Ghostwriters in Disguise

Ghostwriters in Disguise ~ by Merry Farmer

There’s been a lot of stress and confusion in Pioneer Hearts world lately over the concept of ghostwriters, what they are, and what exactly they do. I figured it was about time we had a quick tutorial on the subject to prevent any misconceptions and avert any stigma.

What is a Ghostwriter?

I’ll confess, the first time the concept ever dawned on me was years ago when Hillary Clinton published her book It Takes A Village. All politics aside, I blinked and did a double-take when someone explained to me that she hired a ghostwriter to pen it. “Wait,” I thought. “You can hire someone else to write a book and then put your name on it?” Yep! The concept blew my mind.

Since then, I’ve learned that a LOT of books out there in the world are ghostwritten. Do you know Sara Shepard, author of the Pretty Little Liars books that were made into the TV show? Well, last year she spoke at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, and among other things, she talked about how she got her start ghostwriting for a popular YA series. Lots of those great James Patterson novels? Ghostwritten. A bunch of Tom Clancy? Ghostwritten. Many of those Robert Ludlum Bourne Identity series books? Ghostwritten. A super large chunk of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books? Ghostwritten. There are a lot of books out there that are not written by the people whose names are in big print on the covers. (Although many authors these days will include their ghostwriter on the cover as a co-writer…in smaller print)

Okay, so why would someone have a ghostwriter write a book for them, and why would a writer want to be a ghostwriter?

Tons of reasons! James Patterson, for example, has confided that he’s much better at coming up with the story idea than he is at writing it down in all its nitty-gritty glory. Other writers reach the point where they would rather do everything else that comes along with writing books—like traveling to signings and appearances, and marketing—than lock themselves away to write. Still others reach a point where they are incapable of continuing to write (that point sometimes being death, like in the case of V.C. Andrews). Publishers want the name to live on, whether the author does or not. And some popular series were always penned by a number of authors under one name so that they could be churned out fast and in large numbers.

As for why people become ghostwriters, according to Sara Shepard, it was a good way for her to get into the business. She was able to learn her craft in a much more risk-free environment. The series she ghostwrote for had specific guidelines about plots and characters, so she learned about structure without having to write twenty books that ended up on the slush-pile. Other people do it because it’s a steadier source of income than trusting to fate when a book is sent out there in the world. Or—as rumors in my Philadelphia writers’ circles purport—because if you’re ghostwriting for a gigantic name like Tom Clancy, you can be paid about a million dollars per manuscript!

Most of the time, when a ghostwriter enters into an agreement with a professional publishing company or goes to work with a big name author, there will be an extensive contract. These contracts spell out exactly what the expectations between the author and the ghostwriter are. Oftentimes, the author will write a treatment or an outline, specifying exactly what the ghostwriter should write—like James Patterson does. Sometimes they will be given more leeway. These contracts will either specify how much credit the ghostwriter will get. They may contain a confidentiality agreement, which means the ghostwriter may be forbidden from disclosing that they have ghostwritten for a specific author.

Of course, all of this is the way things work in the traditional publishing world with old-school rules. But we now live in the age of digital publishing and indie authors. Just as those of us who self-publish can upload our manuscripts directly to vendors like Amazon and iBooks without having to go through a traditional publisher, so intrepid business people out there can seek out unknown writers, purchase stories from them, and publish them under a single pen name.

In these indie ghostwriting arrangements, the agreements can run the entire gambit from iron clad and professional to haphazard and crazy. I was reading just recently, in response to the scandal at Amazon over scammers who put together box sets with links that enable them to cheat the Kindle Unlimited system in order to log millions of page reads, that they often buy ghostwritten stories off of message boards to create their content. The scammers don’t care about quality, only page reads. Fortunately, Amazon has been cracking down on that!

The same message boards and forums where scammers go to play can also be fertile ground for more legitimate authors and publishers to connect. Lucrative and satisfying partnerships can be formed between those who have the creativity and talent and those who have the business savvy. In the best of cases, these indie publishers treat their arrangements with all the professionalism of the traditional publishing world, putting together contracts that spell out precise expectations and compensation. The author can focus on writing without ever having to worry about more technical or business aspects of publishing. And both parties live up to their obligations and responsibilities toward each other.

But as is the case in all aspects of the new world of indie publishing, there are also publishers who are unprofessional and can become predatory. Because there is no regulating body for indie publishing or ghostwriting, it is possible for these publishers to maneuver authors into a position where they are held hostage, not given fair compensation, and where the publisher engages in abusive retaliation when an author decides to sever ties and set out on their own. What seems like a satisfactory relationship in early days can quickly degenerate into a nightmare behind the scenes – nightmares that the readers will never know about, except to be suddenly confused when a beloved author suddenly has a drastically different writing style or public persona.

