Friday 30 December 2011

Ghostwriters and Biographers as Gift Items

Following a recent trip to Bangkok, (see previous blog entry), I have been thinking about this concept of ghostwriters and biographers as gift items. I have recently been commissioned for a number of such projects. One client, for instance, wished to write his autobiography in order to present it to his grandson. He had no expectation that the grandson would actually read it for many years to come, he just wanted it to be there, ready for the day when it might seem a tempting proposition. A couple of other clients have presented me to recipients who they knew wanted to write books but who they also knew would never get round to tackling such a daunting task without help.

Millions of people are now hooked on the idea of tracing their family histories. I have met enough of them personally to know they would be thrilled to discover that their great grandmother or great uncle had written a book chronicling family relationships, homes, businesses and – with any luck – scandals. It wouldn’t matter if the books had been read by no one since the day they were written, to that particular researcher they would be absolute gold dust.

It might once have been called vanity publishing – and if the author is persuaded to part with money on the promise of becoming a bestseller, then it still should be – but if all you are doing is leaving a record for future generations is it any more “vain” than commissioning a portrait painter or an architect to create a great family home?

Printing books to a high standard is no longer hard. It can be done on line at sites like or by the many specialist self-publishing companies, but writing the books in a readable style can be more challenging and that is where the specialist skills of the ghostwriter or biographer come in.

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