The business of writing--particularly writing a book--is a very difficult proposition. Not everybody can do it. There are many individuals who have something to say that many people would enjoy hearing from or reading their words. But not all of these people have time to write books. Many of these people are celebrities in the entertainment, sports or political industry. Still others are artists, doctors or religious leaders. They have much to say but they need professional writers to help them get their thoughts down on paper so the public can read them.
The ghost writer does the physical writing for the person whose name will go on the cover of the book. The ghost writer not only sits at his computer and does the pounding away at the keyboard, he also organizes the author's thoughts and presents them in a cogent way. He also spends much of his time interviewing the author. The ghost writer will present a book in the author's voice. To do this he must spend many hours interviewing the individual and getting his thoughts on paper or into a tape recorder. In addition to getting his words, he must learn how the individual's thought process works.
How long does it take to ghost write a book? That depends on the individual and the subject matter. A publishing company can give a writer as much as a year to collect the information needed, do the interviews, organize the book and do the actual writing. A yearlong project could end up as a 125,000-word book. However, most ghost-written manuscripts that are about the life of a celebrity are usually somewhere in the range of 60,000 words and the writer is given three to four months to get the job done.
No matter how effective a ghost-written book is, the public will always have questions. "Why did our favorite radio host need help with his book? He certainly does all his own talking when on the air." This is a legitimate question. Even though there may be a legitimate answer such as the radio host does not have the time nor has he had the training or experience to write the book, they don't always satisfy the public. People wonder whether the celebrity's voice has been altered and they begin to question whether the individual has always done his own thinking or if other people have done the talking for him.
The ghost writer's main job is to make the words and thoughts of the author stand out and pop into the reader's consciousness. He needs to get the author's points out with ease and clarity and also do it with style. A ghost writer who does not do this is not worth the fee he is being paid. The ghost writer must realize that it is not "his" book and that he is using his skills and talents to help another individual write their book. The ghost writer must not let his ego get in the way of the work or the project.
The benefits of having a ghost writer include allowing the author time to pursue other challenges while writing a book. He does not have to be overwhelmed by word counts or deadlines. As a result he can get his thoughts out clearly on one subject and then move on to the next. He does not have to get wordy to fill space. As a result his thoughts should be clear and concise, which are the keys to good writing. The reader will also benefit because he gets to read a well thought out book that is clearly written and enjoyable. If there were not ghost writers, many autobiographies would be unreadable.