Investigated – Ghostwriters and Pseudonyms

Posted January 5, 2015 by Emz Chang in Investigated / 6 Comments

investigated

Ghostwriters. Urgh. I did a previous post a while ago sorta on the same topic, Ghostwriters and Co-authors. But I want to do a refresher course because I feel like people often confuse the difference between a book written by a ghostwriter and a book written under a pseudonym. And then there was that issue with Girl Online by Zoe Sugg…

What is a ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is a person who contributes to writing a book but the credit goes to someone else. Seriously, they are not recognized for writing the book. Sometimes they are given a “special thank you” or “this book would not be possible without” but beyond that they are… nobodies 🙁 unless the author admits the book(s) have been ghostwritten.

Why are ghostwriters used?

They are usually used because the author (whose name is on the cover) doesn’t want to or can’t write a book themselves but they are well known. Basically publishers are using the name of the “author” to push the book and gain popularity which in turn will reel in the cash which is (sadly) what everybody wants at the end. Sometimes the “author” is a celebrity (or well known). Whether they are from Hollywood, the music industry, YouTube, other social media, or famous, well known authors, they all have one thing in common. Loads of fans. And let’s not forget exposure and popularity. They have the type of fans that will buy books without a second thought. And as sad as it may be, sometimes those “celebrities” just do not possess the writing capabilities needed to write a write a good, readable novel. Or maybe they’re too busy working on other projects to keep writing books. Or maybe publishers want them to publish more books faster than they can write them. Or maybe a publisher wants to continue a series but the author can’t because they are dead, they signed away the rights to (or were prohibited from continuing) a series that they started like LJ Smith with the Vampire Diaries (According to her, she only wrote the first seven books of TVD and the rest were written by ghostwriters against her wishes) because well, hello, more books equals more money. So enter the ghostwriter.

Why am I so pissed off?

I’m so pissed off because it’s so hard to tell straight up if a book has been ghostwritten or not. Sure once you actually get into the writing you can kinda of tell but still, only on certain books. What really pisses me off is that some authors whose names appear on the cover of books that have been written by ghostwriters don’t fess up and when they are questioned about they DENY it. What? I feel like that’s just so unfair. The ghostwriter writes the book. But who gets credit for it? The “author”. Who goes on a book tour for it? The “author”. Who signs the autographs? The “author”. And yeah, “life is unfair” but urgh people just lack basic morals. It’s like cheating. It goes both ways. The author on the cover gets the credit for the work of the ghost writer. And I hope the ghostwriter gets money off the book the publisher used the author’s name to sell. After all they have to watch fans drool and rant and cry and scream and express emotions for something they wrote behind the curtains, in the background. (On a side note, the ghostwriter probably did sign and agree to a contract with those terms and that if the “author” is a well known author, he/she may have contributed ideas or a storyline/plot but did not write the book itself).

What is a pseudonym?

A pseudonym is a name an author writes novels under but is not that author’s real or birth name. Pseudonyms are usually used to make them more memorable (if they have a hard name to pronounce or common name like Jane Smith) or to separate their writing styles (ie, an author might write fantasy under her legal name, but write contemporary under a pseudonym). Or as sad as this is, to make the author appear as if he or she is the opposite gender because readers might not read their books if they were written by a man or vice versa, a woman. For example, in Adult Science Fiction, most of the authors are male, and so is the readership. If a female author were to write a sci-fi novel under her own name, which implies that she is a woman, some people might not read it, so she might feel inclined to write her books in that genre under a male pseudonym to gain more readers. Likewise, YA contemporary is dominated by females. And male authors might write under a female pseudonym so encourage more readers to read their books. So basically what I’m trying to say is that a pseudonym is a fake name. That if you went to an event with an author who writes under a pseudonym, the name on their book(s) might be different from the one on their driver’s license or passport (unless they changed their name to match…).

