Ghostwriting usually adjoins biography. Some biographies, like mine of Bob Ansett, evolved into a
ghosted autobiography. Ghosting tells another person’s story as if you were that person. You forfeit
your own voice and you write as the other. “The ghostwriter’s job is to be invisible,” says Liz van den
Nieuwenhof, who ghosted Ethnee Holmes à Court’s autobiography Undaunted. You have to take on the
subject’s character. Ghostwriting is a business arrangement.
It can extend to other areas of non-fiction: academia is famous for the theft of students’ work, where the
ground-breaking thesis gets involuntarily attributed to the professor. Fighters and footballers rarely write
the how-to books bearing their names.
Why ghostwrite when you can write as yourself? If the subject interests you and the money is good,
why not? If attribution is an issue, make it clear from the beginning what you want. Talk the business
arrangements through in detail. Sign an agreement that reflects your position.
As ghosting is usually autobiography, this paper focuses on issues arising from working with the subject
of the book as well as the financial and business implications. A subject can also be a commissioner
when he or she initiates the project. When the publishing house proposes the book the publisher is the
I found it helpful to turn these questions over:
Why does your subject need a ghost? Why don’t they write the book themselves?
Two traditional reasons are: no time and lack of skill. If the subject has no time, that’s fine. If they think
they lack the skills, it’s worth asking why, because if they’re not articulate, getting the story out of them
may drive you crazy. If you’ve got a subject who’ll talk for 20 minutes in response to a single question,
you’re probably okay so long as there’s enough detail to make the story live. If the subject lacks writing
experience, maybe they’d be better off taking a writing course. A subject who’s a frustrated writer (or
editor) can make your life hell. I once tried to ghost Dick Smith’s autobiography. Then I discovered
that what he really wanted was a writer who could get inside his head and translate the contents to the
waiting world. The task was beyond me.
How much work will you have to do?
If your subject is a nuclear physicist, you’ll need to get up to speed on stuff such as magnetic resonance,
which might take some time. If your subject speaks turgid sentences like a High Court judge, you may
spend hours trying to figure out what he or she really means. Translating convoluted sentences into clear
English, while you’re using another’s voice, can be torture. It takes time. Give yourself that time. And be
sure you’re paid for it.
Should I record my dealings?
You may want to keep a diary of meetings and interviews. Keep the original receipts, as well as
photocopies for your records of any expenditure associated with the project so the commissioner can
reimburse you.
What are the ethics of ghostwriting?
Everyone agrees to warts and all ghosting. In principle. And everyone means different things by it. What
do you do if you’re ghosting a feted doctor who confesses he’s faked research on Thalidomide? Truth and
confidentiality bring their troubling questions to ghosting. The best subjects stretch the truth. Selective
memory distorts the story, guilt leaves holes, Alzheimers erases chapters. Yet you have contracted to
write with the subject’s voice.
Who has final say?
Usually the subject has the last word. The subject is responsible for factual accuracy. Be wary of
delivering the book in stages. If the subject is a frustrated writer he or she will take this as an open
invitation to re-write every sentence. Don’t give them time. Don’t deliver in stages. Give them the
completed manuscript with a tight deadline for factual checking, and make it clear the job must be
done quickly. A week is a long time; you’ll need therapy if they take a fortnight.
How will the book be promoted?
The subject usually gets the publicity for writing the book and goes on the interview circuit. You will be
invisible except to publishers, booksellers and other potential subjects.
The Agreement
Before work begins, a ghostwriter needs some preliminary discussions with the commissioner on the
nature and scope of the book. Be clear in your agreement about who does what. If your subject can’t
remember the name of his or her primary school teacher and you have to have it for the story, who
does the research, you or the subject? If there’s a vital letter the subject wrote 20 years ago and he or she
thinks it might be with an aunt in Byron Bay or maybe a cousin in Broome, who tracks it down?
The agreement should define:
1. Who does what?
Set out the tasks for both subject and ghost. Cover the following areas:
Research and interviews
Writing and editing
Subject’s control
When the subject gets to see the material, and
Who provides illustrations and photographs.
Set deadlines and mechanisms for extending them. If subject and ghost fall out, can the ghost use the
material elsewhere – say, for a magazine piece or television program?
