Are Ghostwriters Just Frustrated Writers?

A client recently told me what a British publicist had said when she told her she was getting a ghostwriter (me) to write her book. 'I wouldn't bother. If ghostwriters were any good they'd be writing their own stuff not working for other people.'

Once I had come down off the ceiling I realised that some people do have this misconception. But could there be a grain of truth in it? Are ghostwriters just frustrated writers who have to scratch a crust writing for others? Well, all the ghostwriters I know, myself included, do lots of other things besides ghostwriting. They write articles, novels, business books, poetry… The thing is that some people are just in love with writing. It doesn't matter what kind. It's a privilege to play with words all day.

I decided to ask the UK's top ghostwriter Andrew Crofts for a comment. As well as all the ghostwritten books Andrew has produced, he has a number of successful novels published under his own name.In fact I helped him with the online marketing of his last one The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride. His latest one The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer comes out early next year. This is what he told me:

"I just love writing books of all sorts, but in order to make a living I
need to find material wherever I can. Some of it works in fiction form, some of
it is more suited to ghosting. I think Robert Harris paints a good picture of
why ghosting can be a splendid adventure in his book 'The Ghost' and the quote
from me at the beginning of the book about it being a wonderful way to meet
interesting people pretty much sums up the whole thing.
A few months ago I spent a week on a private island in Bermuda with a
client, I thought that was a very pleasant way to make a living. Over the last
few years I have had more than a dozen books in the Sunday Times top ten
bestsellers, most of them getting to number one or two. I have yet to achieve
that with the fiction, but here's hoping.
If you want to be a full time writer you can't afford to be snobbish about
where the work comes from or what form it is published in."

 And me? Well I enjoy ghostwriting because I love variety and hearing different people's stories. Above all, I love telling those stories. But I do also have a busy career that does not involve ghosting. It does involve writing though. You see, it's all about the writing.



  1. There may be a grain of truth in this, Fiona, but that’s why it pays to do your research and find out exactly what you’re getting from a ghost writer. Like many professions, it’s relatively easy to set yourself up as a ghost writer – and I guess the unscrupulous could always say that they’ve signed confidentiality agreements with all their top notch projects and are sworn to secrecy about the incredible success they’ve had! However, any decent ghost writer (yourself included of course!) has plenty of success to show. I would also agree that success in other fields is useful too. When I tell people that I’ve only been ghost writing for five years or so, there are some who think that isn’t enough of an ‘apprenticeship’, and I probably used to be quite apologetic – but I’ve been writing forever really, from school competitions to school and university magazines, throughout English and Politics undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, when I worked on a music magazine in the 1980s, when I was a lecturer, when I wrote Open Unievrsity textbooks, when I was a journalist, when I was a researcher, etc etc. I met someone recently who had looked at my website in advance. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘you’ve jumped about a fair bit, haven’t you?’ I immediately went into ‘yes, you’re right, I am rubbish,’ mode but, actually, there has been such an obvious theme of writing throughout my life that anyone with a pea for a brain can see that’s been the continuity. It makes perfect sense to employ a ghost writer for so many reasons – we provide a service that is often based on years of experience, but we are also often very successful at getting many, many books published. I guess some people just don’t like that. There is a snobbery attached to ghost writing which rarely comes from the writers themselves. I think we’re often seen as the dirty end of writing, helping people to get their stories out there when they themselves haven’t sweated blood to do it. What a lot of nonsense. Here’s a secret – I don’t sweat blood to do it either, but what I can do is be that bridge between outdated notions of who ‘deserves’ to have their story told and who hasn’t made the cut. I’m delighted to be involved in bringing down any outmoded barriers which try to protect story telling as the preserve of the indulged few. I look forward to reading the next story you help someone tell – here’s hoping it’s a bestseller your client can wave in the face of her deluded friend!

  2. Jane Steen says:

    I think it’s a noble profession! Why not be a teller of other people’s stories as well as your own? I’m a business communications writer and that’s basically what I do – find out what needs to be communicated and then write it clearly, correctly and engagingly. The client gets the kudos for a job well done and I get the money and the satisfaction of having sent a nicely written piece out into the world (thus striking a blow against robotic business-speak). I LOVE doing this. I would be thrilled to ghost an entire book in my fields of interest.
    Let’s face it (especially over here in the US) there are a lot of extremely talented people with things to say but insufficient writing skills. I’m proud of having those skills to offer.
    Oh, and Linda, your variety of experience is what’s made you a good writer. I’m particularly impressed that you wrote OU textbooks – they are of a very high standard. Your “friend”‘s comment might make sense if he’s trying to hire an admin, but not if he’s looking for a writer.

  3. Good to hear from such talented ghosts! I agree that our various backgrounds make us all the more capable of helping our clients.
    I’ve been a language teacher, teacher trainer, academic course book writer, seo marketer, magazine editor, freelance naming consultant, article writer and ad sales professional. (Also barmaid, waitress, singer… ha ha!) I think the common denominator, apart from language, is that I’m a good communicator. And really ghosting is about drawing the story from the client and then setting it down on paper as well as you are able. Not everyone can do that.
    Let’s hear it for the ghosts!

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