Not too long ago I was interviewed to talk about my work as a freelance photojournalist.

“So you’re a ghostwriter as well? Who have you worked for.”

“I smiled and presented my patented answer: “Sorry, I wouldn’t be much of a ghostwriter if I said.”

“But you don’t mind if your name isn’t used?”

No. I produce articles, for global media, under my name. When I’m ghostwriting, my work is to keep in the background and provide the voice.

Jerry Nelson is a freelance writer (and ghostwriter). Email him at and join the million or so who follow him on Twitter @ Journey_America

I’ve ghosted several thousand articles on almost every subject which can be imagined. I’ve also ghosted over a dozen books.

The work appeared to drop onto my desk. . Ghostwriters are transparent to society, but the editors know who the real writer is. Slowly I got more projects which included memoirs by CEOs, cookbooks and, a few, celebrities. I found I was transported to new environments — both on and off the page.

The work has also motivated me to discover more imaginative ways of operating. One reason stars make so much cash is they seldom sit quietly. I question people over coffee sometimes, but more frequently by telephone or even Skype. One starlet who was working in a play had to respond to my questions through Google Documents. I provided the topics to her agent. He would transfer me audio folders of her replies. Another figure would phone me late at midnight, after wrapping his television show for the evenng.

It’s a little unusual to step into a store while a writer’s event is occurring, as happened recently, and see somebody else reading a section I wrote. I often find myself wanting to yell: “Jump to chapter three! That’s the interesting part!”

Once a ghosting gig is done, the book goes to your buyer. Writing these can involve everything starting with disordered, incomplete manuscript to sitting shotgun in another person’s world in actual time. Often I play the role of a reporter, researching background matter. Frequently, I’m a therapist’s role questioning, “How did you respond? What influence did that have?”

My mission is to tease out the accuracy of a narrative. I enjoy a client saying, “Wow. I can’t understand I just said that.” When that happens, I know we’ve got something fresh and authentic.

When I’ve collected the material, I shift to a weaver. I remember seeing a friend’s grandma setting out her samples on the dining room table until she noticed designs that satisfied her. That’s what I do. I take the bits of cloth of a person’s life and move them into patterns. Yes, I add my suggestions with the stitching, but that is decorative. The pitch and rhythm belong clearly to my customer.

The longer I do this job, the more privileged I become. I have determined to ignore my own adventures and expectations of what a piece or book “should” look like and instead, I let the pieces fall into place around me.

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