Of Ghosts and Greed


ghostwrittenAnother bout of irritation is erupting about the amount of celebrities ‘writing’ books and picking up fat cheques for doing so. People are not, on the whole, overly annoyed about those who employ a lot of help when producing their own life stories because it’s widely understood that not everyone who has an interesting history and something to say is also gifted with sufficient writing chops to write that stuff down.

It’s more understandable that people, particularly fiction authors, dislike ghostwritten fiction with a famous name slapped on the cover. (Yes, of course, fair enough that some people who are famous for something other than writing may also want to write and be at least adequate at it). But this is something that’s been going on for years – Naomi Campbell’s novel Swan was published in 1994 (a piss-taking interviewer asked her at a fashion show if she’d found time to read it yet). More recently, make-up vlogger Zoella produced a novel, also with considerable ghostwriting assistance and also with considerable attached controversy.

It’s not hard to see why ghostwritten fiction attracts criticism. There are already problems with the way book publishing squeezes out potentially wonderful writers who just don’t happen to have connections. Writing a novel, particularly, is one of those things that a lot of people don’t so much want to *do* as to *have done*, often despite the fact that they have very little of interest to say. Another reason to disapprove of the practice is that, when someone just isn’t very interesting or imaginative, even though famous, the novel theyghostwritten get paid for is likely to be enormously generic, with a plot bolted together by the marketing, rather than the editorial department, and handed to a ghostwriter who will have self-trained in erasing any trace of truly individual voice in their own work.

These days, there are even options available to the unknown lazy, greedy, wannabe author. though if you try to pull this off via self-publishing, you get pretty much cancelled when you are caught out and quite rightly if you opt for straighforward plagiarism. If you’re rich and famous-for-something-else, the worst you might get for a bog-standard ghostwritten novel is a bit of derision. And a big bag of money.

Maybe the answer lies in our own book-buying habits, which should involve a bit more hunting out interesting books and supporting indie publishers. That way we are more likely to get more of both in the future.

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