in Uncategorized

The Trend of Celebrity Ghostwriters

The NYTimes, on how many celebrities are publishing ghostwritten books:

Like a branded fragrance or clothing line, the novel — once quaintly considered an artistic endeavor sprung from a single creative voice — has become another piece of merchandise stamped with the name of celebrities, who often pass off the book as their work alone despite the nearly universal involvement of ghostwriters. And the publishing industry has been happy to oblige.

Ghostwriting is a win-win for the publishing industry and for the celebrity. The publisher gets to make a mint by leveraging the celebrity’s name, but still publish a book that is at least mildly readable. Meanwhile the celebrity doesn’t need to do nearly as much work, and can pass off better-written prose as his or her own.

I don’t see this practice stopping anytime soon, although ghostwriting as a concept is obviously not a recent development (it has been with us since time immemorial). What does concern me is the fact that Stephen Tobolowsky’s book will be published relatively soon, and I fear it will get unfairly perceived as either a) a ghostwritten book, b) another “celebrity memoir” book, or c) both of the above. I believe that Stephen’s stories, which are 100% his own words, transcend these categories and I hope the book is marketed that way.

(For samples of Stephen’s stories in written form, click here and here)

  • Few things (at least book-related) bother me as much as ghostwriting, including when famous authors (like James Patterson) employ it. But as long as it remains a win-win situation (as you described), I unfortunately can't see it going away.

    I've been surprised at how well-received the new book 2030, written by [actor] Albert Brooks, has been. Granted, Tobolowsky's book will fall into a different genre, but I hope that readers will be able to recognize it for what it is, and not make any assumptions when they see it's written by a celebrity.

  • Totally agree Chris, imagine this practice in any other profession or medium, nobody would stand for it. For some reason it is accepted in literature. If they just co-credit the authorship like the way some books do using a "with" credit, I can't imagine it would hurt sales and it would be a lot more kosher.

    As stupid and annoying as the practice is, I don't think it really calls legitimate celebrity authors' credibility into question. I think unless there is a reason for suspicion (like if they were not particularly known for their intelligence or eloquence), people generally give them the benefit of the doubt.