A ghostwriter is a writer who writes books, articles, stories, reports, or other texts that 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 often used for writing songs and lyrics for popular music genres. Screenplay authors can also use ghost writers to either edit or rewrite their scripts in order to improve them, increasing their chances to be optioned or produced. Also, ghost writers may work on accompanying documents, such as treatments for screenplays.
Ghostwriters may have varying degrees of involvement in the production of a finished work. While some ghostwriters are hired to edit and clean up a rough draft, others are hired to do most of the writing based on an outline provided by the credited author. For some projects, ghostwriters will do a substantial amount of research, as in the case of a ghostwriter who is hired to write an autobiography for a well-known person. Ghostwriters are also hired to write fiction in the style of an existing author, often as a way of increasing the number of books that can be published by a popular author (e.g., Tom Clancy, James Patterson). Ghostwriters will often spend a period from several months to a full year researching, writing, and editing nonfiction works for a client, and they are paid either per page, with a flat fee, or a percentage of the royalties of the sales, or some combination thereof. The ghostwriter is sometimes acknowledged by the author or publisher for his or her writing services.
A consultant or career-switcher may pay a ghostwriter to write a book on a topic in their professional area, to establish or enhance their credibility as an 'expert' in their field. Public officials and politicians employ 'correspondence officers' to respond to the large volume of correspondence. A number of papal encyclicals have been written by ghostwriters. With medical ghostwriting, pharmaceutical companies pay both professional writers to produce papers and then pay other scientists or physicians to attach their names to these papers before they are published in medical or scientific journals. In the 2000s (decade), a new type of ghostwriting developed as blogs became popular: the blog ghostwriter. Companies or organizations 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. Some university and college students hire ghostwriters from essay mills to write entrance essays, term papers, theses, and dissertations.
Ghostwriting (or simply "ghosting") also occurs in other creative fields. Composers have long hired ghostwriters to help them to write musical pieces and songs; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is an example of a well-known composer who was paid to ghostwrite music for wealthy patrons. Ghosting also occurs in popular music. A pop music ghostwriter writes lyrics and a melody in the style of the credited musician. In hip hop music, the increasing use of ghostwriters by high-profile hip-hop stars[who?] has led to controversy. In the visual arts, it is not uncommon in either fine art or commercial art such as comics for a number of assistants to do work on a piece that is credited to a single artist.
The division of work between the ghostwriter and the credited author varies a great deal. In some cases, the ghostwriter is hired to edit a rough draft of 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 handles most of the writing, using concepts and stories provided by the credited author. In this case, a ghostwriter will do extensive research on the credited author or their 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 ghostwriter's final draft.
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. Usually, there is a confidentiality clause in the contract between the ghostwriter and the credited author that obligates the former to remain anonymous.
Remuneration and credit
Ghostwriters will often spend from several months to a full year researching, writing, and editing nonfiction works for a client, and they are paid either per page, with a flat fee, or a percentage of the royalties of the sales, or some combination thereof. Some ghostwriters charge for articles “$4 per word and more depending on the complexity" of the article.Literary agent Madeleine Morel states that the average ghostwriter's 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 memoirs will receive is probably about $500,000" of her book's $8 million advance, which "is near the top of flat fees paid to collaborators."
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.
According to SEO Writer, another service, the flat fee for a "typical book running 200 - 250 pages" is $10,000 to $12,000, although it could sometimes go up to $16,000.
However, certain other websites suggest that this could be considered on the low side and that $16,000 to $50,000 is a more precise range. Manhattan Literary, a ghost writing service specializing in book writing, concurs with these higher prices and also gives a specific reason for the wide range: that these fees per book are determined in part by whether or not the client provides a draft of the text. If so, a 250 page book would start at $18,000. With no draft or no previous attempt at writing the text (extensive sketches), $28,000 is a more likely starting price.
Similarly, there are some ghostwriting services that charge per page for the entire project so the prospective client can know the final cost upfront. This option can be helpful for clients that have a specific page count to achieve for their book.
