You have been blessed by a few great books written by Christians you truly admire and look up to. Then you found out that the book with their name on it wasn’t actually written by them at all, but someone you’ll never know, because they signed an NDA.
As a working ghostwriter, I can happily say the problem is not hiring a ghostwriter to help you write your book, the problem comes in how you use them.
Randy Alcorn wrote a great article about publishers who hire some no name (like me) to write a great book, but slap the name of a celebrity on it as the author in order to sell more copies. He’s right to say this is unethical, mostly because the reader deserves to know.
But as I’ve said in other articles, I don’t understand why authors don’t want people to know they had some help. Just because you have a great message to share doesn’t mean you know how to write a book. There are some ways to ghostwrite or use ghostwriters that are not ethical, but here are three ways that, in my humble opinion are completely honest and ethical, and these are the terms under which I will ghostwrite for someone.
- You have written the rough draft, but need heavy editing to get it ready for publishing. In this case, you need to credit the ghostwriter as an editor. If they added things that you didn’t already write in some form, then credit them as a co-writer. If it is me, you can have the copyrights and royalties, just let’s be honest with the reader. Put my name in teeny-tiny font under yours.
- You have the main idea and lots of stories and are willing to talk to the ghostwriter or make recordings (my preference) of all your information and stories. You will need to credit the ghostwriter—at least in small font. Again, keep the copyrights and royalties, but let the reader in on the secret.
- You want someone to add some parts to the book. You aren’t writing any of it or coming up with it. You’ll need to credit them as a co-writer.
It really doesn’t matter much how you use a ghostwriter, just disclose it. One of my missions in life is to convince the world that a) using a ghostwriter is a great idea, and b) there is no shame in it so they should be credited.
One alternative that I wouldn’t mind if you don’t want someone else’s name on the cover is just write a page at the beginning of the book that says something like:
“Thank you for reading this book. It is a labor of love between myself and the very talented co-writer I hired to help me write and organize this work. Her name is _________, and she can be found at _____________. I highly recommend her to you.”
I don’t want you to let a little thing like not being a good writer stop you from writing your book, and I don’t want to let a little thing like pretending you wrote all of it to stop you from being honest with your readers!