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Plagiarism in China - an Academic Concern

Overseas Chinese students are paying for ghostwritten essays at unprecedented levels, but the jig might be up

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times

Plagiarism is so prevalent in China that students face culture shock when studying overseas

Many Chinese students studying abroad pay ghostwriting agencies for essays due to language difficulties and a fear of failing classes

As the number of Chinese students abroad continues to rise, so do the number of such illegal services 

Ghostwriting and plagiarism are commonplace in Chinese universities, but foreign academia is finally cracking down on the phenomenon

Plagiarism in China

Many Chinese students studying abroad pay vast sums of money for ghostwriting services. Photos: IC, screenshot of a ghostwriting agency's official page

Every day, hundreds of thousands of messages advertising ghostwriting agencies are sent out across Chinese social media platforms.

"Our professional ghostwriting agency provides all sorts of essays: speeches, work summaries, professional movie critiques, fiction, self-introductions. We also provide ghostwriting for English essays, assignments, reports, papers, contact us!" reads one advertisement in a WeChat group.

Searches on the Internet pull up similar results: "Original ghostwriting essays," "Successful Ghostwriting," "Ghostwriting homework for students studying abroad," and "Ghostwriting love letters" are just some of the top results.

Ghostwriting has existed in China for many years. The Chinese government once issued some policies trying to stem the problem, without succeeding. Chinese students studying abroad are also using these "resources" for their English-language academic papers. And as their numbers increase, the issue becomes even more serious. 

According to data from China's Ministry of Education, in 2016 about 540,000 Chinese students attended overseas schools, an increase of 36 percent from 2012. Out of that number, 78 percent went to native English-speaking countries such as the US, UK and Australia. 

Different from in China, where academic rules are more relaxed and often unenforced, when Chinese students who are enrolled in foreign schools are caught using ghostwriters, they face severe punishments including expulsion.

A fear of flunking

Many Chinese students use such services because they feel they have no other choice. Aileen, a Chinese college student in the UK, told the Southern Weekly that she was afraid of not getting her diploma, so she turned to ghostwriting services to write all her papers, spending hundreds of thousands of yuan in the process.

Aileen majored in management and wanted a master's degree in the same field. The education agency she applied through suggested she major in International Developmental Management. She did not carefully read the details of this major, and by the time she started school in the UK she realized it was far different from what she had expected.

The course required heavy policy research, which she felt she could not handle. During her first semester, Aileen found herself a relatively affordable ghostwriting agency, but still ended up failing four of her classes.

During her second semester, Aileen spent an additional 80,000 yuan ($12,193) to buy more ghost-written essays. She had to ask her parents for money without telling them what it was being spent on. 

Even though all those papers received passing marks, she herself still failed her final exams. On the verge of flunking out of school, instead of simply studying, Aileen became even more dependent on ghostwriting agencies, believing that if she could just find herself the most expensive and most dependable agent, she'd be able to graduate.

According to Whole Ren Education, a private research center, in 2014 about 8,000 Chinese students were kicked out of American universities due to cheating or plagiarism. 

On Chinese question and answer site Zhihu (China's version of Quora), many students admitted anonymously that they have used such services out of a fear of flunking and not graduating. Many also blamed the language barrier or the way foreign universities conduct their courses, which is far different than at Chinese universities. 

"What's the point of education? I think over 90 percent of my classmates just want to get a good job and have a better future," one student wrote. "So is studying hard really the way to get there?"

Another student contacted by Southern Weekly said he tries to write his college papers himself, but seeing his peers achieve excellent grades through ghostwriting agencies, even though they spend all their free time partying and drinking alcohol, makes him feel that life is unfair.

"I don't know how long I can last," he told the Southern Weekly. "Maybe I'll find a ghostwriter for my next paper."

Carefully woven net 

Spurred by the massive demand, ghostwriting agencies for Chinese students have existed for decades, with those who pay for them being directly responsible for their continued existence. 

Agents usually advertise their ghostwriting services on WeChat and QQ groups, as well as Internet forums where overseas Chinese students congregate. Once the agent receives a query from a student, the agent emails their ghostwriter the request and specific instructions, and the writer gets to work.

Most ghostwriters are paid 300-400 yuan per 1000 words, but the essays must receive a passing score in order for the ghostwriter to receive payment. Wu Wenhao, an agent in his early 20s, told the Southern Weekly that he has a "good reputation" and endless clients, who usually pass. "I earn nearly 100,000 yuan per month," he bragged. 

Wang Hong (pseudonym) worked as a ghostwriter a few years ago while she herself was still in college. She was approached by an agent who asked if she would like to "make a few extra bucks" by writing essays for her fellow students.

Wang showed a list of all the paid essays she has ever written to the Global Times, which covered a wide range of topics, from finance and linguistics to history and literary studies. Some were just simple freshman-year essays, such as book reviews. The Global Times asked Wang why the students could not handle such simple assignments.

"They probably didn't want to bother to read the book," Wang shrugged.

For more difficult topics, Wang spent more time on research and citing multiple sources. But in her opinion, the work was always quite easy, and so was the money. Nonetheless, after just a couple of years, Wang quit ghostwriting. "It was a way to make some money during my school days," she said. "But I have found more noble ways to earn a living now."

