Is Ghostwriting Ethical?

Is ghostwriting ethical?I’ve been a ghostwriter for twenty years now and love it. Although I am also a published author, there is something singularly satisfying about helping someone complete a lifelong goal of seeing their book in the hands of enthusiastic readers. However, there is a question that comes up routinely when I mention what I do. People ask, “Is ghostwriting ethical?”

When it comes to ethics and morals, some things are very cut and dry. No, you shouldn’t steal that candy bar just because you’re hungry and broke. Yes, you should help a friend in need even if it might be inconvenient. Other issues might be less black and white; they become a personal choice. For instance, are white lies acceptable if it avoids hurting someone’s feelings? Some would say yes, while others would disagree vehemently. Still, I think most people have a good barometer for determining right from wrong.

However, I do get a variety of responses when people hear that I write books for others. Some people wonder if what I do is really OK. Here’s a semi-typical conversation:

“What do you do?”

“I’m a ghostwriter. I write books for other people.”

“So you’re telling me that you write the book, but someone else gets all the credit?”

At this point I usually give a polite nod. “That’s right.”

“But how is that fair?”

“I’m paid upfront for my work. I’m fine with it. Really, I am.”

“But…is ghostwriting ethical?”

Now, that’s a good question, one worthy of a blog article.

Is ghostwriting ethical?

People wonder if ghostwriting is really ethicalI feel strongly that ghostwriting other people’s books is ethical, or I wouldn’t be in this line of work. The way I see it, I’m helping people achieve their dreams by getting their books published. If they aren’t able to write the book themselves, why not hire someone to help them?

The exception to this rule is that ghostwriting an academic paper is decidedly unethical. Once in a while I get a PhD student writing in to ask me to write their thesis. I think we can all agree that crosses a very clear line.

Being completely candid, some writers I know will not work as ghostwriters because they feel it isn’t right. They don’t feel right about giving up all the credit for words they’ve written. And there are authors who will not put their name on a book unless they wrote every word themselves. I admire anyone who sticks with their integrity. For these folks ghostwriting isn’t ethical for them. I always say: Never be swayed by popular opinion. Stick to your guns and decide what is right for you.

As I said prior, ethics is a personal judgment call. Even though I feel strongly about my opinion, I can also see the other viewpoint. In the end, you must decide if ghostwriting is an ethical choice for you.

Ghostwriters are everywhere

Ghostwriters are everywhere. Maybe it would help to know that ghostwriting is a common practice. There are many published authors who had help writing their books. There are tens of thousands of freelance writers, but most don’t make a living ghostwriting books. That’s a more elite group.

You might be wondering how you can tell if a book is ghostwritten. Well, that’s a little tricky because typically a ghostwriter signs a Non-disclosure agreement. However, if you look through the books at your local bookstore, there are a few indicators that the book was written by a ghost.

Look to see if there are two authors listed on the cover and one’s name is preceded by “as told to” or “with,” these are both standard ghostwriting credits. Also, flip to the back and look at the Acknowledgment section. Many clients have mentioned me there, thanking me for my help (sometimes even mentioning my company name).

When you start looking for ghostwriters, you’ll start to see them more and more. It’s a bit like when you become a parent and become aware of all the strollers, car seats, and diaper bags in the world. They were always there, but now that you’re looking for them, they seem to be everywhere.

Plagiarism isn’t ethical

Plagiarism is when someone copies someone else’s work, doesn’t give him or her credit, and then tries to pass it off as their own work. This is illegal. It’s a misdemeanor, which can result in fines and possibly jail time. You can’t just steal other people’s work.

Some people confuse plagiarism and ghostwriting. They are very different, because a ghostwriter is paid to write for an author. The contractual agreement states that the author will own the copyrights for the work at the end of the project.

Now if a ghostwriter plagiarizes someone else’s work and turns it into the client, that is illegal. This can happen when authors pay ghostwriters very little and give them a miniscule deadline. They think their getting a good deal, but in the end, the author might be the one paying the fine and spending a few months in prison for the crime committed. It’s best to pay professional writers what they are worth.

