From the definition, a ghostwriter is: "a professional writer who is paid to write books, articles, stories, reports, or other texts that are officially credited to another person. Celebrities, executives, and political leaders often hire ghostwriters to draft or edit autobiographies, magazine articles, or other written material."
I caught a feature on a television programme last night concerning ghost writing, and the ethics behind it i.e. whether the ghostwritten books were failing under the sales descriptions act, by promising something that doesn't actually exist.
One of the examples given was novels by this author:
If you were a child and had read and enjoyed books in the Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton, when you picked the above novel off the shelf who would you believe had written the words within?
Enid Blyton, right?
Nope. Wrong. This book - and many others continuing the canon of Blyton's most famous series - are written by Pamela Cox.
You wouldn't know from glancing at the cover. Unfair, surely, to children who buy a book believing it to be by their beloved author? And unfair, almost certainly, to Ms Cox who doesn't receive any of the plaudits for said book.
How about this one?
People buying this book would expect that model and celebrity Jordan - aka Katie Price - had written Sapphire. A not unreasonable assumption, I think you'll agree, considering her name is emblazoned across the cover.
Katie Price has admitted that she thinks up the ideas, but has an assistant actually write the novels that carry her name. Here we have a case of wondering exactly how much work should go into a book before a person can expect to have their name on the front of the book! I mean, I can dream up plenty of ideas for a book - but the writing of it, the hard graft, is beyond me. If I hire somebody to write for me, can I put my name on a book?
Take a look at this:
"Created by Tom Clancy." But written by David Michaels - which is, in turn, a pseudonym for Raymond Benson! Confused? Me too. I approve more of this one, however - at least Mr Clancy is not claiming ALL the credit....
Finally, last year there was a great deal of kerfuffle about this book:
James Frey is one of the names behind Pittacus Lore - and, in 2009, Frey formed "Full Fathom Five," a young adult novel publishing company that aimed to create highly commercial, high concept novels like Twilight. In November 2010, controversy arose when an MFA student who had been in talks to create content for the company released her extremely limiting contract online. The contract allows Frey license to remove an author from a project at any time, does not require him to give the author credit for their work, and only pays a standard advance of $250. A New York Magazine article entitled, "James Frey's Fiction Factory," gave more details about the company, including information about the highly successful "I Am Number Four" series, a collaboration between author Jobie Hughes and Frey. The article details how Frey removed Hughes from the project, allegedly during a screaming match between the two authors. In the article, Frey is accused of abusing and using MFA students as cheap labor to churn out commercial young adult books.
So, are we feeling positive about ghost writing?
I would love to hear a favourable impression about ghost writing because, personally, it seems to be all about the money. Milking a series once a beloved author has died; using a celebrity name to sell books to those who don't know better; forcing poor contract terms and abusing naive authors who just want to be published.
I have to say, I'm left feeling very negative about ghost writing, and as though it would actively deter me from reading something that has been ghost written.
What are your impressions of ghost writing? Can you tell me about any decent ghost written novels that might change my mind?