Dim future

The booming ghostwriting business might be over soon, as many foreign schools have finally begun to crackdown on the problem. In January of 2017, after British media reported on the use of ghostwriters among overseas Chinese students, the UK government outlawed ghostwriting academic papers, with stiff punishments for offenders.

For many Chinese students, however, they don't understand the severe consequences of plagiarism. In China, the phenomenon is so unhinged that it has become a prevalent  part of campus life.

In 2013, China's Ministry of Education released a policy saying if dissertations are counterfeited, the author will be warned, disqualified from teaching or even fired. However, the phenomenon still went on as usual.

Wang, the former ghostwriter, confirmed this to the Global Times. "Once I wrote a doctoral dissertation for an associate professor of a Chinese university," she admitted.

At foreign universities, "contract cheating" and "plagiarism" are subject to academic punishment. UK's Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAAHE) released new guidelines this year saying it will crack down on companies offering such services and punish students who purchase them.

The QAAHE also said it now has software that can determine whether a paper has been plagiarized or ghostwritten.

In the US, plagiarism violates the ethics standards of most universities; violators face failing grades and expulsion. But this is no guarantee that the phenomenon can be completely stopped. Analysts say that to rid this issue from the root, good moral values must be instilled in Chinese students early on.

Southern Weekly contributed to the story



Paul Manafort - Ghostwriter for Russia

New Email Shows Paul Manafort’s Heavy Hand on Ghost-Written Ukraine Op-Ed

A redlined draft shows Manafort excised entire paragraphs, including one that mentioned he “had an ear of the president on a more regular basis than even some of his ministers.”

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort didn’t just ghostwrite portions of a controversial op-ed about himself, he also excised details about his work for the former Russia-aligned president of Ukraine that he felt “would not be good to mention,” according to email from Manafort that was unsealed in a court document on Monday.
The op-ed was intended to appear under the byline of Oleg Voloshin, a former spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign affairs ministry. Last week special counsel Robert Mueller argued that Manafort had substantially authored or re-written portions of the piece, and had therefore violated a gag order in his criminal case. Manafort denied the charge.
The newly-unsealed e-mail chain is between Manafort and Konstan Kilimnik, who sent Manafort the op-ed draft for review and comment. Kilimnik is longtime associate of Manafort who worked with him to support pro-Russia political figures in Ukraine.
“I have attached a framework for the op-ed in the Kyiv Post for Oleg,” Manafort wrote back on November 29.  “It keeps his approach but takes out pieces that would not be good to mention.”
“You will notice that I left several areas where you need to insert points,” Manafort added. “I am available to talk either tonight or in the morning.”
A red-lined draft attached to the e-mail shows Manafort excised entire paragraphs, including one that mentioned he “had an ear of the president on a more regular basis than even some his ministers.” The “president” in this case is former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who Manafort served as a political consultant before Yanukovych was ousted over corruption and policies friendly to Moscow.



Ghostwriter Hanaba Welch

Ghostwriting the biography of ghostly Michele

By Times Record News, Wichita

Hanada Welch ghostwriter

Ghostwriter. That’s my new name for myself.

The ghost’s name is Michele.

Yes, I know a normal ghostwriter is someone who stays in the shadows and writes stuff for someone else. I’m not normal.

For my kind of ghostwriting, I think it helps not to be weighted down with normality. Not unless you take a scholarly approach. My opinion. But I’m just getting into this genre.

Who was Michele? Oops. Wrong tense. Who IS Michele? Like I said, I’m new to this.

Michele, a teenager, lived in the 1860s in a three-story mansion in New Orleans’ Vieux Carre. We can assume she was attractive. Her parents were appalled that she flirted with Yankee soldiers camped in the street. Maman and Papa grounded her. Distraught, she jumped to her death. That’s the legend.


I first heard about Michele in 2002 when I spent a few nights in the above-described mansion as a guest of longtime friends Bob and Jan Carr. I’d been Bob’s secretary back when secretaries took memos on steno pads, not that I knew shorthand. I just wrote fast. This year, via email, I helped him edit his latest book, “The Packard Limousine:  A Boy’s Journey Through the Great Depression.” (Yes, I’m plugging it.) When Bob’s 90th birthday coincided with this month’s release of the book, my husband, Hugh, and I accepted an invitation to the party. Hugh’s responsibilities, cows included, necessitated his return to Texas afterward. I lingered, joined in New Orleans by my Arkansas friend Beverly. She and I lunched with Bob and Jan, who now live uptown but have a drawing of their old mansion hanging in their parlor. Beverly was intrigued. After lunch we went to see the place.

At Michele’s haunt, Beverly (identified above if you skipped it) posed vivaciously on the column-flanked porch, barley making it off before the current owner emerged. We introduced ourselves, dropping the names of Bob and Jan, who’d sold the house to his family. We gave him a copy of Bob’s new book. We mentioned Michele. He invited us to return the next day to swap stories.

Armed with croissants and one Danish, we arrived at mid-morning for the visit. The current living residents didn’t disappoint us; rather, they added to the list of Michele sightings and things going bump in the night.

I’d say more but I’d rather you buy the book – either my book about Michele, if I write one, or the book Bob has already started, “Wholly Ghost.” Maybe we’ll be co-ghostwriters. 

Meanwhile, Beverly and I are now Alabamy-bound to visit a college friend. Last night in Mississippi, Beverly mistakenly tried to open the wrong door at our motel. Oddly, the card worked. The room was empty. That door shut by itself while we were using the same card to get into our assigned room. When our door opened, we found the TV on, all lights on and bedcovers askew.

