Do Ghostwriters Get Credit?

For me the question “do ghostwriters get credit” seems strange. My clients have a need they are willing to pay for –  a speech, an autobiography, an article, a novel – and I can provide those services using my skills and experience. I’m selling my abilities the same as any other professional whether they be doctors, lawyers, engineers, or managers. We all have one thing in common – we’re selling our expertise and time in return for payment.

So, when clients ask me “do ghostwriters get credit” I tell them it’s up to them. I don’t need to get credit on the books I write, and as of now I’ve ghostwritten over 40 of them. I get a paycheck and it’s a simple as that. Sure, it would be nice to see my name on the cover of a book, but I do that with my own books. I’ve written quite a few under my name and under pseudonyms and these gives me the satisfaction and recognition I desire as a writer.

Do Ghostwriters Get Credit for the Books They Write?

The name of the author of a book is listed on the front cover, on the title page, and in the copyright notice. .But in some instances, the author is not the writer – a ghostwriter may have written the book. We refer to the person listed on the cover, the client, as the author and the person who wrote the book as the writer.

Let’s make something clear, just because a person hires a ghostwriter doesn’t mean it’s not their book. Ghostwriting means taking the ideas and concepts from the author and wordsmithing those into a professional manuscript. This is the important point – the ideas and concepts still belong to the author.

Why Don’t Ghostwriters Get Credit?

Do ghostwriters get credit for the books they write?

But isn’t that unfair? After all, the ghostwriter did the the work, right?

It’s true the ghostwriter wrote the book and put in the effort and time to make it happen. However, the ghostwriter gets paid, generally up front, to write the book (or other type of work) and that’s their compensation. They understand in advance their name is not going to be associated with the work.

Think of it this way: the author is paying a subcontractor to do the work for them. There is no obligation to list the ghostwriter as a contributor.

Once I write a book for a client, it belongs to them. It’s not mine anymore. Thus, there is no need to put my name on the cover or give me credit.

But Do Ghostwriters Get Credit Sometimes?

Sometimes, however, ghostwriters are listed on the front cover or in the copyright notice. You’ll see this if the ghostwriter is famous. Perhaps they are a journalist who’s won a Pulitzer Prize or  is a best-selling author in their own right. In this case, it works to the advantage of the author to list the ghostwriter to give themselves more credibility.

They might be listed as “Fred Johnson and Todd Smith” where Todd Smith is the ghostwriter (although they could be a co-contributor). In some cases,  the ghostwriter will be listed on the cover in the form “As told to…”.

The book The Other Guy Blinked: How the Pepsi Won the Cola Wars lists Roger Enrico as the author and Jesse Kornbluth as a contributor. The listing on the front cover is Roger Enrico and below , in smaller text, Jesse Kornbluth.

Sometimes a ghostwriter will be listed in the copyright notice as a contributor. They might be shown as a book coach or an editor or even writing contributor or something else. I’ve been listed using several different titles in a few books I’ve ghostwritten.

Clients can also list their ghostwriter in the acknowledgments section. This is appreciated because then the ghostwriter can use that book as a reference.

How Do You Determine If A Ghostwriter Gets Credit?

Whether a ghostwriter is acknowledged or receives credit is discussed during the initial negotiations, and is usually specified in the contract for writing the book. Some ghostwriters will give a discount to be listed on the front cover – most will not since they earn their living from writing the book.

There are no legal or ethical requirements for determining whether to give the ghostwriter credit. It’s entirely up to the author, the person hiring the ghostwriter, and whether they want to keep the assistance of the ghostwriter confidential.