Why do people buy books bearing celebrity names? It’s the name that sells, not the book. So, are readers of such books being misled? We, as writers, all know ghost-writing is common; we know very many books sold under the names of the famous or infamous are written by skilled craftspeople paid a relatively small fee for their efforts. But most of the public are ignorant of the practice. Doesn’t this make it a cheat?
I’ll use a different example: Is the gullible, and frankly too-wealthy, art collector who finds his recent purchase was, in fact, a forgery, still satisfied with that buy?
Are those who unknowingly buy ‘fake’ goods generally pleased with their purchases, especially when they fail the quality tests of time?
Is it right for anyone who pays for what they believe is a genuine item to be sold something pretending to be that?
It comes down to integrity, and a question of whether we, as writers, should encourage talentless nonentities to foist cheat books on the unsuspecting public. There are hundreds of thousands of books published worldwide every year (according to worldometers.info/books, as at the time of writing this, the number of books published in 2019 is already 516,460. If you want to check at the time you’re reading this, please use this link. Amazing how much the number has risen since I finished writing this piece at GMT 11:10 on 13th March, isn’t it?) The competition these fake books introduce into the marketplace inevitably makes it more difficult for talented new writers to have their voices heard.
Major publishers often use ghost-written books to swell their profits, but rarely invest those profits in new talent, unfortunately.
For writers, other than those who collect their cheque as ghost-writers, these books form a substantial barrier to sales.
There are organisations that advertise services to write academic papers for students undergoing study. This is also a cheat: students who pay receive a piece of work they pass off as their own and, as a result, gain a better pass and probably a job for which they’re unqualified. Cheating.
Some will say this is just the way of the world: we are, after all, largely governed by politicians and business executives who are corrupt. However, it’s possible for us, as a group of honest craftspeople, to make some positive changes. We could urge professional bodies to debar known ghost-writers. We could expose those cases of ghost-writing that we know about. We could publicise the whole idea of ghost-writing to educate the public about the reality of what they’re buying. And, of course, the ghost-writers could admit their part in the duplicity and simply stop doing it. If you write a book, you deserve the credit of your name on the cover, and income from the publication.
The simple fact is that ghost-writing is essentially a dishonest activity and a cheat in marketing and promotional terms. Do we, as writers, whose very existence depends on our ability to be honest in our work, want to allow this underhand practice to continue, or should we move together to put a stop to it? I fully recognise there will be protests against this piece. So be it. But if you think there’s a case to be made, please share this post so we can get maximum coverage and at least start a sensible, adult discussion.