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?

Ghostwriting Explained

First: ghostwriting is not “one person writes the book and someone else gets all the credit.”

That’s fraud.

Professional ghostwriting is:

  • author has the idea
  • ghostwriter puts author’s idea on paper

Or, more poetically,

The difference between a writer and a ghostwriter is the difference between a mother and a midwife.
Now, on what books and authors had midwives.

Writing Authors Who Got Famous, Then Later Used Ghostwriters to Help Keep Up with Demand

JAMES BOND NOVELS, IAN FLEMING

GOOSEBUMPS SERIES, R.L. STINE

TOM CLANCY

ROBERT LUDLUM

JAMES PATTERSON

PIRATE LATITUDES AND MICRO, MICHAEL CRICHTON

Crichton never used a ghostwriter while alive; the books published after his death (i.e., posthumously) were ghostwritten based on the extensive notes he left and thorough study of his writing style.

Politicians, Actors, and other Celebrities Who Used Ghostwriters

AN AMERICAN LIFE, PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN

The story goes that a reporter once asked the Gipper about his autobiography, to which he responded, “I hear it’s a great book! I mean to read it one day.”

IT DOESN’T TAKE A HERO, GENERAL NORM SCHWARZKOPF, “WITH PETER PETRE”

GOING ROGUE, SARAH PALIN, WITH LYNN VINCENT

LIVING HISTORY, SECRETARY OF STATE HILARY CLINTON, ACKNOWLEDGING MARYANN VOLLERS

THE AGE OF TURBULENCE, CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE ALAN GREENSPAN

PROFILES IN COURAGE, PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY

Despite a libel suit disputing the fact, JFK’s famous book was likely the product of a close collaboration with his speechwriter Ted Sorensen.

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF GENERAL ULYSSES S. GRANT: MEMOIRS OF THE CIVIL WAR, PRESIDENT ULYSSES GRANT

In days of President Grant, there was no lifetime salary for retiring presidents. His friend Mark Twain (yes, that Mark Twain) convinced him to write his memoirs (almost certainly with Twain’s help). The book was a bestseller and let the former president comfortably retire.

Famous Ghostwritten Business Books

THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, AUTHOR AND SPEAKER STEPHEN COVEY ACKNOWLEDGING KEN SHELTON

JACK: STRAIGHT FROM THE GUT, LEGENDARY GE CEO JACK WELCH “WITH JOHN BYRNE”

IACOCCA, CHRYSLER CEO LEE IACOCCA “WITH WILLIAM NOVAK”

THE ART OF THE DEAL, TRUMP ORGANIZATION CEO DONALD TRUMP “WITH TONY SCHWARTZ”

ONWARD, STARBUCKS CEO HOWARD SCHULTZ “WITH JOANNE GORDON”

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, GARDNER RICH & CO. FOUNDER CHRIS GARDNER “WITH QUINCY TROUPE”

LOSING MY VIRGINITY, VIRGIN FOUNDER RICHARD BRANSON ACKNOWLEDGING EDWARD WHITLEY

ONLY THE PARANOID SURVIVE, INTEL CEO ANDY GROVE ACKNOWLEDGING CATHERINE FREDMAN

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, GARDNER RICH & CO. FOUNDER CHRIS GARDNER “WITH QUINCY TROUPE”

THE POWER OF MANY, HEWLETT-PACKARD CEO MEG WHITMAN “WITH JOAN O’C. HAMILTON”

LONGABERGER: AN AMERICAN SUCCESS STORY, AMERICANA LIFESTYLE COMPANY FOUNDER DAVE LONGABERGER ACKNOWLEDGING ROBERT L. SHOOK

MADE IN AMERICA, WALMART FOUNDER SAM WALTON “WITH JOHN HUEY”

Book Series by Authors Who Never Lived
(Written by Commercial Ghostwriters)

These beloved “authors” never actually existed. The name was a pseudonym created by the publishers to churn out popular series.

CAROLYN KEEN, “AUTHOR” OF THE NANCY DREW BOOKS

FRANKLIN W. DIXON, “AUTHOR” OF THE HARDY BOYS BOOKS

VICTOR APPLETON, “AUTHOR” OF THE TOM SWIFT BOOKS

FRANCINE PASCAL, AN ACTUAL PERSON, BUT ONE WHO LED A TEAM OF GHOSTWRITERS FOR THE SWEET VALLEY HIGH BOOKS

Famous Ghostwritten Works of Literature

SHAKESPEARE

(Yes, even the Bard of Avon couldn’t keep up with his own genius and turned to friend to help him with many of his works.)

THE THREE MUSKETEERS AND THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, ALEXANDRE DUMAS