Fortunately, when all is said and done, the talent is in the hands of the author, and as long as the terms of a given contract are fulfilled and respected, they can walk away from a bad situation and set out on their own, or enter into a new ghostwriting arrangement as they see fit. And the publisher is free to find other ghostwriters to continue any given name, if they so wish.

There’s nothing wrong with ghostwriting or hiring a ghostwriter, as long as all parties involved are on the same page and treated fairly. For some writers, it’s the ideal way to work. For others, it would never work. (I’m one of those kind, by the way. Too stubborn to write for anyone but myself!) But in case you are now starting to blink and get a headache and wonder if the authors and books you love are really who and what they seem to be, let me assure you that a very small percentage of authors are actually someone else or a bunch of someone else’s. Writing is a heck of a lot of work, and unless someone out there is willing to offer you a brilliant contract with a lot of zeroes—and especially if you’re an indie author—it’s much more satisfying to write for yourself than to be a ghostwriter. So no need to panic! Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, we are exactly who we say we are.

Although some of us are a little spooky…


Honey Beaulieu by Jacquie Rogers

Welcome, Jacquie Rogers!  Sit down and grab a cup of joe as we catch up with Jacquie on what’s new…

Welcome, readers!  Can you believe I’ve been writing for twenty years?  Hard to believe, I know, but it has been that long since I dreamed a book and decided to write it.  Naturally, the Romance genre beckoned because I love, love, love Happily Ever Afters and I hate cliffhangers.

Each book in my Hearts of Owyhee series can be read as a standalone.  Yes, they’re connected—some more so than others—but if you haven’t read the first three, you’ll still enjoy Much Ado About Mavericks.  That’s the way I wanted it, and for twenty years, that’s what I’ve been writing, whether novels, novellas, or short stories.  I loved every minute of it.

What’s lovin’ without a little laughter? Ranchers, gunmen, miners… yep, they do their best to tame the women of Owyhee County. Or is it the other way around? At any rate, they all find true love in those they least expect. Throw in a few cats, goats, and dogs, and a fun time is had by all. And yes, Owyhee County really exists.

The Hearts of Owyhee series takes place in the mid-1880s and is set in southwest Idaho. It’s arid, and mostly high mountain desert.

Owyhee, pronounced Oh-WYE-hee, is the original anglicized spelling of Hawaii. Why is a county in the southwestern corner of Idaho named after islands in the Pacific? Because three fur trappers were lost there around 1819, so the area (including southeast Oregon) was named after them.

Gold and silver was discovered in the early 1860s, and the boom began. Because of the remoteness of the area, miners had to make do with supplies that could be hauled in, but that didn’t dampen their spirits any. Take a wild ride with the Hearts of Owyhee series. The characters and situations are fiction, but the area is very real–and where the Old West still lives today.

Hearts of Owyhee series

Much Ado About Madams –
Much Ado About Marshals –
Much Ado About Miners –
Much Ado About Mavericks –
Much Ado About Mustangs –

Connected to Hearts of Owyhee:

Mercy: Bride of Idaho –
Mail-Order Tangle (with Caroline Clemmons) –

Three years ago, I decided (actually, Troy Smith, who was president of Western Fictioneers at the time, decided for me) to try my hand at writing a traditional western novella (out of print now, but will be reissued this year).  And you know, readers liked it!  That was a pleasant surprise.

All this led up to digging out an idea I had way back in 1998 that was completely unmarketable.  The first book in that series was released this morning.  What an exciting, scary, happy day!  I’m stepping out of bounds with my new release, Honey Beaulieu – Man Hunter.

I’ve been telling people it’s a genre blend.  Actually, that’s not quite accurate.  This series is its own genre.  Pure and simple.  If I had to describe it, I’d say a mashup of Gunsmoke, Sex in the City, and Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Does this mean I’m not writing romance anymore?  Certainly not!  First of all, there is a romance element in Hot Work in Fry Pan Gulch.  Besides, after I finish the second Honey Beaulieu book, Sidetracked in Silver City (which has some Hearts of Owyhee characters in it), I’ll be working on a mail-order bride book for Prairie Rose Publications.  After that, I’ll write the third Honey book, and then the sixth Hearts of Owyhee novel.  Do you think I should write Bram McKinnon’s story?  Or maybe Micah’s story… haven’t decided yet.

