This note considers ghostwriting and other ghosted cultural
production, which has included musical compositions, paintings
It covers -
supplements the more detailed discussion of plagiarism
rights. It supplements an exploration of Essay
Ghostwriting and other ghosting raises issues of authenticity,
economics and moral rights.
A ghostwriter is an author who writes under someone else's
name for that person. The text might be a memoir, a speech,
a scholarly article or work of fiction. The ghost's contribution
is either invisible - an invisibility generally sealed
through a confidentiality agreement - or identified through
a rubric such as 'with' or 'as told to'.
Until recently public awareness of ghostwriting centred
on books 'written' by celebrities, in particular autobiographies
by politicians, entertainers and business figures who
are either too busy - or textually challenged - to provide
a text of the requisite coherence and polish. Helen Brown
claimed in 2003 that
Most ghostwriters are broke, young journalists. They
do it once, for the money. Perhaps twice for the show:
to see how the rich and famous live. Most never do it
again, because celebrities take as much pleasure in
sharing the limelight (and the profits) as journalists
do in restraining their opinions. Yet as long as there
are people with stories to sell and no time or no talent
to tell them, the products of such precarious partnerships
continue to sell. John Blake, of Blake Publishing, is
responsible for many of the glossy tomes gracing the
nation's coffee tables. He estimates that 80 per cent
of celebrity books are ghosted or, euphemistically,
"co-written". We still get a thrill from eavesdropping
on these second-hand confessions without taking much
interest in the cloaked confessor, hanging on for the
gossip not the prose.
is not new - accounts from imperial Rome for example feature
figures whose writing was not their own - and is not restricted
It has been identified in the composition of musical scores
and in the visual arts, for example productions 'by' Andy
Warhol, Salvador Dali,
Mark Kostabi or Jeff Koons. Conspiracists picture teams
of scribes generating the works of Shakespeare.
Charles Brifaut supposedly ghosted the 1851 memoirs of
Lola Montez. Balzac concocted memoirs for one of Napoleon's
chamberlains, the Paris executioner and the Duchesse d'Abrantes
(1835). Less notable scribes manufactured the Memoires
of Louis-Constant Wairy, Napoleon's valet (1830) and Memoires
of Joseph Fouche, Duke of Otranto (1818). Alexandre
Dumas used up around 70 'assistantes' (such as Auguste
Maquet, whose unhappiness about rewards for work on The
Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo
resulted in an 1859 lawsuit), to manufacture first drafts
that were then tweaked by the master and published in
Dumas' name. HP Lovecraft ghosted for a range of competitors.
Herman Klurfeld served as ghostwriter for columnist Walter
Winchell over 29 years, often manufacturing four newspaper
columns a week. Sociologist Robert Park assisted Booker
T Washington in works such as My Larger Education,
becoming "for all intents and purposes, for the time,
a Negro, myself". Sanford Dody ghosted Bette Davis'
1962 The Lonely Life: an autobiography. Earl
Conrad ghosted My Wicked, Wicked Ways, Errol
Flynn's 1960 autobiography. More recently Dorothy Jane
Mills appears to have been responsible for much of the
output of sports historian Harold Seymour. Memoires of
Joseph Fouche, Duke of Otranto
Cricket star WG Grace was ghosted by Arthur Porritt, who
material from Grace was almost heartbreaking. All he
would say in recording some dazzling batting feat of
his was "Then I went in and made 284".
Use of ghostwriters varies according to norms for literary
and other genres. Using a ghostwritten speech is now considered
to be unremarkable, unsurprising given that some politicians
or celebrities deliver a speech a day. Delivery of a ghosted
sermon - while once quite common - would be frowned on,
as 'sincerity' has been elevated over eloquency. Appearance
of a celebrity's 'autobiography' under that person's name
has some acceptance among supposed authors and readers.
Geoffrey Hartman notes that employing a ghostwriter is
an accepted status symbol in government and business.
That was echoed by ghost Lucie Cave, responsible for Big
Brother winner Jade Goody's 2006 My Autobiography.
She commented that
of these people who emerge from shows like Big Brother
now know just how much they can sell their first interview
for. They're far more clued-up than ever before. The
celebrity autobiography is a natural extension of that.
