You’re likely aware there are ghostwriters (I love the movie, The Ghost Writer, with Ewan McGregor), but are you aware there are ghost rewriters who provide services as well? Let’s look at what they can do for authors.

You seldom see the term “ghost rewriter” used, if you’ve ever seen it at all. If you search that term online, you’ll see tons of site listings for ghostwriters and then maybe some sprinkled in for rewriters. Ghostwriting is the more familiar service, which is an involved method of getting a book written that’s based on a concept, notes, and or interviews with and for the person who wishes to put their name on the book cover, even though they don’t write the book (there are far more books written by ghostwriters, including best-sellers, than you may be aware of). So, what is a ghost rewriter? Maybe it’s self-explanatory. If not, you’ll know more in a minute, as well as why an author might want a rewriter on his or her team.

There are new, budding, and prolific authors who are do-it-yourselfers. They appreciate input from an editor because they sincerely want to put the best book out there that they can write, but they want to do all the writing and revising. There are other new, budding, or prolific authors who want to write a rough draft of their fiction or non-fiction manuscript then turn it over to someone else to rewrite and revise it, including writing additional content, if needed, until it’s ready for readers. If you’re in the first group, you may wonder why any author would do what those in the second group do.

One reason may be that the author never focused on the technical and or creative mechanics of writing, and has no intention to. Ever. These writers rely on their editor/ghost rewriter to bring what they write to finished form. There are other authors, new or not, who don’t have the time, or inclination, to do more than a rough draft, so rely on an editor/ghost rewriter to bring their manuscript to the finished-product level. Yes, your book—your baby—is, after all is said and done, a product you promote and sell.

Ghost rewriting can be an involved process (though not as involved as ghostwriting usually is) because now the editor/rewriter is creating what is essentially a new first draft that will need to go through the revision process just as an author doing all the writing would be required to do. The author is the one credited for the work; though, mention of the editor usually appears on the copyright page, in acknowledgments, or both. Credit for services rendered is up to the author. But the fact that someone ghost rewrote (or ghostwrote) the book isn’t mentioned, at least, not usually.

If you think this is a form of cheating, please consider that a number of best-selling authors do a version of this: They engage a co-author to write their book(s). A good example is James Patterson. At some point in his career, he shifted gears from being a solo writer, and his fans (I’m one of them) don’t mind at all. They want to be entertained Patterson-style, and he fulfills this for them. He fleshes out an outline for a novel, working on it until he’s satisfied, and then he sends it to one of his co-authors to write the novel (that’s what the other names on his book covers are about, in case you weren’t certain). This happens with Patterson’s input and approval about what’s written, of course. What a terrific opportunity and win-win-win-win for him, the co-author, the publisher, and readers.

What you, as an author, need to decide is what works best for you; what helps you accomplish your desired outcome. Sometimes the best assistance for you is to have your manuscript evaluated or to use substantive editing services so you know how to improve your book. Just make sure the person doing this is going to provide you with enough guidance you’ll use to revise your manuscript so it becomes the engaging book for readers you intend. And if you need or want more assistance than that for the reasons listed above, or for some other reason, consider a ghost rewriter who’ll take your manuscript where it needs to go but not require his or her name on your book cover.

There’s an advantage to working with an editor/ghost rewriter: You can choose to start out with a completed rough draft or submit one or more chapters at a time, until the draft is completed (a number of my clients prefer to work this way); just be consistent about writing so that you never allow the momentum to flag. Yet another advantage to working with an editor/ghost rewriter, if you’re committed to improving your skills, is that you see what the person did with your manuscript and learn from it.

Ghost rewriters are skilled writers but may not wish to travel the publishing path themselves. They love writing and are avid readers. They love assisting authors, especially indie authors, to put their best foot forward for their particular audience. This is another win-win-win experience. As a new, budding, or—if you’ll pardon me—somewhat lazy author when it comes to the technical and creative mechanics of writing, finding the rewriter right for you can be the difference between not going far (or anywhere) with your book and going the distance (and getting great reviews).

No matter which group from above you fit into, the fact is this: No writer ever completes a book entirely alone. At least, writers shouldn’t, if they want to put the best book they can into publication. There should be one or more qualified beta readers involved to give quality feedback. At some point an editor needs to be involved, without exception. Line-editing may be needed. Eventually, the services of a proofreader are required. Best-selling authors have teams who assist them, whether they go the indie or traditional publishing route. And if you’re Patterson and want to publish ten books a year to keep your readers and publisher deliriously happy, you engage the services of co-authors. If you’re not 100 percent confident about your skills or don’t have or want to take the time to go the distance, you put a ghost rewriter on your team. A team makes a dream come alive.

I wish you the best with your writing and progress, always and in all ways.

Author's Bio: 

Joyce L. Shafer provides services for writers, with a focus on assisting new and indie authors. Services include Manuscript Evaluation, Substantive Editing, and Silent (Ghost) Rewriting/Editing, which includes converting plays and screenplays into novels. Her clients say she’s part editor, part teacher, part coach. Details available at