Does the subject make the final editorial decision? Says Liz van den Nieuwenhof about the process of
writing Ethnee Holmes à Court’s biography, “I used the word ‘shindig’. Ethnee – she’s a lady – said ‘I
don’t shindig.’ I struck it out.”
A celebrity I ghosted for dug his toes in about a couple of sentences on his hair transplant. I pointed out
that photographs in the book, showing a receding hairline then a full head of hair a few years later, told
the story anyway. He wouldn’t budge. I accepted: it was his call.
ASA: Ghostwriting
2. Payment
Whether your subject is paying you or the publisher is paying, you must have an advance you can live
off. Sign the contract and get the money before you start work.
The agreement should define:
The date you’ll be paid
How much, and
What happens if you fall out with the subject.
Ideally, you’re paid a full fee in advance together with royalties after publication, and if there’s a falling
out, there’s no refund and you retain the rights to what you’ve written.
But between the ideal and the actual falls the shadow: few famous folk will give their ghost that much
leverage. Basically, the game in negotiating is to see how close you can come to the ideal.
Work out:
How long you figure the project will take
What’s your minimum rate of pay per month, and
What is the capacity of the subject (or publisher) to pay.
Famous folk in need of a ghostwriter are not going to quibble over a few thousand dollars. If they want
talent, they know they’ll have to pay. There’s no scale of pay for ghost-writers, unless you use the Media
Entertainment and Arts Alliance (AJA Section) Freelance Writers’ Rates as a measure. Don’t ask for too
little. It can kill your credibility.
3. Attribution
There are three traditional attributions for ghostwriters:
Full Attribution
The author’s name appears on the cover in the normal way as with the following examples:
Bob Ansett: An Autobiography with Robert Pullan
Lee Iacoca: An Autobiography with William Novak
Everybody understands that the author did the writing. Sometimes the subject is the principle source,
as Bob Ansett was with me. I interviewed him, his workmates, schoolmates, wife (but not ex-wife; she
turned me down), mother, brother, son, daughter. He paid me an upfront fee, saying “don’t spend it all
at once,” and covered my main research expenses including a trip to California.
Part Attribution
Ethnee Holmes a Court’s autobiography mentions no ghost on the cover, but the title page has “with
Liz van den Nieuwenhof‚” and in her acknowledgments Ethnee said “I could not have wished for a
better ghostwriter.”
No Attribution
Full credit for the book is taken by the person who puts his or her name to it, and the ghostwriter keeps
all the details of the ghostwriting relationship completely confidential. Usually only the publisher, the
ghostwriter and the author‚ know the real story.
ASA: Ghostwriting
4. Copyright
Be specific about who owns copyright. If it’s shared, and if your name is on the cover with the subject’s,
then you receive appropriate Public Lending Right earnings which should be split 50-50 between ghost
and subject. If there’s no attribution, have a clause in the contract saying the ghost is entitled to half the
PLR earnings, half the earnings from statutory photocopying fees and half the earnings from subsidiary
rights, such as film and electronic rights.
Include a reversion of rights clause if it’s not published within 12 months. If you assign copyright to the
commissioner, make sure your fee compensates you for loss of your intellectual property. If the book is
a runaway success, with several print-runs and there’s hyper-bidding for subsidiary rights, you won’t be
paid any extra.
In cases of joint copyright and no attribution, the commissioner may say the copyright notice cannot
contain your name. You can get around this by creating a business name for yourself as a sole trader
(check with the Department of Fair Trading about the protocols), and putting the copyright notice
jointly under the subject’s name and your business name.
5. Defamation
Unintentionally defaming someone is always a possibility. Have the contract say the commissioner
pays for any damages to anyone’s unsullied reputation. He or she is responsible for factual accuracy and
therefore any defamation.
6. Confidentiality
If your subject wants you to promise to keep any information confidential, resist as strongly as you can.
A confidentiality clause can only limit a ghostwriter.
© Robert Pullan
Australian Society of Authors Limited, 2009
(6th Edition)
Originally published in 1999
ASA: Ghostwriting
(For autobiographical works commissioned by an individual, and to which the individual will put his/
her name)
made this day of
BETWEEN(the Author)
AND(the Commissioner)
for writing the work titled(the Commissioner’s
working title)
The Author shall research and write for the Commissioner an autobiography of about __________
words to meet accepted editorial standards.
