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Notes From a Ghostwriter

Last month at Barnes and Noble’s Writers’ Night I caught Jane Lorenzini, a freelance writer, speaking on her recent  ghostwriting project.  This is not paranormal stuff; I’m talking about writers who write a memoir for another person. Often celebrities and corporate executives will engage a ghostwriter to tell their story either because they lack the time or the talent. I hadn’t thought much about being a ghostwriter before, but Lorenzini’s topic caught my attention. She was asked by Hoda Kotb, co-host of the Today Show’s Hoda and Kathy Lee, to write her memoir. Kotb had known  Lorenzini from their days working together in New Orleans. Lorenzini took on the project for her friend though she now lives in Nashville, Tennessee while Kotb lives in New York.

They accomplished the task through the magic of skype. With a great pitch and  Kotb’s connections in New York they received a contract with Simon and Schuster. The publisher gave Lorenzini specific directions as to the length of the book and the time line for completion. They wanted 80,000 words in 300 pages delivered in five months. A daunting task even with skype.

  Lorenzini worked from an outline of  major parts of Kotb’s life from her youth as the middle child of Egyptian parents, to the Peacock network with many reporting tales including the Thailand psunami, Katrina and Afghanistan, to her present show with Kathy Lee Gifford and recent survival of breast cancer. Lorenzini’s method of viewing home movies of family gatherings captured Kotb’s youth.

When writing a memoir it is difficult enough to find one’s own voice, I couldn’t imagine being able to authenticate another person’s voice. Voice is key to the success  of the memoir and Lorenzini was dead-on in that accomplisment–at least as far as one can judge from watching the Hoda and Kathy Lee show on daily TV.  Testimony to that is the back cover blurb by Brian Williams. “This the Hoda I know. She’s written this book the way she lives: out loud and up front. She has written about the stuff of all of our lives–love, loss…and what she wore!”  

The book, titled HODA–what else? was launched in October, 2010 on the Today Show.  At that point Kotb began marketing around the country at book signings including our own Nashville.

Now that you know the back story, read HODA for yourself. You’ll enjoy it and see the brilliant work of freelance  ghostwriter Jane Lorenzini.

Lorenzini’s message to writers is,  freelance writing can open up many and varied opportunities for writers.

Note: In Writer’s Digest March/April issue find an excellent article by Kelly James-Enger, a ghostwriter and freelance writer, which answers questions on breaking into ghostwriting, understanding your role, establishing parameters, getting the job done and getting paid. Ghosting projects can bring a writer $12,000 to $60,000 per book project depending on the topic and number of words. Got your attention yet?

 James-Enger is the author of The Writer’s Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books.




  • Mary Ann – thank you for a wonderful post! I loved meeting you at the gathering and enjoyed ‘talking shop.’ I was a lucky ghostwriter, as my dear friend was generous enough to put my name on the book cover…pulling back much of the sheet draped over this ‘ghost.’ All the best to you, Mary Ann, and to all of our fellow writers, remember this Chinese Proverb: ‘The urge to quit is often strongest right before success.’ Take care – Jane

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