Several hours ago on Twitter, a young writer rejoiced over getting a ghostwriting gig, calling it an important step in her freelance career. For a writer wanting to work (and get this, receive money for that work as if he were a plumber or politician), an offer to write a book under someone else’s name can sound par for the course. It’s similar to other ways someone with a fistful of dollars can shove it toward a writer to ask for words in return: blogs, speeches, marketing, and corporate copy.
A friend of Orwell’s said, “There is only one way to make money at writing, and that is to marry a publisher’s daughter.” But the freelance writer hopes to forge another path.
In the current issue of World magazine, Jenny Rough quotes differing opinions on ghostwriting. Some writers would say they couldn’t compose their books alone; they needed to work with a subject expert. Some athletes, actors, and speakers recognize they don’t have the skills to tell their story on paper, so they need a writer to communicate for them; readers will likely buy a book by that actor they love before they buy one about him. Perhaps it feels more personal.
Is it a problem for readers to believe the celebrity whose name is on the cover actually wrote the words on the page, scribbled notes to himself during dull meetings, pounded his own keyboard, cried over an editor’s red ink, and procrastinated until being overtaken by the threat of an existential deadline?
In most cases, it is.
Jared Wilson has written many times on pastors who desire to write. Being known for their words in the pulpit, pastors will be expected to write their own books. If they don’t, they’ll be expected to acknowledge who did.
Author Angela Hunt told World she “realized it wouldn’t cost authors anything to reveal they had help. ‘It doesn’t belittle them to admit they’re not professional writers. Many secular writers refuse to ghostwrite for the same reason we Christian writers do—it’s not honest, and it disparages the work of the writer who has worked hard to learn the craft.'”