Andrew Crofts may appear as an African dictator. Or as an 11-year-old girl sold into marriage, a Bulgarian oligarch, or a futurist who owns a Bermudan island.
Crofts is not a psychopath: he’s a ghostwriter. “I get two, three book requests every day,” says Crofts, the ghost author of 80 books and the handbook “Ghostwriting.” “Some have publishers, while others just decide to pay for it themselves.”
For ghostwriters, a bigger challenge than creating the book is often keeping their famous writing partners happy. For The Ghost, a ghostwriter in Roman Polanski’s new movie, “The Ghost Writer,” the writing partnership turns both dangerous and testy. A former British prime minister — Pierce Brosnan playing a thinly veiled Tony Blair — resents collaborating with the wordsmith, played by Ewan McGregor.
Robert Harris wrote the book on which Polanski’s film is based; he fell out with his friend Tony Blair over the Iraq war. Prefacing each chapter of Harris’ book is a sentence from Andrew Crofts’ “Ghostwriting.”
Today, every short-lived celebrity wants to write a book. That’s good news for ghostwriters, the often-ridiculed stepchildren of the literary world. Paris Hilton has penned a book about her life, as have soccer players, John F. Kennedy’s mistresses and seemingly every reality TV show contestant.
“Finding a person who has had a long career but remains popular is extremely hard,” explains Rick Mayston, European publishing director for Getty Images. “There’s not a lot to say about a 20-year-old soccer player. There are too many celebrity autobiographies today, and publishers are often frustrated by having to publish them. But it subsidizes their more serious books.”
Mayston pairs famous personalities with a ghostwriter, who spends several days talking with the personality. “A good ghostwriter is almost like a psychiatrist,” he says. “He or she has to get people to remember things.”
Even though Andrew Crofts’ books have sold more than 10 million copies, most critics would never consider reviewing them.
“Books like mine come and go,” he says. “But people who buy such books would never consider reading serious literature anyway. Do the literary experts expect all books to be like Nabokov? In that case, 95 percent of people would never read a book.”