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A ghostwriter is someone who writes under the name of another writer, passing off their work as the work of the other writer.

It may be a Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job.

A part of Playing Cyrano, where a Love Letter or some other written token of affection is written by someone to be passed off as written by someone else.

Different from writing under a pseudonym, as in that case, the writer is the same person, but under a different name, instead of pretending to be a different writer altogether.

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A part of Extruded Book Product schemes, when combined with rapid throughput and likely Strictly Formula. Also compare House Pseudonym, when a publisher hires a group of ghostwriters to all be published under a collective pen name.

It may be an Uncredited Role, but sometimes they are credited.

Connected to Pre-Approved Sermon, whose speaker takes the credit for writing a ghostwriter's sermon, as the ghostwriter wants the sermon and its message to seem authentic, by making listeners think that the sermon was the message of the speaker, instead of the ghostwriter.

To summarize, this is Stealing the Credit, except that you're willingly giving it away, instead.

And in regards to Real Life, this is particularly common for autobiographies written by celebrities. The books are heavily influenced by the featured person, but the actual writing is done by a professional writer rather than the celebrity themselves, but this is a character trope, so unless we know the ghostwriters' names, this is the only place they're going to be mentioned. (Pro tip: When you see a very large celebrity's name on a book with a very small credit saying "With [some writer's name you've never heard of]", that second person probably put most of the words on paper.) It's also standard practice for politicians and other such public figures to employ speechwriters, which the speaker will then present as their own words. Even standup comedians and newspaper cartoonists have been known to hire writers for jokes and gags.

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Not to be confused with the TV series, Ghostwriter. Also not to be confused with any author who writes about ghosts, or a ghost who just happens to be a writer. Also not the film, The Ghost Writer, which is about one, however.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • One episode of Little Witch Academia sees Lotte trying to meet the author of her favorite book series. She learns that the books have been written by multiple ghostwriters using the same name. She ends up taking over after the current ghostwriter retires.
  • In Jubei-chan, Sai Nanohana, father of the heroine Jiyu, is a ghostwriter of Jidaigeki novels about samurai. He proves to be dangerously Genre Savvy whenever the plot allows him to find out about the battles his daughter is involved in. In the sequel series, a major subplot involves Jiyu asking him to write an original novel, in a different genre, under his own name. He has to struggle with Writer's Block, and also has to try to keep his daughter from learning that one of his clients got him to do One Last Job as a ghostwriter.
  • The job of Auto-Memory Doll service in Violet Evergarden is to put client's thoughts into a letter, effecticely writing messages under client's name. The titular protagonist, learns about human emotions as a member of said service.

    Comic Book 
  • In the comic book run of Ghostbusters, Egon "wrote" a book by using a computer program to "Calculate an almost random pattern of words that positively stimulate the human brain" as an experiment. It was apparently quite well received.
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    Film 
  • In Young Adult, Mavis Gary ghostwrites for an extruded YA series called Waverly Prep, using it to relive her own high school Glory Days.
  • The Ghost Writer: A ghost writer is called in to pen the autobiography of a British politician, only to discover that his research material includes things that politician really doesn't want in the book.