Michele was there ahead of us!

We got a different room.


Hanaba Munn Welch, a correspondent for the Times Record News who divides her time between Abilene and a farm north of Vernon, appears on Mondays. Her columns, as a tribute to the Childress Engine 501, always contain, amazingly, 501 words.



If you hire a ghostwriter for Op-Ed Ghostwriting

In a World of Op-Ed Ghostwriting, Have Readers Become Invisible, Too?

Some op-eds are written by their nominal authors, while others are ghostwritten by PR firms with an agenda. Can readers tell the difference? If you hire a ghostwriter, what happens...?

Hire a Book Ghostwriter

SINCE ITS LAUNCH in 2015, STAT News has published award-winning, in-depth, and independent reporting on health, medicine, and the pharmaceutical industry. Some recent digging by the media watchdog HealthNewsReview, though, turned up something less savory at STAT: two opinion articles that looked like the work of an ordinary patient and doctor, but were actually shaped by public relations firms working for pharmaceutical companies or their interests.

The incident has raised larger questions about how easy it is for PR professionals to game opinion sections.

In one case, HNR reported, a PR company apparently authored an op-ed that was published under the name Robert Yapundich, a physician in North Carolina. The piece was headlined “How pharma sales reps help me be a more up-to-date-doctor,” but it was not disclosed that the piece had originated with a PR firm (Yapundich later admitted that he made edits, but that he did not write the piece), nor was it reported that Yapundich had received payments from pharmaceutical companies in the past.

In another case, Deborah Clark Dushane, a retired educator in Michigan, published an op-ed in STAT praising television drug commercials. The ads, she wrote, had led her to a drug that cured her chronic hepatitis-C. “Those commercials raised my awareness of the disease and gave me the courage to try again to beat it,” Dushane wrote.

But when HealthNewsReview called up Dushane, she admitted that a PR firm representing a pharmaceutical company had asked her to write the op-ed and submit it to STAT. The firm also reviewed and edited Dushane’s draft prior to submission. And while there is no evidence that the pharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences, paid Dushane for her efforts, they did fly her out to California “to learn more about the company and its products,” according to a lengthy disclosure that STAT has since appended to her op-ed.

STAT retracted Yapundich’s piece and promptly changed its op-ed policy, requiring contributors to answer a list of questions about conflicts of interest and outside assistance. But given STAT’s stature as a top-flight journalism organization, the incident has raised larger questions about how easy it is for PR professionals to game opinion sections elsewhere. It also highlights a lack of clear industry standards on what amounts to ghostwriting, in which public relations professionals, acting on behalf of powerful interests, write what appear to be original articles and essays that are then published under the bylines of individuals.

Is that ever acceptable? And if so, how are readers made aware of what’s written by PR professionals in pursuit of an agenda, and what’s truly the product of an individual with something to say?

“A lot of editors seem to be very adamant that the byline is the actual writer. But I think that’s a little naive.”

CERTAINLY, the media landscape can be confusing for readers, even without hidden authorship and unclear incentives. While research on ghostwriting itself is sparse, there’s evidence that for many readers, it is increasingly difficult to differentiate between commercial communication and journalistic communication online. A 2016 Stanford University study, for example, found that middle school students struggled to distinguish between journalism and sponsored content on the homepage of Another recent study indicated that adults were frequently unable to distinguish between so-called native advertising — which is designed to look like an article — from actual editorial content.

Reasonable people might disagree on what exactly distinguishes an op-ed ghostwritten by representatives of a pharmaceutical company from an advertisement. But these larger confusions suggest that many readers may have little idea about where the opinion content they read comes from. When I brought this issue up with Patricia Parsons, a communications professional and former professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Canada who has written about the practice and ethics of PR ghostwriting, she questioned whether there was clarity even with politicians. “These days, people will say, ‘Well everybody knows that politicians don’t write their own speeches.’ I’m not really sure that’s true anymore. I think there are an awful lot of people who don’t realize that politicians, for example, don’t write their own speeches.”

While it may be invisible to many readers, of course, it’s an open secret among journalists and opinion editors that politicians, CEOs, and other public figures often don’t write their own material — and it’s not just well-known figures who get help (or prompting) from public relations firms: Nonprofit leaders, local activists, think-tank fellows, and academics sometimes turn to ghostwriters and communication consultants, too. And PR firms frequently work directly with opinion editors, pitching and submitting op-eds on behalf of their clients.

The PR firm that ghostwrote Yapundich’s op-ed, Keybridge Communications, offers an “a la carte services menu” that describes the process to potential clients (the document was obtained and published last year on the left-leaning media watchdog site “First, we write a 500-800 word op-ed,” the menu explains. “Then we place it in one or more newspapers around the country. If we’re pitching to a national audience, we guarantee that we’ll reach at 50,000 readers.” The service costs $5,000, according to the document. For $2,500 per month, Keybridge will also write regular letters to the editor.

Some opinion sections do try to avoid ghostwritten material altogether. Michael Lemonick, the chief opinion editor at Scientific American, told Undark in an email that all contributors are required to sign a contract stating that “you represent and warrant that the Work was written solely by you.”