(a) The Commissioner agrees to authorise access to and solicit cooperation from ___________* potential interviewees.
(b) Author and Commissioner will agree on illustrations to be used in the Work. The
Commissioner will provide the illustrations.
(* Specify number)
The Author shall provide the Commissioner with the completed Work ready for publication by
The Commissioner will pay the Author:
(a) One-half of the agreed fee on signature of this Agreement
(b) One-half of the agreed fee on completion
(c) When an Author’s royalty of ten (10) per cent of Recommended Retail Price (RRP) reaches the
amount of the agreed fee, the Author shall thereafter be paid a royalty of ten (10) per cent of
ASA: Ghostwriting
The Commissioner will pay the Author mutually agreed expenses, including travel, research and
production costs such as copyright permissions, illustrations and indexing.
The Commissioner and Author agree that attribution for authorship should be in the following form:
Commissioner’s [Subject’s] name with Author’s name.
(a) Copyright in the published Work shall be jointly owned by the Commissioner and Author in the proportion of _______ / _______ and.
(b) The copyright notice in the book shall*
(i) Reflect this division of ownership.
(ii) Be owned by the Author.
(iii) Be owned by the Commissioner.
(c) If the book is not published within twelve (12) months the rights will remain with*
(i) The Author.
(ii) The Commissioner.
(iii) The Commissioner and Author in the proportion of _______ / _______ .
8. (* PLR and photocopying payments will be governed by the copyright ownership.)
All payments for the original Work and for the sale of its subsidiary rights whether by a print publisher
or by an electronic publisher shall be split _______ / _______ between the Commissioner and Author.
The Commissioner agrees to read the completed manuscript for accuracy and approve the final draft.
The Commissioner will pay all costs and damages for defamation.
To resolve conflict, including termination of the Agreement, either party may trigger this clause by
notice in writing to the other, and within one (1) month of such notice:
Author and Commissioner or their representatives* shall meet to:
(i) Identify in writing the issues on which they disagree
(ii) Resolve the disagreement.
(* For the purposes of this clause, the term ‘representative’ does not include a legal
ASA: Ghostwriting
(b) If the disagreement is not resolved within four (4) hours the parties will:
(i) Appoint a mediator**
(ii) Identify in writing the issues to be mediated, and
(iii) Set a date for the second meeting.
(c) (** In association with the mediation service offered by The Australian Society of Authors and
The Arts Law Centre of Australia.)
The parties agree their intention at the second meeting is to resolve the dispute. If after _____
hours no resolution has been reached, either party may resort to litigation.
ASA: Ghostwriting
Ghostwriters Register
Barbara Cameron-Smith
John Carrick
All Things Written Pty Ltd
53/29 Carabella Street
Kirribilli NSW 2061
Winning Words
1 Roxburgh Street
Stockton NSW 2295
Phone: 02 9929 0347
Mobile: 0402 108 555
Fax: 02 8079 6659
Email: [email protected]
Experience: Researching and writing text for
exhibitions, displays, publications, outdoor
signage, annual reports and corporate speeches.
Ghostwriting projects include a medical text
book, individual memoirs and life stories.
Special Interests: Science (biology, botany,
geomorphology, geology); health matters; sport
(athletics, distance running, cross country
skiing); social history; Australian war history;
spiritual/religious exploration; conservation,
environmental issues and land management;
outdoor recreation; public service, local
government, corporate history; art and
Rates: Award rates. Negotiable.
02 4928 1699
0419 441 209
Email: [email protected]
Experience: Over the past 25 years, has helped
authors on many book projects.
Now co-writing a memoir with a prominent
business leader.
Helped poet Robert Gray to develop his first
full-length prose work, The Land I Came Through
Last, a memoir, which won the Copyright
Council’s 2009 Nib Award.
Wrote the books for Sydney’s and Bangkok’s
Olympic bids, and for Australia’s AFC Asian
Cup 2015 bid.
Author, co-author and editor of books and
catalogues on architecture and art.
Special interests: Has extensive in-house and
freelance experience in writing, rewriting,
structural editing, copy editing and proofreading
for authors and book publishers on subjects
including architecture, art, business and finance,
design, English grammar and usage, history,
literary non-fiction, natural history, politics,
sociology, sport, and winemaking.