    Literature 
  • In 1984, books for the proles are literally formulated by machine as a form of Bread and Circuses.
  • Robert A. Heinlein:
    • The main character of The Cat Who Walks Through Walls produces these for a living, generally of the romance variety, and the narrative digresses for a bit on the subject of these. Notably, at one point he notes that he tried writing war stories instead, but his experience as a soldier got in the way because he tried to make them too realistic to be decent stories. He also admits to cribbing the plot for one of his books from Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.
    • The "Unmarried Mother" from Heinlein's —All You Zombies— has that nickname because he churns out stories for confession magazines, presumably by pseudonymous unmarried women.
    • Heinlein knew whereof this character spoke. Outside of his science fiction efforts, Heinlein himself was a writer of extruded book products for several houses, most notably a series of stories about an overweight teen girl with self esteem problems known by the nickname "Puddin'" — whom Heinlein later reworked into the eponymous protagonist of his young adult SF novel Podkayne of Mars.
  • Roald Dahl's short story "The Great Automatic Grammatizator" focuses on a machine that can do this — but then they start buying out the real authors to corner the market...
  • In the third book of Gulliver's Travels, one of the absurd projects undertaken by the members of the Grand Academy of Lagado was a device to mechanically combine words, enabling books to be written with no input but raw mechanical effort.
  • The main character of This Tragic Universe is a ghostwriter for a series like this in order to pay the bills while she attempts to write a "proper" novel.
  • In Paris in the Twentieth Century, theatre has descended to this level, with plays mass-produced by teams of specialists who each contribute some small aspect, such as slapstick or romantic lines. Writers who are proficient with action or sex scenes are especially valued.
  • In Artemis Fowl, this is one of Artemis' many enterprises. Having used his genius to perfect a formula for creating the maximally sell-able romance novel, he types these up in his free time between running a multi-national criminal enterprise, managing his family's legitimate businesses, designing a new opera house for Dublin and writing academic texts on the pathology of the criminal mind.
  • The Olivia Goldsmith novel The Bestseller parodies this as not only is Pam Mantiss the ghostwriter for the supposedly "discovered" novel of a late author but she has her own ghostwriter who has his own "ghostwriter.
    Alex: The literary ghosts are rumbling in their tombs.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The season 6 episode of The Avengers, "Love All", centered around romance novels of this sort. When visiting the publishing house, Steed learns (though unrelated to the actual plot) that the novels are actually generated by a piano-shaped computer. During the climactic fight, it's accidentally activated and spits out a new manuscript.
  • In Bones, Brennan's novels are all co-written by Angela, who handles the books' emotional beats, as Brennan isn't good at understanding emotions.
  • An episode of Clarissa Explains It All has Clarissa use a computer program to churn out a poem for her English class. Much to her horror, her teacher loves the poem, and insists on having her read it in public.
  • Mad Men: In Season 7, Episode 1 Time Zones, It turns out that Don is acting as a ghost writer for Freddy.
  • In the Jonathan Creek episode "Ghosts Forge", the titular house contains five copies of a novel by Gerald Eastland, leading Jonathan to deduce that the former owner "ghosts for G.E."
  • Jane the Virgin: Petra asks Jane to be the ghost writer for her lifestyle book she's publishing, because of Petra having severe writing block, and she was busy dealing with the case of the death of her sister Anezka.
  • A Prince Among Men: “Ghost Story” reveals that Gary Prince has a column written by a man named Des that goes out under his name. This causes problems when Des starts putting forward radical views such as abolishing the royal family.
  • Shtisel: Akiva gets a job as a ghost painter, selling his paintings to an art dealer who passes them off as his own.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Jaded slacker Jeff Redfern of Doonesbury tries to wriggle out of writing further escapades of his fictional hero, the Red Rascal, by hiring a ghostwriter. Jeff is too lazy to proofread the draft, and hands it off to his publisher. She soon notices the story makes a Genre Shift from Vigilante Man to vampire romance, and calls Jeff out on it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Barely anyone in the Shadowrun Verse reads anything more complicated than a take-out menu anymore, but the Shadowbeat supplement reveals this trope applies to TV scripts and pop music, both of which are cranked out via computer programs that regurgitate formulaic material to spec. Producers can even select how upbeat, stimulating, controversial, family-friendly, and so forth the finished product should be.

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • THE iDOLM@STER: SideM has former-novelist Kazuki Tsukumo, who for a time wrote novels under his father's name when he went into a slump. Some of his events involve his feelings about that time period, and specifically has to perform in an adaptation of one of his father's "works" that he wrote.

    Webcomics 
  • There was a time when Achewood's Cornelius Bear was an acclaimed writer of children's books. These days he makes the rent by writing crap romance novels and subtitling porn.

