Holiday Short Stories By WWK Authors Presented This Season:

11/30 KM Rockwell's "Holiday Summons"
12/06 "Death By Dictionary" by Gloria Alden
12/12 E. B. Davis's "The Christmas Tree"
12/18 "Femme Fatally Yours" by Paula Gail Benson
12/24 Kara Cerise's "The Ho-Ho Plan"
12/30 "Last Minute Shopping" by Shari Randall

Put A Shaker of Margaritas: That Mysterious Woman on your holiday list. Three WWK authors have short stories in this Mozark Press anthology. Look for "Moving On" by Paula Gail Benson, "Sauna" by KM Rockwell, and "Wishing For Ignorance" by E. B. Davis. Paper or eformat are available at Amazon.

Gloria Alden has released the fourth book, The Body in the Goldenrod, in her Catherine Jewel series. It's available in print and in eformat. Here are two links to the book: Amazon and Kobo. Put it on your "TBR" or Christmas list!

Carla Damron's latest project, THE STONE NECKLACE, a literary novel about five lives that intersect, and are forever changed, by a senseless accident, has been picked up by Story River Books for publication in 2016. Story River is an arm of the University of South Carolina Press and is under the leadership of editor-in-chief author Pat Conroy. Congratulations, Carla!


A great stocking stuffer, Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays is available at Wildside Press or Amazon. This anthology includes short stories by WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances").
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ghostwriting

A Ghostwriter can be loosely defined as a person who writes things such as speeches, books, articles, and social media content on behalf of another person who is credited as the author. It is a long established practice and appears to be a growing trend. According to the Association of Ghostwriters, “…the number of outsourced ghostwriting projects climbed 269% in 2010 and was one of the top 10 biggest movers of the year. The total number of ghostwriting projects posted at Freelancer.com last year climbed from 2,576 to 9,507.”

Focusing on books, there are many categories of ghostwriting. Some of these are: secret ghostwriters (the writer is legally restricted from acknowledging she worked on a project), credited co-authors, books published posthumously and next generation writers where authors’ children continue writing their parents’ book series.

Ghostwritten non-fiction books, especially autobiographies, are fairly common. For instance, John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles in Courage, was penned by his speechwriter, Theodore Sorenson. Fatherhood, authored by actor Bill Cosby, was ghosted by Ralph Schoenstein. Hillary Clinton’s, It Takes a Village, was actually written by Barbara Feinman.

Ghosted fiction books are not unusual either. Carolyn Keene, author of the teen sleuth Nancy Drew mysteries, didn’t actually exist. The books were written by a series of ghostwriters using a template and expected style. Mystery author, Ellery Queen, (the pen-name for two cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee whose names were actually pseudonyms) also didn’t exist.

Today, the trend continues with series such as Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell thrillers. While Tom Clancy’s name is used in the title, the books are credited to David Michaels--a pseudonym created by the publisher. Also, books “written” by deceased authors such as gothic fiction novelist V.C. Andrews, who died in 1986, and thriller author Robert Ludlum who passed away in 2001, continue to be churned out.

In an effort to keep an established author brand name and franchise alive, some children of famous authors continue series their parents began. Thriller author, Clive Cussler, is in the process of handing off his Dirk Pitt series to his son, Dirk Cussler. Science fiction authors, Brian Herbert and Christopher Tolkien continue to write the respective Dune and Middle-earth series their fathers created.

In the past it was common to brand character names like James Bond or Nancy Drew. However, that has changed and author names are now more often branded. The author most well-known for this practice is James Patterson. His current manner of working is to create a vision for each book or series, write a detailed outline then have one of his five regular co-authors who specialize in a Patterson genre, draft chapters and rewrite with Patterson having the final say. It is a streamlined process and some readers complain that his books are too “cookie cutter” lacking the emotional ride of the original books he authored.

In an interesting marketing/brand name twist, the name of Richard Castle, who is a mystery writer character from the television series, CASTLE, is used as the author name on books. On the back of these books is a photo of the actor, Nathan Fillion, who plays Richard Castle and on the back flap is a biography of the fictional Castle’s life and family. The copyright is for Castle ABC studios with no mention of the real author. Who wrote the books? It’s a mystery.

