Monday Musings | Ghostwriting

One More Page Karen Ghostwriting

[I’ve always been fascinated with this topic, so much so that I was a “ghost writer” for Halloween last year…]

I’m not sure about you, but I spend quite a bit of my time thinking about ghostwriters and ghostwriting in general. I have always wondered which books have been penned behind the scenes, so to speak. Two weekends ago, when the news broke that Zoe Sugg (or Zoella, online) had received help in writing her debut novel, Girl Online, the discussion of ghostwriters and ghostwriting was brought to the forefront again.

I’m not here to pass judgement or even throw in my two cents about the Zoella news. But what I do want to ask you is whether knowing a book is ghostwritten affects your enjoyment or perception of the book at all. For me, I think that if the publisher/author is upfront about the project being a collaborative effort, then I wouldn’t mind it. As long as everyone in the partnership feels as though they’ve gained from the experience, I’m not in a place to judge. However, I think I would feel more cheated if I read (and enjoyed) a book only to find out that the words I connected with didn’t belong to the person I was attributing them to.

This brings up another question for me: What’s more important – a story’s ideas, or the words themselves? In Zoella’s case, she has affirmed that all of the characters and storylines are her own, so perhaps this assuages the anger (if there is any)? I’m on the fence about this, but I think it all comes down to transparency. I think that credit should go where credit is due. (I do want to briefly add that Zoella did thank Siobhan Curham, her alleged ghostwriter, in her acknowledgements.)

Ghostwriting is not a new practice, and I’m sure there will always be ghostwriters helping out behind the scenes. Like I mentioned before, I’m not for or against it as long as everyone in the partnership feels fulfilled, but it has been extremely interesting to read the internet’s response as this latest Zoella news broke. I would love to hear what you all think!

Do you care whether something is ghostwritten or not?

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16 thoughts on “Monday Musings | Ghostwriting

  1. Milliebot says:

    I think I care a little bit. I mean, what comes first is the quality of the book. If I love a book, that’s what counts. But, if there’s an author that I’ve been a long time fan of, and I read their latest book and it’s good, but then I find out that someone else actually wrote it, I think I would feel a little cheated. I mean, again, if the book is actually good, I’ll be happy I wrote it, and if the ghost writer doesn’t have a different voice than the author that’s great too. But it almost feels like a lie to say so-and-so wrote it, when they really didn’t. I do think that people should be upfront. Give a co-writing credit right on the cover or something.

  2. Angélique says:

    Everyone has ideas. But ideas aren’t worth much till you can turn it into reality. That part requires skills and work. In literature, we expect authors to come up with the idea AND the skills (the writing). If someone helps you write the book significantly, I would say it’s been co-written and I would want this to be acknowledged. In not doing so, especially with a work of fiction, it looks like the “author” pretends to have skills he has not… It’s also bound to disappoint readers who will think they’ve been tricked. I believe it’s more honest and safer (for your image) to acknowledge co-writing.

  3. Leah says:

    I pretty much agree; ghostwriting is okay if everyone is up front about it and the writer is properly attributed. However, the thing that bugs me about the Zoella controversy is that her book is a NOVEL. I understand why a celebrity might seek out help in writing a memoir — she wants to tell her story but doesn’t have the skills to do it on her own. But a novel? It doesn’t seem right to have an idea for a story, pay someone else to write it, and then claim credit for it. An “author” is a person who writes a book. Just having an idea doesn’t make you an author. You have to do the work. If anything, her book could be looked at as a collaboration — two people contributing their own, different skills to the creation of a book — and it should be attributed as such.

  4. Naomi says:

    This is not something I have thought a lot about. I just assume that if there had been help writing a book, everyone’s names are on the cover. It never occurred to me this isn’t always done. I agree with what everyone else here has already said.

  5. jjoongie says:

    i agree — if a publisher/author is upfront about a collaborative effort, i don’t mind, and it wouldn’t affect my perception of the book/authors/collaborators. i think there are some people who have brilliant, amazing ideas but don’t necessarily have the writing/technical skill to do them justice, so collaboration is a great fix to that. like, with the zoella news — i hadn’t heard of it until i read your post, but i wouldn’t have been bothered if penguin had come out in the beginning and said that she had received help. the fact that they tried to pass it off as her own work when it wasn’t feels disingenuous, though.

    to be honest, i never really thought about ghostwriting (i knew it existed, but i never thought about it), until i read a fascinating article by a woman who ghostwrote for the sweet valley high series. and ghostwriting made sense in that context? because, as far as i know (and correct me if i’m wrong), the books stated “created by francine pascal.”

    in the end, i do think there’s a place for ghostwriting, but i don’t think the novel is the place for it. i understand collaborating, though, but, like others have said, with novels, you [rightly] expect the author to be the author.

    • Karen @ One More Page... says:

      You make some really great points here. I do think that if someone is merely contributing the idea/characters and not writing the bulk of the text that they should be called the “creator” rather than the “author” (as in the Francine Pascal situation). I think that’s fair and everyone gets their credit.

      I have no problem with the act of ghostwriting itself but I do want to know whether a work of fiction has been a collaboration or not. (Though if we’re giving credit to ghostwriters are they really “ghost”writers anymore?)

  6. Alice says:

    I would only care if something is ghostwritten if I wasn’t aware and it was revealed. I don’t think Zoella has done anything wrong, nor does she deserve the mass of negativity she has received, but she did make it seem as if she had written the novel. Gillian Anderson co-wrote a book published earlier in the year and I liked that her author partnership was open and acknowledged, it didn’t impede my enjoyment of the novel at all to know that it wasn’t solely one authors or the other’s.

    • Karen @ One More Page... says:

      I’m with you that I don’t think Zoella deserves the intense negativity she’s received, but I do understand why some fans’ disappointment after hearing the news. I think transparency is the best way to go, but who knows why certain decisions are made over others!

  7. DoingDewey says:

    For me, I think what matters is whether or not I bought the book specifically because I believe the author was someone specific and didn’t know there was a ghostwriter. Sometimes I read a celebrity memoir just because the story sounds interesting and I’m not specifically interested in that celebrity, so I might not mind. But if I picked up a book by a celebrity or author I particularly love, I’d feel let down and misled if I found out later that the book was ghost-written.

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