Ghost in the machine

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Is ghost-writing justified? Should the personality concerned simply admit that they no longer have the time (or inclination) to write their own work? Is it purely vanity that makes them want to say “Ive written 50 books” rather than “I’ve written 40 books”? Of course it is … but it’s also the royalties it will bring and the fact that it gets them back on the chat show circuit being interviewed and back into the public eye. The bigger question is: is it professional prostitution to actually do the writing?

You could argue that any writing is better than none, especially in lean times when the bills still have to be paid, but it’s a fact that ghost writing is poorly paid (most of the money goes to the celebrity) and it undermines the ability of writers generally to get work in their own right. It also strengthens the position of the book companies when they insist that only the “big names” sell books these days.

I have mixed feelings about it, but it’s not a subject I can view from both sides, as I can’t envisage a situation where someone is ghosting for me! I have more respect for the “name” if they do actually read the text before it goes to print to make sure they endorse what it contains and change things if they feel it’s necessary. There was an instance in gardening a few years ago where a less-than-qualified author wrote the text for a particular gardening presenter (who claimed he was too busy to read it) and it went into print containing some indefensible errors. It left both book and “author” open to critism.

Overall, ghosting serves a purpose and, of course, if I take the moral high ground and refuse to do it, someone else will jump at the chance, so I’m not going to! It seems that writing is like so many other jobs in that the reality doesn’t match the perception. I wish it were the case that I could simply take an idea to a publisher and have them take it up, but the few times we’ve done that, the idea has been refused – only to reappear some time later under another author’s name. Ah well, you live and learn. Better to get a cheque and no recognition than no cheque at all.