A writer who is hired by a publisher or book packager, like the Stratemeyer Syndicate, to write a book that will often be published under a pseudonym owned by that publisher or packager. Normally this work is done as a work-for-hire for a flat-fee compensation.

Upon completion of an acceptable manuscript, the employer will send payment and a release to be signed that will transfer rights for the work.

In the larger world, ghostwriters may write speeches for famous persons or collaborate on novels.

Stratemeyer Syndicate Use of Ghostwriters

In the correspondence of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the ghostwriter was referred to as the “writer.” The stories were completed from outlines and casts of characters supplied by the Syndicate.

A writer might choose this sort of work because it offered ready payment for their efforts.  The Stratemeyer Syndicate paid promptly upon acceptance.  After the story was read, or at least skimmed, a check and a release form was sent to the writer.  The writer would sign the release and return it to the Syndicate.  Sometimes it was necessary for the writer to have it notarized in later years.

Publishers of story papers or books might await publication which could delay payment for several months for the work.

Finding Out Who is the Ghostwriter

Often it is difficult to identify a ghostwriter for a given work unless that person has come forward and listed the work in his or her personal bibliography or perhaps in an interview.  Another avenue is if the business correspondence and documents for a writer or the publisher or packager that paid for the work become available.

Sometimes educated guesses of authorship are made according to internal clues such as vocabulary, syntax, use of language, awareness of a topic, or other quirks.  Some work has also been done to apply computers to use stylometric analysis to see if an unknown work is similar or different to a known work by one or more candidate writers.  These methods of authorship ascription work best when there is external evidence that support the theory.

For the Stratemeyer Syndicate works, my book Stratemeyer Syndicate Ghostwriters is intended to answer the authorship question for the Syndicate’s nearly 1,400 books and stories based on business records at NYPL and Yale.  It also includes a bibliography of Edward Stratemeyer’s writings and a biographical dictionary of the 100 or so ghostwriters employed by the Syndicate to write anything from one story (published or not) to as many as 315 stories.

Stratemeyer Syndicate Ghostwriters book - Keeline
Two pages of profiles from a draft of Stratemeyer Syndicate Ghostwriters by James D. Keeline.

This definition and discussion of a term applied to collecting juvenile series books is part of a Glossary of specialized terms. At the outset a new term or topic is added once a week on “Terminology Tuesdays” on Stratemeyer.org.