It's become the must-have accessory for anyone who's
reached a certain level of fame. Obviously these people
can't write their books themselves, so they need someone
else to do it for them.
Brother personality Pete Bennett duly put his name to
Pete My Story (London: HarperCollins 2006), an
autobiography that provoked his publicist - mid-interview
- to comment "You really should have read it, Pete"
after the author expressed great surprise at the contents.
Other critics have noted that consumers are complicit
in buying the work for the celebrity's
name rather than for the work's merit. Publication of
a ghosted scholarly or serious literary work is unacceptable.
Joe Queenan lamented that
in recent times a cloud has begun to hang over the deliciously
vaporous world of ghostwriting. This is because greater
transparency about the collaborative process has inadvertently
led to greater confusion. Things started to take a bad
turn when the basketball legend Charles Barkley complained
that he had been misquoted in his own autobiography.
This gave rise to a niggling suspicion in some quarters
that ghostwriters were churning out books with only
minimal input from their nominal authors. Shocking!
Then, two years ago, Hillary Rodham Clinton put her
name on a vast, unprecedentedly uninteresting autobiography,
waiting until page 529 before disclosing that her speechwriter
was responsible for many of the words in the book, which,
coincidentally, read like the world's longest speech.
Cynics may object that ghostwriters perform a valuable
civic function by shielding the public from the authentically
dimwitted voices of those they channel. To their way
of thinking, no one would actually want to read a book
written in Charles Barkley's own words; no one would
want to read the unedited David Lee Roth; no one could
possibly machete all the way through an unghosted Rush
Limbaugh book. I disagree. Had Limbaugh written The
Way Things Ought to Be start to finish, instead
of collaborating with the sober John Fund, he might
have been just feisty enough to print his unenlightened
views on African-American football players years ago
and laid all his race cards right on the table. ...
It is by saddling celebrities with such sober professionals
that agents, editors and book packagers come to stand
between the public and some truly unforgettable reading
experiences; I personally would welcome the unghosted
autobiography of Keanu Reeves or Paris Hilton or the
unghosted memoirs of Michael Jackson. And, without the
mediating force of a ghostwriter, Geraldo Rivera's Exposing
Myself might have been really disgusting, not merely
nauseating. By strategically positioning a goodnatured
hack between the celebrity and the public, the publishing
industry is doing fans of the joyously cretinous a terrible
disservice. Let us never forget: by their words ye shall
know them. Not by their ghostwriters' words.
Scott Simon characterised ghostwriting
old as literature and sometimes just about as reputable
as the world's oldest profession.
US ghost Miriam Bloom disagreed, telling a US seminar
that ghosting is an honourable and practical profession:
ghostwriters get paid irrespective of whether the text
is published (although may work for a flat fee and thus
miss out on royalties), escape blame if the text is panned
or attracts defamation
action, and supposedly only need to satisfy the 'author'.
A Peter Senge 'consulting editor' proclaimed that
its best, ghostwriting - like oral history writing -
gives voice to people who deserve to be heard.
much of what is heard is not their voice, an issue if
integrity is central to promotion/reception of what they
(or their ghosts) say.
Nobel prizewinner Camilo Jose Cela was accused in 2001
of regularly using ghostwriters throughout most of his
career, with Tomas Garcia Yebra alleging that Marcial
Suarez and Mariano Tudela supplied the plots and characters
which Cela transformed in The Cross of Saint Andrew
(winner of the Planeta prize) and Mazurka for Two
Dead Men (winner of Spain's National Literary Prize).
Suarez allegedly provided Cela with the stories and characters
for his 1951 The Hive.
Samuel Johnson ghosted sermons, academic lectures and
literary criticism, with an associate commenting that
no scruple of confessing, he was paid ... and such was
his notion of justice, that having been paid, he considered
them so absolutely the property of the purchaser, as
to renounce all claim to them. He reckoned that he had
written about forty sermons; but, except as to some,
knew not in what hands they were - "I have",
said he, "been paid for them, and have no right
to enquire about them".
F Kennedy was accused in 1957 of using a ghost for Profiles
in Courage. Subsequent biographers have suggested
that he received substantial help with that work and his
earlier Why England Slept. Charles de Gaulle
attracted similar, although arguably less justified claims
that he had been substantially assisted by André
Malraux in writing his memoirs. Henry Ford's My Philosophy
of Industry (New York: Coward McCann 1929) was penned
by Fay Faurote.
