The Ethics of Hiring a Ghostwriter

The Ethics of Hiring a Ghostwriter

Perhaps you’ve lived an exceptional life. Maybe you’ve got a great story to tell. Or it could be that you have an idea that you think will make people’s lives better. Your colleagues and friends keep telling you, “you should write a book!”

But it takes more than a great story or idea to get a book out. You’ve got to take that idea and spin it into a narrative that people will want to read and engage with. And the fact is that not everyone with a great idea is a great writer. And that’s perfectly okay—and it’s why a ghostwriter can help.

Ghostwriters are professional writers who help people take their stories and turn them into books. Ghostwriters, for instance, are behind some of the most successful memoirs: they help people who have lived remarkable lives sort out the details and present their stories in the most compelling way possible. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, for instance, was a collaboration between Malcolm X and writer Alex Haley, who went on to write Roots: The Saga of an American Family the bestselling novel that became an enormously popular ABC mini-series. Ghostwriters are behind high-profile self-help books: they help people with big ideas make their ideas accessible. Sheryl Sandberg enlisted the help of journalist and television writer Nell Scovell for the bestseller Lean In.

But even though ghostwriting is a common and widespread practice in the writing and publishing industry, some worry that it raises ethical concerns. Is it ethical to publish someone else’s work as your own? Is it plagiarism? Is it dishonest?

The author is still the author

As our CEO Kevin Anderson puts it, when you hire a ghostwriter to help with your book, you’re still the author of the work. He says: “A client who hires a ghostwriter is still the author of their book . . . the content, ideas, and concepts for ghostwritten books come directly from the client. .. A ghostwriter is an interpreter and a translator, not an author, which is why our clients deserve full credit for authoring their books.”

An author’s ideas and concepts for a book are still original to them, even if they work with a ghostwriter. The ghostwriter’s job is to take the author’s ideas for content and present them in an accessible and engaging way.

Ghostwriters sign contracts and are compensated for their work

Ghostwriters are contracted to provide writing services to authors, and they’re paid for their work. Ghostwriters’ fees are negotiated based on a range of factors: their experience as a writer, the potential for the book project in question to sell, and so on. In any case, ghostwriters undertake their work as paid professionals who are compensated for their work and expertise. They’re hired to provide a service to authors and publishers.

In some cases, ghostwriters receive credit. For instance, rock singer Marianne Faithfull’s autobiography is credited to “Marianne Faithfull with David Dalton.” Sometimes ghostwriters receive no visible credit—but they’re still paid for their work. Writers and authors typically make arrangements for crediting in advance, and sign legal agreements protecting the interests of all parties.

Ghostwriters translate ideas into books

Ghostwriters provide an important service to would-be authors: they make it possible for anyone to write a book.
To find out more about how a ghostwriter can help you realize your project, contact us today.