Ghostwriting - a sin or not?


I would like to find out your opinions about whether ghostwriting (or, better put, having your book ghostwritten) is a sin.

For example, if I have a great idea for a Christian novel, but for various reasons (poor health, lack of time, lack of skills etc.) I cannot write it myself, so I just write the outline (that means that I summarize the story from start to finish in a few pages), then I pay a ghostwriter to write the novel according to my outline, and then I publish the book with my name on it without mentioning to anyone that I have not written it myself, would that be a sin?

Ghostwriting is a business. There are freelance writers out there who are happy to anonymously write another person’s book, for the right price.


who do you pay to write the book? How much do you pay them? I have several books that I written but need more to them.


The reasons are numerous. The writer is paid the price that he/she asks for. The price is negotiated in advance.


I knew someone very close to me who was a ghostwriter. This service helped many who had good ideas but not quite enough skill to finally see their books published.

I don’t see that it’s a sin to use a ghostwriter any more than to have a builder build according to your design.

I wish you success with your literary efforts. God bless.

(They accept that their names will not appear on their work. If I was helped in this way I would probably point out that the concepts were mine but that I employed a ghostwriter to help produce the finished article.)


It would be wise to describe your ghostwriter as co-author, or, at least, researcher or editor. To claim that you wrote a ghostwritten book yourself without help would be dishonest.


It’s fine. If you want, you could always publish under a pseudonym to avoid putting your name on it altogether. So you own the rights to the work but if you feel guilty about claiming authorship go for it.

You could mark them as a cowriter… James Patterson does that on a daily basis. You could put a special thanks to them in the acknowledgements.

It’s a practice that’s hundreds of years old, and as long as you’re honest with the ghostwriter, it’s no great shakes.


There’s nothing wrong with hiring a ghostwriter. And there’s nothing wrong with publishing a ghostwritten novel under your own name, as long as you paid for the privilege. Essentially, the ghostwriter is using your name as his pen name. :slight_smile:

Lying about it to other people would be a sin. “I worked together with a co-writer, and we published it under my name” would perhaps misrepresent the situation a tad, but it wouldn’t be an outright lie. Just coming out and saying that you hired somebody to put down your story on paper – that would be honest, and a lot less stress! Also, the more you work with the ghostwriter in a helpful way, the more you really will be co-writers.

It would be wrong to use a ghostwritten book as, say, your Ph.D. thesis, or as a way to get ahead in your career.

OTOH, it is common for writers who have signed book contracts, but cannot fulfill them on time, to hire someone to write their book under their name, and thus prevent themselves from breaking the contract and causing problems for their publisher. This is honorable, because a person should keep his word. (Of course, it’s something of an artistic and marketing problem, if the ghostwriter’s style is too different.)


When you pay your ghostwriter, you have a contract that states what the circumstances are. You can pay for the ability to publish their product under a different name. You can pay them to sign away their authorship rights; you can pay them to sign away their future rights to royalties; you can pay them to not use the pseudonym on their own. They agree to that, in exchange for $x.

So, for example, there is no Carolyn Keene. Edward Stratemeyer, the publisher, sketched out the characters and the plots, and handed it off to Mildred A. Wirt for 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books, to actually do the hard work of putting it all together. Plenty of other ghostwriters have written under the Carolyn Keene pen name— but it’s all a secret.

Stratemeyer did the same thing with the Dana Girls series, also under the Carolyn Keene pen name. Leslie McFarlane did the first four books. Mildred Wirt wrote 5-16. Stratemeyer’s daughter, Harriet, did a lot of the rest of the series, but other ghostwriters contributed as well.

Stratemeyer did the same thing with the Hardy Boys series, under the Franklin W. Dixon pen name. Leslie McFarlane wrote 19 of the first 25 stories. There were about 7 other ghostwriters who worked on it over the next few decades.

Looking at more modern works, you have the Warriors series (about cats). It’s written by Erin Hunter-- but Erin Hunter is a collective pseudonym for several writers. Victoria Holmes writes the outlines; Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, and Tui T Sutherland do the work of writing. Later on, when they started writing series about bears and dogs, they brought in Gillian Philip, Inbali Iserles, and Rosie Best. In that case, it was easier to use a collective pseudonym so that the series would be shelved together in a library under a single name, rather than all over the place.