Much of the literary criticism by Italian poet Eugenio
Montale appears to be attributable to US ghost Henry Furst.
At the other end of the spectrum most of Jerzy Kosinski's
fiction was ghosted.
Recordings by schmaltzy pop group Milli Vanilli (with
sales of 30 million singles and 11 million albums) were
exposed in 1990 as having
been dubbed by anonymous studio singers. Ghosting extended
to the stars lip synching during live performances, notoriously
discovered when their recording went into a looop while
they were on stage at a 1989 live concert in Connecticut.
Over 100 recordings by Joyce Hatto
(1928-2006), sometimes characterised as "a neglected
genius" and the "greatest living pianist that
almost no one has ever heard of", appear to have
been tweaked and unacknowledged copies of performances
by her contemporaries. Why bother with talent and decication
when you can pass off someone else's genius as your own
... and apparently concoct a few favourable reviews along
More seriously, the UK Observer claimed in 2003
that hundreds of articles in medical journals that were
supposedly written by ostensibly independent academics
or medical practitioners were in fact written by ghostwriters
for pharmaceutical companies. It noted suggestions that
almost half of all articles published in the journals
are by ghostwriters.
The Observer highlighted retraction of an item
in the New England Journal of Medicine following
a call by cardiologist Dr Hubert Seggewiss, one of eight
listed authors, alerting the editor that he had never
seen any version of the paper.
Editorial Assistant Susanna Rees, in a letter on the British
Medical Journal site, claimed that
Medical writing agencies go to great lengths to disguise
the fact that the papers they ghostwrite and submit
to journals and conferences are ghostwritten on behalf
of pharmaceutical companies and not by the named authors.
There is a relatively high success rate for ghostwritten
submissions - not outstanding, but consistent. ... One
standard procedure I have used states that before a
paper is submitted to a journal electronically or on
disc, the editorial assistant must open the file properties
of the Word document manuscript and remove the names
of the medical writing agency or agency ghostwriter
or pharmaceutical company and replace these with the
name and institution of the person who has been invited
by the pharmaceutical drug company (or the agency acting
on its behalf) to be named as lead author, but who may
have had no actual input into the paper.
children's author Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930) devised
scenarios and series faster than he could write individual
novels, accordingly inventing the Stratemeyer Syndicate
- a team of ghostwriters that manufactured series featuring
the Hardy Boys, the Rover Boys and the Bobbsey Twins in
over 1,600 volumes.
Partners - "where stories are born" - has
manufactured some 100 plus titles in the 'Animal
Ark' series, attributed to 'Lucy Daniels'. Global
sales for that series are claimed to have reached 15 million
copies in 2006. Working Partners supplies authors with
a detailed synopsis (typically 25% of the overall book)
as part of creating "highly defined series concepts,
storylines, and cast lists for our projects" and
keeps the copyright in the resultant work.
Publisher Hodder Headline disingenously claims that
Daniels lives in Yorkshire with her family and her two
Russian Blue cats, Benjamin and Peter ... She is the
author of the Animal Ark series, as well as
Animal Ark Pets, Jess the Border Collie,
Dolphin Diaries, Nine Lives, and the
Perfect Ponies trilogy. As the author of more
than 70 books, writing keeps her very busy indeed!
Virginia Andrews, author of the pulp Flowers in the
Attic, died in 1986 but has merrily continued to
publish from the big attic in the sky, courtesy of ghost
Andrew Neiderman. Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlam and Clive
Cussler are other thriller writers who have lent their
names. Clancy's publisher famously explained that
Clancy creates the ideas for these series, and the writers
execute Clancy's ideas. All these titles are subject
to Clancy's overall editorial supervision
of Swan, a 1994 novel supposedly by supermodel
Naomi Campbell, similarly do not appear to have been damaged
by the author's apparent unfamiliarity with the text.
The Washington Times tartly commented that
an interview she admitted, "I just did not have
the time to sit down and write a book" (although
she did have time to promote it).
agent insisted that although Caroline Upcher was the "writer"
of Swan Campbell was the true "author".
More embarrassingly, former US Libertarian Party Presidential
candidate Bob Barr was sued
by his ghostwriter over alleged non-payment of US$47,000
for Lessons In Liberty.