But for most opinion editors, the practice is acceptable, if not ideal. “Having a person write your op-ed, to me, is no different than having a speechwriter to write for a presidential candidate,” said Joanna Pearlstein, the deputy managing editor at Wired Magazine, who oversees their opinion section. “I don’t necessarily have an objection to that. I do want to know who’s behind the piece, and I like to have an idea of why they’re writing it.”

Elizabeth Souder, the assistant editorial page editor at The Dallas Morning News had similar thoughts. “I’ve found that a lot of other editors seem to be very adamant that the byline is the actual writer,” she said. “But I think that’s a little naive. I don’t think you can even assume that among even our best unpaid columnists. If you’re going to be publishing free content, you’re going to be publishing content marketing. And there are going to be other editors involved that you don’t know about. That’s reality.”

Perhaps so, but is this process entirely transparent to, and understood by, everyday readers? What made the cases at STAT unusual, after all, was that the writers did not appear to have any obvious institutional affiliations; they were just concerned individuals with something to say on topics of interest to them. It took some digging, on the part of HNR and others, to reveal that they weren’t always writing about their own experiences, and certainly not without the prompting and participation of multinational corporations.

It’s hard to tell how pervasive the practice is, but none of the eight opinion editors interviewed for this article said they thought it was widespread. Souder said the closest thing might be political groups that will ask a local citizen — say, a veteran — to put her name on a pre-written op-ed. “If that veteran really is a member of the group, really does care about that, well great.” Souder said. “But it’s hard to tell if that’s the case. And it feels slimy.”

David Haynes, the editorial page editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, also pointed to some politically motivated ghostwriting, but added that the commercially driven tactics used by pharmaceutical companies to target STAT seemed unusual. “I think for our news organization, that would be relatively uncommon,” he said.

At least one PR professional I queried regarding the Deborah Dushane op-ed seemed to agree. Michele Ewing, a longtime public relations professional who worked with clients in the health care sector, and who now teaches in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University, said it was the first time she’d seen something quite like it. She added that it seemed like “a clear violation” of the Public Relations Society of America’s code of ethics — as well as a questionable business tactic. “There are other ways to tell that patient’s story,” Ewing said. “You don’t need to do it through the op-ed page.”

Where does that deception begin? Is it the moment that anyone claims authorship for a piece they did not write?

STILL, NOT ALL opinion editors agree that ghostwriting like this is necessarily a problem. “If it reflects her opinion, it doesn’t really matter if she wrote it or not,” said Ned Barnett, the editorial page editor of the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, after I sketched out for him the basic details of the Dushane case. D.J. Tice, the commentary editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, made a similar point: “The simple fact that some PR flak from the company helped them,” he told me, “does not seem so sinister to me, as long as it’s expressing their opinion or their view.”

Everyone would agree that deception is not okay. But where does that deception begin? Is it the moment that anyone claims authorship for a piece they did not write? Is it the moment when readers no longer understand that a ghostwriter may have been involved in producing an op-ed? Is it the moment when editors themselves aren’t sure whose opinion they’re publishing? And does it matter if the writer formulated the exact words of the opinion, as long as she’s willing to stand behind, and remain accountable for, the content?

Finding ethical and professional guidelines on the practice of op-ed ghostwriting is difficult. I brought this up with Haynes, who also serves as a co-chair of the opinion committee for the American Society of News Editors. “As for industry-wide standards, I’m not sure there really are, which is one thing that I think ASNE, through its opinion committee, probably ought to think about,” Haynes said. “It’s an issue that we’ve sort of informally raised as maybe a mini-project for our committee to take a look at and see.”

One thing that is clear: The issue isn’t going away. We are, after all, in a golden age of content marketing, in which companies and other organizations try to produce “content” that very intentionally masquerades as journalism, but which is little more than advertising. At the same time, newsrooms have fewer and fewer resources to vet contributors, even as the need to publish more material grows.

“Public relations firms have found that this content marketing approach is really effective, right?” Souder said. “They know how to write, and they can do it effectively, and they know what newsrooms want, and it’s free content.

“And,” she added, “newsrooms are struggling.”

Michael Schulson is an American freelance writer covering science, religion, technology, and ethics. His work has been published by Pacific Standard magazine, Aeon, New York magazine, and The Washington Post, among other outlets, and he writes the Matters of Fact and Tracker columns for Undark.



Hire a Book Ghostwriter for Your Book or Books

Authors working with book ghostwriters include but are not limited to:

How to Hire a Book Ghost Writer

Hire a Book Ghostwriter

  •           Woody Allen - The Rainbow Horizon and others
  • ·         Alexandre Dumas - The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo
  • ·         Michael Crichton - Latitudes (finished posthumously)
  • ·         Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond
  • ·         R. L. Stein
  • ·         Tom Clancy
  • ·         Robert Ludlum.
  • ·         James Patterson
  • ·         Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve

How to Hire a Ghostwriter for your Book 

The above is by Karen S. Cole, book ghost writer since 2003, book agent since 2005. I've helped thousands of people get published, and so will you. OR MORE!!!

I'm Your Friend Forever. Read a book every day of your life. A book is a tremendous friend, one that keeps where you put it, one who leads to foolish which causes Changes.
- Jughead Jones, best friend of Archie Andrews.



DeAnna Knippling Ghostwriter

Interview With DeAnna Knippling: Ghostwriter


Ghostwriter Deanna Knippling
Ghostwriting has become big business with the recent boom in self-publishing. While often hired for works of non-fiction, ghostwriters are increasingly being sought for fiction.