So— if you feel a bit awkward about claiming someone’s work as your own, even if you’re paying them for it-- why not choose a pseudonym for your collaboration? You’d still pay them. But then you wouldn’t feel weird about giving the wrong impression.


Just be careful about paying out money if you do not already have a publisher who is going to pay YOU.


Sadly, there are rules and stipulations on Wikipedia about ghostwriting. We do need immense help on the Catholic portal. If anyone can review the red links and help it would be a great effort and hugely appreciated!! And this is NOT a sin whatsoever…


Just don’t be dishonest. That’s all.


For sure, for sure, for sure!

The #1 rule is— money flows towards the author!

In my examples, with Carolyn Keene and Erin Hunter, Stratemeyer was the publisher, and Harper Collins had told Victoria Holmes, “Hey, give us a fantasy series about talking cats” and she’s like, “Uh… Let me get some help on this.” But in both cases, the series already had a home-- they were just waiting for a writer to actually make them happen.

You might pop by the Absolute Write forums to read up more on the subject about self-publishing and how to do it, if not at a profit, then at least in a way that minimizes your losses. :wink: If you have $x lying around gathering dust, and an idea in your head, and you want to do it for the fulfillment of seeing your ideas fleshed out— then that’s all the reason you need to spend $x on a ghostwriter, if it makes you happy, and you can spare it. But if you have $x lying around for a ghostwriter, and then you spend $y on publishing it because you can’t find it a home elsewhere---- be very, very cautious about how much that $y sum is, because 99 out of 100 vanity publishers will not be a good path to recoup your $y, let alone your $x+$y.


Because I want to publish the book under my name, even if it is with a co-author. Midori, are you a writer, or how come you know so much about ghostwriting?


Yes, I write. I’m very amateur, though. Usually, I do short stories in anthologies. Sometimes I do it for flat rate; other times, I do it for a cut of the royalties; the best I’ve done is six cents a word. I’ve had three publishers who have neglected to pay me the promised compensation. Occasionally, I’ll donate something to a charity anthology, if I’m in the mood.

But I do like compressing things down into short stories. It’s a nice exercise. It forces me to focus, and to keep my writing tight and punchy. I also like anthologies, because if my submission gets rejected, I’m only out about 5,000 words… and if my submission gets accepted, well, that’s awesome! :slight_smile: It’s a nice exercise. Someone says, “I want a story with x, y, and z–” and I come up with a story about x, y, and z. Poof. Instant market, if they like it… and if not, I file it away and move on to the next project.

I did a self-published book through Lightning Source, but only because I was confident in my editing, layout, typesetting, and book design. I probably paid my cover artist more than I ever earned with the book. It costs me about $12/year to keep it in print. I should probably let it go out of print, but… it made me happy.


That’s very interesting. Would you be interested in a collaboration? And yes, there is monetary remuneration included, if we reach an agreement. Do you have an email address or Skype/Discord ID where I could message you? :slightly_smiling_face:


Amen to that. Unless you’re a James Patterson, the odds that you’ll make a bundle on a novel are pretty slim. Your royalties will be small and that doesn’t leave much for paying a co-author or ghostwriter.


I generally do mysteries, sometimes disguised as speculative fiction, in the 3,000-10,000 word range. :stuck_out_tongue:

A novel is generally between 50,000-100,000, and occasionally goes as high as 120,000+ words.

A lot of it (“it” being “your chance of being happy with anything I would put out”) would depend on whether you’ve got a 1-page outline vs a 20-page outline. :stuck_out_tongue:

But I’d be happy to chat with you elsewhere. I’ll pm you my email address.


I don’t see why ghostwriting is a sin if it is agreed to by the one taking the work. At least some of Pope Francis’ writings are ghostwritten; Amoris Laetitia, his most controversial work, was ghostwritten by an Argentinian archbishop. Pope Francis doesn’t actually write those long documents himself; I can’t speak for previous Popes. So this should be no problem.


How would it be a sin?
Writing under a pen name is a long standing tradition (yes, I know that’s not what you’re asking).

A lot of fiction is written by ghost writers, for instance, children’s serials and Harlequin romances.

No. It’s not a sin.


Look how Tom clancy’s Books are published “he” puts out 2 a year and has been dead for almost 6 years.

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