Discussion: Ghostwriting – Where Do I Stand On the Matter?

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First off, I’d like to say that I do not have anything against people who choose to use ghostwriters to pen their novel. Not at all. And, neither would it stop me from reading a book I’d want to purely because it’s ghostwritten.

To each their own, right?

So I’m sure you all know what semi-recent event prompted this blog post, and therefore I’m not going to mention the “author” / title. But at the same time it’s really hard to congratulate someone on their amazing sales on a novel when – in fact – they have not written it. Yes, the ghostwriter would have received advances and / or a lump payment . . . but what else? Any royalties? Credit? I mean, if something I’d ghostwritten outsold freaking JK Rowling in one week, then hell! I’d some want credit, thank you very much.

Again – no offence / hate is aimed at people’s decision to use a ghostwriter.

But you know what? As a writer, I find it really insulting.

I am a very strong-opinionated person, and I’m really not sure whether I’m going to regret posting this later, but I am of the strong opinion that if you want to write a book, then you should write it yourself. Obviously, you’re going to need editorial advice from a publisher, agent, and maybe even some critique partners, but essentially, you’re writing it yourself.

. . . But having it ghostwritten? Seems to me like it’s choosing the easiest way.

Sure, the story might be based on your ideas and characters. It might have been read through and approved by you. But it’s not you. Essentially, it’s not your words on the page – it’s theirs. A writer writes because they love it. A writer writes because they have a story to tell. A writer spends days, months – even years – turning over plot ideas and characters and sentences. And I have to ask myself: Why would you even want to publish a novel if you’re not willing to actually write the novel? What’s the point? Yes, the story might include your characters and ideas . . . but not your words. Not you.

Take it from a writer herself: It’s one thing to have an idea of stories and characters . . . but it takes a whole other lot of effort to get it down on paper the way you imagined it.

So, people of the interwebs — what do you think of ghostwriting?

All opinions are welcome!


33 thoughts on “Discussion: Ghostwriting – Where Do I Stand On the Matter?

  1. I would never want to have one of my books ghostwritten because, like you said, if it was ghostwritten, the story wouldn’t be me. All of my stories have a part of me in them, and if someone else wrote a story that was published under my name, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it. No matter how successful the book, I wouldn’t feel accomplished at all. Great discussion, Kara!

  2. I can see why people who aren’t very good at writing might want their stuff to be ghostwritten, but I don’t think I could be a ghostwriter, probably just because I wouldn’t have any sympathy for them. :/ Also, my work, my rules. The end.

    • Honestly, I think if someone isn’t a good writer, and they want to publish a novel, then shouldn’t they just write and write and write until they improve? Ech, I don’t know. I guess if they’re comfortable with that decision, then fine, but I just find it a little strange! I couldn’t be a ghostwriter either!

  3. Great discussion Kara – this has definitely come out to be a controversial topic due to recent events last year, and although I can see why people may choose ghost-writing as an option, I certainly wouldn’t do it myself. There is definitely so much work involved for an author to get their ideas onto paper, and although they may agree to ghost-write and be in the shadows, there are many more out there who want their work to be recognised because of the effort *they* put in.

  4. While I have nothing against ghostwriting, I would not want to be a ghostwriter or have a ghostwriter write my book for me… It just makes me cringe thinking about not getting the recognition I deserve or getting the recognition that someone else deserves.

    From a publishers point of view, it makes sense that some books are ghostwritten especially if a book stands to make a lot of money due to a large fan-base already existing like the incident you are talking about. In fact, it only started bothering me when everybody talked about how J.K. Rowling was outsold. Of course that would happen, J.K. Rowling had no fanbase when she published the first book, she was an unknown. Whereas this person already had millions of fans on other platforms and was bound to sell a lot of copies if a book was published under their name.

    • Yes, I don’t have anything against people who chose to use / be a ghostwriter, I just think it’s so . . . odd. You are completely around about that! From a business point of view it makes so much sense; especially, like you said, if the person in question has already garnered a substantial fanbase, then publishers are obviously going to jump on the chance to publish something with them. Business is business. But is it morally right? I’m not so sure.

  5. You know I have read about this many times and while a lot of authors are getting looked at badly for hiring ghost writers, Im not sure I find the idea all that bad if both parties agree. Believe it or not now a days thats what James Patterson is doing. And while I wont read his novels anymore because of it, I still find that to be the authors/ghostwriters decision. Now, atleast Patterson gives the person credit who writes his outlines, I personally find it to be lazy and its not his work since he has whoever it is at the time write his outlines. It makes me wonder if any of his novels were actually his or of he always had someone writing his outline.
    Anyway back on subject, I can see why there are ghostwriters and why authors hire them, and if both parties agree and the actual author is ok with not getting credit then so be it.

    • “When it comes to writing, he has a well-practiced system: he writes a detailed outline and then hires someone—often a former colleague from his advertising days—to write the ensuing scenes, usually in 30 to 40 page chunks. He will review those pages every few weeks, sometimes providing notes on them” see people dont look at patterson doing it because he does give credit to tue person writing his outline, but I still find it to be wrong that he makes 80M a yr when the people who slave over his outlines probably dont make that. Hes able to put out 12 books a yr because of the multiple people he has writing with him.

      • Yes, people who choose to have their ghostwriters do have get a bit of a stigma attached to them, don’t they? And you’re right — if both parties agree, then you wouldn’t think it to be a problem. But, yeah, from a personal point of view I’m not fond of the idea. I’d heard that Patterson had a ghostwriter — so does LJ Smith (author of The Vampire Diaries, I think? I could be completely wrong about this one.) I think credit is a MUST. Regardless of whether the ghostwriter is being paid or not, it’s a) polite, and b) the “author” is technically claiming work as their own, when in fact it ISN’T, and this bothers me. A lot.

        Thanks for dropping by!

      • I totally agree. Now LJ Smith did write Vampire diaries someone I think if Im correct hired her to write the stories then when they fired her they continued using her name. I think thats right. Now Nancy Drew is a pen name as well for multiple ghost writers. I dont know its all in opinion, but like I said I do agree with you, give credit where credit is due

  6. I think that ghostwriting should only be done in non-fiction. Non-fiction is more about getting information out there, and I understand that there are people who have information to be shared but don’t have the skill to share it. That would be fine, but I think ghostwriters should always be given credit, and I never think that they should be doing fiction. The point of fiction is to write things yourself, to be a writer. Having an idea means nothing, millions of people have ideas every day, but nothing comes from it if they don’t follow through. I know it’s a strong opinion, but I really hate when people claim to be authors but actually use ghostwriters. If you haven’t written the story yourself, you’re not a writer. It’s one thing to do it after you’re rich and famous and successful, then it’s obvious that you’re a writer but you’re now just lazy and want to make even more money, but to start out with a ghostwriter is basically the same as stealing someone else’s work and claiming that you wrote it. Yes, it’s not illegal like that, but you don’t deserve the recognition for the work you didn’t do. Basketball players can’t have substitutes run in and make a basket then claim the point as their own, so why do writers think it’s okay?

    … /rant

    • Oh, you make such a good point about non fiction! I’d never really thought of that before. But yes, that makes much more sense; getting important / helpful information out there in an articulate manner is important. I agree with EVERYTHING you said. It’s weird, isn’t it? It’s so, so close to “stealing” someone’s intellectual property, but because the other party has been paid / agreed to it, it’s absolutely fine. Which makes sense in some respects. But it does not sit well with me, personally, AT ALL. And it does come across as being a bit lazy, doesn’t it? They’re willing to reap the rewards — but not actually put the effort in to make a novel. I mean, at the very least the actual writer deserves some credit.

      Thank you for the comment!

  7. Strange that I just posted a discussion on something similar, but it wasn’t about ghostwriters. Anyways, I agree that I won’t really respect an “author” that has someone else write for him/ her, and then takes all the credit for him/ herself (because it just makes you more of a figurehead than an actual author).

    And just out of curiosity, what was the semi-recent event you were talking about?

    • From a business point of view — I think it makes perfect sense, you know? I mean, an unknown isn’t going to sell as well as a person with an already there fanbase. But yeah I hate the idea that they’re just taking all the credit.

      I’m referring to “Girl Online” which was released late last year. :)

  8. Hey, I’m a new reader and I just wanted to say that your blog looks pretty cool and I’m going to be a returning reader from now on c:
    Also, let me know if you want to do the whole follow on GFC thing c:
    Little Moon Elephant

  9. I would NEVER have someone ghost write a book of mine for me. Just…no. I know that it is technically legal and all, but I would still feel guilty, like I was a cheater somehow. Great post!

  10. Spoken like a true word lover! I don’t like it when books are ghostwritten at all, it just doesn’t settle with me. Writing is a craft, not “just” a publicity stunt as some seem to think it is. Really hits the feels of a literature lover when a book is said to have been ghostwritten, but I guess, for the majority of the public, it means nothing. Unless you fully believe that writing is an art ghostwritten remains a technical term and a tool rather than the blasphemy that I regard it as! :( The world needs to love books a little more…

  11. Totally understand and loved this post. I also think it’s a matter of morals and ethics as well. Sometimes I question how someone can maintain this facade of ignorance and go about pretending like they were the sole contributor to the book, despite the public largely knowing of the ghost writing. That’s what really bothers me. I know we can’t vanquish it all together so I appreciate it more when the second author is accredited on the cover. That’s where I stand. But if anything, I’d prefer it didn’t happen. But we live in a consumerist society. People got to eat, unfortunately.

    • Thank you, Jess!

      You are so right. And it makes me so, so angry. I think — simply put — it’s wrong to claim someone else’s work as your own… regardless of if both parties have agreed to it. But yes, business is business, and the aim is to make a profit — not to be morally / ethically correct.

  12. I totally agree. I feel so awful for the ghostwriter because they don’t get the recognition. I can’t even support someone who had something ghostwritten because I don’t want to give the wrong person credit for their work.

  13. I don’t understand the first thing about ghostwriting, other than it’s misleading. Is it just the marketing? Having a unknown author behind the public figure that is representing the book? Why? We’re not that vapid where we don’t take a chance on little known authors, actually, I’m more often than not unlikely to read something that’s been ghostwritten. It feels wrong and that it’s just greed based to exploit someone’s popularity to make as much money as possible.

    Brilliant post Kara <3

    • I’d say a lot of it would have to do with marketing / using a popular figure to garner hype and interest around the book. Because logically, people are going to buy a book if they’ve followed that person for some time, yes? And therefore the publishing company is going to earn more than an unknown, I suppose. And it does feel awfully greedy, doesn’t it? But eh, I guess it’s not going to change. Even so, that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

      Thank you! :)

  14. Ghostwriting isn’t something that I approve of. After being written by someone else, even if it is your ideas, to me, it doesn’t feel like your story to tell anymore. It become someone else’s project and I don’t think you can stake a claim to it anymore. Because if you do want to write, it has to be coming from you: from YOUR heart, YOUR words and YOUR voice. It feels like such a cheap way to get something published because the author’s NAME sold the book and not the plot or characters.

  15. I haven’t really thought of it…I understand ghost writing for politicians and queens and things. But not really for anyone else. I think I know the book you’re kind of talking about? And yes. that is odd. I feel like ghost writing would be a sucky job. I would always feel super frustrated especially if my book did well but nothing would ever go to me for it. I think it’s important to KNOW a book is ghost written. It shouldn’t be covered up. That feels like cheating otherwise.

  16. I think it’s mainly celebrities that use ghost writers. And the publishers love to take on celebrities, even though a ghost writer had to write the actual book, because it brings in the big dollars. For some reason that doesn’t annoy me as much as writers like James Patterson. Do you notice there is another name on all of his books? That’s because he plots the book and then gets the other person to actually write it. Yet he gets all the credit. Some children’s books that have a huge number of books written in a series, have lots of writers writing them that are hired by the publishing company and have one pseudonym name on the cover. I guess writers do that in order to make more money. But I’m not sure if I could ghost write. If I’ve written it, I want my name on it.

  17. The only thing I hate about ghostwriting is that the ghostwriter doesn’t get enough recognition. I get it, a celebrity will give a lot of publicity and if they can’t write for shit, then a ghostwriter is just the most obvious solution. However, the ghostwriter wasn’t mentioned AT ALL in my whole copy of Girl Online. And like, the writing wasn’t even that good. At least get a good ghostwriter. ==’ And plus, it only outsold the first Harry Potter book. Not that amazing. JK Rowling didn’t have millions of followers before her book. Sorry for the unintended rant haha! To be honest, I generally don’t mind ghostwriting when it’s like “Elixir by Hilary Duff with Ghostwriters Name Here” because it makes it clear that she had help. In the case of Girl Online, she made it seem like she did it all by herself. Especially since she kept emphasising “I used to read all the time.”

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