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Book Jobs Not By the Book: Oriana Leckert of Gotham Ghostwriters

Oriana Leckert



Oriana Leckert of  Gotham Ghostwriters, in conversation about this occasionally maligned side of book business, and how, contrary to what its name might imply, ghostwriting is a corner of the industry that’s looking very “alive” indeed.




What was your first job in book business and what were the most important things you gained from it?

I had a series of first book -jobs—first internship (the now defunct Incommunicado Press), first agency (Don Maass Literary Agency), first editorial assistantship (Random House)—but my real entrée was before all of those, at the Strand, the last of the famous “Book Row” bookshops. I could write pages on what I learned there, but one of my favorite lessons that you can only get in a used bookstore is what books people keep. This is distinct from what they buy; obviously Oprah’s Book Club picks and modern literary classics all sell like crazy, but at the Strand we had an entire attic floor chockablock with boxes of sold-back copies of The Reader and House of Sand and Fog and A Map of the World, but just go ahead and try to find a used Breakfast of Champions or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles or The Unbearable Lightness of Being—you can’t. An enduringly brilliant book sticks with you, literally, and you don’t want to give it up so fast.


What is the biggest challenge in your current job? In what ways did your previous jobs prepare you for what you do here?

One of the neat things about working here is that each new day brings a new client, a new writer, or a new puzzle to solve—often all at once. That’s also the biggest challenge, of course, but after spending several years as a freelance editor, where things are generally unsurprising and placid, it’s great to be able to intellectually bob and weave again.


How do you explain your job to people?

I usually say that I’m a literary matchmaker. Because Gotham uses a rather labor-intensive, very hands-on process of custom-matching clients with writers, I have to get to know a good deal about each client and each project, and then work to determine which of our writers will best serve the client’s needs and budget. Sometimes this is as simple as pairing a veteran political speechwriter with an advocacy organization that shares her liberal leanings, but other times it requires a lot more delving, like when I was finding a writer for a motivational speaker who encourages people to unlock their childlike creativity, and I learned that one of our experienced business writers also happened to be a professional magician. That one’s still being negotiated, but it sure seems like a great match.


What value has this job brought to the way you think about the book business and your own relationship to books?

Luckily I was under no illusions that every “author” had written his or her own book, so I didn’t have to deal with the disillusionment some of my friends have when I tell them that Snooki and Keith Richard and even Obama may have had help with theirs. As a former editor and all-around lover of literature, I will always have high expectations for published books, and I will always be disappointed when they’re not met. So I see ghostwriting as a winning proposition, because it allows people whose messages and stories I want to read to present those stories in the most fascinating way possible. I want every book I read to be fabulously written and compellingly told, and I’m thrilled when authors are smart enough to collaborate with professional writers to ensure that happens.


Where does ghostwriting fit into the future of book-business, in your mind?

We all know that between the e-book revolution and the explosion of incredibly diverse custom publishing options, it’s like the Wild West out there. It’s precarious for insiders, and often impenetrable for outsiders. So in a media landscape where the barriers to entry for publishing a book are lower than ever before, I think the demand for ghostwriting is going to continue to surge. The opportunities for would-be authors are endless, and ghostwriters—at least those in our stable—can offer much more than beautiful prose. They can be collaborators and partners, helping authors shape their stories, navigate their publishing options, and even hone their platform. Working with a ghostwriter increases an author’s ability to tell his or her story well and to get it into the hands of people who want to read it, and isn’t that the point of writing it in the first place?


Oriana Leckert wrangles ghosts at Gotham Ghostwriter’s by day and writes the art and culture blog Brooklyn Spaces by night. If you are a writer or need to find one, get in touch at [email protected]. If you want to talk about amazing Brooklyn, write to [email protected]com.


  1. Mark says:

    Oriana is such a fascinating and articulate young lady. When I write my first book, I’ll remember her and Gotham!

  2. Lesha says:

    Loved what you said about the books you hold on to. Terrific interview!

  3. Really interesting stuff. It always surprises me how shocked some people are when I tell them most celebrities and public personalities hire ghostwriters…why would you think these people could write a book? Not only are they probably lacking in skill, they don’t have the time! But neither of those factors should be cause for derision. After all, you aren’t reading about your favorite presidential candidate because you think he’s a literary star…his real talent is in public policy and politics, right? So of course it makes sense to hire a professional writer to perform the service of writing a book. The “author’s” message and information are what ultimately matter in books like this, and no one knows how to get those across better than a pro ghostwriter. Thanks for sharing Oriana!

    • We loved our conversation with Oriana, too! And it’s always nice to have an established independent publishing professional stop by to read and add to the conversation. And what an increasingly important conversation it is–amongst all the writers, editors, publicists, and others who team with authors to make their work the best it can be.

      Thanks from all of us here,

  4. […] ORIANA LECKERT  •  Director of Operations, Gotham Ghostwriters  •  8 years in publishing […]

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  1. […] ORIANA LECKERT  •  Director of Operations, Gotham Ghostwriters  •  8 years in publishing […]

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