My introduction to ghost-writing came via a gifted friend from my days at Stanford. She received her B.A. in classics from Stanford with distinction. She is a gifted writer. After college she went to work with a Christian ministry. My wife and I were visiting with her one day when she read a letter from a well-known Christian leader. I was a bit surprised by how well the letter was written and commenced to voice my astonishment. My friend said, “Oh no, she did not write it. I did.” I was speechless…a rather uncommon occurrence for me!
After this, I started to hear more about ghost-writing. There were all kinds of rationales given to the practice, but all struck me as ridiculous. Who cares if everyone is doing it? That is certainly not a compelling argument. Who cares if both the ghost-writer and the more famous Christian are fine with it? No argument of any worth there either.
My first opportunity to ghost-write came about ten years ago. I turned down the offer even though the money was good. In the depths of the recent recession when we almost lost our home, I said “yes” to ghost-writing two smaller pieces. It was a weak moment to be sure, but inexcusable. I will never do it again.
I have no problem with a famous Christian utilizing the skills of a more gifted writer as long as proper attribution is given. Which means in many cases putting them on the cover as a co-author. And how many follow that practice? Very few, I’m afraid.
I talked with a journalist several years back who was working on a major book about ghost-writing among Christians. He decided to scrap it because he felt it would be too much of a stumbling block for Christians to find out how many of their favorite writers are really not the guy or gal writing the book!
Analogous situations: research assistants and professors, sermon writers and preachers, bloggers and their sources…