I believe Christian ghostwriting is a scandal waiting to explode. If we in the Christian community don’t clean up our act soon, we’re going to face widespread loss of credibility. What a tragedy if 60 Minutes were to expose this practice we should never have tolerated. Can’t you see Steve Kroft or Ed Bradley holding up a book and asking well-known Christian authors, “Did you really write this book?” Envision the neatly edited scenes of embarrassment, head-hanging, evasions, rationalizations, and reports that “so-and-so author and publisher wouldn’t return our calls.”Many of my readers know that I do (a level of) ghostwriting and book doctoring for some Christian leaders. I have been troubled by abuses I've seen within the system for a little while now. (Ghostwriters are kind of a behind-the-scenes fraternity of sorts.) Let me go on record with two things here:
This could be a major setback for Christian publishers and authors at the very time Christian books have made unprecedented inroads into the mainstream culture. We need to confess, repent of, and change our policies—and stop being driven by money-love and ego building.
1. I've never written a book that somebody else put their name on, and I never will. I let authors know that right up front. What I typically do is turn a pastor's already-written sermon transcripts or extensive notes into a book-quality manuscript. This usually involves some level of additional writing, but it has never been substantive to the point where I have violated my own conscience in not being credited as an author. (Some have credited my help in the Acknowledgments, some haven't, and either way, I'm fine with that. I do this work to help good pastors get their messages into literary form. And of course the money doesn't hurt. :-)
2. Every book with my name on it has been completely written by me, except where I've attributed someone's story within the book to them. (This excludes quotes, of course.)
Not every ghostwriter or fake author can say both of those things.
If you're a ghostwriter or aspiring ghostwriter, determine up front how much writing you will be fine handing over for no credit. Know that to write a book someone else puts their name on may result in good money, but it's dishonest gain, for both of you.
If you're a pastor/leader who hasn't written the book your name is on, I urge you to consider and heed Alcorn's words.