To understand what a ghostwriter does, it helps to understand what she does not do.
Ghostwriters aren’t proofreaders, copyeditors, or developmental editors, although some ghostwriters perform all of these services as well.
A proofreader goes through a manuscript for typographical, spelling, and grammatical errors. This is typically the last stage of preparing a work for publication.
While a copyeditor may also check for errors, his or her work doesn’t represent the final stage of checking. They are focused on stylistic issues such as doing rewrites if needed to fix problems with transitions. They edit for wordiness, cliches, repetition, factual errors, and to ensure that the style of writing is consistent throughout the work.
Developmental editors go much deeper into changing the manuscript. If you think of proofreaders and copyeditors as doing cosmetic surgery, developmental editors do major surgery.
They may recommend major changes in the structure of a book or suggest that the author add chapters or sections. Developmental editors may entirely restructure a book to help it reach its fullest potential. They are often used in the beginning of a project to help the author plan content.
The role of the ghostwriter
None of the above writers write the book. That’s what a ghostwriter does. He or she writes books and may do supplemental research.
Ghostwriters do not provide the facts, the expertise, or the advice in a book. They take data and turn it into a manuscript, saving the author hundreds of hours of time.
They may provide this service for articles, blogs, nonfiction and fiction books or memoirs. They may write website or marketing copy. A ghostwriter provides these services for those who either don’t consider themselves competent writers or who don’t have the time to write.
For example, one of my clients is a person in the same field I built a business in for 28 years. She hires me to write 4 blogs a month for her, which she shares with her clients.
How common is it for an author to work with a ghostwriter?
Some celebrities who’ve hired ghostwriters: Richard Branson, Stephen Covey, Beyonce, Lance Armstrong, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, many CEOs, and athletes.
Sometimes ghostwriters are named on the cover or in the acknowledgements of the book. Depending on the agreement, they will either write under the client’s name or be credited on the book, such as Greg Williams with Pat Iyer, or “as told to” or “edited by.”
Some ghostwriters receive no recognition and sign nondisclosure agreements that prohibit them from revealing their involvement or how much they were paid to write a book. Because of this, it’s difficult to know how many books are ghostwritten. Estimates are that up to 60% of the books on the nonfiction best seller lists are ghostwritten.
The client who hires a ghostwriter is still the author and responsible for the content and expertise shared in the book.
Does this intrigue you? Use our contact form to request a time to talk with Pat Iyer about your book – the one trapped in your head that you want to share with the world.