What is ghostwriting

Since the first plagiarism allegations against some celebrities, the term ghostwriter in the press is increasingly being used in an inflationary fashion.

If one answered in the 90’s and afterwards still on the question, what one was by occupation, with Ghostwriter, one harvested at best a tired, speechless and incredulous smile. Today, pretty much everyone wants to know what a ghostwriter is and what he does.

But is that true?

Wikipedia defines the term ghostwriter in general as follows: “A ghostwriter, also a job writer, is an author who writes in the name and on behalf of another person”. In addition to the academic ghostwriters, “autobiographers” or “personal historians” are mentioned as examples.
This definition is also often followed in everyday language, anyone who writes something for someone else is a ghostwriter.

In my understanding, the definition of a ghostwriter, however, is much narrower, because not every co-author is a ghostwriter and not everyone who writes something for another on paper, thereby automatically becoming a ghostwriter.

An essential feature of a ghostwriter, in addition to his writing, is that he never appears to third parties. He is a ghost and you do not see ghosts and you do not read anything about them. Only the client of the ghostwriter is recognizable for third parties. The ghostwriter himself remains discreetly invisible. He assigns his rights to the created work completely and permanently to his client.

Only if these conditions are met in addition to the authorship, an author is also a ghostwriter.

Based on this much narrower scale, many writers who write on behalf of a third party are actually not ghostwriters at all. This applies per se to the autobiographers who put the life’s work of a celebrity on paper and from the beginning is known that they write the work on behalf of the customer. In this sense, for example, even Kohl’s ghostwriter would not be a ghostwriter but rightly (only) a biographer.

Against this background, there is not necessarily a ghostwriter in there where Ghostwriter is written. Of course, the term ghostwriter spreads more tension and, in contrast to a biographer, historiographer, city scribe, editor, co-author or medical writer also has something disreputable.

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