Lost (and Found) in Translation: The Role of a Ghostwriter

Lost (and Found) in Translation: The Role of a Ghostwriter


What exactly does a ghostwriter do? Is it ethical to use a ghostwriter? How can I take credit for a piece of writing if someone else wrote the actual words? If I feed my ghostwriter after midnight, will s/he transform into a Gremlin?

These are all valid questions (except maybe for the last one—still, the answer is yes),and they are being addressed in major news outlets all over the country by voices like our very own Kevin Anderson in a recent Washington Post article.

All of these conversations about ghostwriting reveal that it is not an exact science; ghostwriting is more art than technical expertise (though it does require a high level of skill). The relationship between an author and their ghostwriter involves a great deal of creative communication and interpretation.

Contrary to popular belief, ghostwriters are not mind readers

Perhaps the most effective way to address the most common questions about ghostwriting, and possibly the ones that trouble you the most, is through the use of an analogy. Ghostwriting is primarily an act of translation or interpretation rather than an act of artistic originality or owner/authorship. When you employ the services of a ghostwriter, it is as if you are hiring a skilled translator with excellent writing skills. Just as a translator does not compose or make up the words or texts being translated, the ghostwriter does not typically generate the concepts or the artistic vision for the book; rather, a good ghostwriter enables you to communicate your ideas and thoughts effectively and make them accessible to the greatest audience possible—very much like a translator allows different people to understand one another. The ghostwriter is a word-wielding intermediary between you and your reading public.

Consider another example of how two foreign dignitaries might hire a translator to help them better communicate; a ghostwriter is both the filter and conduit from the ideas of your mind to the hands of your readers. If some of your ideas won’t translate well to your readers, the ghostwriter is there to smooth out the translation so it is more accurately received. The credit remains entirely yours because you are the author of your own ideas and concepts. As postmodern literary theory has shown us time and again, words are merely empty vessels for communicating thoughts. They are the boats carrying the precious cargo of your ideas, nothing more. People want the goods on the ship and not the ship itself.

Your great idea…as written by a ghostwriter

So, while the words of your book might be selected and typed by a ghostwriter, the ideas and thoughts that shape and influence those words are completely your own. If you are still a bit confounded by this idea, think of it this way: Have you ever had a brilliant thought to share, but then felt lost for words when you tried to explain it? At that point, someone else might step in and suggest the very words that capture your thought. They understood your ideas and the context in which those ideas came to you and simply provided you with the words to describe it. This dynamic describes exactly the function that a ghostwriter performs, only on a larger scale.

For this reason, ghostwriting is an ethical (and effective) form of communication. Ghostwriters are merely translators, interpreters, and conduits for your ideas; they are not stealing anything or making things up out of thin air, but providing you with the words to describe your literary vision.

Want to hire a ghostwriter for your book?

So, if you are struggling with finding the right words for your memoir, business book, or self-improvement guide (in addition to a host of other genres), utilize one of our experienced ghostwriters. They will help you find the right words to transform your great idea into a well-written book that you can be proud to call your own.

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