By Aspen Kassowitz
Aspen is a high schooler who has a passion for writing. She approached me to learn more about the craft and I began to mentor her. I suggested that she write a blog article about ghostwritten books so that she could learn more about the arena.
I told her how rewarding ghostwriting was and she definitely was interested. She also wishes to write her own fiction and hopes one day to be a published author.
Here is her take on the ghostwriting industry and her discovery about ghostwritten books:
Not everyone is able to simply write and complete a book. Coming up with the plot or story is one thing and putting them into words is another. It takes hard work, time, and effort to complete a book from start to finish. This is where the ghostwriter comes in. They truly create magic.
When I started researching ghostwriters I wondered how many books were in fact ghostwritten that I never knew about. Being a young writer myself I have always had a love for reading yet I never had the full concept of what ghostwriting was until quite recently. I quickly discovered that there are a lot more ghostwritten books than I thought existed in the world. Another thing I also found out is that ghostwriting is quite prevalent.
When you start looking, you’ll discover there are a lot more ghostwritten books than you might realize.
It’s interesting to note that an estimated 60% of writers have used a ghostwriter for their work. Some writers may already be published authors, while others are just struggling to get one book done. After all, if you think about how few hours there are in a day, you might start to understand why ghostwriting is so common.
For instance, if you want to publish your book about business but are too busy actually running that business you might hire a ghostwriter to write it for you. Maybe you have a story you want to write but don’t know how. That’s when you’d call your friendly ghost! Even some of the most famous writers out there use or have used ghostwriters to help them keep their reputations of being a prolific writer.
Read on and you might be surprised to discover which authors and novels were actually ghostwritten books.
Ghostwritten Books that Might Surprise You
You might be asking yourself what types of ghostwritten books are there. There is one simple answer to that. Any. There is no limit or specific genre for ghostwritten books. Celebrities and average Joe’s who want a well-written memoir, hire a ghostwriter. In addition, business owners who want to share their wisdom often want to write a book. If you can’t write the novel a ghostwriter like Laura Sherman will take your hand and lead you through the process. Some of Laura’s clients hire her to coach them, while others ask her to write the book themselves. Laura would say “It all depends on clients wants and needs. I try to remain flexible!”
Let’s explore various novels that were ghostwritten. Let me know if any of these were a bit shocking for you:
We’ve all heard of the mystery novels known as Nancy Drew. Millions of copies were sold from the publication of the first book in 1930 all the way to the most recent one. I was very astonished to learn that Nancy Drew is just a series of ghostwritten books! Looking on the front page of the covers you will see a name, Carolyn Keene. That is the author of the series right? Wrong, Carolyn Keene isn’t actually a real person. She was actually a group of ghostwriters who created a pen name to write the series.
The main author of this series was Mildred Wirt Benson. In my opinion, she’s the writer who made Nancy Drew the household name it is today. Some people would go as far as to say that she is the real author of Nancy Drew. Out of the many books in the series, she wrote 23 of the originals.
1992 marks the start of the horrifying series that scared and entertained kids all around the world. The ghostwriters for R. L Stine seem like ghosts to me because we don’t actually know if they do or don’t exist. The truth is that R. L. Stine claims he wrote every book of the series but the speed with which he published them makes me and others wonder. I think he must have had a little ghostly help. After all, Stine was publishing two books a month by 1993. That’s a lot. Well, I’m afraid that’s a mystery yet to be solved!
The Count of Monte Cristo
This classic novel was published all the way back in 1844. I hadn’t considered that such an old classic could have been ghostwritten. Well, the true story isn’t not entirely known for sure. There is a chance Alexandre Dumas the author of The Count of Monte Cristo could have hired a collaborator, someone who helped him with the book. Auguste Maquet is the name of the so-called ghostwriter that we think co-wrote Dumas’ book. It is also theorized that he contributed to some of Dumas’ other works too.
In researching it, I discovered that Auguste Maquet was born in Paris in 1813, he was a historian who became a writer. During that time he was going through the difficult challenges of trying to publish his works until he met Alexandre Dumas in 1838. Together they wrote historical romances which they published together, but for one reason or another, the publisher left out Maquet’s name on the novels before publishing. However, it’s clear they had a strong connection in writing with each other, which is one of the reasons there have been controversies and different views on the contributions to The Count of Monte Cristo.
