For the next couple of weeks, we'll try to respond to some of the most frequently asked questions, on the theory that if one new author asked, a dozen more want to know the same thing.

Here's a question that comes up:

"What do you think about ghost writing? I'm in need of a writer to tell my story because I really do not have the time to write it and really don't know how to get started."

This is really two different questions, depending on whether you are asking about fiction or nonfiction.

If you're talking about a fictional story you're probably out of luck. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a writer who would write a story you came up with when they could be writing their own. Such writers do exist, but they generally get assignments from publishers to add to a series of books that are written under a house name. When Lester Dent created Doc Savage in the 1930s he wrote under the "house name" of Kenneth Robeson. Other writers added to the collection using the same name. This practice continues today, but I won't out any of my friends by naming ghosts. I just know they don’t work for individuals.

Besides, if someone else writes your story, you're not a writer. Is that what you want?

Ghost writers more often write nonfiction for others – autobiographies, memoirs and the like. I know a few of these folks too. They do work with individuals from time to time to tell the other person's story. These writers don’t expect their work to sell well, and their names aren’t on the cover anyway, so they don’t work for royalties. This kind of writing is called fee-for-service work, meaning that these ghost writers generally get paid a flat fee for their work. A book length work might cost $25,000 or $30,000. So a good ghost writer can make a decent living, and if you want to hire someone to do this kind of writing, you can probably find them pretty easily through a local writers’ organization.

But why not tell your own story? Take the time to write it instead of taking the time to explain it all to another writer. Then hire an editor to help you shape and refine the story. That way, you’re still a writer.

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