Who are ghostwriters? How much they earn for those who work?

“A few months ago I went to a party for the release of a book by one of my authors,” says Francesca Parravicini, ghostwriter, “and all of a sudden I realized that all my characters were around me.

At least … many.

They were all people whose books I had written. It was very alienating ». Francesca Parravicini’s job is to write books without appearing. His first ghost book – published by Aliberti in 2009 – was called Traveling with Alberto. Words, stories, recipes of the buzzicona that enchanted the great Deaf of Anna Longhi. “It is the only one whose name I reveal,” says Parravicini, “because I know she would have been happy.” In seven years Francesca Parravicini has written about forty books, with peaks of ten a year, many of them for Mondadori, signed by singers, actors, magistrates, sportsmen, TV people, photographers, cooks, in short by anyone who has a little of celebrities to spend on the market.

«When I tell what job I do, everyone asks me why I don’t write my own books, as if I could live there. Of course I also write my own things, but I don’t divulge them. I think people don’t care. I am very reserved and not appearing does not give me problems, on the contrary: what I like is to enter the character and try to give back his voice through writing ».

Ghostwriters are an invisible professional category by mandate.

For the past twenty years – that is, since celebrity books began to sell so much and before, apart from youtuber, sales fell – their importance in publishing has grown, without this growth has been translated into a greater recognition. Yet their work has created a new and paradoxical publishing genre, which deserves to be considered in its own right: that of the autobiography of others or, if you prefer, of the biography in the first person. The percentage of famous people’s books not written by their signers is almost 100 percent. It is an almost absolute rule for autobiographies, but which generally does not apply to fiction – Fabio Volo his novels if he writes them himself, the same do Fossati or Guccini – for politicians who often already have who writes for them and for journalists – even Bruno Vespa, the books he writes for himself.

Every Italian publishing house – medium or large, but also small if public varies – uses ghostwriters more often, because they guarantee even average but acceptable quality books, which will not be rewritten from scratch, and the relationship is solved, not always very easy, with the author. The problem comes when the famous person in question claims to write or proposes a trusted ghostwriter. These are very rare cases, but involve very high risks. At best, the book will require a lot of work and changes such as to offend the author’s susceptibility by jeopardizing the project. Or above all: why don’t they write their own books?

The rates are variable, depending on several factors:

how many copies the publisher hopes to sell, the contractual weight of the ghost, the amount of work needed. With the crisis they came down.

An average book of a large publishing house is paid 4-5 thousand euros, the smaller ones come to offer even 1,800-2,000 euros, but it tells of books written for pay by hunger: even 500 euros gross for a book of 200 pages. No one indicates concrete cases, because in this field it is forbidden to give examples and appear. The contracts are editorial curated and explicitly set the condition of complete confidentiality. “Our confidentiality borders on aphasia” is the motto of Perroni and Morli, a publishing services company that has written a dozen books commissioned by publishers or directly requested by interested parties. Unless it is the ghost that proposes the book and brings the celebrity to the publisher, there are no percentages on sales, which otherwise are on 1-2 percent of the cover price. For every copy sold of – say – a book that costs 20 euros, those who physically wrote it will take 20-40 cents. To make a book a good ghost uses – compatibly with the pursuit of the famous one he writes – two or three months.