Friday, April 24, 2009


“Honesty is the best policy.” - Shakespeare

At a recent Gulf Coast Writers Association meeting, the speaker, Chris Angermann, editor-in-chief of New Chapter Publishing, mentioned that about 30% of the books on the New York Times Best Seller list were ghostwritten. I found this figure shocking and I’ve been thinking about the business of ghostwriting since.

I knew ghostwriting was fairly common in non-fiction books but was surprised to learn that the practice was also used in fiction writing. I understand that a well-known author or a celebrity name sells books and selling books makes money. But does that make it right? It simply doesn’t seem honest to me to take credit for something that someone else wrote.

It’s also hard for me to distinguish the difference between a person paying someone to write a book for them and a student paying someone to write a term paper. However, the pretend ‘author’ receives accolades and a nice royalty check while the student is kicked out of school.

On the positive side, I understand that some people with good stories to tell may not be good writers or some good writers may lack for ideas. A ghostwriter probably receives a nice fee and is not expected to participate in promoting which has its appeal as well.

I have no qualms with teaming up. I only wonder if a book clearly stated, “idea by Big Celebrity Name as written by John Doe,” would really sell fewer copies than one with just the celebrity name. In other words, would sharing the credit be a bad thing?

This blog is not to judge ghostwriters or the people who employ them. Quite the contrary. I’d love to hear their views on the subject. I’m keeping an open mind because I feel I’m missing important points on both sides of the argument of whether the practice is right or wrong.

What are your feelings on ghostwriting?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: Shakespeare, ghostwriting, Gulf Coast Writers, Chris Angermann, New Chapter Publishing,


Anonymous said...

30%!? You GOTTA be kidding me! I can dig pen names, but ghost writing is just wrong. Wrong, I say.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Ghost writing is BIG business! Yes, there are a lot of mid-range authors who supplement their meager income by ghostwriting. Google that word - you will be stunned by the number of sites offering that service. For a sizeable fee, they will write your book for you, guaranteeing a 'marketable' product.

Your comparison to the college student brings up a point! In this society, we often reward improper behavior. (And then we wonder why it's all messed up!)

Personally, I really don't have an opinion either way.

L. Diane Wolfe

Helen Ginger said...

I didn't know the figures, but I'm not surprised about the ghostwriting. We all recognize that a great number of the celebrity books are not written by the celebrity. But even some big name authors are more franchises than anything else. Patterson has readily admitted that, he says, he has so many ideas that he can't write them all so he plots a book and gets someone in his writing stable to write it. For a while, he put his name on the book. Now, he's putting his name and the actual writer's name on it. But his name is still prominent because his name sells.

Bob Sanchez said...

When I lived in Boston, I used to read op-eds in the Boston Globe with bylines of prominent politicians. Then I would learn somehow that their staff actually did the writing. This happens routinely in the business world as well. Much of President Kennedy's eloquence flowed from the pen of Theodore Sorensen, and Kennedy even won a Pulitzer prize for a book thought by some to have been ghostwritten.

For a while I had been a fan of Michener's writing, and was disappointed to learn that he delegated so much of his work to hired hands.

I don't have a problem with ghostwriting as long as the person getting the byline acknowledges the help somewhere in the book. Just don't pass off someone else's work as your own.

Good topic, Jane.

Bob Sanchez
Author, Getting Lucky

Morgan Mandel said...

I wouldn't want all my hard work to go unnoticed. I'm not sure if being paid would make up for that.

Morgan Mandel

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world