This launched me and Amy L Sauder into a debate on ghostwriters, so here we are.
Ghostwriting, or, more generally, ghosting, is not a new concept in the art world. Even Mozart himself was paid to ghostwrite music for wealthier, more famous men of his time. This process involves Person A creating a work, or even doing a varying amount of collaborating on a work with Person B, but then Person B getting credit. Sometimes this includes Person A’s name in smaller print on the front of the book, or not being included at all. Regardless, ghostwriters are paid for their work.
However, I have some criticisms, as per usual.
(For clarity, I’m going to be talking about ghostwriting concerning books.)
1. Exploitation of the Ghostwriter
Sure, ghostwriters consent to what they are doing. However, it still takes an amount of . . . castration to get very little or no credit on something you worked on. It strips away the integrity of the author. By no means am I talking about truly collaborative works, where two authors write a book together because that’s an entirely different process than ghostwriting.
How ghostwriting exploits the author is that it takes away the beautiful creative control of the author: it strips the author of what they do best. By having a shadow, by having someone to always answer to, this confines the author. It confines the author even further because these authors sign contracts to write so many books for someone, or to have certain requirements when they write. There’s nothing more hellish that I can think of than putting a cap on the creativity of writing, by controlling and stifling an author.
Don’t get me wrong, ghostwriting can be a way to launch the author into the publishing sphere, but rarely do I believe that that’s all an author should aspire to be.
2. All About The Money
The problem is that by slapping a popular name on the cover, it appeals to the pervasive consumerism and fame obsession in this society. By having ghostwriters, it allows famous people to sell books, regardless of whether they are telling good stories. It only adds to the tasteless, bland array of fiction. James Patterson has so many books out because people pick the book up with his name on it and expect the same thing. Name recognition or fame should not sell books, even though publishing has become a toxic industry.
The reason that authors like Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, etc. use ghostwriters is because of the high demand for their books. Or, rather, the types of stories they tell. This only indicates that these books sell because they have their names on them, not because of the title, cover art, or actual content inside, which is absolutely despicable. The promotion of ghostwriters only promotes writing as a business, not an art form. There should be a happy medium between the business of bookselling and writing as an art, but ghostwriters are not the way to achieve that goal. In fact, ghostwriters only push the flow further into the toxic business sphere.
3. Cheapening of the Craft
Sure, everyone can write a book, but maybe not well. This is not to discourage anyone from writing a book if they so please. But what ghostwriting does is that it cuts out a significant chunk of the struggle, the art of writing.
People like Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Zoe Sugg, and other celebrities don’t write a significant chunk of their books; however, they can still claim to be an author of a book. It takes all of the blood, sweat, and tears out of writing. Every ounce of pain, of late nights you’ve spent writing, every blank page, every scrapped draft all becomes for naught because someone who only pitched some ideas for a book is now credited as an author.
Another problem is that celebrity (fiction) books combine two types of people: writers and non-writers, and this can create disastrous results. Sometimes, what the celebrity/non-writer wants to create or wants to happen isn’t exactly good concerning the objective parts of fiction. This leads to books on the shelves that aren’t the best they can be. Art should always be about making the best the individual can get, always improving. But by allowing half-assed work on the shelves just for money only cheapens writing itself.
By allowing ghostwriting to populate the scene, it almost degrades the hard work and art that others create, just because someone had enough money.
Granted, there are exceptions. Autobiographies are one, because biographies are more of a historical account than a creative work. Biographies, and other nonfiction, don’t conform to the same genre conventions that art or novels do, which is where the problems arise with ghostwriters and books.
Maybe I would consider ghostwriting, just for the money. But never, under any circumstances, would I make that my career or the only creative work I was writing.
Tread lightly, fellow authors,