Ghostwriters

Blowback

25 February 2019

From Fall Into The Story:

Current totals on #copypastecris as of this morning: 51 books, 34 authors.

Blowback’s inevitable when you go public–especially on social media–about any issue.

With this one, I’m finding (unsurprisingly) people who object, complain, or smack at me and others tend to be protecting their own interests.

It’s all, yes! Fix this, fight this, go after the crooks and scammers, make the system fair. But don’t talk about or criticize or upset my personal apple cart.

Ghostwriters aren’t to blame, stop being mean to us!

The profession itself is certainly not to blame. But that profession is being used and abused by scammers, and by those willing to ghostwrite ebooks fast and cheap, often for the same ‘author’ who then tosses up multiple books a month.

They couldn’t generate those books, crushing the honest self-published writers without the ghosts who provide the service. So stop providing the service if you’re an honest person.

I’m not, and was very careful not to toss the entire profession or honest ghosts or work-for-hire authors in that same muck. But the practice of hiring ghosts, the practice of ghostfarms to generate scam books has to be exposed.

This is a cheat to the honest writer and to the reader.

. . . .

Free or cheap books. I explained my thoughts on this as best I could. The reason so many self-pubbed must give away or sell their honest work so cheap is BECAUSE the scammers exploit a weak, flawed system. A readership now accustomed to fast and cheap demand it. And many of those readers don’t understand an actual writer can’t produce a book a week.

Link to the rest at Fall Into The Story

PG notes that Fall Into The Story is “The official blog for Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb readers”. The author of this particular blog post is “Nora”.

PG didn’t have a post category for ghostwriters on TPV but has just added one.

Here’s an excerpt from one of Jane Friedman’s posts, entitled What to Expect When Hiring a Ghostwriter written as a “guest post is from author and ghostwriter Stacy Ennis”:

When I see a new book by a celebrity or politician, my first thought is always the same: I wonder what professional writer behind the scenes helped make it happen.

That’s because I am one of those writers. I’ve written hundreds of articles and several books—almost all for other people. Sometimes I’m credited on a piece and sometimes I’m not; clients choose what works best for them. When you see a book “written by John Adams with Grace Allan,” for example, chances are Grace wrote most of the book but John was a close collaborator.

Ghostwriting is a fantastic option for people who have valuable ideas to share but lack the time, energy, or skill to put them into written form. Working with a ghost can have benefits beyond the final content, too. Many ghostwriting clients find that the interview process helps them develop clarity about their methods, business, and brand. Explaining their ideas to someone else forces them to articulate and clarify—something these busy professionals often don’t take the time to slow down and do. Often, powerful written content (like an article or a book) feels like a bonus.

. . . .

Here’s the thing: ghostwriting is far from inauthentic. The process of ghostwriting a book typically involves deep engagement by the named author. While, yes, someone else sits down and “does the work” of putting words on the page, the process requires a high level of intellectual involvement from both parties.

When I ghostwrite a book, I strive to embody my client’s voice. I pore over hundreds of pages of interview transcripts, looking for patterns. I piece together ideas. I build on my client’s genius. Although I write the initial words, we are very much co-creators. This is reflected in the fact that most ghostwriting clients leave the process feeling like they wrote the book—only they typically save more than 300 hours of time in the actual writing process.

. . . .

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that ghostwriting isn’t cheap. The return, though, is usually many times the investment. While most clients often won’t make their money back in book sales, publishing a (great) book will often yield bigger clients, better speaking engagements, and even entirely new business opportunities. I can say this from personal experience, both from publishing my own book and watching the success of dozens of clients over the years.

So, what does it actually cost? According to Writer’s Market, hiring a ghostwriter for a book that includes the writer’s name—the “with” or “as told to” on the cover—ranges from $22,800 to $80,000. If no credit is given, that range jumps to $36,200 to $100,000. These amounts can slide higher or lower depending on the book’s length and complexity. Hourly rates for shorter content like magazine articles or blog posts are right around $100 per hour. Keep in mind that ghostwriters for hourly projects bill for interviews, e-mails, and phone calls in addition to writing time.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG will note the obvious vis-à-vis Ms. Serruya, there is a perceived difference between hiring a ghostwriter on Writer’s Market vs. hiring ghostwriter on Fiverr.

But what is that difference?

If Kim Kardashian writes an erudite book about the increasing tension between the United States and China, a great many people will assume she made heavy use of a ghostwriter. That was certainly the case with Snooki’s first book, published by Simon and Schuster a few years ago.

The New York Times even wrote about it:

Aspiring fiction writers, don’t take it too hard, but the Kardashian sisters, best known for their skill in cozying up to reality-show cameras, are about to publish their first novel.

“As wild as our real lives may seem on TV, just wait to read what we’ve dreamed up to deliver between the covers of our first novel,” Kourtney, Kim and Khloé said in a statement last week, announcing that William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, would publish a novel they had written.

. . . .

Like a branded fragrance or clothing line, the novel — once quaintly considered an artistic endeavor sprung from a single creative voice — has become another piece of merchandise stamped with the name of celebrities, who often pass off the book as their work alone despite the nearly universal involvement of ghostwriters. And the publishing industry has been happy to oblige.

“Publishers are smart enough to cash in where it’s appropriate,” said Ira Silverberg, a literary agent. “The question, I think, for many of us is: Is it simply commerce and we should laugh it off? Or does it take a slot away from a legitimate writer?”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

PG understands the original eruption about Ms. Serruya derived from accusations that significant portions of at least one of her books were plagiarized from novels written by others.

However, when Ms. Serruya mentioned a presumed ghostwriter she hired on Fiverr, the scorn storm turned into Mount Pinatubo.

If Snooki was accused of plagiarism in one of her three books, what would the reaction be when she blamed her ghostwriter?

For an author of fiction, when is it proper to use a ghostwriter and when is it improper?

PG doesn’t follow James Patterson closely, but has lately noticed several books that list Patterson as the author in large type on the cover and another name, presumably a co-author, but maybe a ghostwriter, below Patterson’s. If we’re dealing with what others might call a ghostwriter doing what ghostwriters often do, PG thinks listing the ghostwriter is a nice move by Patterson since most celebrities effectively claim full credit for ghostwritten books.

As an aside, in a recent Patterson novel, The President is Missing, Patterson cedes the top position on the cover to Bill Clinton. What are we to assume about Mr. Clinton’s role in creating the book if he’s listed on top? Are Clinton and Patterson really coauthors or is Patterson an acknowledged ghostwriter? Is there another unacknowledged ghostwriter in the background?

To be clear, PG doesn’t approve of any sort of plagiarism. It is a form of theft and anyone participating should be condemned.

Additionally, in an era where a Google search will generate a long list of online plagiarism checkers, plagiarism is a really stupid thing to do if you’re a freshman at State U or a romance author.

OTOH, in a genre as packed with tropes as romance, innocent similarities in character types, recurring plot elements, etc., are certain to occur. Romance author Mindy Klasky has a long list of romance tropes on her website.

While plagiarism is an old story, PG is interested in the ethical considerations that apply to a fiction author who uses a ghostwriter. He would be interested in thoughts from the visitors to TPV in the comments.