10 Horror Stories Of Ghostwriters Screwed Over By Authors

Ghostwriters are the unsung heroes of publishing. They’re the ones who do all the hard work, but they don’t get any credit. 

Many of them work behind the scenes on their own books, trying to make a name for themselves as authors while also making sure that their clients get published on time and with high-quality content. 

In this post, I’m going to share some stories from ghostwriters who have been screwed over by their clients but hey, at least it made for good reading material!

Ghostwriters – An Ugly Secret – YouTube
1. Ghostwriters may face challenging and unfortunate situations while working with authors.
2. Understanding the potential risks and pitfalls in the ghostwriting profession is crucial.
3. Building clear communication and contractual agreements with authors can prevent misunderstandings.
4. Valuing your work and setting boundaries as a ghostwriter is essential to protect your rights.
5. Learning from the experiences of others can help aspiring ghostwriters navigate the industry wisely.
6. Seeking legal advice when dealing with difficult author-client relationships is a wise course of action.
7. Developing a support network of fellow ghostwriters can provide valuable guidance and insights.
8. Respecting confidentiality and professional ethics is vital for maintaining trust with clients.
9. Educating authors about the ghostwriting process can foster a collaborative and successful partnership.
10. Always prioritize your well-being and self-respect as a ghostwriter in any professional engagement.

1. The Poet

Imagine you’re a writer. You have written a book and hired a ghostwriter to help you with the process. Everything is going smoothly until the poet shows up.

The poet has written many great books and is probably your favorite author in the world, but now he wants to write your book too! He loves your idea so much that he wants to take credit for writing it himself and he’ll pay you in return. 

Even though this sounds like a good deal at first, remembering how much time and effort went into writing that first draft should help convince you otherwise: ghostwriters won’t work for free!

Ghostwriting can be a mysterious world, filled with surprises and challenges. As a ghostwriter, knowing the ins and outs of the industry is essential. Understanding the dos and don’ts can help you navigate this intriguing profession more effectively.

2. Just A Love Story

During a trip to France, the ghostwriter met with the author and they agreed on terms.

The author said he would pay the ghostwriter $5,000 upfront and another $5,000 when he turned in his first draft. The author also promised him another $5,000 after that if everything went well.

It was a good deal for both parties but it was short-lived as things quickly turned sour between them once they started working together.

First off, the author made it clear that he didn’t trust this person with having any control over his story or ideas so he wouldn’t allow him access to his computer or email account (which meant no communication at all). 

Secondly, since there wasn’t much communication between them anyway (and because of their lack of trust), there were constant delays from both parties because each one kept trying to change things about how things should go without consulting each other first; 

These delays ultimately caused further problems later down in production due to missed deadlines by several publishers who wanted this book out by Christmas 2020 (and again we’re only talking about two years after 2020!). 

Another big issue was how obsessed our friend became with perfectionism over quality control when it came time for editing which delayed even more work being done.”

3. The King Of Quotes

On one occasion, the author was a famous author who wrote several books. He also wrote the following quote: “You are not your job and you are not your bank account.”

When it came time to publish his latest book, he decided to hire a ghostwriter to do all of the hard work for him. The ghostwriter did an excellent job as well as gave him plenty of credit in the acknowledgments section at the end of the book. 

Unfortunately, this didn’t seem like enough credit for someone who had such an inspiring quote and so many bestsellers under his belt. He told me that if I wanted more money out of him.

I would have to find some way around copyright law so that we could reprint his famous quote to sell more copies of our book together! Instead of doing what he asked me repeatedly over email conversations (and then again over phone calls), I stopped responding altogether after a while because his requests were getting ridiculous…

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4. The Lady With All The Textual Evidence

One of the most important things to remember when being a ghostwriter is that you’re not an author. You’re not writing it, they are. You’re just transcribing their words into a cohesive story and giving them a framework for their work.

That’s what this writer did for this particular author known for writing about love. She gave her lots of evidence to work with; so much that she wrote multiple drafts before the author was satisfied with what she had written. 

The author decided they wanted more evidence and told her to go find it: “You need more information.”

And so she did what any good ghostwriter would do: She went back through old interviews with people who knew him well.

Interviews he’d given when he landed his first big book deal 17 years prior – and hunted down all these stories about how he’d dealt with women throughout his life. And then she wrote them down as if someone else were telling them at different times over their lifetime (and beyond).

5. The Ghost That Couldn’t Be Seen

The ghostwriter was invisible. He was a ghost. He was a ghostwriter who couldn’t be seen. The author of that book you love, who had no idea your favorite character wasn’t him or her, he or she was a ghostwriter!

When the author died, it was time to write his final chapter: “The Death Of A Literary Legend.” And then it came time for me to write my chapter on this story: “Careful What You Wish For.”

6. The Spelling Mistake That Cost $100k

There are many ways to get screwed over by an author you’re ghostwriting for, but one of the most common mistakes is not getting paid. 

It could be that the client never had any intention of paying you and never really intended on using your work at all; in my case, it was just a mistake that cost me $100k.

So how can you avoid this happening to you? A good way is by having what we call “the money conversation” as soon as possible the sooner in the process, the better! 