Rates: Negotiable.
ASA: Ghostwriting
Kerry Chater
Jane Clement
19/43A St Marks Road
Randwick NSW 2031
PO Box 603
Dee Why
NSW 2099
Phone: 02 9398 5170
0417 228 393
Email: [email protected]
Phone: Fax: Email: Experience: Co-authored a book on gender
issues; ghostwritten an autobiography and
chapters of other books; currently ghostwriting
a business book and an autobiography; specialist
in writing and running courses on business
writing for corporates.
Special Interests: Business books, especially
all facets of management; gender issues;
Rates: Each book has been negotiated differently
(e.g. flat fee or daily rate).
0423 640 891
02 9982 9221
[email protected]
Experience: Thirty years as ghostwriter,
journalist, corporate writer, editor, book doctor.
Books include Lifestyle Retirement and Kiwi
Kids’ Enclyclopedia (both published by Random
House NZ). Very experienced corporate writer.
Freelance and ghost feature writer for many
magazines in Australia and New Zealand.
Former producer for BBC TV and ABC
Special Interests: Non-fiction books requiring
in-depth research e.g. health, general knowledge,
practical advice. Doctoring unfinished books.
Corporate writing, from annual reports to
information kits. In depth interviews and
Rates: Negotiable.
ASA: Ghostwriting
Garry Fabian
John F Harman
1/29 Imperial Avenue
Caulfield South
VIC 3162
47B Grenville Street,
Tuart Hill WA 6060
Phone: Mobile: Fax: Email:
Website: Phone: Mobile: Email: Website: 03 9532 8509
0419 306 820
03 9532 8503
[email protected]
Experience: Holds a BA in Literature and an
MA in Political History/Australian Studies.
Freelance journalist, background in electrical
and electronics industry, mining safety, and
general industrial areas. Has written an
autobiography, several historical booklets as
well as general writing and editing. Currently
writing an organisational history.
Special Interests: History, travel, lifestyle,
technical and business subjects, community
Rates: $50 per hr.
08 9345 4605
0417 874 686
[email protected]
Experience: John Harman is a published author,
novelist and scriptwriter. He has ghosted more
than a dozen books: some for major publishers;
many for private individuals. Apart from
ghostwriting biographies of bankers, politicians,
military men and minor celebrities, he has also
ghosted books ranging from popular novels,
through finance and management, to self help
books, alternative medicine and Feng Shui.
Special Interests: As a former Fleet Street
journalist he can write on a wide range of
subjects. His specialities include corporate
histories and the biographies of business leaders
and political figures. Read the article he wrote
for the WA State Literature Board at: www.
Rates: Negotiable.
ASA: Ghostwriting
Prudence Hux
Peter Meredith
78 Montevideo Drive
Clear Island Waters QLD 4226
66 Bendooley Street
Bowral NSW 2576
Phone: Mobile:
Fax: Email:
Phone: Mobile: Email: 07 5575 2173
0403 089 310
07 5575 2297
[email protected]
Experience: Four books as a ghost writer:
including Millionaires & Models (HighRollers
Magazine 2003) and One of Sixteen by Schon
Bryan (Poisedon Books 2004). Authored books
include The Louise Sullivan Story: An Australian
Nanny’s Nightmare, (Lothian Press), and three
books of poetry.
2005-2008 Examples of published magazine
articles for Queensland Style magazine (Qld),
and Living in the Gulf (Dubai):
• ‘Birdsville Races’
• ‘Cairns Royal Flying Doctor Service’
• ‘Lloyd Bond –Imagineering’
• ‘Yandi – Drug sniffing dog’
• ‘Australia’s Rainforest Caviar’
• ‘Mathew Watkins - entrepeneur’
• ‘Fit for A King’ - Article on King Island for
Bryan Bird
Experience: Journalist since 1970 (in the UK,
Southern Africa and Australia), author and
editor. Freelance since 1994. Books I have
written include Myles and Milo (biography
published by Allen & Unwin), Two Below
Zero (true-life drama, ghostwritten for couple
who spent a year in Antarctica), The Australian
Geographic Book of the Blue Mountains and several
corporate histories. Among the articles I have
written for Australian and overseas newspapers
and magazines are several I ghostwrote for other
people. I have edited books on science, health,
adventure and the environment, as well as
fiction and autobiography.
Special Interests: autobiography, memoir,
history, environment, travel and adventure. I
can’t resist fascinating stories about people.
Rates: Negotiable.
Special Interest: Biographies, Travel, People
Profiles. Any fiction and editorial work.
Rates: Negotiable.
02 4861 5009
0405 544 229
[email protected]
ASA: Ghostwriting
Paul Noonan Sally Odgers
7 Hollingsford Crescent
Carrington NSW 2294
PO Box 41
Latrobe TAS 7307
Phone: Email: Website: Phone: Fax:
Email: Website: 0425 396 431
A.H. (02) 4965 4268
[email protected]
Experience: Capable, experienced and dedicated.
Paul has written and edited professionally in
Australia and Europe for over eleven years. He
has researched and authored (or ghostwritten)
extensively, including a variety of adult education
programs, copious technical literature, a guide
to Anzac research, and a virtue/romance
album. He is currently preparing a guidebook
on ‘professionalism’ and collaborating on a
manliness book for adolescents.
Experience: Books published for children, teens
and adults.
Special Interests: Children’s books, fantasy,
animals, e-books, manuscript assessment.
Rates: Hourly rate.
Special Interests: Australiana, war, aviation,
spirituality, health and healing, children’s
stories, science, psychology, philosophy,
relationship romance, parenting, family healing,
sustainability, gardening, hobbies, adventure,
fantasy, and epic literature.
Services: Ghost writing, collaboration, speech
and letter writing, editing, and research.
Rates: Negotiated flat fee, daily rate or variant.
03 6426 1168
03 6426 2276
[email protected]
ASA: Ghostwriting
N. E. Renton AM
Lynn Santer
194 Kilby Road
Kew East VIC 3102
30 Peninsula Court
Mermaid Waters QLD 4218
Phone: Fax: Email: Website: Phone: 0410 513 009
Email: [email protected]
03 9859 4958
03 9859 4958
[email protected]
Experience: Books – Compendium of Good
Writing, Renton’s Metaphors, Understanding
the Stock Exchange, Understanding Investment
Property, Understanding Taxation for Investors,
Enjoy Your English!, Australia needs Tax Reform,
Family Trusts; and many others
Special Interests: Non-fiction other than
Rates: Negotiable
Experience: Over a decade of professional
writing experience across Australia, Europe and
America, including involvement in three Cannes
Film Festivals, Australian Film Commission
festivals in London, and pitch sessions for writers
in Hollywood. Novel – Sins of Life (Best seller in
the UK). Authorised biography – Alby Mangels
Beyond World Safari now in development as a
major Hollywood feature film. First short film
production Lewis’s Piano won Best Independent
Film at the inaugural Launch Film Festival.
Special Interests: Animal welfare and big cats
specifically. Lynn’s Magical Scarecrows children’s
project runs enormous philanthropic enterprises,
supported by some of the biggest superstars in
the world including, but not limited to, Jackie
Chan, Hugh Jackman, Priscilla Presley, Jeffrey
Archer, Shane Warne, Derryn Hinch, Leo Sayer,
Barry Crocker, Tippi Hedren, and Virginia
McKenna OBE. Her visionary and far reaching
programs have been nominated for the Pride
of Australia medal. All profits from her ghost
writing contracts are contributed to helping
fund her Magical Scarecrows “Kids Who Read
Succeed” campaign (that gifts books to needy
children all over the world to help with the vital
skill of literacy) and The Magical Scarecrows
“Let’s Make Magic for a Day” annual variety
spectaculars for disabled and disadvantaged
Services: Impartial manuscript advice, and
ghost writing services are available to writers
and producers.
Rates: By negotiation.
ASA: Ghostwriting
Ghostwriters by state:
Barbara Cameron-Smith
John Carrick
Kerry Chater
Jane Clement
Peter Meredith
Paul Noonan
Prudence Hux
Lynn Santer
Garry Fabian
N. E. Renton
Sally Odgers
John F Harman
Australian Society of Authors
PO Box 1566, Strawberry Hills NSW 2012
Ph: 02 9318 0877
Fax: 02 9318 0530
Copyright © 2011 Australian Society of Authors
Detail from ASA Medal design by Darrell Sibosado