Famous Ghostwritten Books and Their Ghostwriters

I wrote this book without the aid of a coauthor or a ghostwriter (which is why it’s a good bet this is going to be my last book; I had no idea it would be so hard to do).

– IBM CEO Lou Gerstner, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?

Lou hit the nail on the head: writing a book is hard work.

Really hard.

In fact, to get a book out in a reasonable amount of time is a full-time job…which is one of the many reasons ghostwriters exist.

In case you’re new to the concept:
In true ghostwriting, the author authors the book; the ghostwriter translates their thoughts into words.
Put another way: the author can write the book without the ghostwriter, but the ghostwriter cannot write the book without the author.
You have read plenty of ghostwritten books and had no idea. Authors working with ghostwriters include such famous figures as:
  • Alexandre Dumas in The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Michael Crichton in Latitudes (finished posthumously)
  • Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond
  • R. L. Stine, author of the children’s series Goosebumps
  • Tom Clancy
  • Robert Ludlum
  • James Patterson
  • Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve
  • Hilary Clinton in Living History, acknowledging Maryanne Vollers
  • Sarah Palin, U.S. presidential candidate and governor of Alaska, in Going Rogue, with Lynn Vincent
  • Ronald Reagan in his autobiography An American Life
  • General Norm Schwarzkopf in It Doesn’t Take a Hero, “with Peter Petre”

But business books are my bag. Here are some of the more famous business authors who wrote their books with ghostwriters:

  • Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with Ken Shelton
  • Jack Welch in Jack: Straight From the Gut, “with John Byrne”
  • Lee Iaccoca in Iaccoca, “with William Novak”
  • Donald Trump in The Art of the Deal, “with Tony Schwartz”
  • Howard Schultz in Onward, “with Joanne Gordon”
  • John Maxwell in fifty books with Charlie Wetzel
  • Richard Branson in Losing My Virginity, acknowledging Edward Whitley
  • Andy Grove, chairman of Intel, in Only the Paranoid Survive, “with Catherine Fredman”
  • Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness (inspiring the film with Will Smith), “with Quincy Troupe”
  • Meg Whitman in The Power of Many “with Joan O’C. Hamilton”
  • Dave Longaberger in Longaberger: An American Success Story, acknowledging Robert L. Shook
  • Sam Walton in Made in America, “with John Huey”
  • Howard Schultz in Onward “with Joanne Gordon”

And then here are some surprising ghostwriting trivia (and gossip):

It’s not proven, but many academics accept it as fact that the Bard of Avon used a ghostwriter. Yes, even Shakespeare couldn’t keep up with Shakespeare’s genius.
Mozart ghostwrote music for other composers early in his career.
There is a strong suspicion that President Ulysses S. Grant’s autobiography was ghostwritten by none than his longtime friend, Mark Twain.
Despite a libel suit disputing the fact, JFK’s Profiles in Courage was likely a product of his close collaboration with Ted Sorensen.

  • Alexandre Dumas in The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Michael Crichton in Latitudes (finished posthumously)
  • R. L. Stine, author of the children’s series Goosebumps
  • Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond
  • Tom Clancy
  • Robert Ludlum
  • James Patterson