I went to a book signing for a book I wrote the other night–only another person, a kind doctor, signed the books. The cover of the book features his smiling face and this same image graces the posters that were propped all around the store.
But it would be impossible for you to find even the merest mention of my name anywhere near the book. Why? Because I ghostwrote it.
Allow me to define ghostwriting for those of you who may still be confused about it (in my travels I find many who are). A ghostwriter (moi) writes a book for someone else and that other person’s name appears on the book. If I’m very lucky, the “author” might thank me in the acknowledgments. On some occasions, ghostwriters get a “with” byline. As in “Stupid Worthless Memoir by Famous Vacuous Star with Ghostwriter.”
But most of us ghostwriters get nada but a paycheck. Which is why we do it, of course, because ghostwriting can be among the most lucrative of writing assignments. You are writing a whole book, after all, not just an article or series of articles for a website. You are expected to know how to take bunches of information, perhaps some interviews, and vague thoughts and organize them into a readable, informative book.
A great number of business and self-help books are ghostwritten. Ditto with celebrity biographies and so-called novels. (You really think Nicole Richie has ever read a novel, let alone written one?) Rumor has it that some popular mystery series are actually ghostwritten and many readers believe that some of the most prolific romance writers employ ghostwriters to help them churn out the novels.
I can’t verify those rumors, though I suspect they may be true. I also suspect that many novelists have learned their craft churning out books under the name of a best-selling author. But I think I prefer to stick to non-fiction.
To my way of thinking, non-fiction ghostwriting projects suit me just fine. I enjoy learning about different subjects and getting into the mind of the person who I’m writing as.
Last week was the first time I’d ever actually experienced a booksigning where the “author” of the book was signing what I wrote.
I had a blast, met a lot of nice people and reconnected with the folks who hired me. The thing is, I don’t feel the emotional connection to the book that I would with, say, my novel. And while I’m proud of the finished product, I’m not so invested in it that I can’t let it go.
We’ll be starting the next book in the series soon and I’m looking forward to attending future book signings. I wish I could give the book some publicity and send you to the website, but alas, then it wouldn’t be ghostwritten anymore, would it? (And let me tell you, the whole ghostwriting thing wreaks havoc on the old resume, since I can’t really blatantly list all the books I’ve written.)
Fun as this book signing was, I look forward to the day when I’ll be signing my own novel at a book signing!