Ghost-Writing…or whoring?

I heard a minute of an interview with Jennie Erdal, the author of GHOSTING: A DOUBLE LIFE, on NPR today. Interviewer Scott Simon called ghost-writing "as old as literature and sometimes just about as reputable as the world’s oldest profession." Is ghost-writing really comparable to being a prostitute?

10 thoughts on “Ghost-Writing…or whoring?”

  1. I don’t believe in ghost writers. It’s like a producer giving you the outline of the story and asking you to make a feature script out of it. I think the person who comes up with the idea is the artist. The ghost writer is the artisan.

  2. You can’t really compare scriptwriting with novel writing… they’re totally different animals. Besides, ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s the execution that reveals the art of it, if there is any.
    As for ghostwriting in general… I tend to think of it as a fraud perpetrated on the reading public. People don’t seem to mind, though.

  3. For me, it depends. How involved is the person who “writes” the book? For instance, William Shatner, every ghost basher’s favorite punching bag, usually maps out the novel, then goes over every chapter as it’s completed. I understand Patterson does the same, and also writes the final draft so it sounds consistent. I’m not a big fan of this method, but I can see why some would want to use it. I haven’t seen anything spectacular come out of this arrangement though.
    On the other hand, Robert Tannenbaum is apparently completely uninvolved with his work. And after reading his cousin’s TROPIC OF NIGHT, I’m not so sure Tannenbaum’s taking credit wasn’t criminal. Then again, the arrangement did give Gruber 25 years of practice.
    Generally, I’m not too crazy about someone slapping their name on a book someone else wrote without any involvement on it whatsoever. And there’s too many of those around.

  4. *cough* Pamela Anderson, David Blaine? *cough* some ghostly examples…
    I agree, ghostwriting tricks the reading public into thinking that they are going to enjoy the genius of the author when really, s/he didn’t really write it!

  5. I’ve ghosted several books, one of which became a highly regarded TV movie which I had nothing to do with and which–to be honest–was about 199 times better than the piece of crap book I wrote. My last ghost job was years ago but I don’t feel any guilt or shame for having done them. If you write full-time and have less than a dictator’s bank account, you have from time to time to take on work you don’t especially care about. I gave each book my best as a craftsman and then forgot about it. I don’t put them on the shelf of my own books because they AREN’T my own books. But they helped put food on the table and gasoline in the car and put something against college tuition bills so I was certainly grateful to be assigned them.

  6. I see nothing wrong with ghosting nonfiction books. When you hire an accountant to do your taxes, you are the one who signs the tax return and is responsible for it (though he signs it too). Why did you hire him? Because he is a tax expert and you’re not. In a similar fashion, if the person whose name is going on the front cover of a book provides the content, and you simply write it so that it’s publishable, how is that any different? If Mr. Baseball Star wants to put out a book and his publisher agrees, are they really going to expect HIM to write it? The writer is simply providing a needed service in this case. Ghosting novels is a different story. I wouldn’t sign on to ghost a novel. I’d write my own.

  7. Was there any “author” whose stock rose as a result of authorizing a ghost-written book? If so, that would be wrong, but I can’t imagine anyone seriously saying, “Boy, that Bill Shatner really can write.”

  8. Anything for money, as long as its in English.
    No, no. I hate the whole stinking practice, even though I have effectively done it.
    “Pamela Anderson’s Brain Surgery for Beginners” should not be published. It is a lie, and the person who buys it may have a hand hovering over a genuine book before making the choice.
    There is a space for celebrity books in which the celeb is an expert. “Tiger Woods on the Staying Fit for Golf” is fine. But it needs some kind of acknowledgement that the writing was done by XXX in conversation with Tiger.. and also involved interviews with YY and ZZ to bring you these brilliant insights.
    What is more: what about researchers, for the love of Mike? In any respectable part of the film and television industry, everyone who works on a show gets named, sometimes to ludicrous extents. I don’t see why the author of a book can’t put in a list of principal researchers.
    “This book relied on the faithful labour of many researchers. The ones who were socialised enough to actually talk were… etc”
    You know what I mean.
    Oh, and editors. Why the hell can’t they be credited. Some books name the type they are printed in – but not the patient soul who turned what may be garbage into lucid prose.
    Boy am I cranky today.

  9. As a reader I felt cheated by the Tanenbaum/Gruber eclat. I can understand the circumstances that lead to their first ghosted book, but I don’t understand why they couldn’t simply make it a coproduction. As far as further writings by Gruber, but sold under Tanenbaum’s name goes, I think Tanenbaum is a fraud and Gruber shouldn’t have agreed to this scheme.
    And I second Mr Tiley’s notion on crediting researchers and editors.


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