Ghostwriting is similar to other industry practices

If you’re still on the fence and wondering if ghostwriting is ethical, consider that our agreement is not unlike others that exist in other fields. For example, large companies hire employees to write software programs or design equipment for them, asking them to assign the rights to them once the project is complete. The employees don’t usually get to keep the patents; the large corporation does.

How do you feel about this point? Is it ethical for an author to hire a ghostwriter to write a book for him or her? I’d like to hear your opinion! Please feel free to email me to discuss.

Additional articles you might find helpful:

How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter

My ghostwriting process

Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter

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    Joshua’s Missing Peace

    Joshua’s Missing PeaceJoshua's Missing Peace tells the heart-rending story of how, when math whiz Joshua began behaving bizarrely at the age of four, his parents pursued help from the medical community. As is typical, Joshua was shuffled off to a psychiatrist who prescribed heavy medication. Both parents, being holistic in nature, were horrified by the changes in their brilliant son. His behavior worsened, as did his ability to do simple exercises in school.

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      “When I first decided to write a book, I was unsure of everything.  I had a story to tell but was unsure of how to even begin.  Laura gave me direction and was able to create a flow to my book, helping me fill in what was needed and editing out what was not.  I can honestly say I would have never stayed on track to finish it had it not been for her guidance and support.  I felt I had full control, yet she provided ideas and suggestions.  If I have the opportunity to write another book, Laura will be the first person I call!”

      – Lori Suthar, Author of Joshua’s Missing Peace

      “My name is Antonio Francesca and I am a novelist. In the past 10 years I have come to work on and create various writing projects with Laura Sherman. The most memorable collaboration concerned my fast selling novel called The Card House which is being sold today at Barnes and Noble.

      “Collaboration in writing something original like The Card House is a broad word that could mean a little or a lot. In my case it was a lot. From the very beginning Laura worked with my creative ideas and between us we fashioned a first-rate novel. I cannot give her enough praise as one can see with my heartfelt acknowledgements seen on the first page of the novel.

      “Today I am negotiating with a West Coast film producer for three original manuscripts and all have had Laura’s input and writing genius attached to them.

      “I hope that the future for me and my writings will always have Laura right there creating every step of the way.”

      – Antonio Francesca, President and CEO, Ironbound Films, Inc.

      “Throughout the whole project I have felt a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction because I knew my life story was with a professional who cares to reflect the inner feelings I have and to describe the minute details in a powerful way.”

      – R.Z., PhD and CEO of many successful businesses

      “When I decided to write my memoirs, I researched various ghostwriters. Laura Sherman was personally referred to me, so I looked into her thoroughly online. I also called three people from her testimonials page. They all did nothing but praise her work and express their satisfaction. After interviewing her, I was sold. Working with Laura has been a true pleasure. She is patient, competent, thoughtful, and extremely dedicated. I would recommend her to anyone wanting to write a book!”

      – John Guttmann, senior executive financial adviser

      “Laura Sherman is incredible! She worked with my vision, wading through all my notes, speeches and outlines, dissecting them to create a book with my voice and style, which bears my name. My advice to anyone seeking help with their book is to hire Laura! She is very friendly and oozes professionalism. It’s my pleasure to recommend her!”

      – J.F. “The Goal Girl”

      “Words can not describe the incredible impact of Laura’s writing services. Her skills are by far worth the investment. I would recommend her to anyone seeking an expert writer to guide their work.”

      – Davis Tademy, business coach and motivational speaker

      “Laura is the ideal Ghostwriter. I have seen her take a dull writing project and make it sparkle with life, interest, and readability. She is a rarity in the Ghostwriting arena. She tackles a writing job as if it was her own. She breathes the identity and personality of the author into it by knowing how to absorb the author’s purpose and voice. Her broad background, wit, writing skills, and high intelligence go a long way to giving the client a product that is in a stellar class.”