Some ghostwriters charge 40-50c per word (i.e. a 200 page book would cost $24,000 to $30,000). In Canada, The Writers' Union has established a minimum fee schedule for ghostwriting. The total minimum fee for a 200-300 page book is $40,000, 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 per page. The Editorial Freelancers Association also suggests rates of 26 cents to 50 cents per word, which would be about $15,000 to $30,000 for a 250 page book.
There is a recent[when?] trend of outsourcing ghostwriting jobs to offshore locations like India and the Philippines, to save up to 80%. Outsourced ghostwriters whose quality levels vary widely, 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. However, the premium typically paid for such outsourcing is a book that is not likely to be published.
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.
Ghostwriters are widely used by celebrities and public figures who wish to publish their autobiographies or memoirs. The degree of involvement of the ghostwriter in nonfiction writing projects ranges from minor to substantial. Various sources explain the role of the ghostwriter and how competent writers can get this kind of work. In some cases, a ghostwriter may be called in 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, interview sessions with the celebrity or public figure. The credited author also indicates to the ghostwriter what type of style, tone, or "voice" they want 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 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 are almost entirely credited to ghostwriters. 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 by a self-publishing press (or "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, "name" authors in genres such as detective fiction, mysteries, and teen fiction.
Additionally, publishers use ghostwriters to write new books for established series where the 'author' is a pseudonym. For example, the purported authors of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries, "Carolyn Keene" and "Franklin W. Dixon", respectively, are actually pseudonyms 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 known web publicist Keith Acton rose to underground notoriety and disdain when it was discovered he had paid a ghostwriter to write most of his work. Moreover, 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 (decade) 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.
Sometimes famous authors will ghostwrite for other celebrities as well, such as when H. P. Lovecraft ghostwrote science fiction stories for Harry Houdini in science fiction magazines in the 1920s.
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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, the importance of the official and the sender, and personal preference. At the highest level, public officials such as heads of state and regional governors 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 their top advisers for approval—particularly if the letter deals with a politically sensitive issue. This is sometimes also done for "Dear Colleague" letters, which are intended as policy papers rather than personal correspondence. 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.
A number of papal encyclicals have been written by ghostwriters. Pascendi, for instance, was written by Joseph Lemius (1860–1923), the procurator in Rome of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. In June 1938, Pius XI summoned American Jesuit John La Farge, who began to prepare a draft of Humani Generis Unitas, which LaFarge and two other Jesuits—Gustav Gundlach and Gustave Desbuquois—on in Paris; the draft was approximately 100 pages long. Another Jesuit translated the draft encyclical into Latin, presenting it to Wlodimir Ledóchowski, then the General of the Society of Jesus who had chosen Gundlach and Desbuquois for the project. The draft encyclical was delivered to the Vatican in September 1938.Sebastian Tromp, a Dutch Jesuit, a solid Thomist theologian and close to Pope Pius XII, is considered to be the main ghostwriter of Mystici Corporis.
Some university and college students hire ghostwriters from essay mills to write entrance essays, term papers, and theses and dissertations. In the 2000s (decade), 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, often reaching $10 to $50 per page.
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 have been written by essay mills. 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. However, ghost writing services in the academic field have become a strong source of income for many with an acumen for writing especially in the 'customised' category. Irrespective of the ethical questions, the ghostwriter is not involved in anything illegal.
In the case of a ghostwritten doctoral dissertation, the client falsely presenting the work of another as his/her own is defrauding both the institution awarding the degree and future employers for whom the Ph.D. degree is a pre-requisite for the job.
Ghost writers are also employed by established academicians and researchers[who?], who hire unemployed, underemployed or just junior researchers to write papers and books without sharing authorship. This practice is not limited to medical researchers (see next section).
