When it comes to being a celebrity, there are certain things that come standard. A stellar music or movie career, legions of adoring fans, maybe a rockstar boyfriend or two and the hottest stars on your speed dial because you’re BFFs.
It seems these days to be a star there are certain extras you need to have in your repertoire to achieve true celebrity status. Usually it’s a clothing line, perfume or beauty range. The latest addition to that list is a book deal. The one thing they each have in common is that though these items have the celebrity’s well known name attached, behind the scenes they’re created by a team of regular people. The same applies to books, and everyone from Hilary Duff to Snooki are using ghostwriters.
What is a ghostwriter? A ghostwriter is a professional writer who is paid to write books, articles, stories, reports, or other texts (in this case, fiction) that are officially credited to another person.
Books “written” by celebrities have been a hot topic that has divided the book blogging community. I personally am not a fan of the concept. I haven’t yet read any of these kinds of books but my issue isn’t with the book itself, I’m sure plenty some of them are quite good. It’s to do with something Hilary Duff said at a recent signing for her book Elixir, “I wrote a book, so it goes to show you that anyone can write a book if they have an idea”.
What irks me is who the credit goes to. Yes, she came up with the idea for the book but she, and other celebrity “writers”, did not write the book. I’ve got plenty of good ideas for a books but if I were to pen them myself they’d be the most boring, unreadable stories you’d ever read. That’s if I managed to finish writing one.
It takes time, dedication, skill and talent to write a good novel. Which I don’t doubt the ghostwriters have, but that skill, should come with the credit. As a fashion designer, I hate hate hate seeing a celebrity say ‘I’m bringing out a clothing line!’ as if it’s that easy. Whether it’s writing a book, designing clothes, or anything creative, it’s hard work. Because of that, I don’t feel a celebrity should be able to stand next to someone like Richelle Mead or Cassandra Clare and call all three of them authors.
But that’s one opinion.
I sat down with a former ghostwriter, with many years experience to get their perspective.
How do you in general feel about celebrities ‘writing’ books?
I’ve definitely scoffed at some of the books I’ve seen by celebrities. But overall, the industry has enough room for us all. And if a celebrity can help turn someone who may not be a reader into someone who purchases books more often, than that’s amazing. I’m of the mindset that any kind of reading is good reading — and that reading itself is a gateway to more, and better, reading. So I don’t have any issues with celebrities writing books.
To your knowledge, how involved do celebrities (or person who comes up with the concept) get in the writing process?
I’m afraid I don’t have much insight into this. But I do think it’s important to remember that the process of publishing a book involves a lot of people, and a lot of input. Any book I pick up off a shelf has been read by multiple beta readers, at least one agent, several editors, copyeditors, and more — all of whom make changes to the work. So if a celebrity who writes a book has more (or less) editorial help than a non-celebrity author, I don’t have a problem with that.
Do you ever feel cheated that someone else’s name is on the book? Or that ghostwriters don’t get enough credit?
I can see why someone would think that, but the answer is honestly no. In my experience, the ghostwriter doesn’t handle the plotting — which, in this ghostwriter’s opinion, is the hardest part of writing a book. We don’t come up with the concept, the characters, the conflict — all of that is taken care of by the author. In some cases, even the jokes are created by the author, not the ghostwriter. So I don’t feel cheated at all. I get fairly compensated!
Do you get annoyed that many good stories by writers are being passed up for publishing yet books with a celebrity’s name attached gets picked up straight away?
If someone has an amazing manuscript, it will get sold, whether it’s by a famous person or not. That said, it’s probably true that celebrities have an easier time selling their manuscripts — but that’s because the public buys them more often than they buy debuts from unknown authors. Publishing’s a business. If the buying public stopped buying celebrity fiction, publishing houses would stop buying (and marketing) celebrity manuscripts. They’re just catering to the market.
Do you think having celebrities like Hilary Duff and Lauren Conrad ‘writing’ books makes book seem more accesible to that younger age bracket or it’s just a way for publishers to make more money?
It’s not mutually exclusive. Yes, Lauren Conrad’s books can make reading feel more accessible to audiences. And yes, it makes publishers — as well as bookstores — money. I view it as a win/win situation. (I have no idea whether ghostwriters were/are used in those books, by the way, but to be honest, I find Lauren Conrad’s books infinitely more readable than some other recent bestsellers-turned-blockbuster-movies — which helps demonstrate, as I said above, that there’s room in the market for all of us.)
Thank you to our ghostwriter, it definitely gives you something to think about, maybe even change your mind?
How do you feel about ghostwriting? Don’t mind? Don’t care? Share your thoughts.