The degree of involvement of the ghostwriter in non-fiction writing projects ranges from minor to substantial. In some cases, a ghostwriter may be called just to clean up, edit, and polish a rough draft of an autobiography or a how-to book. In other cases, the ghostwriter will write an entire book or article based on information, stories, notes, and an outline, provided by the celebrity or public figure. The credited author also indicates to the ghostwriter what type of style, tone, or voice to use in the book.

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 saleability of a book by associating it with a celebrity or well-known figure.

A consultant or career-switcher may pay to have a book ghostwritten on a topic in his or her professional area, to establish or enhance credibility as an expert in the field. For example, a successful salesperson hoping to become a motivational speaker may pay a ghostwriter to write a book. Often this type of book is published by a 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.


Ghostwriters are employed by fiction publishers for several reasons. In some cases, publishers use ghostwriters to increase the number of books that can be published each year by a well-known, highly marketable author. Ghostwriters are mostly used to pen fiction works for well-known, big-name authors in genres such as detective fiction, mysteries, and teen fiction.

As well, publishers use ghostwriters to write new books for established series where the author is just 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. As well, 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 Virginia 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. Strictly speaking, if the less-famous writer's role and name are clearly acknowledged in the work as published, it is considered a collaboration, not ghostwriting.


Public officials and politicians employ correspondence officers to respond to the large volume of correspondence that they receive. The degree of involvement of the public official in the drafting of response letters varies, depending on the nature of the letter, its contents, and the importance of the official and the sender. At the highest level, public officials, such as the head of state or a regional governor, typically have their officials approve the content of routine correspondence and autopen their signature with a signature machine.

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 a top adviser 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.


With medical ghostwriting, pharmaceutical companies pay ghostwriters to produce papers in medical or scientific journals on the outcomes of new medications, and physicians or scientists from academia sell their name for use as an author on papers in order to enhance the credibility of the study and give the appearance of an unbiased source. Medical ghostwriting has been criticized by a variety of professional organizations representing the drug industry, publishers, and medical societies, and it is considered illegal because it may violate American laws prohibiting off-label promotion by drug manufacturers as well as anti-kickback provisions within the statutes governing Medicare. Recently, it has attracted scrutiny from the lay press and from lawmakers as well. Nevertheless, it is a common practice and allowed, if not actually condoned, at some institutions, including the University of Washington School of Medicine, while it is prohibited and considered a particularly pernicious form of plagiarism at others, such as Tufts School of Medicine.

Most pharmaceutical companies have in-house ghostwriters who farm out the work of re-writing multiple versions of the same paper to medical communications firms that coordinate their publication. Several effects are achieved. Redundant publication by seemingly different authors can drown out dissenting points of view within the medical literature and overwhelm the number of results in bibliographic searches performed by doctors and patients. 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 non-approved indications or dosages.

The going rate for professors who agree to become sham authors is about $1,000, but varies widely depending upon one's prestige, and frequently these payments are augmented with consulting contracts, trips to teach continuing medical education courses at exotic vacation spots, and sometimes research or educational grants that afford additional avenues for pocketing kickbacks. The colluding academics or doctors are known as "KOLs" (Key Opinion Leaders) or "TLs" (Thought Leaders) and can be found at the highest levels of academic medicine, including deans and presidents of national medical societies. Ghostwriting is most heavily used in the specialties of oncology and psychiatry.


One of the newer types of ghostwriters is the Web log, or blog ghostwriter. Blogs are Web sites where a person keeps a journal of thoughts and holds online discussions with other Web users, typically on political, social, or cultural issues, and current events. As well, many blogs cater to special interests ranging from handgun collecting to knitting. Blogs are rated according to how many Web hits they get from users viewing the page, and this rating is used by advertisers considering paying for ad space on a blog Web site.

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.

Some celebrities, CEOs, or public figures set up blog Web sites 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 non-fiction ghostwriting, the blog ghostwriter models his or her writing style, content, and tone on that of the credited author.


Some university and college students hire ghostwriters from essay mills to write entrance essays, term papers, and theses and dissertations. In the 2000s, many essay mills began offering online services. The most basic essay mill service is the sale of a previously written essay. However, since submitting a previously written essay is risky, a customized essay-writing service is available for a higher price. Essay mill services do not violate the law by providing ghostwritten papers; the act of academic fraud and misrepresentation only occurs when the student submits the ghostwritten paper as his or her own work.

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 that a professor believes to be ghostwritten; if the student is unfamiliar with the content of an essay that he or she has submitted, then the student can be charged with academic fraud.


Wolfgang Mozart is an example of a well-known composer who was paid to ghostwrite music for wealthy patrons. More recently, composers such as the UK-based Patric Standford have ghostwritten for symphonic recordings and films such as the Rod McKuen Cello Concerto. In the film industry, a music ghostwriter is a person who composes music for another composer but is not credited on the cue sheet or in the final product in any way. The practice is considered one of the dirty little secrets of the film and television music business that is considered unethical.

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 musican, 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. 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.

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