Tag Archives: ghost writers

How Becoming a Published Author Can Accelerate Your Success


It doesn’t matter what industry you are in—today, customers and clients demand to work with experts. In some cases, they want to work only with the marquee names in a particular field.


As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to take the right steps to demonstrate your expertise and authority—and, if possible, be seen as a bit of a celebrity in your business.

The best way I know how to make that happen: Write a book. The credibility that you can achieve among your ideal clients and prospects by being a published author is amazing. I know—I’ve written or co-written dozens of books, and they’ve have a huge impact in establishing me as an expert in my niche.


The good news: Writing and publishing a credibility-building book is nowhere near as difficult as it might seem at first glance. I recently spoke with Rob Kosberg to get his advice on generating tons of new business using books as primary marketing tools. Kosberg is the author of the best-seller Life After Debt and the founder of Best Seller Publishing, which helps business owners write, publish and successful market their own bestselling books. To date, Kosberg has helped 300 authors in 25 niches use books to accelerate their success.

1. Everybody has a book in them. The most common response most entrepreneurs have to the idea of writing a book is, “I’ve lead a pretty mundane life that isn’t the basis for a book.” Wrong, says Kosberg. “If you’re a business owner, you’ve had experiences and stories that are book-worthy,” he says. “Even if your backstory isn’t especially exciting, you have examples of how you have helped your clients or customers, and that’s more than enough.”


2. Don’t go it alone. That said, getting your own story and ideas out of you and into a well-written book isn’t an instinctive process. Get help by working with a ghost writer who can capture your stories, your insights and—most important—your voice. A lot of entrepreneurs think it’s somehow cheating or being unethical if they don’t write the book entirely by themselves, but that’s simply not true. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to be the author—the person with the expertise and advice—and work with a writer who can get that information on the page in a way that positions you as an authority. Bonus: A writer will help you get your book done faster than if you go it alone—and can even help make the process fun.

3. Use the book to generate leads. The biggest mistaken assumption that business owners usually make when doing books is that they’ll make a lot of money from book sales. That’s almost never the case, unless you manage to get on Oprah.


It’s OK if your book doesn’t fly off the shelves (or the e-shelves). The reason: Your book isn’t an end—it’s a means to get lots of new clients, get booked for speaking engagements at events, get booked on local radio and TV and generally raising awareness of you (and your expertise) among ideal prospects.


That’s why your book effort should be accompanied by a lead generation strategy—which could be as simple as having prospects call a phone number you give out during a radio show appearance to get a copy of the book and more information. Or you can use various e-marketing and direct marketing strategies.


Pro tip: Be willing to give away your book for free. The leads you can generate from simply getting your book into prospects’ hands are much more valuable than the cost of the book itself. For example, one of Kosberg’s clients used his book to get a speaking engagement at a trade show—the book gave him the credibility to get the attention of the organizers, who had refused to book him in the past. Then he gave away copies of the book to prospects at the event—and ultimately generated $700,000 worth of new business as a result.


4. Take advantage of self-publishing options. In the “old days”—maybe 10 years ago—publishing a book meant going through a publishing company and spending big bucks. They might make you print a thousand copies, most of which would end up sitting in a box in your basement. Now, of course, you can self-publish inexpensively through Amazon and other services. Even better, you can print your book on demand in whatever amount you need.



Thinking About Writing Literary Fiction?


In 2013, James Patterson, the paperback writer whose volumes are typically consumed somewhere between 25,000 and 32,000 feet above ground, made $90 million from book sales. Ninety million dollars. With publishers finally quashing the old-school idea that big-name authors should release no more than a book a year, Patterson opened the floodgates. After assembling a 16-member gang of ghostwriters (provided by Little, Brown and Company, his publisher) and sketching a series of boilerplate plot lines, Team Patterson started cranking into the lowbrow literary universe two to four “BookShots” a month. He says he looks at writing “the way Henry Ford would look at it.” He also says he’s responsible for about one-third of his publisher’s overall book sales.

