What it's like to be a cookbook ghostwriter

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If you have a cookbook written by a celebrity chef, chances are that book has a ghostwriter. Chefs and other cookbook authors frequently hire ghostwriters to help them make sure the writing in their books is as good as the recipes. Bon Appetit magazine shares the stories of several ghostwriters in a recent article. As you might expect, writing a cookbook usually involves a team of people. Designers, photographers, editors, and others weigh in, so it isn't unusual to add another writer as well.   

So what exactly do ghostwriters do? It depends on the author, of course, but usually it involves more than just writing. Recipe testing and project management are other parts of the ghostwriting equation. Keeping the schedule on track is another area where they can assist. JJ Goode, who has co-written several cookbooks with chefs like April Bloomfield and Masaharu Morimoto, says that while chefs are often good under pressure on the line, "the idea of a project that takes a year or two to complete makes them want to die." 

There is a trend toward giving ghostwriters credit - ranging from a mention in the acknowledgements all the way up to co-author status. Some chefs, however, choose to keep their ghostwriters hidden from view. Others in the business chalk that up to ego: the chefs don't want anyone to think they need help. Some ghostwriters, on the other hand, don't want to be pigeonholed into the cookbook genre and prefer to not have their names prominently displayed. The biggest perk of being a ghostwriter? Says Melissa Clark, who has written cookbooks solo and as a ghostwriter, "it's like a private tutorial from some of the best chefs in the world". 

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