There’s just something about a good romance that warms the heart.  And then again, sometimes you want a kick-butt heroine who doesn’t take guff from anyone.  That’s Honey Beaulieu.  So there you go—a book for your every mood!

Jacquie is a former software designer, campaign manager, deli clerk, and cow milker, but always a bookworm. Reading is her passion–westerns, fantasies, historicals of any era, and all with a dash of romance. If an author can make her laugh, she’ll buy every book he/she ever wrote.

While Jacquie is a country girl by birth, she currently live in suburbia with her very patient husband (important point: they are the staff of one cat) Jacquie doesn’t think you can ever take the country out of a girl’s heart. That’s probably why her stories often take place in Idaho where she grew up. (Hearts of Owyhee series and some of her short stories, too.)

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Join Jacquie on the Pioneer Hearts Books Store in Amazon and as always, don’t forget to leave a review for other readers!

Welcome, Amelia C. Adams!

Today I’m highlighting one of my favorite new authors, Amelia C. Adams.  As she approaches her one year anniversary of writing historical western romance, she has amazed readers and authors alike with her sweet romance series, Kansas Crossroads, and its spin-off series, Nurses of New York.  In her spare time this past year, Amelia also found the time to write two books for the American Mail-Order Bride Series.  She truly is a writing wonder and I can’t wait to read more of what this spectacular woman has to offer!  Welcome, Amelia!

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on the Pioneer Hearts blog! My name is Amelia C. Adams, and I’ve been writing Western romance since March of 2015, ever since Kirsten Osbourne dragged me into it . . . er, convinced me that I should give it a try. It’s been a lot of fun! You can learn more about my books at

And now you can get to know me a little bit as I answer these questions posed to me by my street team.

Cindy asked, “When did you start writing? Did you always want to write, or did the decision come when you when you were an adult?”
I’ve always wanted to write, and I got started with silly little stories and poems when I was around five years old. Books are my favorite things ever, and I was thrilled with the thought that I could help make them.

Carol asked, “What inspires you to create the amusing dialogue between characters when you write?”
– They talk to me and I write down what they say—I really have very little to do with it. It’s a little scary sometimes, but as long as they’re funny, I guess they can live in my head.

Jennifer asked, “Is there anyone or anything in particular whom inspires your writing?”
– Anything and everything. Life is one big giant writing prompt.

Eileen asked, “Do you plan out your series before ever writing the first word?”
– I start out with a general idea, but I’m very much a seat-of-the-pants writer. I have to see where the story naturally goes, and it very often takes me places I didn’t expect. That’s most of the fun right there. A lot of times, my research will dictate where I go next.

Melissa asked, “Do you always finish the writing you start, or do you have some that are just hanging out unfinished?”
– I have a bunch of works in progress. Some are just a chapter or two long—I’ll get an idea and start writing it, knowing that I’ll have to come back to it another time.

Penny asked, “Do the personalities of your characters come strictly from your imagination, or do you pattern them from people you have met? I ask this because your characters seem to have distinct personalities all their own!”
– They usually pop into my head fully formed. Olivia, for instance, knew exactly who she was from the very first moment.

Kristen asked, “Do your characters speak to you while you’re writing? And if yes, do you carry on conversations with them? Also, do you have lots of voices in your head all the time? Finally, if you could share a meal with a famous person (dead or alive), who would it be, which meal, and why?”
– My characters speak, but not to me—they tell their stories or they talk to each other. I’ve never had a back-and-forth conversation with any of them. I have countless voices in my head all the time—it’s like a circus in there. And let’s see . . . a meal with a famous person . . . that’s a tough one. Let’s say Clara Barton, who has always fascinated me. As far as the meal itself? Something I didn’t have to cook, and comes with chocolate cake for dessert.

Amelia’s books can be found on the Pioneer Hearts Bookstore in Amazon by clicking here.  As a bonus, book one of the Kansas Crossroads series, A New Beginning, is free on Amazon to all readers.  Grab it and get hooked into a truly wonderful sweet series that you won’t be able to put down.

Amelia C. Adams is a wife, a mother, and a novelist. She spends her days dreaming up stories and her nights writing them down. Her biggest hero is her husband, and you might just see bits and pieces of him as you read her novels.

She loves all things historical and enjoys learning about days gone by, but she’s glad she was born more recently (she won’t say how recently or not recently) because the Internet is awesome, and she’s glad she doesn’t have to wash her clothes by hand in a galvanized tub. She has hit Amazon bestseller status twice, once for A Clean Slate and once for A Clear Hope.

You can reach Amelia at or visit her at