    Western Animation 
  • The first season of BoJack Horseman has Diane being hired to be the ghostwriter for BoJack's much-delayed autobiography. When it finally gets published the following season, Diane is credited as the author.
  • Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century: It is revealed shortly after he's woken up in the future that Sherlock Holmes actually penned a series of mystery novels under a pseudonym. The name? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "The Front", Bart and Lisa write scripts for new Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, but because the studio doesn't accept scripts from kids, they decide to use Grampa's name.
    • In "The Book Job" (guest starring Neil Gaiman), features Lisa finding out that all the young adult books (including her favorite "Angelica Button" series) are really just based on market research by the publishing companies and then written by teams of writers desperate for work. The "authors" who have their names on the book are just made up, backstory and all, and are represented by actors. After finding this out, Homer and Bart assemble a team to create their own hit young adult novel, using Lisa as the author to be credited.

    Other 
  • Comedian Joyce Grenfell had a routine where she played a children's author, churning out almost identical books about kids having adventures. "I never rewrite, and I never read what I've written." By a curious coincidence, this skit had some similarities to an actual interview with Enid Blyton, in which she said writing a novel took about a week.
    • Grenfell never confirmed the connection (and indeed only used the character rarely, and for just a few years due to the uncomfortable obviousness of the parody) but the children's author character emerged shortly after Grenfell attended a literary lunch at which Blyton was a fellow guest.

Real Life

    Groups / Companies 

    Sports 
Many autobiographies of famous sportspeople are actually written by ghostwriters who are usually sports journalists. Some of them have made a very good living out of this.
  • Hunter Davies has ghostwritten the autobiographies of Paul Gascoigne, Dwight Yorke and Wayne Rooney.
  • BBC sportswriter Tom Fordyce did this for Peter Crouch, which in turn spawned That Peter Crouch Podcast.

    Individual works 
  • About halfnote  of the Animorphs books were ghostwritten, due to the rapid publishing schedule,note  real life issues,note  and also working on Everworld at the same time.
  • While the first ten Bone Chillers books were written by Betsy Haynes, the rest, except for one, were written by ghostwriters.
  • The Ghosts of Fear Street books were written by people besides R. L. Stine, despite being marketed using his name, with the real author or authors listed inside each book. One Ghosts of Fear Street book was written by a pair of sisters who go by AG Cascone; they later went on to write their own competing series of books, Deadtime Stories. One of the sisters, Gina, was one of the ghostwriters for the afromentioned
  • Ron Goulart wrote nine TekWar novels, which were published as being written by William Shatner.
  • The Saint stories and novels by Leslie Charteris were ghostwritten at least from the early 1960s and possibly as early as World War II. The first definitely ghostwritten book, 1964's Vendetta for the Saint, was written by Harry Harrison, who also wrote his own mildly similar SF character "Slippery" Jim diGriz aka The Stainless Steel Rat.
  • H. P. Lovecraft is known to have ghostwritten for several people, based on their story outlines. The most famous was Harry Houdini, while Hazel Heald and Zealia Bishop were both returning customers.
  • Journalist Tony Schwartz made some headlines for outing himself as the ghostwriter of Donald Trump's book The Art of the Deal while criticizing Trump and his presidential run, regarding his ghostwriting as an Old Shame. (He was credited as coauthor, but by his account did virtually all the writing.) Trump in turn threatened Schwartz with a defamation lawsuit, but nothing came of it.
  • The Pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage (1956) by John F. Kennedy was, as suspected since 1958 and finally revealed in 2008, mostly written by his speechwriter, Ted Sorensen.
    • Equally, Six Crises (1962) by Richard Nixon - written at the encouragement of Mamie Eisenhower and Kennedy himself in response to the latter book - was mostly written by a team of ghostwriters, mainly Charles Lichenstein. Nixon had the concept for the book thought out, but felt he wasn't much of a writer, so he taped his ideas and sent them to his ghostwriters. He did write the chapter on defeat on his own, though.

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