Ivana Trump reportedly paid ghost Camille Marchetta US$350,000
to write For Love Alone, subsequently announcing
to Vanity Fair
my surprise, I find I have a great imagination. I don't
say I'm the Shakespeare, but it's not just about the
beautiful people and the gorgeous yachts and the fabulous
homes and lots of sex. I tried to put in more the feelings.
indeed. Entrepreneur Christy Walsh, founder of the Christy
Walsh sports syndicate in 1921, advised
new ghost writer has to learn a lot about style. He
usually makes the mistake of thinking that he ought
to write the way his celebrity talks. That is an error.
He ought to write the way the public thinks his celebrity
that the cardinal rule one was "Don't insult the
intelligence of the pubic by claiming these men write
their own stuff". One might also be wary of titles
such as My life in baseball, the true record
(Garden City: Doubleday 1961) the autobiography of Ty
Cobb by sportswriter Al Stump.
How much ghosting is there? There are no comprehensive
UK academic David Healy estimated
in 2003 that up to 50% of "the drug literature"
in lifescience journals may be ghosted. A 1998 JAMA
by Flanagin et al on Prevalence of articles with honorary
authors and ghost authors in peer-reviewed medical journals
indicated that 11% of 809 articles in six major medical
journals involved ghost writers, with a further 19% appearing
to have 'honorary authors'.
A subsequent JAMA paper by Mowatt et al on Prevalence
of honorary and ghost authorship in Cochrane reviews
indicated that 9% of 362 reviews in The Cochrane Library
for 1999 appeared to involve ghost writers and 39% involved
One UK freelancing site claimed that
what? Approximately 40% of published books are ghostwritten...
a difficult statistic to quantify given the opaque nature
of ghostwriting but more importantly, it demonstrates
a very real need in the publishing world
Ghostwriting - or merely its promotion - poses questions
about authenticity, authority, covert hostility to the
hired help who actually do the writing, and problematical
One service proclaimed that "You are the Author.
We do the Writing", advising that
Match Your Needs with our Ghostwriter or several of
our Ghostwriters who write what you want to say. And
the best part is that we remain in the wings while YOU
get to claim authorship! It is YOUR letter, YOUR speech,
YOUR proposal, YOUR book. We do the work, you get the
service claims that
truth of the matter is that many professional writers
supplement their income by ghostwriting projects for
others. Until now it's been one of the best kept secrets
in publishing and finding a reliable and experienced
ghostwriter has been a matter of knowing the right person
or blind luck. Not anymore.
Your confidentiality when you use one of our ghostwriters
is always assured. Perhaps you have a true story that
needs telling. You may have suffered an injustice and
require a ghostwriter to work with you, to walk you
through the process of gathering the necessary information.
The ghostwriter will then turn your story into a professionally
written book. ...
If there is a novel burning within you but you don't
have the time or way with words to write it, we have
ghostwriters who can. If you've lead, or survived, an
extraordinary life, this is your opportunity to document
online guide about How to Hire a Ghostwriter to Pen
Your Memoirs trills
Everyone tells you to write a book about your life because
it would make a phenomenal story. You would, but your
writing skills stink. Time to hire a ghostwriter to
weave your stories, diaries and research into a best
seller with your name on the cover. Next stop: Oprah!
UK ghost Andrew Crofts
was similarly upbeat
a book for someone is like being paid to be educated
by the best teachers in the world. Imagine, for instance,
being asked to ghost The Origin of the Species
for Darwin, or The Decline and Fall of the Roman
Empire for Gibbon. Imagine being paid to learn
everything that is in the heads of these people and
then turning their thoughts, words and notes into book
form. Could there be a better form of education?
might of course be more useful to imagine writing your
own book, rather than that of Mr Darwin or Mr Gibbon,
and then do it.
Richard Grady proclaims the joys of ghosting in How
to publish an eBook without writing a word ....
of the main disadvantages of selling your own eBook
is the fact that you have to write it in the first place!
Many info-product creators are now opening their eyes
to the opportunities offered by ghostwriters and are
realising that it is perfectly possible to get someone
else to research and write an eBook for them for just
a few hundred dollars. Not only does this save an incredible
amount of time but it also means that you don't have
to write a single word if you don't want to.
