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Is It ‘Cheating’ to Hire a Ghostwriter?

If you’re thinking about hiring a ghostwriter, you might be feeling some insecurity around the idea. 

“Would it really be my book? Could I call myself the author if someone else had done the writing? Isn’t that cheating?”

It's a common question, but this ghostwriter is here to declare that NO, it is not cheating to work with us. You can proudly hold your book up and tell the world you wrote it and I will applaud you from the sidelines. It is your book and I’ll tell you why. 

^ Me obsessed with your book promo posts. ^

You provide all the content.

As ghostwriters, we guide our authors through a series of recorded interviews to gather what we need. We make suggestions to help you brainstorm and flesh out your thoughts, but every word that ends up in your book originates from your mind. The content is based on your wisdom, edited according to your input, and approved in full by you before publishing happens. You’re the sole expert on the material, not your ghostwriter.

You’re intimately involved in the manuscript creation process.

Wikipedia defines an author as “the creator of an original work, whether that work is in written, graphic, or recorded medium. The creation of such a work is an act of authorship.”

That definition will certainly apply to you if you work with a ghostwriter, as there’s still a ton of creative work to be done on your end. As the author, you’ll have to make hard decisions about narrative positioning, tone, and strategies for organizing ideas. During the revisions stage, you’ll be asked to dive in and get your hands dirty with nitty-gritty edits and considerations. The process will drive you some level of mad long before the finish line becomes visible. No one gets out of this messy, swashbuckling adventure unscathed. No one! ☠️

My point is, a ghostwriter does not simply read your mind, disappear, and show up later with a brilliant book in hand. The entire creative process hinges on your vision, input, intuition, and feedback. We can’t work our magic without your intimate involvement. You are co-creating with us every step of the way.

The world’s most successful people ask for help. 

So many of us carry the feeling that it’s shameful to ask for help while bringing our dreams to fruition. We think we’re failing or falling short when we’re forced to admit that, hey, life is a LOT and while we want to build great things, we can’t do it all by ourselves. The truth is, most successful people work with the help of a team behind the scenes. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have the time, focus, knowledge, energy, support, guidance, or confidence to accomplish the epic missions they’ve taken on. We can only do so much at a time as one person.

John F. Kennedy

Ashley Judd

Laura Bush 

Pamela Anderson

Mariah Carey

Paris Hilton

Prince Harry

Demi Moore

Michelle Obama

All these people had the help of ghostwriters while creating their books. They were able to get their messages out to the world while remaining focused on fulfilling their purposes. That’s not cheating, it’s simply a path to expansion that results in a better final product and less stress along the way. All entrepreneurs take these kinds of leaps while scaling their businesses. You can compare hiring a ghostwriter to hiring an accountant—rather than paying to have someone organize your numbers, we organize your knowledge. 

Two heads, or several, are better than one.

As someone who’s been writing professionally for 15 years, I’d rather work with the help of an experienced team than make every decision about a book’s content by myself. It’s far better to be able to bounce ideas off creative people you trust, who are equally invested in the success of the project, than it is to rack your brains trying to do everything yourself. There’s nothing shameful or dishonest about wanting help with the more technical, labor-intensive aspects of writing as a craft, especially if it enables you to get your wisdom out to your audience on a wider scale. 

At the end of the day, a book written with the help of a ghostwriter is infinitely better than no book at all. Those of us working in this profession are happy to put in the long hours of sitting, typing, and mulling sentences over so you don’t have to. We’re here to help you shine as the star of your show. We love it!

There are ways to be up front and fair about ghostwriting.

If you’re worried that hiring a ghostwriter will make you feel like a fraud, consider being open with people about the fact that you collaborated with an expert. You can refer to your ghostwriter as your ‘book coach’, ‘writing partner’, ‘co-author’, or whatever term best suits your situation. Your readers will be more interested in the content of your book than the fact that you had support getting it on the page.

You can also credit your ghostwriter in the acknowledgments section at the back of your book. We deeply appreciate this, as it enables us to showcase your work in our portfolios. Some ghostwriters and publishing companies require acknowledgment in their contracts. Be sure to discuss this early in the process so all parties are clear on whether credit will be provided. 

When ghostwriting is cheating: academic plagiarism.

Students who hire ghostwriters to complete their reports or dissertations are indeed big ol’ cheaters at risk of getting busted. If that’s you, don’t contact me! Do your own homework!

It would also be cheating if you stole someone’s manuscript off their windowsill like a steaming pie and tried to publish it under your own name while wearing a fake mustache. That’s pretty ‘cartoon villain’, though. I don’t think you’d do that… 

So you’re golden! Go ahead and hire that ghostwriter without shame. Don’t let fear of imaginary haters stop you from calling yourself an author. These days, ghostwriting is a popular means of support for busy creators looking to add their voices to the collective conversation. You don't need to be a writer to co-create a great book.


Photo on 2-13-24 at 7_edited.png

Peggy Holsclaw is a bestselling ghostwriter and book coach based in the Bay Area. Her company, Bonafide Ink, helps non-fiction authors bring their books to life on their quest to change the world. She has proudly collaborated with entrepreneurs, executives, energy workers, and other inspired creators from around the globe.

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