Ghosts: Frightening

Today, when writer-ghostwriter Laura Young came to speak to the class, I was not expecting my perception of the world to be altered forever. Well…that might be an exaggeration. But I was pretty shocked at the concept of ghostwriters for fiction, not to mention increasingly disillusioned every time Young mentioned another series I’ve read that uses ghostwriters.

Though it would be a logical conclusion to come to, I had never even considered that any of the books I’ve read were written by someone other than the name on the cover would indicate. I have always trusted that The Author once did the physical work of typing out what I read.

I am torn about my feelings on ghostwriting fiction. On one hand, I have read and loved books that were apparently ghostwritten; I would still love the book regardless of who actually wrote it, and I would be glad the book exists (whereas it might not have were it not for a team of ghostwriters). But my more immediate, and stronger, response is horror. I am questioning the integrity of every YA series I’ve ever read.

How can one of these authors betray my trust by outsourcing their story to people whose names usually don’t even appear on or in the books? I imagine the feeling is something like what a teacher catching a student plagiarizing would feel, a student who has supposedly written a phenomenal paper and whom the teacher trusts and expects good work from. That the student has used another’s work doesn’t make the paper any less phenomenal. It ruins the trust the teacher (or, the reader) had in that student (or, an author whose name appears on a ghostwritten book).

So I’m glad books that can capture and entertain young minds exist, regardless of who wrote them. And I’m glad these series do their part in making money for the publishing industry. But I sincerely wish I had some warning when a book was ghostwritten, because the ghostwriter deserves credit for doing the work (a book or series is more than a plot!) and because it changes my opinion of the author taking that credit.

About Ed Battistella

Edwin Battistella’s latest book Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels was released by Oxford University Press in March of 2020.
This entry was posted in History of Publishing Observations, Ideas and Opinions. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ghosts: Frightening

  1. Midge says:

    It’s great to read these responses to Laura Young’s wonderful presentation on ghost writing — this is such a fascinating topic. When I was a girl reading Nancy Drew, I had no idea. I just thought, “Wow, what a prolific writer!” And then when I began working in publishing, I realized just how many books were ghostwritten (including novels for adults, which are even better-kept secrets).

    As a reader, it can be shocking to learn that your favorite books were written by a team instead of an individual — but on the other hand, as a writer, it offers experience (in both writing and the industry) and income, both of which are very important. So it’s a bit of a mixed blessing, I suppose. And I think I’m going to have to pick up a copy of Melanie Rehak’s Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, too!

  2. The ghostwriting posts so far—Melody’s and Courtney’s—are interesting reactions. I do like Laura’s framing of ghostwriting as a paid apprenticeship and the potential challenge of writing in others’ voices. But I can see what is lost from the reader’s perspective when it becomes apparent that the authors are not who the reader imagines them to be. Perhaps part of fiction is the fiction that an author is writing for us.

    I picked up a copy of Melanie Rehak’s Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her and I’m looking forward to the inside scoop on the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

  3. Cassandra Carper says:

    Young exposing ghostwritten series felt like finding out that Santa Claus wasn’t real or the Toothfairy didn’t exist all over again. I was a huge fan of Goosebumps and The Saddle Club as a child and to find that the works I was reading were not that of the name on the cover was, not to be too dramatic, depressing. I personally have nothing against ghostwriters I understand why they do it and why certain series need them, but at the same time I believe credit should be given where credit is due.
    Personally I could never do ghostwriting and not because I wouldn’t be recognized but to have to write some other person’s ideas in their style would be frustrating and to me boring.Ghostwriting feels wrong because it really seems as though it is a form of plagiarism. The real writers aren’t getting any credit for their work and other people are making a better profit off of it than the actual writer.
    For some people this works as Young showed she thoroughly enjoyed what she did and more power to her, but ghostwriting is a concept that will probably cause me strife for years to come.

Comments are closed.