Are Ghostwriters Illegal?

Working with a ghostwriter means that someone else (like me) writes a book for you, and at the end of the process, you write your name on the front cover. Often, there is no acknowledgement or even a hint that someone else might have been involved.

It’s easy to understand why some people might worry that this practice is illegal. After all, claiming someone else’s work as your own sounds like it might be theft, or at the very least, fraud.

The good news is – it’s none of those things! It’s perfectly legal to work with a ghostwriter.

All of the work that your ghostwriter does is simply work for hire – meaning, you have contracted and paid someone to create something for you that you will own at the end of it. Under your legal agreement, the copyright and full ownership of the work will revert to you, allowing you to claim the right to be recognised as the author of the work.

Ghostwriters are not illegal because of this contractual agreement. You have paid someone to do work for you, they have delivered the finished product, and now  you own that finished product.

Think of it like commissioning an artist to paint a portrait. You wouldn’t imagine for a second that the painter would still own the painting after you have commissioned and paid for it! It will be delivered to your door to hang in your home, and you are then free to do what you like with it. Granted, you won’t likely claim that you painted it yourself, but that usually has more to do with the acclaim surrounding the artist than anything else.

Ghostwriting is actually a very common process. Studies suggest that somewhere between 50% and 90% of all non-fiction titles on bestseller lists are ghostwritten – it’s tough to get exact figures because many authors simply won’t admit one way or another whether they had any help.

Memoirs, how-to books, business books, guides… almost all of them are ghostwritten, and it’s easy to see why when you think about it. As the specialist with the expert knowledge of your chosen subject, you have dedicated your life to learning about and working in whatever field that is. You haven’t spent all of that time becoming an expert writer – but someone like me, who has done exactly that, can step in to help fill that skills gap for you.

You may even be surprised to learn that a large number of fiction titles are ghostwritten – and the number appears to be growing. I’ve personally worked with a number of publishers on creating titles for well-known “authors” who simply wouldn’t humanly be able to put out the amount of novels they do if they were really just one person.

Don’t worry about the legality of ghostwriting. So long as you have a good contract in place between yourself and your ghostwriter, everything will be above board. Do get in touch with me if you want to talk about writing a book together, or even if you want to see a sample contract to understand how it all works.

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