Make sure your prospective clients know exactly what they will be paying for and when they need to pay it (e.g., do they have funds set aside for this project already?). 

If they don’t have enough cash on hand right now but can promise regular payments throughout the project, make sure they put down some sort of deposit or contract stating that payment is coming within X days/weeks/months. 

The point here is: don’t take anything at face value make sure everything has been spelled out explicitly so there won’t be any surprises later on down the line!

Curious about what exactly ghostwriting entails? Discover the secrets of ghostwriting and learn how it can be a fulfilling and rewarding career path for aspiring writers.

7. Five Months Of Work For Nothing, But It Was Worth It

Some ghostwriters have come up against authors who were jerks. One writer, for example, was hired to work on a book about the Holocaust. 

He spent five months working hard on it, only for the author to not pay him or give him credit. The author even went so far as to publish the book under his name instead of giving credit where it was due!

The ghostwriter did get a copy of the book but only because he had been included in several emails between himself and another person who had worked on it before leaving halfway through due to health reasons.

8. Pissed Off In London

“It was a project that he hired me for, and it didn’t work out. I wasn’t paid for my work and he was very critical of what I did. I don’t know if you know this about me, but I can take criticism I like to learn from it. 

But what happened here is that the author just started attacking my writing style and trying to sabotage my career, which led to litigation against him for nonpayment of services rendered. 

He lost in court, but because the case took quite some time and effort on both sides (and his lawyers were much more expensive than mine), he still owes me money today! 

It sucks because we live in such a litigious country right now that sometimes people get away with all kinds of things simply because they have more money than their opponents do.”

9. Existence Is Pain, Just Like Being A Ghostwriter For This Guy

Ghostwriting is hard work. You’ll be doing all of the heavy liftings, but you won’t get any credit for it. The problem with ghostwriting is that no matter how tedious it is to write an entire book from scratch, at least you think that you’re going to get paid for your efforts.

I know what you’re thinking: “This guy doesn’t sound like he has my best interests in mind.” Well, I don’t care what YOU think! 

You need to listen carefully because there are many things about being a ghostwriter that isn’t obvious at first glance and can lead to a huge mess down the line when the author tries to screw over his employees (yes, we’re not employees; this person just wants us on his payroll).

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10. My School Was On Fire And All I Got Was A Book Deal

I was a ghostwriting student at a university when the campus caught on fire. I lost everything, including my laptop and all of my work. I couldn’t finish any of the assignments that had been due, so I submitted them late and got an F for every single class.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I got a job as a writer for Nickelodeon where they let me write stories about ghosts and hauntings. A few months later, one of their shows got canceled after only two seasons (and this was before they canceled ALL their shows). 

The studio decided not to renew my contract because they were looking into making more live-action stuff instead of animated shows and all this happened right around the same time that my girlfriend broke up with me!

I was devastated but decided not to give up hope just yet! So I went home and started writing again…and then? Someone called me asking if they could publish what I wrote?! It turns out there’s money in writing books! 

They told me that if someone buys enough copies during the preorder period then your book will be published! So far things have been going well since then…well except for losing my job…but at least now it feels like everything worked out in end!

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If you are a ghostwriter, remember that this is your career. You have to get paid for it, so don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself when the time comes. 

If you’re an author, make sure that you’re paying what’s fair and not taking advantage of anyone else’s hard work (even if they do have an awesome title like “The King Of Quotes”). 

And lastly, if there is a lesson to be learned from these stories which I’m sure there must be it’s probably just “don’t write books.” But then again…if this blog post was written by someone else, would I even know?

Further Reading

How to Write a Modern Ghost Story: A comprehensive guide on crafting contemporary ghost stories, exploring the elements that make them compelling and chilling.

The Ghost Writer – Goodreads: Check out this captivating novel, “The Ghost Writer,” written by an acclaimed author. Delve into a haunting tale of secrets, intrigue, and the power of storytelling.

The Haunting of Hill House – JSTOR: This scholarly article delves into Shirley Jackson’s iconic novel “The Haunting of Hill House,” examining its literary significance and its impact on the horror genre.


What are some essential elements of a modern ghost story?

A modern ghost story often involves a contemporary setting, relatable characters, and elements of psychological horror that tap into contemporary fears and anxieties.

Can you recommend a gripping ghost story book?

“The Ghost Writer” is a highly recommended novel that weaves a mesmerizing narrative of ghosts, secrets, and artful storytelling.

Is “The Haunting of Hill House” worth exploring for horror enthusiasts?

Absolutely! “The Haunting of Hill House” is a classic haunted house tale, known for its eerie atmosphere and masterful suspense, making it a must-read for horror lovers.

How do I write a ghost story that stands out from the rest?

To craft a memorable ghost story, focus on developing unique and well-rounded characters, create a chilling atmosphere, and introduce unexpected twists that keep readers on edge.

What insights can I gain from analyzing “The Haunting of Hill House” academically?

“The Haunting of Hill House” is an intriguing subject for academic analysis, offering insights into themes of isolation, psychological horror, and the impact of the supernatural on human psychology.