Orsayor: I recently found out an author that I used to like has been hiring ghostwriters for majority of their career. I feel like I have been bamboozled, hoodwinked, and "Milli-Vanilli-ed". My question to you is How do you feel about authors using ghostwriters?
D.V. : I guess I could be politically correct and say something like, “This is cheating, pure and simple.” But the more I think about it, the more I find myself struggling with this question for two reasons.
Reason #1: Anonymity
Speaking as a man with a nom de plume, or rather a ‘pen name’, I relish in the anonymity that a fake name provides. After all, as a man who writes erotica, the last thing I need are people I know who look at me with a side eye. Fans, neighbors, co-workers and even some family need to be kept in the dark about what we do when we’re not “us”.
Now to get back to the question at hand, most ghostwriters that I’ve met also enjoy their anonymity. They don’t relish the thought of having to fly from city to city, shack up in random and sometimes not-so-desirable hotels and spend hundreds of dollars at some conference, only to sell a few books! As a ghostwriter, they have to deal with any of that, but they do get paid well for their services. Often, the ghostwriter is not known outside author circles, but is so well known inside that he or she is able to write for several different well-known authors or, in some cases, celebrities.
When authors are fortuitous to establish themselves as household names, the time to write a follow up literary-classic, aka best-seller is severely limited. The expectation is that they immediately belt out another blockbuster book—all while they’re out signing novels, making appearances, raising a family and, oh yeah, are usually doing all of this while balancing a full-time job. Yes, there are always some people who are able to do it, but that person is so rare they might as well be classified as urban legend. So to compensate, they or the publisher hire that no-name, anonymous person to tackle the responsibility. Voila!
Reason #2: It is cheating
Not to counter everything I said in reason #1, but living off of someone else’s hard work, while claiming it’s yours is de facto cheating. It’s sort of a scandal of the heart to most readers. We usually feel a personal connection to authors, as if we see exactly what they’re trying to say, so there is a sense of betrayal when we find out that the never wrote the books we hold so dearly. To me, that’s like someone talking dirty to me on the phone and then when I ask them to stop by (so we can do all the nasty things we talked about), they come to the realization that they called the wrong number.
Look, no matter how you classify it, cheating is just that. If I do it at any level of school, a myriad of punishments await me if I’m caught, including expulsion. Yet, in most other forms of artistic media: song writing (music), painting (art), website design and even blogs ghost writing is so common that no one bats an eye when it’s done—or even when they’re caught. Still, in literature, it’s taboo. Some authors go so far as to use pen-names, which then allow them to use a ghost writer so that they can easily disassociate themselves should things go awry. Sounds like politics? It is!
I guess what I’m saying is this: if an author is going to use a ghost writer, why not just simply tell us this? I mean instead of saying ‘a novel by’ why not simply put ‘a ghostwritten novel by’? Sounds easy right? And yet most of us would still read the novel and respect the author. Unfortunately, most of these best-selling authors who hire, then hide behind ghostwriters, are the exact representation of what is wrong with this country. What’s wrong with the truth?
One of history’s most notorious men said, “…and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds people more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”
And that, in a nutshell, is why I believe that if you’re a well-known author who has either used or currently employs a ghostwriter; promote the fact that a ghostwriter has written the novel. In all seriousness, it’s not as if your books sales will take a dip, but simply because we read fiction does not mean we want a bunch of it shoveled to us.
How would you feel if you found out your favorite author didn't write their book?