Colorado author DeAnna Knippling has been ghostwriting novels for nearly a decade and has more than 20 full-length books under her belt. I recently spoke with her about this highly secretive occupation.
Check out the interview here below.
Geeks of Doom: How did you get into ghostwriting?
DeAnna Knippling: I got into ghostwriting about 2008, mainly with writing…dun dun dun…murder mystery party games. I wrote for a number of companies that shall not be named, then gravitated to Freeform Games in the U.K. (All their games are great, hint hint, and are easily played from the U.S. as everything can be printed out. They have a GREAT editing process and are run by a bunch of total gamer geeks, in the best possible ways.)

From there, I worked on several short projects for a variety of ghostwriting clients, then in 2009 did Choose Your Doom: Zombie Apocalypse, which was a great book that kind of fell through some cracks. I was also getting into self-publishing at the time, which actually ties in: the big rush in self-publishing brought with it a Gold Rush level of authors digging through the new turf, but also a secondary Gold Rush of people offering those authors services — like the general store owners, bartenders, etc. who set up in towns supporting the miners — and entrepreneurial types who hired authors to ghostwrite for them.

Suddenly, some indie work was selling really well, and a group of people went, “How can I get me some of that…without actually having to write all the books?” I was trying to break into professional short story markets and failing miserably but actually getting the work done on the indie side and building a portfolio that way; the entrepreneurial types looked at my writing and said, “Well, it’s better than I can do,” and hired me.

I’m not saying it’s the most noble beginning in the world, but I’ve always said to myself that the most important thing that I can do as a writer is get more words under my belt. I consider ghostwriting my paid internship. Of course I’d rather have all the fame and fortune under my own name (as well as own all the rights). But I’m okay with ghosting as a part of the process of getting there.

Geeks of Doom: How does the process work?

DeAnna Knippling:  For me, each client is different. I think part of that is the ebook revolution being so new; “best practices” is kind of a running experiment and not a solid idea yet. Also, I’ve been running a lot of numbers lately and determining which clients are worth the time, and which ones eat up profit with all the side tasks and lack of organizational skills, so my client base has changed somewhat.
That being said, what tends to happen on a new book (not from an existing series) is that I get a genre that the client wants the work to be in. Thriller, adventure, cozy, horror — whatever. A number of scenarios will get pitched back and forth; lately, there has been more discussion on how the book might be used to set up a series. I approve of that; it means I have more work coming up. But also it seems like it’s far easier to promote a series; the ones that I’ve done that sell the best for my clients have been in a series. I’m starting to change what I, personally, plan to write because of my observations there.

The books that are being written in existing series are more constrained; there tends to be more of a plot for the upcoming book already established, although I’ve never had a client outright tell me that my feedback isn’t wanted. How much feedback often depends on the client. (And genre — I think I’m learning to expect the unexpected when it comes to trying to plot cozies.) A lot of the time what happens with books from an existing series is that I’ll go over the previous books and make a file of notes with character and place names and details; I tend to struggle with those. I’ll sometimes type in sections of the books to try to get closer to the style the client’s looking for. I may do short outlines of each book if I think I’m going to forget timelines.

It’s important to agree on plot before you start. I’ve had clients decide to massively try to change drafts…without paying any extra for it. With an outline in place, you can say, “This isn’t in the approved outline. You’ll need to pay for rewrites.”

Once the work is in progress, I try to budget about 20K words per week. I generally write one major draft (receiving feedback at the end of each week). At the end of the first draft, I stop and wait for approval and/or edits; after the edits are in, I do a cleanup draft where I fix infelicities, bad grammar, and typos, and punch up characters if they come across as flat
— an extra day or two of solid work, maybe.

I’ve noticed the process tends to produce books that aren’t epic or daring or challenging or rule-breaking or subversive. I’m not being asked to write game-changing literary masterpieces. Mostly just series books that fit their genres and tell a good story.

Geeks of Doom: How many books have you ghostwritten? Are they mostly fiction? What genre are they in?

DeAnna Knippling: Buhhhh…I’ll have to go look. Okay. Since 2013 (when I started keeping better records), I’ve completed 21 novel-length projects, two novelettes, and five short stories. There are other projects that I’m not counting because things went belly-up before I could finish. I’m not counting non-fiction articles; I’ve written some, but it’s not my happy place (except the ones I write for a particular librarian, which are always an ADVENTURE). I tried my hand at a couple of non-fiction books before 2013 and hated doing it. I also hate writing short stories for clients; where I don’t feel that personally attached to novels, I completely freak out about yielding my short stories to clients. So I stopped doing that.

Genres: horror, sci-fi, middle grade, suspense, cozy mystery, and adventure. The word count is 1.6 million ghosted words and counting.

Geeks of Doom: Who hires a ghostwriter for a novel?
DeAnna Knippling: There are the big-scale ghostwritten novels that often get “also-by” credits or editorial credits for the ghostwriter. I don’t write those yet. I’m still at the smaller end of the scale, where it’s indies all the way down. The people who hire me fall into two groups: 1) writers who have hit a sweet spot in the market and want to have someone to chase down more books in that niche ASAP (whether it’s in the same series or not), and 2) entrepreneurial types who see a market niche and want to exploit it. The second group are not necessarily writers — that is, they might have written a book or two, but tend not to have serious aspirations as writers. They primarily want to make money. There are some professional book-packaging units that sell book packages to big publishers; these would be the indie equivalent of that. They package the books they think will sell and send them directly to the market rather than through a big publisher.

I tend to have more luck with the first than the second. There are a lot of entrepreneurs who want to sell stories but don’t necessarily have a working knowledge of what a story is. That’s not to say that I haven’t had good clients who aren’t primarily writers — just that the ones who are also writers currently writing their own series and books and who just want to expand outward more quickly tend to have better luck. It turns out that understanding what makes a story, let alone a good one, is more difficult than it looks, as any acquiring editor at a big publishing house could probably tell you :)

Geeks of Doom: What are the biggest challenges facing a ghostwriter of fiction as opposed to non-fiction?

DeAnna Knippling: I feel like ghostwriters of non-fiction have more challenges than I do, because of the research involved. Even if you’re going to specialize in a given subject and therefore have most of your research done ahead of time, it’s still more work than I have to do. I spend time researching locations and a few facts here and there, but nothing like the non-fiction people have to deal with. But maybe they would say the same about what I do :)

My personal biggest challenges are learning when to say “no” on a project or to a revision (i.e., an unpaid one), and when to say, “I’m not moving forward until you answer my questions,” but that probably applies to non-fiction ghostwriters as well. The things that it seems like would be hard, like writing a lot of words per week or not having seven bajillion drafts in which to “perfect” things, tend to be non-issues. The things that tend to tear up writers working on their own work tend to be decisions that are made ahead of time. I also started out with more projects where an outline was provided to me, rather than having to make them up myself, which was another weight off my shoulders. You’ve been hired to write a book as good as the books in your portfolio (which aren’t ghosting books, by the way, just stuff that you wrote for yourself). Generally, if you’re paying attention, you’ll be a better writer than the books in your portfolio, because every book makes you a little bit better. So feeling like you’re a terrible writer isn’t even really part of the process most of the time.

When things go amuck, it’s generally in setting up the project scope, developing the outline, and being able to write in the genre in general.

Geeks of Doom: Many fiction writers, I feel, would be reluctant to give away ideas without getting credit. Is that a concern for you? For example, you wouldn’t want to end up writing the world’s greatest mystery novel and then handing it over to a client.

DeAnna Knippling: 1) I have more ideas than I’ll ever be able to write. 2) I have ideas that don’t fit my personal “brand” at this point, like cute cozy mystery things. “DeAnna Knippling” writes horror and darker science fiction and fantasy, although she’s starting to get comfortable enough with mysteries that she’s going to expand there, too. “Insert Pen Name Here” gets to try out all kinds of things. I may try my hand at some romances, just to see what happens. 3) The books that you get hired to write as a ghostwriter generally aren’t “big” or “world’s best” novels. Just as comedies rarely win Oscars, the bread-and-butter books of a genre generally don’t win awards or become famous anyway. People read them, go, “I liked that, is there anything else in that series?” and just keep reading. They’re comfort food, not haute cuisine. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

That being said, it’s usually the opposite problem. I come up with something (ahem) brilliant, and the client’s like, “This is not the book in which to bite off more than you can chew. Save it for your own work.” Although I have pulled off a few things I’ve never seen before and lamented that I’ll never be able to brag about it. No, it’s short stories that I can’t bear to ghostwrite at this point. I think I’m one of those short story writers who learns to write novels because you can’t make enough money selling short stories. Short stories are where my true loyalties are. Some subconscious voice goes, “Pfff, novels. Whatevs.”
I didn’t say it was rational. That’s just how it works for me. Also…there are some ideas that end up in the “me” file, ideas that I can’t bear to give up, that I may or may not ever write, but that at least will never grace the halls of another pen name!

Geeks of Doom: Do you find it easier to write as a ghostwriter?
DeAnna Knippling: I used to. Now, as I get better at writing novels, I find myself more and more impatient to get back to what I’m writing for myself. My best hope is that as I get better, I’ll be able to shift more of my income stream to writing that I get to keep rights over ;)

Geeks of Doom: What’s the pay range for ghostwriting a novel?
DeAnna Knippling: From “you can’t even pretend to pay your phone bill with that” to “co-writer with royalty benefits on a NYT bestseller list.” I’ve been working my way up, personally — but if you want me to be more specific than that, you gotta hire me to find out. :P

Geeks of Doom: Is ghostwriting unethical?
DeAnna Knippling: I’ve never had anyone say that. They all want to know if the people who hire me are on crack or something. “Good for you, but…how do they EVEN make any MONEY???!!!???”

If I did have a non-writer who said ghostwriting was unethical, I’d probably just ask them where they work. Because if you’re going to go, “But contributing your work to someone else for money is unethical!” then probably you’re the kind of crazy that’s interesting to talk to for like 15 minutes. If a writer said that, well, I probably wouldn’t stick around to talk to them. Because some writers have a whole lotta ugly for people who have any kind of success and will come up with all kinds of gobbledygook to try to “prove” you don’t deserve your success, for whatever reason, and they should have had it instead.

It’s ethical to make money doing creative work for other people who hire you to do so, just like any other job; if it’s unethical for other people to take credit for the successes generated by their employees under their brand…well, have fun explaining that to Walt Disney’s lawyers sometime.

