Ghost Stories

There’s a lot of talk about ghosting going on this weekend. Our friend Sarah Weinman inaugurates her new, web-only column for the Los Angeles times with reviews of several books written by ghosts under their own names. And the ever-present David Montgomery is quoted in an Arizona Republic article on ghosting:

The franchising of Tom Clancy books goes back more than a decade, and ghostwriting is probably as old as Homer. But when even the names of the “collaborators” are accruing value, we appear to have entered a new era in the branding of best-selling authors.

The poster boy for this 21st-century phenomenon is James Patterson, who had eight of the 100 most popular books of 2006, according to USA Today, and is scheduled to release six novels this year – that’s one every two months. The majority of his books are written by “co-authors” who take a detailed outline and flesh it out, then turn it back to Patterson for edits.

[…]Judging from the best-seller lists, however, most readers don’t mind – if they even pay attention. Bibliophiles who devour three novels a week probably have a sense of how the publishing industry works, but casual consumers who pick up the occasional best-seller for 40 percent off at Sam’s Club may not understand that a “collaboration” isn’t 50-50.

“I don’t think any of this matters much to readers. They just want a new James Patterson book,” said Montgomery of “Whether or not this is completely honest on the part of the publishers is another thing.”


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