The Difference

When a book is written by an author using a pseudonym, it is not ghostwritten. Because if you think about it, the pseudonym is really just another name for that author so he or she still gets the credit for writing the book. On the other hand, if a group of writers get together to write a series under all under the same pseudonym then that series is technically ghostwritten as none of the authors get the credit for writing each individual book. The Nancy Drew series is a great example of this. Carolyn Keene is a pseudonym. None of the actual writers of the series were named that. It’s a fake name. Now, that being said, many different authors continue to use it, even today, even around 70 years after the first ever Nancy Drew book was published. But none of the authors are credited (on the cover at least) for writing the book. The Warrior series by Erin Hunter is another example. Erin Hunter is a pseudonym for six different authors. And while they are all recognized as writing as Erin Hunter, they really aren’t credited for doing so (and the common reader would not know Erin Hunter is in fact six different people if she didn’t look it up, cough cough).

Please note that most of the information in this post is based on my experience as a reader and very limited research (and Wikipedia) so the accuracy might not be quite there.

Anyways, how do you feel about ghostwriters and pseudonyms?

Emz Chang

Tags:


Leave a Reply to The Sunday Post – Stacking the Shelves (96) | Paging Serenity Cancel reply

Want to include a link to one of your blog posts below your comment? Enter your URL in the website field, then click the button below to get started. :)

6 responses to “Investigated – Ghostwriters and Pseudonyms

  1. I don’t have a problem with either. A ghostwriter agrees to not take the credit and if they want to help someone write a book who otherwise wouldn’t be able to then why not? Same for pseudonyms really. If it sells more books and gets more people reading then it can’t be a bad thing can it?

  2. I might be biased because I use a pseudonym myself, but I don’t see any problems with either of these things, especially the ghostwriter deal. Honestly, I think the world tends to make a huge fuss about ghostwriters when it’s not really an issue that needs to be addressed. If the ghostwriter has explicitly consented to write parts of/the entire book (usually through a contract) and is getting paid for their work – then great, go ahead. It’s just another part of the publishing business, not something that needs to be eliminated.

    With that being said, however, there is a HUGE caveat to the above – if the writer is not paid and/or did not give their consent to have the book published under someone else’s name, that’s not called ghostwriting. It’s called cheating innocent people and stealing their work. THAT is an issue that definitely needs to be resolved.

    Still, though, most of the time I see no issue at all with either ghostwriters or pseudonyms. They’re both viable and beneficial to writers and publishers – without them, less books would be written + sold, and we definitely don’t want that. 😉

  3. “Seriously, they are not recognized for writing the book.” — Well, sometimes they are. Like the Endgame has James Frey’s ghost-writer on the cover. But I do agree that the majority are in the acknowledgments or never mentioned.

    “They are usually used because the author (whose name is on the cover) doesn’t want to or can’t write a book themselves but they are well known. ” — It shocks me a little that James Patterson uses ghost writers. He got so popular with his books and now I guess expanding everywhere, he doesn’t have the time…

    ” Loads of fans. And let’s not forget exposure and popularity. They have the type of fans that will buy books without a second thought. And as sad as it may be, sometimes those “celebrities” just do not possess the writing capabilities needed to write a write a good, readable novel. ” — The real fascinating thing to me, is well, what’s the line between the IDEA of the celebrity and the EXECUTION by the ghostwriter? Like the Jenners’ book. People didn’t seem to like that too much. Is it because the Jenners had a specific idea that didn’t resonate or because the writing didn’t work for them or both?

    The LJ Smith case is so sad.

    “What really pisses me off is that some authors whose names appear on the cover of books that have been written by ghostwriters don’t fess up and when they are questioned about they DENY it.” — Yeah, denying it or being coy is not cool… unless it’s the writer’s wishes to remain anonymous. NGL, some of the celebrity books I’ve seen, I might want to remain anonymous after helping write them too. “And I hope the ghostwriter gets money off the book the publisher used the author’s name to sell.” — Probably very minimal, especially compared to the celebrity.

    “Likewise, YA contemporary is dominated by females. And male authors might write under a female pseudonym so encourage more readers to read their books. ” — I don’t know of many who have don’t this. Even though YA is dominated by female authors, there’s still rampant sexism there and I doubt that it’d be any more successful or beneficial to use a female pseudonym.

    I like pseudonyms. I find the ones like Erin Hunter are fascinating (6 people? That must be hard to manage…). And I like them a lot because it’s good to know that if I don’t like the genre an author writes with one name in, maybe I’ll find his/her work in another.