The established literati, as you might imagine, wasn’t impressed. When Patterson’s 2013 windfall earnings made news, Bill Morris, a staff writer for the literary website The Millions, deigned to sample the Patterson oeuvre by reading (while on an international flight) Pop Goes the Weasel. It didn’t go well. “Books like Pop Goes the Weasel,” he wrote, “are for people who don’t really like to read but love to be able to say they have read, much as fruity cocktails are for people who don’t really like to drink but love to get knee-walking drunk.” Alcohol analogy notwithstanding, the assessment is fairly standard among readers and writers who prefer Proust over Patterson. The man’s literary bona fides are, in short, nil.

But according to Clayton Childress, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto and author of the forthcoming Under the Cover: The Creation, Production, and Reception of a Novel, the smart set might tone down its snobbery. Big-name writers such as Patterson, he tells me, are “doing the literary world a favor.” Noting that an estimated “85 percent of a publisher’s titles fail to return on investment,” Childress argues that the income generated by Patterson-like authors (J.K. Rowling and Stephen King come to mind) subsidize the risks publishers take on unknown writers who show literary promise. “The system of book advances,” he says, “are redistributive.” Patterson’s success subsidizes the dreams of future Saul Bellows and Toni Morrisons.

Given that Patterson, the world’s best-selling author since 2001, could easily self-publish on Amazon, it seems appropriate — if not obligatory — for struggling novelists with literary ambitions to send him a brief but sincere thank you note.

Nobody goes into the business of novel writing to get rich. Throughout American history, even the most well-known writers, at least early in their careers, had to earn a living beyond the bounds of books. As Childress reminds us, Herman Melville was a customs inspector, William Faulkner a postmaster, and Kurt Vonnegut a car dealership manager (Saab). Even Patterson worked at an advertising agency.

Noting that “85 percent of a publisher’s titles fail to return on investment,” Childress argues that the income generated by Patterson-like authors subsidize the risks publishers take on unknown writers who show literary promise.

Still, many young authors today complain about not being able to make a living through a singular emphasis on writing. Childress thinks this complaint is more mythology, if not entitlement, than a legitimate gripe. There was never an authorial golden age. The employment history of famous writers — Octavia Butler was a quality control inspector of potato chips! — is therefore critical to framing Childress’ most compelling claim: Novel writing in the United States today — that is, the production of high-end literary work — is “perhaps more profitable than ever before.”

In addition to the big-name trickle down affect, Childress highlights the rise of MFA programs as the other development essential to the fate of working novelists. The first such program — the Iowa Writers Workshop — was founded in 1936, but it did not start to take off until the early 2000s, when MFA programs exploded to accommodate an upsurge of students who, facing an uncertain economy, took out loans to enroll. “More MFA programs in creative writing have been founded since 2000,” Childress writes, “than were founded throughout the entire twentieth century.”

These programs have tangibly and systematically helped struggling writers. They “provide income to novelists, short story writers, poets, and other creative writers,” enabling them, according to one writing instructor Childress interviewed, “to earn a living while writing.” Again, no one in this scenario is breaking the bank, but MFA programs, according to a Stanford University English professor, comprise “the largest system of literary patronage for living writers the world has ever seen.”

Grading student papers takes time but, for the aspiring novelist, it’s better than assessing the quality of potato chips (at least as a long-term professional endeavor). The students of MFA programs, despite the burden of loans, end up doing relatively well, too, with a high percentage landing real jobs in the arts.

There are other advantages to the MFA model beyond steady literary employment. As Childress explains, writing programs shelter experimental authors from culture war crossfire. Prior to the rise of MFA programs, novelists primarily turned to the National Endowment for the Arts for economic support. But with the aggressive interference of ideological firebrands such as Jesse Helms, the South Carolina senator who condemned Erica Jong’s NEA-supported feminist novel Fear of Flying as a “reportedly filthy, obscene book” (and with Allen Ginsberg bragging that he used his NEA grant to by a Volkswagen bus for a friend), the NEA decided to pursue another tact.



The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Ghostwriter


We all know how important content is today — it’s a way of promoting yourself and your company by providing relevant and interesting information to your target audience. Small businesses can especially benefit from content because it can help you develop your brand and make it preferable in the competitive market.

One of the first rules of promoting through content is that you have to be consistent. If you decide to write blogs that are a great source of information about the company, its products/services, general trends in your business field, know-hows, tips and tricks, etc., you have to produce them on a regular basis.

Not only will publishing blog posts regularly bring readers to  your site, but it will also help you establish yourself as an expert in the field and someone competent enough to get the job done. Small businesses, start-ups and even freelancers always need to work on growing and strengthening their brands in order to be noticed.

Then again, regular blog posts are not worth much if they’re badly written. Blogs need to be engaging, interesting and well written overall.

What if writing is not your strongest skill or you just don’t have time to deal with it?

Writing blog posts, for example, once a week, sounds like an easy enough job, but it really isn’t. Generating relevant ideas for topics, conducting research, writing, proofreading and rewriting can take a lot of time that small business owners just can’t afford. Both you and your employees will be much more satisfied if you focus your efforts on running the company.

Sometimes, insufficient time isn’t even a problem. Being a business owner doesn’t require good writing skills. You may be an expert in your own field, but no one expects you to be able to write well about it.

If you really want to publish articles on your website, under your own name, but you know you’re not competent enough to do it, there is a simple solution — hire a ghostwriter.

What You Need to Know About Hiring a Ghostwriter

What are Ghostwriters?

Ghostwriters are people you hire to write text they won’t be credited for since the text will be published under the name of the person who hired them, in this case you. They work is present, but they are not credited making their contribution invisible, and that’s why they’re called ghostwriters.

Ghostwriters are hired to do the writing for everything — from blog posts and white papers to movie scripts, public speeches and even books. They basically trade their credit rights for profit and that’s usually good for both sides. You get high-quality text and the ghostwriter gets paid, but there is so much more to this relationship than just a basic trade of words for money.

Why Should You Hire a Ghostwriter?

I have already mentioned the main reasons for hiring a ghostwriter — not enough time to write your own stuff or no writing skills even though you have a lot of ideas and topics you want to cover. Let’s dig a little deeper into some of the pros of hiring someone to write instead of you.

  • Ghostwriters won’t take credit for the text they write for you, so you can start building your personal brand and your company’s brand by publishing quality text.
  • The ghostwriter will not only deliver the text to you on time, but he/she will also do it professionally. Like in any area of business, ghostwriters are trying to sell their services, or in this case their words, and make a profit, and they will do their best to meet their clients’ expectations.
  • No matter what field your company operates in, ghostwriters are masters of adjusting and they will do extensive research before even starting to write. Of course, if necessary, they will ask you for some insight or about certain terms used in the field.
  • Ghostwriters will hear you out and adopt your ideas about the text you hired them to write. They will send you a draft for the blog post (or any other text) and after reviewing it, you can ask the writer to change certain things. At the beginning, you will probably go through several drafts until you get the results you want. This will change over time if you continue working with the same writer, as they will get to know you and your requirements better.
  • Ghostwriters will never be critical of the subjects you want to cover!

Are There Any Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Hire a Ghostwriter?

Of course, with something like publishing text someone else wrote under your own name, there are some issues, mostly about the ethics of the whole thing. You will meet a lot of people who will consider the whole thing unethical, but usually not from the writer’s point of view.

As we said, ghostwriters are professionals selling their services for money, just like car mechanics, graphic designers and many others. They offer their services knowing they won’t be credited for the published text. You’re not doing anything they didn’t allow you to do. If you want to, you can mention them in the credits if they ask. It’s up to you. But this might no longer be considered ghostwriting.

On the other hand, you, as the person who hired a ghostwriter, have some things to think about before actually hiring one.

  • Even though ghostwriters are professionals who write for a living, they will never be able to express your original thoughts and express your voice through the texts they write for you.
  • As I said, ghostwriters do a lot of research in order to write relevant blogs. That is also the research you are not conducting. When reading through different articles, writers collect information important for the blog post or other article they are writing. If you, as an expert in the field, were reading through the same articles, the information you would gather would most certainly help you improve your skills and learn something you wouldn’t otherwise come across.
  • If you do choose to hire a ghostwriter, be sure not to run around telling everyone about it. A lot of people closely connect ghostwriting to plagiarism and find publishing someone else’s words as your own unethical. That is definitely not the impression you want to make when trying to be seen as an expert. Despite ghostwriting being a common thing in today’s world, it’s still not accepted as normal by everyone, so be careful.
  • Last but not least, people will not really see you as an expert if someone else is writing your words for you. Of course, there are a lot of people who are, for example, great with numbers but terrible at writing. They need someone to transform their thoughts into meaningful paragraphs. On the other hand, if time is an issue for you, you should reconsider your priorities and see where starting a blog stands and how important it is for you.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know Before Hiring a Ghostwriter?

There are some things that are considered secrets of the trade among ghostwriters that you should be aware of. They should not be strictly considered as cons, but simply something to prepare you for the worst.

  • Although ghostwriters will not be critical of the subject you are hiring them for, they should be able to express their feelings about it. A lot of ghostwriters will accept every topic you ask them to write about, but if a topic is controversial, they should feel comfortable to discuss some issues with you. Otherwise, you may get an article that is somewhat subjective and not what you imagined. If you create a professional relationship with certain ghostwriters, they will openly tell you if the topic is not something they are willing to write. This should be considered as a plus, because you want your article to be written professionally and without any judgment and subjectivity.
  • It’s not a secret that even ghostwriters hire someone to do the ghostwriting for them. This especially applies to ghostwriters that are already somewhat famous and known in their circles. They get a lot of offers and a fair number of them will not decline those offers but rather outsource the projects to someone else, so you never really know who wrote your article. This can be regulated with a contract specifically stating that a certain person will write for you.
  • Yes, a contract! You should always make a contract when hiring a ghostwriter, especially if you plan to hire one for the long-term or for a large-scale project. When entering into a contract, you should make sure you have the same rights as the writer.
  • Be sure to make it clear to the ghostwriter that your suggestions about edits should be final. Some writers will try to make you adopt their point of view, and even though they are professional writers, they may not be professionals in your field. This is your text that will be published under your name, on your company’s website, so even though you’re not the one actually writing it, make it your own.
  • Some ghostwriters may use text written for you as their reference. It’s normal that they would need some proof of their previous work, but they should discuss it with you before making it public. If you are not comfortable with them sharing the information that you are using ghostwriters, make it clear at the very beginning and put it in the contract. Another option ghostwriters have is sending some paragraphs to potential new clients. This might be acceptable for you if the writer signs a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with those potential clients.

Where Would I Find a Ghostwriter?

If, after reading this, you want to give ghostwriters a try, there are several options for you. There are platforms dedicated to this subject alone. Also, if you want to start small, so to speak, you can try hiring a freelancer through a platform like Upwork. This may be a cheaper solution, but be careful when picking your writer. You will probably want someone who has some experience. On the other hand, there are platforms that you can use to find professionals for different areas as well as ghostwriting.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

The price for ghostwriting services depends on many things. The first and most important factor is the length of the text. The price won’t be the same for a blog post with 800 words as for a white paper, or a book! Writers may start as low as $10 per article (but beware, the quality can be really bad when the fee is low!) and can go over $1000.

Another  impact on pricing can be explained with the basic supply and demand rule. The more work a ghostwriter is doing and the busier he/she is, the higher price they will give you.

Some ghostwriters will charge you by the project, whereas those you are hiring more long-term may ask to be paid monthly. These are things you should discuss with a ghostwriter and put in a contract.

Whatever the price a ghostwriter gives you, you can always try to negotiate and find ways to save some money while still getting a professional service.



Should You Be Using a Pen Name?


Pen names, also known as pseudonyms and noms de plume, are more popular than ever. Like brand names, they are designed to be catchy, memorable and suited to the genre. Writers switch genders and nationalities. Plain-Janes leap into exotic personas. X-gens with hyphenated surnames opt for something short.

I am often asked if using a pen name is legal. Will a writer be accused of identity theft and fraud? Will he be sued if he uses the name of a real person?

Using a pen name is completely legal. In fact, it is often a wise business choice. But writers should take a few common-sense steps to avoid confusion and protect their rights.

Why Use a Pen Name?

If you are a surgeon, do you want your patients to know you crank out high-body-count thrillers? If you dabble in bondage fiction, do you want to share that information with neighbors, employers, and your church group? Privacy is one of the main reasons writers choose pen names.

In deciding on pen names, writers try to evoke the right tone, whether it is mysterious, authoritative, or lovable. They may have different pen names for different genres. A writer with an audience in romance will choose a different pen name for a dark, dystopian fantasy. Writers who have bombed under one name start over with pen names.

Avoiding confusion
I recently co-wrote an ebook with Jessica Brown, and we discovered there are at least three other Jessica Browns selling books on Amazon. If a writer has a common name, or the same name as someone famous, a pen name avoids confusion.

The marketplace has changed. More people shop for books by scanning online thumbnails instead of browsing bookstore aisles. Writers are selecting short pseudonyms that pop from the screen.

Two or more co-writers might pick a single name for publication.

How to Choose a Pen Name

Choosing a pseudonym is a creative process, and many writers find selecting a pen name more difficult that naming a character. The e-book Pen Name: How to Create Yours by Jennifer Blanchard lists 31 ideas for generating your perfect pen name and is worth a look.

Once you decide on a short list of possibilities, do the following:

  • Research. A pen name should be unique. Research the internet and bookselling sites. Avoid any name already used by a writer, since that is likely to confuse readers. Do not use the name of anyone famous. If you write a book under the pen name Taylor Swift or Derek Jeter, you may be accused of trying to pass yourself off as the celebrity. I also suggest a trademark search through the U.S. Trademark Office. If you use the name of registered trademarks, you risk getting a cease-and-desist letter. Search for available domain names, because you want to buy a domain for your pen name.Try to avoid using the name of a real person. If you happen to use the name of a real person, you are not committing identity theft. Identity theft involves intentionally acts to impersonate someone for financial gain. But if your writing affects the real person’s life, consider changing your pen name.


  • Claim the name. Buy the domain name. Also file a Fictitious Business Name Statement if you will be getting payments made out to your pen name. I explain the process in my blog.


  • Use the name. Place the pen name on your cover and your copyright notice, © 2014 [your pen name] . Some authors put the copyright notice in both their pen name and real name, but it is not necessary.


  • Be open with your publisher. Usually, you will not be able to hide your real name from your publisher since contracts are signed in your real name. The exception is when you form a corporation, LLC, or other entity (as I describe below), but even then, most publishers want to know their authors.


  • Register your copyright. You may register the copyright of your work under your pseudonym, your real name, or both. Here is the screen shot of the registration application page for identifying the Author.

If you write under a pseudonym but want to be identified by your legal name in the Copyright Office’s records, give your legal name under Individual Author and click on Pseudonymous and provide your pen name/pseudonym as well.

If you do not want to have your real identity revealed in the Copyright Office’s records, then click on Pseudonymous only and insert your pen name. Leave Individual Author blank. If you fill in your name, it will become part of the Office’s online public records, which are accessible on the internet. The information cannot later be removed from the public records.

  • I recommend that authors register their pseudonymous works under both their real names and pen names. This creates a permanent record of ownership, and few readers are going to research copyright records and find out.

    There are downsides to registering the copyright under a pseudonym only. First, it may prove difficult to prove ownership of the work at a later date. Second, the life of the copyright will shorter: 95 years from the year of first publication or 120 years from its creation, instead of 70 years after your death.

What Not to Do When Using a Pen Name

  • Don’t go overboard in creating a fake identity. Never claim credentials you don’t have. Be cautious about creating a fictitious bio. If you are exposed, your readers may feel betrayed and dump you.
  • Don’t use a pen name to avoid a pre-existing contract. If you have granted a traditional publisher first-refusal rights or have signed a confidentiality agreement as part of a legal settlement or employment agreement, a pen name won’t change anything. You are still breaching your obligations.
  • Don’t expect a pen name to protecting you from defamation claims.Most likely, you will be found out either through legal process or technology.


Decide How Secretive You Want to Be

Most authors find openness easier to maintain than secrecy. At book signings, they use their pen names, but at conferences they use their real names with a reference to their pen names. The web pages for their pen names are often linked. For example, Dean Kootz lists his various pen names on his website.

Some authors are more discreet. They try to maintain their privacy, but not to the point of lying. They don’t put photos on their books and blogs, do not link their websites, and limit public appearances.

Other authors put up roadblocks. They set up corporations and trusts to hold the copyrights and contracts. This is the most expensive alternative and may require an attorney. Even then, someone will know who is behind the corporation, and word may leak out. Remember what happened to J .K. Rowling? She tried to keep quiet about her pen name Robert Galbraith, but it was leaked by, of all people, her lawyers.

After all, there is something quite human about sharing secrets. Isn’t that what writers love to do? I believe it was Truman Capote who said, all literature is gossip.




5 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Used Ghostwriters


It’s almost like learning the truth about Santa Claus: Once you know, it’s so obvious, but you’re still a little heartbroken when you discover that your favorite author didn’t really pen most of the work with his or her name on the cover. Take comfort, though, in the knowledge that many of those ghostwriters are talented enough to be successful under their own names. Here are a few of them.


If you know young adult novels, you probably know Mr. Lerangis. His 140 titles include books in The 39 Clues series, two series of his own (Watchers and Drama Club) and the critically acclaimed historical fiction Smiler’s Bones.

Millions of us of a certain age, however, are most familiar with Lerangis’ undercover work masquerading as a bunch of tweens from Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Lerangis wrote approximately 40 books in The Baby-Sitters Club series, including Mary Anne’s Makeover. He also did a little ghosting for the Sweet Valley books (Twins and High).


V.C. Andrews was just a few books into her empire when she passed away from breast cancer at the age of 63. The last book in the Dollanganger series that made her famous, Garden of Shadows, was started by Andrews but finished by Andrew Neiderman. With the blessing of her family, Neiderman took over in 1986 and is still writing under the V.C. Andrews name to this day.

Between his V.C. Andrews work and writing his own novels, Neiderman has had more than 100 books published. The most well-known is probably The Devil’s Advocate, a 1990 novel that was made into a film starring Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron. Hallucinations, mental institutions, and insanity, all wrapped up with a Gothic bow … kind of makes sense that a V.C. Andrews-style author was involved in that story, don’t you think?


The father of Cthulhu and the Necronomicon dabbled in ghostwriting for none other than Harry Houdini. Lovecraft had long been a contributor to the pulp magazine Weird Tales when the founder, J.C. Henneberger, contacted him about ghostwriting for the famous escape artist. The magazine was in a little financial difficulty and Henneberger felt that “true” stories from Houdini would help sales. For $100, Lovecraft churned out “Imprisoned With the Pharaohs” in less than a week and earned himself a big fan in Mr. Houdini, who offered him more ghostwriting opportunities. The piece was later retitled “Under the Pyramids,” and Lovecraft was given a byline.


Raymond Benson is probably best known for his work with everyone’s favorite secret agent: He wrote 12 James Bond novels between 1997 and 2002, including the novelizations of Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. It’s not surprising, then, that he’s also the man behind another spy-thriller franchise, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.

Though a glance at the cover might lead you to believe that the novelization of the video game was written by Tom Clancy, a closer look will reveal that it was written by “David Michaels,” who doesn’t really exist. Benson used the Michaels pseudonym for the first and second book in the Splinter Cell series, and after that another author was hired to use the same moniker.

Benson has also written novelizations of the video game Metal Gear Solid, computer games based on Stephen King’s The Mist and Lynne Reid Banks’ The Indian in the Cupboard, and the 2011 thriller novel The Black Stiletto. He also wrote The Pocket Guide to Jethro Tull.



Like Ann M. Martin, Francine Pascal didn’t have much to do with the huge hit series bearing her name. The final Sweet Valley books were penned by a gaggle of ghostwriters, including Daniel Ehrenhaft and Ryan Nerz.

So how did a couple of dudes in their 20s get into the minds of a bunch of teen girls clamoring to hear Elizabeth and Jessica’s latest exploits? “I had to smoke a lot of weed. I’m kind of kidding, kind of not,” Nerz told The Hairpin in August. He also admits to consulting his sister when he needed detail for scenes that included, say, makeup application.

Interestingly, Ann Brashares (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) was Nerz’ editor; Cecily von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl) was an editor during the same time period.

Nerz now writes books that are decidedly adult, including Eat This Book (a first-hand account of the competitive eating circuit) and MARIJUANAMERICA (perhaps the reason he decided to investigate the competitive eating circuit).

Ehrenhaft has stayed in the YA genre and has quite a few titles under his belt, including the recently released Americapedia. He’s also a member of Tiger Beat, a band made entirely of Young Adult authors.



What It’s Like to Be a Cookbook Ghostwriter


There was a time when the word ghostwriter only appeared in splashy news stories that exposed celebrity authors for not writing their own books. But the truth is there’s nothing controversial about being a cookbook ghostwriter, and the world is finally catching on. These behind-the-scenes gurus do a good chunk of the grunt work without the glory, which is often the way they like it.

There are plenty of reasons that chefs decide to work with ghostwriters (whose names do not appear on the books) or with credited co-authors. Just as it takes more than being a good cook to run a successful restaurant, it takes more than having a successful restaurant to produce a good cookbook.

“Making books is always a team project,” says Andrew Schloss, who has ghostwritten eight books and solo written and co-authored many more includingSalt Block Cooking with Mark Bitterman. “The author is working with editors, with designers, there are all sorts of people who are putting their imprint on the book. ” Chefs and authors get hooked up in all sorts of ways. Most often gigs come through the writer’s literary agent, but sometimes chefs tap their own co-authors or get recommendations from others in the industry.

The cookbook ghostwriter is part writer, part recipe tester, and part project manager. They help the chefs put their stories and recipes to paper, while also making sure that deadlines are met and publishers are kept happy. One of the pros is writer and cookbook collaborator JJ Goode, who has co-authored about a dozen books with the likes of April Bloomfield and Masaharu Morimoto (and a few where he is only mentioned in the acknowledgements). As Goode points out, chefs are incredible at working under pressure, “but the idea of a project that takes a year or two to complete makes them want to die.”

Though giving credit to the co-author is becoming increasingly common—if not on the cover than on the title page—there are plenty of reasons people opt for ghostwriters instead. It can be confusing to readers to see another name alongside the chef’s. And there are certainly times when ego is involved. “Some chefs with different personalities don’t want to need help, they want to appear self-sufficient,” notes New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark, who has authored, co-authored, and ghostwritten dozens of cookbooks with celebrity chefs. “I think that’s silly, personally.”

There are times, too, when the collaborator is the one who opts not to have their name associated with a project. Jess Thomson, who has ghostwritten and co-authored cookbooks with chefs like Renee Erickson and has a food-relatedmemoir upcoming, says she takes her name off not because she’s not proud of the work, but rather because she doesn’t want to become pigeonholed in that particular category of cooking.

“For example I wrote a cookbook about donuts,” she explains, “and suddenly I was the donut queen.” She was traveling the country making donuts everywhere she went and realized she didn’t want to get stuck in such a specific niche.

Even more than writing, one of the biggest jobs of cookbook collaborators is making sure that the recipes work in a real kitchen for a home cook.

“I make this important distinction,” says cookbook author and collaborator David Joachim, “between dishes—which is something that chefs create—and recipes, which is not necessarily something that chefs create.” Chefs employ skills, equipment, methods, and serving sizes that are drastically different from what is available to your typical cookbook audience, and so the recipes need to be translated accordingly.

“I would say I have never done a book where I have been given good material for original recipes,” agrees Schloss. “They are always a mess.” That’s not to say the person can’t cook; they just aren’t accustomed to writing recipes, particularly for a home audience.

As an example, Schloss ghostwrote a cookbook for a YouTube food sensation who made great food and videos but whose written recipes were essentially nonsensical. “With that person I knew they just had no interest in accuracy of amounts,” he recalls. Between watching their YouTube videos and using his own kitchen common sense, however, Schloss was able to make the recipes work. “Each time I got a recipe,” he recalls, “I went through amounts and added stuff up and said how much food will this make, will this make sense for this number of portions?”

Sometimes there’s no written recipe at all to work from. When Joachim was working with Marc Vetri on his Italian pasta cookbook, he had to observe Vetri making fish ravioli in his professional kitchen so he could write the recipe.

Depending on the chef, there are various levels of involvement. “In some books I do everything, I mean everything,” says Clark. “So the chef will be like, I want a recipe for pasta with anchovies and eggplant and that’s all they do and I create the recipe and do everything. And then sometimes the chef will give me the perfect recipe and they are so articulate that they will give me the headnote.”

On the other side, Goode recalls handing a draft over to a chef who responded with, “Yo, I can’t read that well. Do you want to read this out loud to me?” So he did.

However tightly the chefs are holding onto the reins, the co-authoring relationship can be a bit like dating. “I think the first step for any co-author is to spend time sniffing out the chef and figuring out whether you are a match,” says Thomson. “If my blink reaction is no, I run. Because if there is any doubt in my mind in the beginning it will be magnified 10 million times in the process of writing a cookbook.”