Know When to Call a Ghostwriter

“Writing is the toughest thing I’ve ever done.”
—Richard M. Nixon, 37th president of the United States.

You do not have to be a writer to be an author.

According to a recent New York Times article, “On any given week, up to a half of the books on any non-fiction best-seller list are written by someone other than the name on the book.”

The reason is simple: being an expert, an eyewitness, or a celebrity does not necessarily mean that one is also a skilled writer/communicator. Enter the ghostwriter.

Ghosts typically work for four kinds of clients. One is the expert, who writes to preserve and share his or her knowledge. Another has an extraordinary first-person experience to relate. The third is a celebrity or aspiring celebrity, who wants a book to memorialize or launch a career. The fourth has a fictional story to tell, but not the necessary storytelling skills.

You don’t think Lee Iacocca wrote those two best-selling books all by himself? Iacocca is the author; it is his information, but he does not have time to be a writer.

The ghostwriter fills in for any skill or knowledge that the author lacks. In return for their expertise, ghosts are typically paid a cash fee plus a percentage of the author’s royalties. In return, the ghost takes a vow of perpetual silence.

If you are not a fully-skilled writer, but have expert knowledge or an extraordinary experience to share, or seek to launch or enhance your image, that’s when you should call a ghostwriter.

Dan Poynter, the Voice of Self-Publishing, has written more than 100 books since 1969 including Writing Nonfiction and The Self-Publishing Manual. Dan is a past vice-president of the Publishers Marketing Association. For more help on book publishing and promoting, see