With medical ghostwriting, pharmaceutical companies pay both professional writers to produce papers and then pay other scientists or physicians to attach their names to these papers before they are published in medical or scientific journals. Medical ghostwriting has been criticized by a variety of professional organizations representing the drug industry, publishers, and medical societies, and 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. It is permitted 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 University School of Medicine.
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.
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Some websites are ghostwritten, because not all authors have the information technology skills or the time to dedicate to running a website. Nonetheless, the style, tone and content is modeled on that of the credited author. Many website ghostwriters are freelance but some are freelancers who work under contract, as with radio presenters and television presenters. Occasionally a "house pseudonym", or collective name is used by the author of the website. This is similar to ghostwriting for blogs, and in some cases it can be used as an Search engine optimization tactic. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural" or un-paid ("organic") search results.
Since the 2000s (decade), with the increasing popularity of blogs as a form of writing, a new form of ghostwriter has emerged: the blog ghostwriter. Companies or organizations 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. Blogs are sometimes 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 website.
With more posts and more comments and discussion, a blog is more likely to appear in search-engine results. Additionally, there is more for a visitor to read and do once on the site, which in turn may generate more traffic. 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 cancelled the blog of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik after he fabricated 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.
Classical music and film scores
Wolfgang Amadeus 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 (born in 1939) 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, but has been common since the early stages of the film industry. In the early years of film, David Raksin worked as music ghostwriter and orchestrator for Charlie Chaplin; even though Chaplin was credited as the score writer, he was considered to be a "hummer" (pejorative film industry slang for a person who purports to be a film score composer but who in fact only gives a general idea of the melodies to a ghostwriter).
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 1987, Darryl Neudorf was asked to work on a project for Nettwerk Productions involving a newly signed artist in their repertoire named Sarah McLachlan. This recording, the album Touch, resulted in garnering the interest of Arista Records. She signed a multi-album contract with them and two of the songs that Neudorf worked on with her became commercial hits in Canada. In 1991, Neudorf was invited back to work with McLachlan on her second album, Solace. In 1993, he filed a lawsuit against McLachlan and her label, Nettwerk, alleging that he had made a significant and uncredited contribution to the songwriting on Touch, and alleging that he wasn't paid properly for work done on Solace. The judge in this suit eventually ruled in McLachlan's favour on the songs; though Neudorf may have contributed to the songwriting, neither regarded each other as joint authors. The judge ruled in Neudorf's favour on the payment issue.
In hip-hop music, the increasing use of ghostwriters by high-profile hip-hop stars has led to controversy. Critics view the increasing use of hip-hop ghostwriters as the "perversion of hip-hop by commerce." This is because of the limiting definition of "rapping" as "...about you expressing yourself through your own words, not someone else’s." Chuck D of Public Enemy thinks this point of view is mistaken because "...not everyone is equipped to be a lyricist and not everyone is equipped to be a vocalist." He points out that creating a rap song may require multiple talents. Currently 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. In the late 2000s (decade), hip-hop ghostwriting services like Rap Rebirth, have appeared online, which provide recording artists who wish to purchase ghostwritten rhymes a greater degree of anonymity.
Ghostwriting is exceedingly common in electronic dance music with top-tier acts like Armin van Buuren having all work co-produced by Rank 1's Benno de Goeij. Tiesto does the same with Hans Willem Mallon and Dennis Waakop-Reijers, who co-produces all Tiesto-credited work.
Ghost-authorship also applies to the visual arts, most commonly paintings. The extent of the master artist's contribution varies widely, as little as composition adjustments and corrective brush strokes, or as much as entire works. A common practice is use of the art instruction class milieu in which the master artist makes significant contributions to the work of the student who then signs that work as his or her own. Services addressing complete works have historically been highly confidential. Less prevalent are advertised commercial services which may use the term "vanity artwork" as suggestive of "vanity publishing".
As blacklisting countermeasure
In countries where the freedom of speech is not upheld and authors that have somehow displeased the ruling regime are "blacklisted" (i.e. forbidden from having their works published), the blacklisted authors or composers may ghostwrite material for other authors or composers who are in the good graces of the regime. A number of blacklisted communist sympathisers have won academy awards.