There are advantages and disadvantages to be weighed when considering ghostwriting. Some positive aspects are that the ghostwriter gains experience, gets compensated and is not solely responsible for a book’s success. Several drawbacks are that the writer receives limited or no credit of authorship, needs to be able to write in someone else’s voice and risks being perceived only as a writer for hire.

Also, the use of ghostwriters raises ethical questions. While it is an established practice, some see it as deceitful since it’s not always transparent to the reader who wrote the book. They ask, what is the difference between paying someone to write a book with your name on it and paying someone to take a test for you? In school you would get punished for taking credit for someone else’s work.

But does this harm the reader? Research suggests that most readers don’t care who writes the book as long as it lives up to what they have come to expect from their favorite author. Other readers disagree saying they felt cheated and stopped reading an author once they found out the author was a ghostwriter. Even worse, a few demanded their money back once they discovered that their favorite author was deceased and didn’t write the book they just purchased.

One last thought--it seems the publishing field is becoming more like other creative businesses such as television, music, cinema and advertising. In those industries many people collaborate to produce a product using a shared vision. The most recognizable name or company name receives the credit. Think about your favorite movie or TV show. You probably remember the main actors’ names but it’s doubtful you know the names of everyone who had a hand in making the production including the writers.

How do you feel about ghostwriting? Have you ghosted a book? Would you?

9 comments:

Warren Bull said...

I don't know if I would ghost write. Nobody has asked me but there is a long history of ghost writing mysteries. Ellery Queen was a "house name" used by approximately fourteen authors besides the cousins.

Kara Cerise said...

I had no idea that there was such a long history of ghostwriting mysteries, Warren. I think it would be a challenge to write imitating someone else's voice.

E. B. Davis said...

It's a publishers way of making more money off the concept, forgetting about the writer, the concept's creator. I'm not happy with ghostwriting, I think of it as sort of a cheat.

Even in biographies, if the subject can't write, I think that the project should be turned over in its entirety to a writer. The subject could have the right of approval since without the subject the writer wouldn't have had the intimacy of the subject. They would also have to come to financial agreement, but the work would have more integrity.

Kara Cerise said...

I'm torn about ghostwriting, E.B. Having worked in advertising, I understand the concepts of branding and collaboration. However, it gives me pause when a publisher isn't being forthcoming about the true author of a book.

In the future I hope that publishers become more transparent about who really authored a book or article to ensure the book's integrity.

E. B. Davis said...

Before buying, I always check who owns the copyright. If the author isn't listed or an individual (if the cover has a pseudonym), I think twice about buying. That's not to say the book would be bad, but I think when a writer's work is on the line--it's clearly their work--they might put more effort into it.

I hate buying a book to find out that the concept originated by the publisher and was given to a writer as an assignment. I feel like I'm reading canned pap, which it usually is. The writer should be the creator, and this concept should be reinforced by the buying public. Which I think is the reason that epublishing is taking off. The books are varied, not the generic spy, covert agent, private eye, etc. books.

I realize though that a recent Agatha winner's book was written by assignment. My sympathies.

Pauline Alldred said...

I'm not sure whether the ghost writer benefits at all from all his efforts. There's always the risk that a person could remain a ghost writer forever. Why would anyone want to look at their original work?

Kara Cerise said...

It does sound like there is a risk of being seen solely as a ghostwriter. Maybe they use multiple names to avoid that situation?

Warren Bull said...

Ellery Queen novels by the various writers were reviewed by one of the creators of EQ and rarely included the character of EQ. They were, by and large, excellent mysteries and I guess the cousins paid well because some top notch authors wrote more than one. I think it was an "open secret" so no stigma was attached to writing one. The cousins and the writers both made money on it.

Marcia Layton Turner said...

Ghostwriting can be a lucrative niche for writers who don't care about whether their name is on the cover. In most cases, the idea originates with the client or author and it is the ghostwriter's challenge to convey the desired information in the author's voice. As long as the information provided in the book or article or blog post represents what the author wanted to say, rather than the writer's point of view, I'm not sure I see the harm. But then, as a ghostwriter myself, I'm certainly biased.