Life of a Book Hoarder

On Ghostwriting

You might have perused my January posts where I re-read some R.L. Stine books. If you haven’t – or you’ve blocked my insane rants from your memory – I discovered that this Fear Street Sagas series was ghostwritten. Entirely, I believe. Now that I’ve calmed down, I wanted to share some thoughts.

I am, obviously, aware that ghostwriting is a thing that exists. I just never thought I’d fall prey to it!

Stine is by no means a favorite author of mine (certainly not after my recent readings), however, he was a staple in my childhood. I loved the Goosebumps series as a kid and teen and thoroughly enjoyed the two Fear Street Saga books I owned.

Of note, I couldn’t find much to confirm that some of the Goosebumps books were ghostwritten, but it does seem pretty likely. We may never know how many of the books Stine wrote himself! So we’ll talk about what I know, which is that my two Fear Street Saga books credit authors who are not Stine on the copyright pages.

Having grown up reading his work, seeing his name on the cover, it was startling to find he didn’t actually write some of the books I enjoyed! Regardless of whether or not I still enjoy the books (not), I was more than a little mad to find he didn’t actually write them. I know many of y’all love Harry Potter; imagine that after seeing J.K.’s name on every cover, you read the small print and discovered she didn’t write half the books!

I know ghostwriting is (sadly) not uncommon for those popular authors with seemingly never-ending series. Maybe if I’d given it some thought, I wouldn’t have been shocked to find Stine employing them. The internet tells me there are 62 Goosebumps books alone. I get it, I guess. You’re popular, you’re making buckets of money, people are desperate for more of your books and you’ve got ideas but maybe don’t have the time to churn them out. Or maybe you want to work on other projects, but you still need to keep the people happy and keep making that dough. Or maybe you don’t care because you’re so rich that you’ll slap your name on any piece of trash someone else quietly writes for your franchise.

Ok, so maybe I don’t really thing ghostwriting is justified.

My issue here is the ghost part of things. How about, no matter what reason you hire someone else to write your series, YOU CREDIT THEM!?

Like, on the cover!

Is it James Patterson who does something like “James Patterson presents” or “James Patterson featuring” and then puts the name of whomever else probably actually wrote the book? I tried to Google this, but wasn’t really sure how to frame what I’m searching for.

But anyway, this makes sense to me. If you’re an established author who has created a series, or world, or characters, but you’re no longer writing your own books, that’s ok (I guess.) You still deserve to have your name on the book; it’s your creation! However, I think the person doing part of or most of the leg work also deserves the credit! On the cover, right next to “the author’s” name!

My ranting could have easily been prevented had these Fear Street book covers said something like:

R.L. Stine’s Fear Street Sagas Presents:
Book Title by Actual Author

Easy fix! Then I’d have known right away that Cameron Dokey wrote the hot garbage I used to treasure as a kid.

~

In summation (see, I can sound like an intelligent adult human when I choose to!), I just think that whoever is writing the damn book deserves easily readable credit on the book cover. I don’t like feeling like I’m being tricked by authors whose work I enjoy!

How about you? Do you think ghostwriters deserve more credit? Have you discovered any of your favorite books were ghostwritten?

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11 thoughts on “On Ghostwriting”

  1. I kind of dislike ghost writers, but not because of what they do.
    Sometime I like to read a book because I just like the way that author writes.
    when they get someone ells in you can tell the style/grammar has changed!

    If you did that in English class you would be caught out in seconds.

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    1. I agree! I don’t really care who is writing it, but I’d like to know who the real author is. And if I like someone’s style, it’s even more disappointing if they switch to a ghost writer. It also feels dishonest because people are buying a book because they like that author and believe it was written by them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmm I do think ghostwriting is misleading, but I don’t mind it too much. However, I would appreciate it if it’s stated somewhere in the book who the ghost writer is in case I prefer their writing style and want to seek out more stuff they worked on. I agree that the ghost writer should get credit too.

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    1. Yeah if you use a ghostwriter, I just don’t think it’s fair to only advertise the “author’s” name without also clearly showing who the actual writer was. And I agree, if it’s better, I want to know if the ghost has more work I can read!

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  3. I remember learning that Nancy Drew books were written by ghost writers and Carolyn Keene was a made up name! I was so very sad. But then I learned about how and why they were written that way and found it fascinating. So I got over that. And aye, James Patterson is the author who provides outlines (so they say) and other people write the books. I am always amazed how readers that I know DON’T notice the other name on the title until I point it out. I am kinda annoyed at Patterson and his immense money grab but then at the same time amazed that it works for him. It is kinda like how Thomas Kincaide turned his art into a tacky household name. But I digress. Ghost writing apparently still gets me blood boiling. Arrrr!
    x The Captain
    PS I told the First Mate about Stine and his writing farm. He was sad. I ended up doing a lot of research into it and was amazed by the lawsuits and how Stine wouldn’t really admit the truth.

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    1. Yeah I saw something about Keene in my research. The babysitters club too! But I didn’t dig around to find out more so I didn’t mention them. But basically there are different types of ghostwriting. I think it’s worse when someone slaps their name of the cover knowing you’ll buy it when they didn’t write it! I wonder if Patterson at least like, helps boost the careers of these other writers? It’s at least like of ok if it helps the ghosts move on to writing their own work. But I don’t really think it’s fair to make a career off someone else writing for you. It’s complicated! Sorry your first mate had to learn the sad truth!

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  4. I think the main reason a series would be ghostwritten but under one name would be so that the books would all be shelved together at the library/in bookstores. But I do think the authors should get some sort of public credit. For example, Erin Hunter’s books are actually written by, I believe, three different authors. I haven’t read an Erin Hunter book, so I don’t know how they’re credited on the copyright page or on the actual book, but it’s not necessarily secret knowledge that Hunter doesn’t exist (unless you’re a child reader who doesn’t keep up with the book industry online, I suppose).

    I do have trouble with Patterson’s works because he releases so many books with his name on them and I’m pretty certain he can’t be writing them all. Maybe he has an idea and he gives it to someone else to write, but then their name is really tiny on the cover and everyone still asks for the “latest Patterson book” like the person who probably actually wrote the book doesn’t exist.

    But I think a large part of why these things happen is that society is still uncomfortable with the idea of collaboration. “Real” authors are solitary geniuses who need no help to get things done. The reality, of course, is that all writing is collaborative, especially if published (think of all the people who work on the book besides the author). But we don’t tend to acknowledge this so there’s no good way to credit collaborative works. It’s easier to pretend a series is all the work of one writer.

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    1. Yes, all the yes! I don’t have much of an issue with the situations where the “author” is fake and just written by multiple authors. I get that it makes sense to shelf the series together, but I also wish that it was more apparent who was really writing.

      Sometimes it makes sense, but it all still feels shady. Like you said, we don’t really embrace collabs. Unfortunate.

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      1. Having someone else write your story idea and getting a bunch of money from it does seem sort of sketchy. At the same time, how do we get in on this? Seems like a fairly easy way to make a living. 😉

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