Ivana Trump will be paid a reported $3 million to put her name on two novels written by someone else, following in the footsteps of such celebrity nonwriters as Elliot Roosevelt, Pele and Helen Hayes.

That's what George Plimpton learned, as he disclosed in an article in the current issue of Esquire, when he investigated the search for a Trump ghostwriter.Plimpton talked to Bill Adler, the book packager who came up with the idea of the celebrity novel in the 1960s when he had Washington columnist Drew Pearson lend his name to a novel written by a second party.

The ghostwriter was Gerald Green, author of such successful novels as "The Last Angry Man." The book was "The Senator," followed by a sequel, "The President." Both were best sellers.

Plimpton asked Adler why celebrities agree to do it.

"Money, of course," Adler said. "And visibility. The thing about the celebrity novel is that the celebrity can promote the book. These days a novelist, even the best of them, is rarely asked to appear on television talk shows.

"Ivana Trump, on the other hand, can just waltz onto them. They'll chat with her about the novel for four minutes, about her cosmetics or her jewelry for another six minutes, and then about her life for 20."

Adler has packaged a series of sports mystery novels - "The World Cup Murder" (Pele); "Murder at the Super Bowl" (Fran Tarkenton); "Bean Ball" (Tom Seaver) - and "Where the Truth Lies" (Helen Hayes), about murder at the Academy Awards.

He also mentioned the Elliot Roosevelt mysteries, whose concept was that Eleanor Roosevelt was a kind of Miss Marple in the White House.

"A very successful and prolific series in which Roosevelt was very involved at every stage of the books," Adler said, "though they emerged from someone else's typewriter."

"It's a whole cottage industry," he said. "I'm trying to get (former New York City Mayor) Ed Koch to do a novel on New York."

He splits the money three ways - a third for himself, the writer and the celebrity.

Plimpton talked to Herb Resnicow, an experienced ghostwriter who had done the sports mysteries. A licensed engineer, Resnicow said that seven years ago at age 63 he began a literary career. He churns out an average of three mysteries a year, some under his own name, others ghostwritten.

Asked about "Murder at the Super Bowl," Resnicow said he never talked to Tarkenton, just his press agent, adding: "I wouldn't know Fran Tarkenton if he came up and bit me."

He met Pele only once, but referred to him as "charming and helpful." He came to the publication party and kissed Resnicow's wife's hand.

As for Seaver, Resnicow said: "I can't speak too highly of him - scholar, gentleman, modest, all the Boy Scout virtues, the guy should run for president."

Robert Gottlieb at the William Morris Agency made the Ivana Trump deal with Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.

Gottlieb said after the Trump divorce, he knew a mass of agents and writers would be after Ivana to do an autobiography.

"We went over to the Plaza with a different approach in mind," he said. "A well-known dress designer arranged the meeting. Once there we pitched the idea of her writing not an autobiography but a novel. We pointed out that an autobiography is a one-shot deal, whereas one can keep on writing novel after novel."

Gottlieb said Ivana leaped at the idea. The search is on, Plimpton wrote in Esquire, for a ghostwriter. There have been several hundred applicants.

"We're looking for a sound novelist experienced in the glitzy world of wealth and power and fashionable homes," Gottlieb said.