I recently followed a link to an article that lambasted the idea of Christians hiring ghostwriters. The title, “The Scandal of Christian Ghostwriters,” pretty much laid out the idea of the article. It opens with an inciting question:
“Are some of the most cherished books in your personal Christian library written by ghostwriters, some of whom may be homosexuals, atheists, and New Agers?”
Wow. The writer definitely knows how to use an opening “hook.” The article goes on to state, “A tragic and disreputable hoax is being perpetrated on unsuspecting Christians. And you might be one of the chief victims.” A verse is then added, for biblical emphasis: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth. that shall he also reap.”
I understand the main concern of the writer is that Christians buy literature expecting one thing and instead finding a book that “may contain poisonous and insidious views hostile to Christianity imbedded in its text.”
But I strongly disagree with the idea that hiring a ghostwriter is a scandal, even for Christians. Maybe even especially for Christians. It is the responsibility of the Christian author to find a Christian ghostwriter, one who holds the same set of beliefs and would write in the same spirit, threading in to the story the concepts of faith, love, sacrifice, or salvation.
I’ve ghostwritten books for a number of Christian authors, some more well-known, and many getting started in the writing world. Most of them felt that they lacked the needed skills to write a book, yet they knew they had a story that needed to be told. A memoir or personal journey of faith that brought them to know Christ in a deeper way than ever before. A message of purpose or a portrait of Christ swirling in their heart, but that they couldn’t quite transfer to paper. Other times, I have worked with authors who simply lacked the time to complete a book, or were going through some personal challenge and needed help to meet a publishing deadline.
I feel privileged to have worked with each of the writers for whom I have ghostwritten. I am blessed that they have chosen me to help them tell their story, and relay the message God has put on their heart to share. The author of the article asks, “shouldn’t the cover jacket of these books have a warning label or notice” regarding the books that have been ghostwritten. I don’t think it would be necessary, or even ideal, for my name to be written on my clients’ book, because it is not my story. Everyone has a story to tell, and it is the author’s story.
Some authors I’ve worked with like to be intricately involved; others have given me a more general outline and let me run with it. But each time, it has been the message of their heart, their soul. I’ve served as a grammatical huntsman of sorts, finding descriptive words and putting the dots and dashes in the right places. The author whose name is on the front cover is still the one who needs to ensure the theme or the story line follows what they had in mind, and that the message has not been lost somewhere in the forest.
The article conveys that the bottom line is the money. It states, “It thus becomes crystal clear why publishers and celebrity authors conspire to produce ghostwritten books. The reason is simple: money, money, money!” The writer labels the ghostwriting “business” lucrative, unethical, and dishonest. In my personal experience, for 100 percent of the books I’ve ghostwritten, it was not “about the money” for me or the author.
It was about the message. Miracle, purpose, healing. God’s love. God’s care. God’s provision.
I can’t speak for all authors. I can’t speak for all ghostwriters. But I truly believe that ghostwriting is a benefit to the world of literature. It helps those who have a great message to convey, and don’t have the time or the skill to put it on paper. It helps those who, like me, feel a calling to help others share the message God has put on their heart. Ghostwriting can, and should, be a blending of concept and craft, theme and theory, to create a unique story that breathes with a life of its own. A story that, hopefully, somehow, at some level, conveys the message of the Author, and tells a part of the Greatest Story.
[If you’re interested, you can read the full article: “The Scandal of Ghostwriting.” He does make some points, but for the record, ghostwriting is not always a “scandal.” And if you have experience in ghostwriting (or have ever read a book that you realized was ghostwritten), what are your thoughts on the ghostwriting issue? I’d love to hear from you.]