      – Lawrence Sledge, Ghostwriter

      “Laura and I recently began our professional relationship, and we hit it off immediately. She is a fantastic communicator and tenacious as a bulldog when it comes to making sure all of her clients’ needs are served. And she is a fantastic writer, editor, project manager, and team player, who would always be an asset to your organization!”

      – Karen Cole, Ghost Writer, Inc.

      “We hired Laura to write articles using the depth and breadth of her knowledge of the home loan industry and we couldn’t be more pleased with the work she produced. Laura can come up with ideas like no other. She can slice and dice a subject a million ways and still come up with something new to say. Her work is always of the highest professional caliber, on time, and error free.  I can’t recommend her enough.”

      – Diana Lundin, Senior Editor at

      “When my partner and I decided to write a book, we interviewed many ghostwriters. Some were very inexpensive, while others were too pricey for our budget. Laura wasn’t the least expensive writer, but we chose her because she was so passionate about writing.

      “We needed a very quick turnaround time. Laura made it clear that as long as we cooperated, she would finish the book on time. And she did! Laura went above and beyond our expectations. She even included her own business experience into various chapters, giving us the informative book we wanted. I am very pleased with all her work and will continue to use her for my future writing needs. Thank you, Laura, and may God keep blessing you!”

      – Edwin Carrion, Founder of Infinity Jewelers

      Laura is one of the most talented writers I’ve ever met. Her professionalism, good humor, and ability to bring out the best in everyone she works with makes her the consummate professional, and I am looking forward to working on many more projects with Laura.”

      – Sidney Morgan Diamond, Freelance Writer

      Laura is a fantastic writer. She asks questions, makes sure she understands assignments and then delivers a close-to-publish-ready copy on time and with greater depth and value than you expect. I can’t recommend her highly enough – a true gem of a freelance writer.”

      – Owen Linderholm, Owner at Press For Change Publishing

      “Laura combines attention to detail with a relaxed, big-picture approach to the people and issues of a project. She uses both to set the stage for successful collaboration. I have enjoyed working with her very much.”

      – Edit Repak, Clear Financial, LLC

      “I truly recommend Laura as a writer. She instantly understood what I wanted and delivered it very quickly. Thank you, Laura, for all your help!”

      – Jan Fowler, Daybreak Communications

      Coaching Testimonials:

      Wow! I’ve received more training in 45 minutes with you than in my three years of experience altogether. You are truly gifted in your approach and are an amazing coach!”

      – R.W.

      “Laura Sherman is a talented ghostwriter with savvy business expertise—a powerful combination. As a motivated newcomer to this field, I have greatly appreciated her willingness to share her wealth of knowledge. Her coaching has helped me to hone a strong focus for my writing business, fine tune my marketing materials, and develop my approach to discussing projects with clients. Her responses are immediate—I sometimes wonder when she eats or sleeps. J  Her feedback is always right on the mark, targeting the next best step for me to take to continue to grow, as a writer and as a businesswoman…heck, as a human being! I would highly recommend her as a coach. Her positivity and support is tempered with just the right dose of no-nonsense pragmatism.

      Kyle Cushman

      “I’m a beginning ghostwriter and I was previously working for as little as two cents per word from just one regular client. I had no idea of the way in which my client had taken advantage. Thanks to Laura’s guidance, I’m in the process of growing my portfolio and increasing my rates. She’s given me the confidence to be not just a writer but a businesswoman. She did NOT just tell me whatever I wanted to hear; she told me what I had to do to be successful. I had my doubts that such simple ‘tricks’ would work, but I’m being proven wrong.”

      Shayn Nicely

      “I recently spent twenty minutes on the phone speaking with Laura and I have to say, I was most struck by her candidness and professionalism.  Right off the bat, she let me know that her goal was simply to be as transparent as she possibly could, that she was not afraid of losing trade secrets or ideas to a competitor.  She listened attentively and spoke frankly, guiding me as a friend who has traveled the path ahead and wants another to succeed as well.  And that is what I valued most.  She was a friend.  And while she knew more about the business and technical craft of writing than I, she simply remained patient and imparted wisdom where it was needed, as any intelligent mentor would.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, Laura!  I look forward to more quality coaching and dialogue with you soon!”

