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."

Related Stories