About half the non-fiction books which you see in the book shops, and probably about a quarter of the novels, are not actually written by the names that appear on the covers.
At least half of the bestselling books that you hear about in the media are actually written by ghostwriters and the majority of the other half are heavily re-written by editors.
If you want to earn a living from writing then you could become one of the people who actually write the bestsellers.
There are, and always have been, an invisible army of ghostwriters out there making a good living from writing books, although the reading public never gets to hear their names. I know this because I am one of them and have been for the last thirty years.
Being a ghostwriter is great because it means you can earn a living from writing, you get to meet the most interesting people on earth and your life can be as varied as you want it to be.
My work has taken me from palaces to brothels, allowed me to consort with beggars and kings. It allows me to do the two things I enjoy the most; hear fascinating stories and tell fascinating stories.
Writing books is hard work and takes a lot of practice, which is why most people can’t write their own and need to hire professional authors to do it for them.
If you spend your days working as an actor or a footballer, or your time is taken up with ruling a country or building a multinational corporation, you do not have time to sit down at the end of the day and write several thousand words – at least not words that any publisher would ever want to buy or anyone would ever want to read.
Publishers, however, want to buy these people’s stories and so they need to be able to call on professional writers to do the actual work.
Over the years I have earned more than US$6-million from ghostwriting and have had a great time doing it. I have traveled to every destination I ever dreamed of and been given unlimited access to secrets I would never otherwise have come across.
It has not stopped me from writing my own books at the same time; novels such as “Secrets of the Italian Gardener” which is about a ghostwriter who is working for a middle eastern dictator at the time of the Arab Spring, “Pretty Little Packages”, which is about a ghostwriter who becomes involved in the trafficking of slaves, and “The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride” set in the world of instant celebrity, (a world which constantly requires the services ghostwriters), plus my own memoir “Confessions of a Ghostwriter”.
In fact, it is my ghostwriting adventures which have provided me with the material for these books.
What skills do you need to be a successful ghost?
Well, you need to be able to spot a good story and know how to construct a narrative arc, just like a novelist, and you need to be able to write in the voice of another, just like a playwright.
Above all else, however, you need to be able to pack your own ego away and subsume yourself completely in the personality of another person, just like an actor.
The public is beginning to realize the role that ghostwriters play, partly due to “Ghostwriter” the bestselling thriller by Robert Harris which was turned into a film starring Ewan McGregor as the ghostwriter and Pierce Brosnan as the thinly disguised version of Prime Minister, Tony Blair. In the original bestseller Robert Harris quotes my handbook “Ghostwriting” at the start of every chapter.
It is well known that J.F.K and Ronald Reagan both used ghostwriters and bestselling novelists like James Patterson make no secret of the fact that although they may come up with the plots they hand the actual writing over to other people.
As the world becomes more transparent ghostwriters will receive more credit for the work they do. For anyone who wants to earn a good living as a writer, and have some great adventures along the way, ghostwriting is a career well worth considering.
Half the world’s bestselling non-fiction books and a quarter of the bestselling novels are written by ghostwriters. It is a great way to earn a living – once you know how to do it.
Article written by Andrew Crofts
Andrew Crofts has been a freelance writer for 40 years and a ghostwriter for 30 years.
He writes two or three books a year, many of which have been international best-sellers, while others have been published privately for a range of exclusive clients.
He is also a novelist and his memoir “Confessions of a Ghostwriter” was published in 2014.
He lectures at a number of universities and gives master classes on earning a living from writing.
He recently served on the management committee of the Society of Authors in London.