What People Misunderstand About Ghostwriting

What People Misunderstand About Ghostwriting

I’m listening to a money mindset program called Your Wish is Your Command, by Kevin Trudeau, at the recommendation of one of my business coaches, and I was surprised that within the first few minutes of the first CD in a 14-CD set, the topic of ghostwriters came up.

Actually, Trudeau makes a sweeping generalization about super wealthy people who use ghostwriters that surprised me.

He claims that the super wealthy “don’t write the books. They don’t even know what’s in the books” that bear their names, because they use ghostwriters.

He’s wrong.

Now, I agree that many super wealthy, super busy people use ghostwriters to draft and publish their books (I’ve had the pleasure of working with several).

Certainly, not all super wealthy folks do, but some time-starved CEOs, celebrities, and philanthropists prefer to spend their time on activities other than sitting down and putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, to write a book. So, some do hire book ghostwriters to shepherd their projects.

Although the super wealthy are not the only authors to rely on ghostwriters, I do think he’s correct that they may be more likely to. However, plenty of people who are not billionaires opt to rely on ghostwriters for help in drafting the book they have in mind.

What Ghostwriters Do

Where Trudeau goes astray is in misunderstanding the role a professional ghostwriter plays in crafting a nonfiction book.

Yes, a ghostwriter helps structure the book and the ideas therein; sometimes they help generate possible titles, too.

Yes, a ghostwriter helps determine where information should come from, whether from interviews with the author, interviews with family and friends, interviews with industry analysts, archival data, news reports, or a number of other possible sources.

Yes, a ghostwriter helps extract information from their client’s memory, through careful questioning, prodding, and active listening.

Yes, a ghostwriter then takes all that raw material provided by the client and creates a rough draft of the information discussed.

However, when Trudeau claims that a super wealthy authors doesn’t know what’s in the book that bears their name, he reveals that he doesn’t know how ghostwriters work.

What Ghostwriters Do Not Do

However—and this is important—nonfiction ghostwriters do not write books from scratch without significant input, guidance, and content from their clients.

Ghostwriters are hired by clients to assist in producing a book-length work, or really any written materials, based on the message the client wants to impart.

Maybe the author wants to tell their life story.

Maybe they want to draft a memoir that zeroes in on a particular time in their life, or to explain or explore a life-altering event.

Maybe they want to share a technique or strategy they used successfully within an organization they owned or managed.

Maybe they want to garner support for an idea they think will benefit the world.

There are many reasons someone might opt to write a book. The idea originates with them, however, and not with the ghostwriter, typically. (Once in a while a ghostwriter might approach a famous person or someone they admire to inquire if they might be interested in working on a book together, and in those cases the project is more of a collaboration than a true case of anonymous authorship.)

But to state that ghostwriters commonly create books for super wealthy clients without much, if any, involvement from the client is wrong. It’s incorrect. Especially since the client, the author, has final approval on the contents of the book.

Ghostwriting Clients Expect to Control the Project

Could it happen that a ghostwriter would draft a book without author involvement?

Maybe a work of fiction, where the client provides the story arc and characters. I’ve heard of fiction ghostwriters having a lot of leeway to shape the client’s idea.

But not with nonfiction. It would not be standard practice for that, no. Mainly because successful people like to be in control. That’s not a criticism, but I suspect it’s true for most of the super wealthy.

So, to suggest that a super wealthy individual would hire a ghostwriter to write a book, pay them for their work, provide no input or direction, and then allow it to be published without the author having studied it? Very unlikely.

I have trouble imagining anyone of prominence being so cavalier with their reputation to allow a book to be published when, as Trudeau claims, “They don’t even know what’s in it.”

That’s not how ghostwriters work.

If you’re thinking about hiring a ghostwriter to help produce your book, be assured that you, the client, are in the driver’s seat and have the final say on everything that goes in the book.

That’s how ghostwriting works.

Want help finding a skilled ghostwriter to help write your book or create well-written content? Fill out this form at the Association of Ghostwriters to receive the names of qualified candidates.

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Marcia Layton Turner


  1. Kevin James waldroup on September 14, 2023 at 5:19 am

    Wow I’m not super wealthy 😂 But I did hire a ghostwriter to write my novel.

    • Marcia Layton Turner on September 14, 2023 at 10:09 am

      And you probably read it before you published it, right, Kevin? 🙂

    • Barbara Saunders on October 23, 2023 at 2:11 pm

      I’m curious. Why did you hire a ghostwriter to write your novel?

      This is something I have a hard time understanding. I’m a nonfiction writer, not a novelist. But for me, the point of writing is writing itself.

      I guess my question is what was the goal in having a novel that could be satisfied by someone else doing the writing?

      • Marcia Layton Turner on October 23, 2023 at 2:32 pm

        Barbara, I suspect that time is the biggest factor here. And if you had a great idea but not the time to execute it, hiring a skilled writer to complete it makes sense to me.

  2. Mike Wicks on September 29, 2023 at 10:33 am

    Your comments are spot on Marcia.

  3. Helen Wilkie on September 29, 2023 at 12:01 pm

    Thanks for setting this all out so clearly, Marcia. Have you thought of sending it to Mr. Trudeau?

    • Marcia Layton Turner on September 29, 2023 at 12:44 pm

      Nah, the book is quite old and I doubt he would care, honestly. But I want to be sure that others understand the truth about ghostwriters.

  4. Angela Bordio on November 5, 2023 at 10:42 am

    A calm and collected piece – it’s a nice change of pace from the usual hype. Thanks for the blog!

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