The Ghostwriters Behind the Books: An Inside Look at Publishing’s Invisible Authors

Lindsey Chastain
6 min readFeb 16, 2024

Have you ever read a celebrity memoir or motivational business book and wondered if the famous name on the cover actually wrote it? The world of publishing has a long tradition of ghostwriting — writers who author books officially credited to someone else. On a recent episode of Missing Pages, host Bethanne Patrick pulls back the curtain on the controversial practice of ghostwriting.

Bethanne maintains a storied place in the publishing industry as a critic and as @TheBookMaven on Twitter, where she created the popular #FridayReads and regularly comments on books and literary ideas to over 200,000 followers. Her work appears frequently in the Los Angeles Times as well as in The Washington Post, NPR Books, and Literary Hub. She sits on the board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and has served on the board of the National Book Critics Circle.

The Business of Ghostwriting

Ghostwriting is big business in book publishing. Celebrities, business leaders, politicians, and other public figures often lack the writing skills or time to pen an entire book themselves. By hiring an experienced writer as a ghostwriter, they can get their ideas and stories into print and onto store shelves.

“In today’s celebrity saturated culture, publishers know that famous names sell books regardless of who actually wrote them,” Bethanne explains. “Audiences love getting an inside look into the lives of their favorite stars and influencers. That curiosity fuels major book deals even when writing isn’t the celebrity’s strength.”

Social media has intensified this trend. The platforms of Instagram stars, YouTube personalities, reality show veterans, and podcast hosts are now large enough that publishers see selling potential in giving them a book deal. This is where ghostwriters come in — translating the celebrity’s personal brand and viewpoint into a manuscript.

Ghostwritten celebrity books and memoirs have topped the bestseller charts in recent years. Publishing executives sign these deals knowing the…

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Lindsey Chastain

I’ve always wanted to be someone. I guess I should have been more specific.