There’s a fine line between ghost writing and co-writing; see Gwendy’s Button Box. And pseudonymous writing gets even more complex; Carolyn Keene of Nancy Drew fame was mostly written by Mildred Wirt Benson, from 1930-1948, setting the tone and scope for the Nancy Drew mysteries (at $125 a pop), but there were over a dozen other writers as well.

The really important thing here, I think, is to understand copyright and what you’re giving up as a writer if you choose to ghostwrite, and the murky gray area of what you give up vs. retain as a co-writer. People who are interested in making a living off writing should, no joke, read Nolo Press’s The Copyright Handbook. (As a side note, when I was getting setup as a freelancer, I referred to several of their books; I recommend them overall if anyone wants to a) get into freelancing, or b) is already freelancing and is living in constant, nightmarish fear that they’ve screwed something up and have accidentally summoned the IRS.)

Geeks of Doom: Enough about ghostwriting, what projects of your own are you working on?
DeAnna Knippling: I’m working on an ’80s-style horror series featuring the fae. (Who doesn’t love homicidal interdimensional travelers?) The series is called “A Fairy’s Tale” and currently features By Dawn’s Bloody Light, a serial killer novella, and One Dark Summer Night, a you-done-pissed-off-the-monsters-now novel. Coming up are Under Twilight’s Spreading Blight, a monsters-in-the-basement novel, and Of Noon’s Harsh Birthright, a bloody-stupid-secret-military-base novel.

DeAnna Knippling: I’m working on an ’80s-style horror series featuring the fae. (Who doesn’t love homicidal interdimensional travelers?) The series is called “A Fairy’s Tale” and currently features By Dawn’s Bloody Light, a serial killer novella, and One Dark Summer Night, a you-done-pissed-off-the-monsters-now novel. Coming up are Under Twilight’s Spreading Blight, a monsters-in-the-basement novel, and Of Noon’s Harsh Birthright, a bloody-stupid-secret-military-base novel.

James Aquilone is a writer from Staten Island, New York. His first novel, Dead Jack and the Pandemonium, has been optioned for film and TV. Follow him on Twitter @JamesAquilone.



Review: Falter & Fall

Falter & Fall Falter & Fall by Dr Vivekanand Jha
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book of elegant, sophisticated poems, 51 in all, is by an Indian writer. His manner of turning a phrase is uniquely his alone. Each poem inhabits but one page, mostly, but every one of them grabs you the instant you begin to read. Forthright, evocative, each easygoing poem beckons you into reading more. The entire book’s beautifully flowing language is written to cover a deeply wide variety of topics. This is no ordinary book of simplistic love poetry or redundant religious verse. Rather, the poet takes you on a revealing journey involving hidden, dramatic and political aspects of Indian culture. A must-read for those who enjoy truly nativist Indian poetry!

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Indian ghostwriters

The ghost who writes: Here's why anonymous authors are thriving

IANS | May 29, 2017

Indian ghostwriters

NEW DELHI: What if you were told that many of the books that you have read of late have actually not been written by the authors who find mention on their covers? 

Difficult to believe -- but true. An anonymous world of ghostwriters lies hidden behind the glitz and glamour of the books business and literature festivals that most readers are unaware of. 

Sample this: "Don't have time to write a book, but still want to be a published author? Go for our world-famous book ghostwriting option."

Absurd as it may sound, it is the tagline of Power Publishers, who, in their own words, are the world leaders when it comes to ghostwriting. And they are not alone, the internet is full of platforms that provide ghostwriters to those who cannot write but still want to be writers.

A ghostwriter is an anonymous figure, who, by contract, agrees to write a given book for somebody else. The ghostwriter is paid a fairly good sum of money but has no claim over the copyright of the book or its royalties. When the book hits the stands, it carries someone else's name -- the perceived author for its readers.

And, as a breed, ghostwriters are gaining prominence in the publishing industry. Forget self-publishing platforms or smaller publishers, many of the leading publishing houses too have, at some point or the other, sought the help of ghostwriters. 

Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee, former Director of the National Book Trust (NBT) and former Editor of "Indian Literature", Sahitya Akademi's bi-monthly journal, explains why. 

"Successful people are gradually becoming more and more ambitious and want to talk about themselves -- and that they do through autobiographies and memoirs. But they do not have wherewithal to write books. So they employ ghostwriters.

"Most autobiographies and memoirs of popular figures in the past 20-25 years have been written, partially or wholly, by ghostwriters," Bhattacharjee, who is currently spearheading the editorial works of Niyogi Books, told IANS. 

Poulomi Chatterjee, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Hachette India, which has many bestsellers to its credit, said that there are "certain segments" for which ghostwriters are used.

"You wouldn't find ghostwriters, I hope, for fiction because you are actually looking for the author's art and craft and voice and story. 

"But for non-fiction, there might be experts in various subjects that you want information from. They could be entrepreneurs, business professors or academic historians and you would want them to collaborate with a ghostwriter when they have a lack of time or... don't necessarily have the skill to (write)," said Chatterjee, who had a long stint at Penguin India before Hachette.
For Udayan Mitra, Publisher-Literary of HarperCollins India, ghostwriting has become much more prevalent and organised than it was before and this, he felt, benefits the publishing industry in the long run. 

"It has become a lot more professional... it used to be that the author or an editor knew a particular person who was capable of the task. But now there are many more people who are doing it, who have the experience of doing it, and they know how to turn an idea into a book," Mitra told IANS. 

Sharing an interesting anecdote about working with a ghostwriter (before he joined HarperCollins), Mitra said that some five years ago, a big industry leader wished to do a memoir on himself and his corporation -- and so they had this hunt for a ghostwriter, which ended with a foreign journalist.

"The person landed up in India for ghostwriting the proposed book, but the first day in Delhi he was struck by Delhi Belly and every time he recovered, it would strike again. The corporate leader was getting worried because he had flown him to India and was paying a lot of money for the project. He had also put aside a lot of time from his hectic schedule. Eventually, the book happened -- but it was a funny as well as tragic experience," recalled Mitra.

Ghostwriters as well as several online platforms suggest that they are paid decently. Ghostwriters are available at about Rs 700 per page (containing 250 words) for fiction books on several online platforms.
Of course, the amount of money that many well-to-do are willing to pay ghostwriters for writing a book on their lives or their business is astonishing -- sometimes running into several lakhs of rupees.



Review: Blaque Beauty and the Billionaire

Blaque Beauty and the Billionaire Blaque Beauty and the Billionaire by Erin Lee Daniels
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To start: this is no ordinary adult novella. It’s set mainly in a ski lodge, leading with the gorgeous, youthfully attractive Black assistant to the company in charge of the lodge’s interior design. Little does she know, as she sits planning her job out in the lobby, what is to befall her. The man of her dreams enters the picture, without telling her who and what he is.

He sweeps her off her feet, and in one breathtaking sequence, takes her sexually in a long, torridly passionate loving manner. But he can’t seem to tell her the truth about what he is – the owner of the ski lodge she’s been hired to redesign! When she finds out the truth, she nearly loses her life in a winter storm, only to be rescued in time to discover to whom she owes her life. As she’s angry beyond measure, it takes a lot of effort on the billionaire owner’s part to convince her that his love for her is real, and not simply a weekend’s lustful, one-time splurge.

To finish: if you’re over 18, read this scintillating romance featuring the well-to-do and their loving schemes, dreams and antics. It’s a quickie, easy to finish in a single read. But there’s a series of Blaque Beauty books by the same author to enjoy.

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Ghostwriter for Other Ghostwriters

UT alumnus epitomizes meta-ghostwriting

Published April 25, Updated April 26, 2017

Ghostwriter for other ghostwriters
         Photo Credit: Maria Luisa Santos | Senior Videographer

A ghostwriter writing for fame by ghostwriting for other famous ghostwriters is the premise of Connor Gleim’s new book, ghostwritten for him by his friend Austin Robinson.
UT alumnus Robinson ghostwrote “The Ghostwriter’s Ghostwriter: How I Became a Ghostwriter’s Ghostwriter,” a novel chronicling the fictional ghostwriting career of his friend and advertising senior Connor Gleim. After graduating this past December with degrees in English and youth and community studies, Robinson said he was inspired to write the book when comedian Nathan Fielder employed a ghostwriter to pen a fake motivational workout book for his show, “Nathan for You.” Robinson brought up the episode to Gleim, who suggested Robinson follow in Fielder’s lead by ghostwriting a book for him. 
Gleim and Robinson met up, penned an outline on Google Drive and Robinson took the reins from there. 
Robinson said the project itself required arduous research on the logistics of writing an actual book. But when it came down to it, Robinson said writing the 136-page book took him only 10 days. 
“I was really inspired by Nathan Fielder,” Robinson said. “He only gave his ghostwriter a few days to write a much longer book.” 
Gleim said he contributed some ideas for the story and cover design, but let Robinson handle the rest. 
“The story set him ablaze with passion,” Gleim said. “He’s a great writer in general, and he has an interesting view of the world.” 
Robinson has always found wacky outlets for his creative flair and loud personality. Before becoming a published author, he said he wrote so much comedy that his friends believed he wrote for Texas Travesty, even though he had never worked for that publication. 
Robinson said he has also invested his creativity in other ventures such as his own T-shirt brand and an energy drink he marketed.
“It’s really funny because none of those things were ever in my plate of things I wanted to care about or do,”
Robinson said. “People would come to me and say, ‘You’re a genius at marketing.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my god, thank you!’” 
Ads he released for the energy drink, H20, feature the drink in anachronistic settings, an element Robinson said he added because it was so funny and quirky. The T-shirt brand he started simply has his name written in bold lettering. 
“When marketing my products and my brand I think, ‘How can I make this totally me?’” Robinson said. “My personality is definitely in my brand, my marketing style and my products.” 
Robinson said he took the same approach in writing “The Ghostwriter’s Ghostwriter.” The book is filled with meta-humor and a wacky storyline that reads like an article from Texas Travesty.  
This absurdist humor is introduced with the book’s dedication, which memorializes Gleim’s roommate, mechanical engineering senior, Marshall Geyer, whom the book
falsely states was killed by a truck collision while also battling a
life-threatening illness.
“I was glad to be a part of the dedication, and if I were still alive I would have read (the book),” Geyer said. 
Before inspiration for the book stoked his passion, Robinson had been looking for a job as a case worker to supplement his study in youth and community studies. His plans haven’t changed, but he is now looking at more options including graduate school and professional ghostwriting programs in California. 
“I was all over the place,” said Robinson. “And I still sort of am, but I am getting back on my feet. Of course, I want to be a writer, but right now it’s sort of a serious hobby.”