Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why Big Name Authors are “Going Ghost”

Writing a book is super hard work. And, let’s face it: if you’re a big successful author who has a busy schedule and a lot of dough, what would you want to lock yourself into a quiet room for? Especially when there a boatloads of unbusy, poor authors out there happy to nibble at your crumbs?

While hiring ghost writers to keep a literary franchise going isn’t brand new, more authors seem to be doing it more publicly of late. Take for instance, Wilbur Smith, who has been hammering out adventure novels for a very, very long time. His first novel, The Lion Feeds, was published in 1964. There have been a lot of books since then. Writing for Vice, Gavin Haynes says:
Now, though, with a little help, Smith has decided that, at age 79, it's probably time to give himself a rest. So he's signed a £15 million contract to produce another six books. Obviously that sounds like a lot of work, but only if it's you who is required to produce the books. Happily for Wilbur, it isn't – it's other people. He is the latest literary big name to "go ghost", thus freeing up more time for him to do what he does best: his 39-year-old wife.
From now on, Wilbur Smith's role in Wilbur Smith novels will be to "establish plots", "give guidance" and pass "character sketches" to his chosen ghost-writers. Characters who, for Wilb, will probably all just conform to the four basic types of human there are in the world anyway: "man, tall, brooding", "man, short, brooding", "woman, fruity", and "woman, hard bitch but turns out fruity". It'll make it easier on his ghost-writers at least, and then he can put down the phone and get back to the Tajikistani gal – fruity, who he married five months after the death of wife number three.
Soon everyone will be happy. Well, perhaps not his previous publishers – Pan McMillan, who decided that getting someone else to write the books for you was a good way to destroy their whole industry – but certainly his new publishers Random House, who have long since come to the conclusion that people don't care about these sorts of authenticity issues any more anyway.
As always, Haynes’ observations are sharp and his writing is engaging and even thought-provoking. And in his standard tongue-in-cheek way, Haynes seems to be asking: if this is literature now, what the hell next? We’ll ask the same thing, while sending you on to read the balance of his terrific piece.



Blogger Sue Bursztynski said...

I'm not a Wilbur Smith fan anyway, having read and hated a novel a friend had raved about, but my experience is that usually people who are fans of whoever are desperate enough to read someone else's ghost written books after the author dies, e.g. Virginia Andrews. Will they go on reading books with the Smith name on them if they KNOW he's alive but not writing? We'll see. Meanwhile, he's getting paid anyway. Lucky him.

Friday, December 28, 2012 at 9:58:00 PM PST  

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