The best-seller list is dominated by memoirs and self-help books written by celebrities and politicians. Or "written" by celebrities and politicians. "On the non-fiction best-seller list, 12 out of the 15 books listed probably have been ghostwritten," reveals literary agent Madeleine Morel.
"You're a therapist, you're a brother, you're a father, you're a priest, you're a confessor," explains veteran ghostwriter Gene Stone. But one thing you're not, says former ghost Barbara Feinman Todd, is a reporter: "As a journalist I'm trained to use everything that's good. As a ghostwriter you get the access that journalists can only dream of but you don't have the control over the story."
"I don't think that writing with somebody is necessarily milquetoast," says writer David Rensin. "I really want the human being to come through."
"If I'm doing a good job," says Stone, "that person's friend says, 'What did you need a ghostwriter for? It's just you!'" So how do you know who really wrote the book? Check the acknowledgements. "The more menial a task somebody is thanked for in a book the greater chance it is they actually wrote the entire book," says Feinman Todd. "If I get thanked for my good cheer one more time, I'm going to go postal. I am not full of good cheer and I should not be thanked for it."