Look at it like this, let's say you hire someone to
research and write your eBook at a cost of $500. In
addition, you get someone to write the sales copy for
your web page at a cost of $200. You now have a complete
new product for just $700. A new product that you can
sell over and over again and retain all of the profits
for yourself. Using ghostwriters it is perfectly possible
to build up a large portfolio of products in a relatively
short time period - certainly much faster than if you
were to write the eBooks yourself. You can even have
eBooks written about subjects that you know very little
about since you can pay the ghostwriter to do the research
Because of the incredibly high profit margins available
with eBooks, it doesn't surprise me one bit that big-name
Internet marketing gurus are starting to use ghostwriters
to help build up their product portfolios. And given
the ease at which you can hire a ghostwriter, there
is no reason why you shouldn't consider this option
Lyttle's GhostwritingGoldmine is promoted as
You Can Use Ghostwriters to Become a Well Know Published
Author or Self Published Author, Produce Highly Profitable
Products (Ebook Creation, Article Writing) and Keep
All the Profits
These Simple, Step by Step Instructions And You Can
Instantly Become A Well Known Author ... Without Writing
A Word, And You Get To Keep 100% Of the Profits! Learn
how to maximize your time and minimize your effort with
the best kept "dirty little secret" in the
industry that will supercharge your business, your wealth,
and your life! ... GhostwritingGoldmine –
a new ebook that tells Internet entrepreneurs how to
create hot-selling information products and position
themselves as successful authors – all without
ever writing a single word. ... Most Internet business
owners struggle with the fact that there just isn’t
enough time in the day to get everything done that needs
to be done. What the successful ones have realized is
that it is OK to have ghostwriters do their product
creation for them.
This way the business owner doesn't have to waste his
or her time researching a topic and becoming a subject
matter expert. Instead, they can come up with an idea
(though you can get ghostwriters to do that for you
as well), pass it on and get right back to concentrating
on other important matters, such as growing their business.
And yes the finished product is legally the business
owner's. The business owner can call it his own and
keep every penny that he makes from it.
site warns that a ghost is
person who arranges everything on paper and makes the
work sound exactly as if you had written it all by yourself.
Ghostwriters are obligated to use the author's words,
not interject their own thoughts and feelings and style.
Ghostwriters should be paid a flat fee, and accept little
or no part of the proceeds from the sale of the book.
Anderson supposedly asked her male ghostwriter to wear
Lucite high heels to get in touch with the female protagonist
of her story. Over-exposure to the author might be avoided:
Lewis Lapham in critiqueing Ronald Reagan's memoir commented
"he didn't write it. He probably didn't read it".
(A variant of that anecdote has the former president say
"I hear it's a terrific book! One of these days I'm
going to read it myself".)
WG Grace read his autobiography, demanding deletion of
'inimicable' from the draft -
a word cannot go in, why if it did I shall have the
fellows at Lord's coming to me in the Pavilion saying
"Look here, W.G., wherever did you get that word
The fad for celebrity and CEO
blogs has been reflected in reports that supremos
are delegating their online appearances - blogs and social
software publication - to ghosts, thereby subverting notions
of the 'authenticity' and directness that is supposedly
characteristic of blogging.
One BBC report thus breathlessly revealed that
met somebody the other day who told me that online networking
was so important, and he didn't have the time, he was
paying somebody to be him online. To blog, network,
post etc. £1,000 a month too.
Apparently it's a new occupation which he reckons already
numbers hundreds of people, paid to be other people!
This guy is a busy entrepreneur and he says that wherever
he goes, people marvel at the energy he still manages
to put into blogging and networking - and he then tells
them it is all being done by a guy he pays to do it.
One might well be sceptical of claims of "crowds
of busy executives" hiring ghosts to "do the
online dirty work for them" with a blog or Facebook
entry but it is clear that not everything on a blog originates
from (or even has been sighted by) the putative author.
One contact for example periodically gets blog fatigue
and delegates the writing to his teenage daughter; her
insights on his industry are perhaps more worth reading
- and certainly more entertaining than his somewhat stolid
prose. She has commented that someone writes his speeches
and letters, so readers should suspect that what they
are seeing on his blog is not from him.
(primers and studies)