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October 18, 2004

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Jim Winter

What I don't get is why AUTHORS use ghostwriters. I understand why actors, businessmen, and politicians use them. They're busy, and usually you see the other writer's name credited somewhere, at least in acknowledgments. And someone like, say, William Shatner usually outlines a particular story, then meets regularly with his "collaborator" (Nice euphemism) to go over progress and make changes.

But why does James Patterson use ghostwriters? Patterson IS a writer, therefore shouldn't he only put his name on works that wrote? Or do like Tom Clancy. "James Patterson's THE PLAGIARIZED HACK, by Boston Teran." I don't get why a novelist would do something like that except that the check cleared just as writer's block set in.

Why I work well in advance.

David Montgomery

Right on, Jim. I suppose we have to conclude that those folks AREN'T authors. Tannenbaum sure as hell isn't. He's a fraud, nothing more, nothing less.

Can you imagine that he got HALF the money just for putting his name on the book and doing a little publicity? My goodness, what a job!

Aldo

I was present while he was signing his latest book. As far as I know no one asked him who wrote HOAX.

Now, if any of you busy authors need a 'pre-published' ghostwriter, I'm available. Contract to be discussed at a later date, say a case of Molson Dry.

Bryon

I've never understood ghost writers or anything like that for authors either Jim. For me, the biggest part of writing is expressing something personal, some sort of reaction to the world around me. My books and stories are so much a part of me that I can't imagine anyone else writing them.

This goes back to something I realized in college too. All of my papers were very personal and unique to me and I could just never understand how people could buy papers on the Internet or have someone else write for them.

I write with my heart on my sleeve, anything else is just plan hack writing in my opinion.

michael

As a fan of the Karp Ciampi series (currently and disappointedly reading Hoax)I don't know what to say ... the books I enjoyed are still enjoyable and the characters I loved still delight me (especially Lucy and Tran). So if nobody got hurt and everybody got well ... nah. It still feels shitty.

jeanne ketterer

I wonder if there's a ghostwriting organization or something. Or a website listing ghostwriters of 'famous' authors or guess the ghostwriter ...

Jeanne

David Montgomery

I think one of the reasons the publishers do this is not because of the readers -- readers don't seem to care in most cases whose name is on the book -- but rather for reviewers.

I certainly would not review a book published under circumstances like this... and I suspect I'm not the only one.

John Rickards

Well, in Patterson's case the cruel part of me suggests that if he directs the plot and style of his ghostwriters, presumably anything he wrote himself would be even worse (a theory which the Tanenbaum/HOAX story seems to suggest might be true). But then my loathing for Patterson is well known.

I suspect it's mostly down to laziness. A writer realises they can keep earning big bucks for doing next to no work and letting someone else do the actual writing. They're just a brand name. And for a ghostwriter, like Sarah says, it's a sure-thing with no selling involved.

But it must suck. I wouldn't touch it myself, and I've not yet read a writer I've known (or at least I've known to be rumoured to be) ghostwritten that I've actually liked. And I wouldn't want it myself - I like to play with my own ideas, and I can't write a decent story plan to save my life, which'd screw them for something to work with.

Although I'm afraid, Bryon, I'm a hack - I write stuff I think is cool, but not something that necessarily means anything to me. ;-)

Although my imagination has proved remarkably prescient at times.

Terrill Lee Lankford

Jim's statement at the top of the page - "What I don't get is why AUTHORS use ghost writers" - misses the point of Tanenbaum's story. It appears that he's NOT an author - and never has been. He's an attorney. A fairly famous one at that. And that's a hook publishers use to promote books.

If the stories are true, Tanenbaum has always either used "co-writers" or ghost writers. Either way, his actual contributions to the manuscripts are very suspect. His role has been that of the huckster. He's been out there hawking the wares - and he seems to have done a very good job of it. This is a very telling story about our reading culture in general. Publishers and reviewers (and readers!) give a lot more play to an author who has a great personal backstory to add to the hustle than some shlub who's just sitting in his room, cranking out good stories. An okay book by a celeb will (almost) always do better than a great book by an unknown. So blame the process (and the public). I wonder how well those books would have done with Michael Gruber's name on them instead of Tanenbaum's? We'll never know, even with Gruber's new work, because Gruber's new books will arrive with the fanfare of "Tanenbaum's Ghost Writer" attached to them, so they're bound to do better than if he was just hitting the market cold.

Gotta give Tanenbaum points for the balls it took to let the new one go out with the title "HOAX," though. The possibility that many people would mistake it for an autobiography must be strong. Or maybe it was just more canny marketing.

TL

Bryon

Well duh, John. I knew you were a hack, but couldn't pin it to any specific reason. This makes sense.

As a point of clarification though, since I am prone to the post first-think later style of back blogging, I meant that I'd consider myself a hack writer if I wrote anything I didn't have a connection to.

And by the way John, who are you to judge what kind of emotional attachment Patterson's monkeys' have to their work?

John Rickards

Well, I dunno. I've heard they've been threatening strike action until they can get a higher banana ration, even with their crappy union. Something to do with the extra stress and complication of having to write romance, which in the chimpanzee world means tapping the female on the back to let her know you're there before you mount her, rather than having the whole thing come as a surprise.

It's an alien world to them, and not one they want to write about. Sure, they'll bang away at their typewriters, but their hearts just aren't in it...


(Note for other backbloggers: the whole Patterson-monkey business arises from a long-running joke we developed at BCon. It had hand motions and everything.)

:-)

David Montgomery

The sad thing about Patterson is that his books were actually pretty good, back when he apparently wrote them. Now that he publishes 17 books a year, though, apparently utilizing a round robin of hacks chained to work stations, they're awful. No surprise there.

Of course, at least in Patterson's case, it makes sense, as he was a marketing man long before he was a writer.

michael

It occurred to me last night why this whole thing makes me so sad. I grew to love Butch, Marlene, Lucy, Zack, Giancarlo, Guma, Tran and the rest in the hands of whomever wrote the first several books. Now they, THEY, are being betrayed. Sappy, but true.

Carel Two-Eagle

Ghosted or not, I relate strongly to Marlene, having attracted violent nuts & been forced to save myself more than once.. including crooked cops. I did the right thing & crooked cops went after me for upsetting their applecart. Tough noogies! They violated their oaths & the public's (already minimal) trust. I just told what I saw. That isn't 'making' trouble'; that's being part of 'fixing' it. There is no feeling quite like having to take a loaded gun away from some idiot (hiding behind a badge & quirks in the law).. and while we shouldn't 'have' to, I'm sure as HELL glad I could, & did. I see no betrayal in having the book ghosted - Michael Gruber volunteered, after all. And in the long run, why does anyone give a rip who contributed what? The final result is attention-getting, attention-holding, and just plain good.

Mary

Oh man, I was just about to read one of his books but this has somewhat ruined it for me and may return it to the library unread. I am disillusioned now. Please tell me that John Lescroart writes his own stuff.

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