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…).
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?