Monday, December 8, 2014

Everybody's an author. Even those who aren't.

There's quite a bit of buzz right now about a particular book by a first-time author that's managed to break the all-time record for the most copies of a book sold by a debut author in a week.  Yep, Zoe Sugg managed to beat out heavyweights like J. K. Rowling, Dan Brown, and E. L. James to claim that title with her debut novel, Girl Online.

The only problem is, she didn't actually write the book.  A ghostwriter did.

I don't really have anything against ghostwriters, per se.  I've read and enjoyed ghostwritten books.  The Nikki Heat series by Richard Castle is ghostwritten by necessity... since Richard Castle doesn't actually exist.  I find this less annoying than, say, some of the current crop of new "authors" who are little more than celebrities who are looking for yet another way to cash in.  (That's the main reason I never read Elixir, even though its subject matter sounds like something I might enjoy.)

What really bothers me about this whole situation, though, is how some people are viewing it.  (As if readers needed another divisive issue...)

Some of the comments from a few of the more rabid defenders of Ms. Sugg actually suggest that books aren't about the writing.  They're all about the idea for the story and the characters.  The actual writing isn't important at all, and that's why the ghostwriter doesn't get any credit.

Wait a sec.  You mean, if I could convince one of my favourite authors to take one of my ideas and write a book with it, I could put my name (and only my name) on it and collect all the royalties?  Awesome!

Oh, wait.  I'm not famous.  Drat.

In all seriousness, though, ideas and ideas for characters are just that: ideas.  They'll turn out differently depending on which author fleshes them out with actual words.  Just look at Wizard's Hall and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.  Or Twilight and Evermore.  If the idea was the only important thing, then the world would've been satisfied with Jane Yolen's take on the wizarding world and Stephenie Meyer might've sued Alyson Noël into oblivion for ripping off... well, pretty much everything.

What's even sadder are the comments from people who claim that "most authors" use ghost writers.  I'm sure that would come as a surprise to those who spend countless hours toiling in front of a blank page or computer screen, trying to get the words just right, so they can share their creations with the world.  Everyone has to start somewhere.  Most debut "authors" don't get an editorial team holding their hand every step of the way, let alone someone writing their book for them.  Celebrity has its perks, and it appears that Ms. Sugg took advantage of them.  And while she was open about the fact that she had help, I still find the reaction of her fans disturbing; it's an insult to all the authors out there who worked hard and actually wrote their own books.  Not only do instances like this make people think that anyone can "write" a best-selling book and get it published, it makes them think that it's easy to do.

And if you're not a famous vlogger, it's probably not.

Where do you stand on ghostwriters and ghostwritten books?  What about celebrities who use their status to land a publishing deal?  Do you feel that's okay... or is it unfair?


  1. What do you mean Richard Castle doesn't exist?! hehe I love Fillion!

    The whole Ghost Writing thing is a bit silly, but if that writer wants to use a famous person's name/idea to sell a book, that's their choice and they probably get paid well too. At least people read their writing even if their name doesn't get out there.

    I agree with you though an idea is the easy part it's the writing that is hard work and what actually makes the story. I had no IDEA how hard a book would be to perfect after I'd written my rough draft.

    Patterson does that a lot now, but at least the ghost writer gets their name on the cover and I think he does more than provide the idea.

    1. Yeah, I've heard that about Patterson... and I don't really have a problem with it if the ghostwriter gets credit. I mean, all they did was come up with 100,000+ words and arrange them all into coherent sentences. No big deal, right? :)