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."
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.
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.
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.
"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.
"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.