The Babysitter’s Club
This next popular series has approximately 250 books, four spin-offs, and even a Netflix film of it. That’s a lot made from one series, this is obviously not done by only one person. The author, Ann M. Martin didn’t try to hide the fact at all that most of the series was ghostwritten. Out of the long series she wrote the first 35 stories, then let the ghostwriters take part as they co-wrote the rest.
It’s no surprise Ann M. Martin got help to write such a big series. There was a mere 13-year gap between the release of the first book and the last. In order to write 250 books in that time, she needed some secret helpers. Out of the few ghostwriters that Martin hired, the most popular one is Peter Lerangis. He is known for his most popular book series, Seven Wonders, and he wrote not only part of The Babysitter’s Club but also popular screenplays.
Jason Bourne is an action-packed series that also became blockbuster movies. This series was super popular and loved by many. Now interestingly, despite the action in the series, there was a mystery about the writer (although today that mystery has been solved).
After the passing of Robert Ludlum in 2001, eleven more books to the series were released in the years to come. Perhaps a ghost really did write part of the Jason Bourne series. Is that possible? Well, no, but close. A ghostwriter picked up the series to continue Ludlum’s work, Eric Van Lustbader. After the passing of Robert Ludlum, no one wanted the series to die with him, so Lustbader made sure the fans were satisfied. He continued the series and brought to us more of the books that we know and love.
How do we know if a book is ghostwritten?
A ghostwriter has that name for a reason. That writer is the person behind the scenes helping complete the book. Unless the author who hired this ghostwriter wants to come out and say if they had help, no one will be able to tell. Laura Sherman tells me that she keeps her client’s confidentiality very seriously and will only divulge the secret if she is given permission.
So how can you tell if a book is ghostwritten?
Some authors give the ghostwriter a cover credit. They don’t mind sharing the glory. Others will mention the ghost in the acknowledgment section. Laura tells me that half of her clients ended up mentioning her name. A few actually promoted her company name, Friendly Ghostwriter, LLC. She said she was very grateful.
If you’re curious simply check the acknowledgments and see if you can spot the name of a writer.
Are there any famous ghosts?
We have gone over a few known ghostwriters earlier when discussing these ghostwritten books. Such as the main writer of Nancy Drew, Mildred Wirt Benson, the co-writer ghostwriter of the classic book The Count of Monte Cristo, Auguste Maquet, and the ghostwriter who continued the Jason Bourne series, Eric Van Lustbader. However, are there any other known ghostwriters that we haven’t already gone over? Of course, there are a lot, and here are a few.
Alan Dean Foster
First on our short list is Alan Dean Foster who wrote Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. He was hired to write a novel of George Lucas’ screenplay.
Our 45th president of the United States got a memoir written for him by a ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, in 1987. Trump’s book became a bestseller and Tony Schwartz made over a million from royalties. He was very vocal about this gig.
Prince Harry hired his own ghostwriter to write his book early this year in 2023. Who is the ghostwriter of the prince? J.R. Moehringer wrote the books about Prince Harry’s life.
Next and last on our short list of known ghostwriters is none other than the popular author, H.P. Lovecraft. A known horror writer who ghostwrote Harry Houdini. Who knew popular authors could be ghostwriters too?
There are many more known ghostwriters, and a simple search can provide you with more names. Plenty more ghostwriters are out there who have ghostwritten books you might have read.
How Much Do Ghostwriters Write?
Ghostwriters usually write the entire book. However, Laura Sherman shared with me that some of her clients prefer to write their own books. They just need help and guidance. Sometimes a person may have a full manuscript or they are stuck midway so they hire a ghostwriter to help them along.
It is most typical that a client will request that the book be fully written by a ghostwriter because it’s so time-consuming to write. Since ghostwriters are used for all different kinds of books in all different kinds of genres for all different kinds of reasons it all depends on the needs of the author who hired the ghostwriter. The whole point of a ghostwriter is to get your book completed and to get through the difficulties that you were facing which didn’t allow you to write it on your own.
If you’re interested in hiring a ghostwriter, I’d suggest that you ask Laura to give you a free phone consultation. If she isn’t swamped, she told me that she really likes to try to help everyone who writes to her. At least she can give you a little advice and point you in the right direction.