      – Jason Bornstein

      If there was one word that could sum up my interactions with Laura Sherman, it would be inspirational. As a reluctant writer, returning to the craft after a long hiatus, Sherman has been more than a colleague, but a mentor and friend, as well. Using her years of experience as a guide, Sherman has always shown herself to be honest, knowledgeable, and above all, a consummate professional.  I couldn’t be more grateful to have her expertise in my life.  And, I know that when I publish my first novel, I will have Laura Sherman to thank for lending her ear.

      – Jean Maskuli, Emmy award-winning author and producer

      “Laura Sherman is naturally giving and a very easy-going person to work with. She is always willing to share good, sound advice on everything from the nuts and bolts of the craft to the business side and she is never shy about going a little further than is expected. In an increasingly complicated world for writers, she has the sage perspective of someone who has been there, along with an infectious risk-taking spirit.”

      – Erick Mertz, professional writer

      I got THREE TIMES my old asking price after being coached (for a very short time) by Laura. I never thought I could make so much money. My old ways are gone forever…thanks to her! I will continue to learn and earn! I recommend Laura Sherman to anyone who wants to better their business and learn from a professional!

      – Deb Davis, professional writer

      “As a beginning freelance writer, I found myself frequently overwhelmed about how to get my writing and marketing foundation established. During my consultation with Laura, she quickly zeroed in on some key steps I could implement right away. After our discussion, I was inspired to tackle bigger projects with greater confidence. She opened my eyes to possibilities I had not imagined.

      – Terri Carr, freelance writer

      Laura’s patience, intelligence, and dedication were obvious to me from the get-go. I would not only recommend her as a ghostwriter, but also for help with social networking and advice on self-publishing.

      – Barbara, author

      As the author of three books, and I believe a talented writer, I’ve long been aware of my glaring weaknesses in the area of marketing. How to generate sales of my books, even the one that won a national award, has been frustrating.

      I have learned that hiring others to market those books, at least for me, has been expensive and futile. I have spent tons of money along those lines and received next of nothing in return.

      The most valuable information I’ve yet to receive in the area of book marketing came in a free 20-minute phone conversation with a writing coach named Laura Sherman. Not only extremely educated on the topic, Laura seems to be down-to-earth in her teaching style and literally appears to be more than willing to freely share from her storehouse of knowledge.

      An avid note taker, the amount of work ahead of me to accomplish my goals to upgrade my marketing skills, as learned through Laura in those 20 minutes, is overwhelming. Still, as a marketing coach, her role is to explain the best steps for me to achieve my intended goal, then leave it up to me to follow through.

      – Rocky Wilson, author

      Ghost writer

      Laura Sherman, The Friendly Ghost Writer


      Do you want to write a book? I believe everyone has at least one book within them!

      Do you have a personal story that could inspire and uplift others? Or perhaps you have specialized wisdom that could benefit many. Now is the time to write a book!

      Most people never realize the dream of seeing their book published. They either don’t have the time to write or don’t have the ability to form their ideas into the written word.

      It is a shame, because a lot of those book ideas are good. Some are great. And some are important books that must be published.

      As you read this, are you thinking about a book project that you have pushed to the back burner for years?

      Whatever you do, don’t allow another year to go by before you write a book. Get the help of a professional ghost writer and complete it now!


           “When I first decided to write a book, I was unsure of everything.  I had a story to tell but was unsure of how to even begin. 

           “Laura gave me direction and was able to create a “flow” to my book, helping me to fill in what was needed and editing out what was not.  I can honestly say I would have never stayed on track to finish it had it not been  for her guidance and support.  I felt I had full control, yet she provided ideas and suggestions. 

           “If I have the opportunity to write another book, Laura will be the first person I call!” – Lori Suthar

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