Among this week’s nonfiction bestsellers, you’ll see a former U.S. president, a Rolling Stone, an actress with food issues, two political pundits and someone known as “Baba Booey.” What you won’t see is at least six ghostwriters who make their living actually writing the books “authored” by celebrities and politicos. If you’re wondering, George W. Bush’s Decision Points was coauthored by his loyal aide and speechwriter Christopher Michel. Life, the Keith Richards memoir, was written by James Fox, a British journalist who devoted five years to the project.
Writing someone else’s book is actually a good way for a writer to earn a living these days. You may have heard the saying “everyone has a book in them.” I say everyone has a spleen in them, too. In both cases, it takes a particular skill set to get it out.
Obviously, baseline writing talent and solid knowledge of the craft are required for this job, but a good ghostwriter is also a good listener, meticulous researcher and all-purpose book nanny, with the ability to keep the client’s secrets, build a bridge between the client and publisher, and completely set ego aside. Ghostwriting is a personality type as much as it is a skill set. Natural nurturers are in like Flynn; control freaks need not apply.