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,
Olivia J, The WordShaker is just that: a word shaker. She is a writer, artist, creative extraordinaire, and skilled in the ways of procrastination and being too blunt. She’s going to be a loving wife, mother, published author, speaker, and professional adventurer someday – and whatever else God has in store for her. Olivia has had three short stories published in her high school’s writing journal, and received merit awards for her art in numerous art shows, started and fosters her own creative writing club at her high school, and plans to go to the Savannah College of Art and Design.
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How awesome is this Wordshaker!? 🙂 What do you think about ghostwriting? Does it add or detract to the literary world? Check out my Defense of Ghostwriting on her site (don’t forget to follow her while you’re at it!), then join the convo in the comments below.
One of the first moments where I felt I could actually be a successful writer (read: read writer) was when I was published in my college’s student publication Impressions. As if publication was not enough, I tied for second place in that issue with my best college friend. While it was a small accomplishment, I’m still quite proud of my poem. I feel like it sums up my college career, as well as conveys my view on the importance and tension of Author/Reader/Text interpretation. Enjoy!
A Poem: Analyze This
You pick up a poem and start reading.
Perhaps you take pleasure in the written word,
perhaps you wish to appear intelligent,
or perhaps you were unaware of the content
until you’d begun.
Regardless, you’re reading now.
Refusing to be bested by mere words on a page,
you begin your subconscious mission
to conquer the text,
crack the code,
find the pirate’s elusive X.
Perhaps you start with the author – me.
You find that I recently ended
a serious relationship with a devoted fan,
which suggests the poem is written
in first and second person to design
a connection between reader and writer,
compensating for the woeful solitude I now face.
(Funny, if I had my biography contain different
facts – I was in the middle of Calvino’s
If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller
while writing the poem,
or I receive brilliant writing ideas at 2:30am,
only to wake up later and realize
“Why Wrestling a Hippo is an Artistic Prey”
doesn’t even make sense as a sentence,
let alone as a writing topic –
you would come up with an entirely
different reading of my poem.)
I’m sure how much I’ve published
before will affect your reading as well.
Since I’ve never been published,
your reaction may be
“no wonder it’s a simple failure”
or perhaps “why isn’t more of her literary genius
published?…the brilliant complexities!”
But enough about me.
You’ve finally decided
to look at the poem itself.
What do you think of its length?
You decide the poem’s concepts
are exquisitely drawn out and explored.
Or you think the author – I –
didn’t edit enough to cut out
the useless nonsense from the gems.
Of course you look at imagery, too.
A fighting hippo, fortune teller,
and treasure-hunting pirate come to your mind.
Perhaps the poem conveys the problem
with stereotyping and making assumptions
from one aspect of a person’s life.
(And I am sure one day, critics will debate
if “fighting hippo” refers to an African version
of Steve Irwin or to sumo wrestlers.
But that’s beside the point.)
By now you may have a mental image
of me as a crazed gypsy, gazing
into a crystal ball, what with my mix
of predicting and guiding your thoughts
the entire time. Or maybe the “you” I refer to
is no longer you, the reader you, but another “you”
than you, “you” merely being “you” the reader, “you,”
of my imagination, while you are flesh-and-blood
you. But let me assure you, actual reader, in case
you are troubled – I am not in your head.
Now on you go with your reading; after all,
it would be a shame for your analysis
to end so soon. So you move on,
tackling my use of rhyme scheme.
You discover that rhyme is rarely used,
but alliteration needs no X to be noticed.
P’s in “pick up a poem,”
B’s in “be bested by,”
X’s in “exquisitely explored,”
or B’s in “bunch of bull,” among many others.
You pick up the notion that a struggle is being
explored in these phrases, perhaps a tension
between the deepness of text
and the exquisite ideas actually conveyed.
Or maybe that’s a bunch of bull utilized
to convince you that this one poem
of mine has some literary value.
But wouldn’t it irk you, dear reader,
to get to the last page of my lengthy biography,
after multiple readings and careful critical analysis
of my only poem, only to discover that I
had written the entire thing in just one brief sitting?
What do you think?
Where do we find out interpretation of writings? Through authorial intent, through text alone, through reader engagement? Share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear.