How to Ghostwrite a Bestseller

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Here’s an interesting glimpse into the work behind paperback bestsellers: a short post by a ghostwriter for the recently deceased Tom Clancy.

“Great. And one more thing. Book’s due in six weeks. Minimum length: 110,000 words. Though we can deal with 90,000. We’ll send you the series bible, do whatever you want with it.”

That book went on to sell over one million copies—and it was the first of many such strictly deadlined, series-bible-guided successes. (Alas, none of them could make it into the Just Crichton and King Bookstore in the airport on The Simpsons.)


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →