The nasty practice of ghost-writing
As you can see from the title, I have strong opinions on the practice of ghost-writing.
As a reader, I think work-for-hire or ghosted books or articles that don’t give appropriate credit to the actual writer are morally and ethically wrong. It’s lying, and when I find out the truth, I feel cheated. I absolutely hate it.
As a writer, I feel even more strongly about it. 🙂
I’ve mentioned to a few non-writers that certain well-known people don’t write their own books, and every single one of them has been horrified. They don’t want to know—it really bothers them—as it does me. What would have been the problem in saying “with X”? I just don’t get it.
Ideas are a dime a dozen—everybody has an idea. In one of my writing workshops, I give them all the same idea and they each come up with something totally unique. It’s the writing that matters—that fleshes out the idea and illustrates it and sets the work apart.
I’m not saying it’s wrong for the writer to do it, and I’m certainly hot trying to put down anyone who has done it. And I know how tough the industry is—if you don’t do it someone else will. But just because something has been accepted in the past doesn’t make it right. Or maybe times change.
The thing is, I don’t believe in ghosts. I think it’s wrong for the publisher to want to take credit away from the worker—and I think it’s wrong for the celebrity to take credit for something he or she didn’t do. I just don’t get it. I won’t lose respect for the well-known person if his book says with so and so. But I will lose respect for him when I find out that someone else wrote the book with his name on the cover. In fact, I have stopped buying a number of people’s books because of this issue.
To me, making it appear that a person wrote something he or she didn’t actually write is simply dishonest. I used to teach high school. I know that having someone else write your essay is not considered a good thing. In fact, it’s quite frowned on. So why is it okay just because you’re an adult and you’ve become famous?
I just wish the Christian publishing industry would take the lead in correcting what I see as an industry problem. I have several books from years ago that say “with John and Elizabeth Sherrill,” and magazines whose bylines say “as told to….” Those work just fine for me. Why can’t they all do it?
I am also saddened by the lack of respect for the newer person who comes eagerly in wanting to use his or her talents to make a difference and is asked to ghost-write. When writing well is no longer the prerequisites for publication, what is left?
Frankly, I think we’ve dug ourselves into a corner and we need to figure a way to tunnel out. I anticipate radical changes in the not-too-distant future, helped by new technology. Words are precious to God. We need to use them with passion, diligence, transparency, and love.