In other languages
As a subject in movies and novels
Movies and novels about ghostwriters:
- Philip Roth's 1979 novel The Ghost Writer
- Claude Lelouch's 2006 film Roman de gare
- Robert Harris's 2007 novel The Ghost and its 2010 film adaptation The Ghost Writer by Roman Polanski
- Alan Cumming's 2007 horror film Ghost Writer, formerly Suffering Man's Charity
- Jason Reitman's 2011 comedy-drama film "Young Adult"
|Look up ghostwriter in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Marketing Yourself via Ghostwriting by R.A. Burnham. August 2003 Certification Magazine (a technical training and certification publication on industry events, issues and trends)
- Ghost Stories. An agent for writers who stay behind the scenes—and off the jacket. by Lynn Andriani – Publishers Weekly, 5/29/2006
- Media Talk; Mrs. Clinton Seeks Ghostwriter for Memoirs By David D. Kirkpatrick January 8, 2001 http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E01E3DF153AF93BA35752C0A9679C8B63
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- Richard G. Bailey. August 2001. "The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XI." Canadian Journal of History.
- The Holocaust Chronicle. 2002. "1937: Quiet before the Storm." p. 112.
- Alexandra von Teuffenbach Konzilstagebuch Sebastian Tromp SJ mit Erläuterungen and Akten aus der Arbeit der Theologischen Kommission, 2006, Editrice Pontificia Università Gregoriana ISBN 978-88-7839-057-7
- World Association of Medical Editors (2005) Ghost writing initiated by commercial companies. J Gen Intern Med 20: 549 (also available at http://www.wame.org/resources/policies#ghost)
- Rennie D, Flanagin A (1994) Authorship! Authorship! Guests, ghosts, grafters, and the two-sided coin. Jama 271: 469-471.
- Studdert et al., (2004) Financial Conflicts of Interest in Physicians' Relationships with the Pharmaceutical Industry — Self-Regulation in the Shadow of Federal Prosecution, NEJM 351:1891-2000
- Mathews, "At medical journals, paid writers play big role", Wall Street Journal December 13, 2005
- House of Commons Health Committee (2005) The influence of the pharmaceutical industry. London: The Stationery Office Limited.
- Boseley, the Guardian, February 7, 1992
- Giombetti, 1992, "UW's Friendly Corporate Ghostwriter", Eat the State Vol. 6, No. 19
- Krimsky, Science in the Private Interest, Rowman-Littlefield Publishing Co., 2003
- Jacobs A, Wager E. European Medical Writers Association (EMWA) guidelines on the role of medical writers in developing peer-reviewed publications. Curr Med Res Opin 2005;21(2):317–321
- Article requirements — BMJ resources
- Schultz HY, Blalock E. Transparency Is the Key to the Relationship between Biomedical Journals and Medical Writers. Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2007) 127, 735–737
- Los Angeles Times Yanks Columnist's Blog Hiltzik Accused of Using Pseudonyms By Howard Kurtz Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, April 21, 2006; Page C07http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/20/AR2006042002375.html
- Film & TV Music Knowledgebase:: Glossary of Film and TV Music Terms
- Hip-Hop's Ghostwriters Article by: Adam Conner-Simons
- Books of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop by: Adam Bradley. p. 153 http://books.google.com/books?id=YkGXXDZsFHcC&pg=PA151&lpg=PA151&dq=book+of+rhymes+the+poetics+of+hip+hop+ghostwriter&source=bl&ots=TBx9S8aMaM&sig=wUcAYQdgCno2j58a7dBgz-93IT8&hl=en&ei=InOiS6qhNMmUtgf34aTuCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CA0Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=&f=false
- "Литературные редакторы или литературные "негры"" (in Russian). Радио «Свобода». 24 September 2006. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
- Jak Colin wyłowił Alicję, TVN24