Thursday, February 07, 2019

Talking about ghost writing

I've recently begun ghostwriting for an author in my genre. There are very clear rules on what I can't say per my contract regarding the business side of it, but I'm curious if it's a faux pas to state that I am a ghostwriter in queries, or to put that in my Twitter bio (since agents check those). 

It's not a faux pas to put it in a query.
I'd be more hesitant about putting it on Twitter which is a vast and unwieldy audience.

A query is directed to one person. If you've mentioned the ghosting in your query, an agent knows you have to be careful about revealing info. S/he won't wonder why it's not in your Twitter bio.

But if it's in your Twitter bio, the vast rabble that is Twitter may ask questions you aren't able to answer.

There's a downside to putting it on Twitter that is not outweighed by anything positive.

When you put it in your query, it's a writing credential, and belongs in the last paragraph of your query.

Be VERY careful about what you put down in writing. Some ghost writing contracts have very strict non-disclosure clauses.


E.M. Goldsmith said...

I know that ghost writing is done. but I don't quite get it. Yes, publishing is a business and just because whistle blower x has a story that will sell like hotcakes does not mean the bloke can write. Hire ghost writer.

At this point, when some celebrity or stinking politician writes a book, I simply assume they didn't write it themselves because of ghost writing. Good decision on the part of publisher because stringing sentences together on a page in a pleasing manner is not something everyone can do.

I found out that James Patterson does not write all his books. He is basically a multi-ghostwriting conglomerate all to himself. In some circles, Shakespeare apparently had a ghost writer and simply took all the credit because playwriting was not something a person of title should do or some such.

For myself, I can't imagine doing all that hard-work only to slap someone else's name on the cover. I mean, one that has no association with me. A pen name for privacy is one thing, but doing all that work, and you can maybe say something in a query? Well, maybe a check is better than a credit. I suppose with ghost writing, you get to be sure of having a published work out there. That is something.

But what if the book you ghost write wins big prizes, goes viral on best-seller list? Does that mean the entity that paid the ghostwriter gets the Hugo or the Pulitzer even though that entity couldn't string two sentences together if his or her life depended on it?

Then what happens to the ghost writer? Can the actual writer say, hey I won a Pulitzer but it was not my name on the work? What if a sequel is demanded by the publisher because they want more cash and prizes? Same ghost writer with the name on the cover getting all the accolades?

Colin Smith said...

Elise: While it does seem a bit naff to do all the work and not get any credit for it (at least in terms of a name on the jacket or public recognition), I can see where someone might take a ghostwriting gig. A few reasons off the top of my head:

* The topic sounds interesting and maybe completely different to your genre, or what you're known for writing
* To try something completely different
* To work with someone you admire or who interests you
* Because it's a paying gig and, in an industry where only a small percentage make lots of money, that's no small consideration

Also, if you are willing to do anonymous freelance writing (which I have), then ghostwriting a book isn't that big of a leap.

Them's my thoughts for ya, EM! :)

nightsmusic said...

I have a friend who, after many best selling novels, no longer wanted the pressure of 'performing' and delivering novels she didn't quite want to write. She decided to try her hand at ghostwriting instead and, while she still writes for herself, the pressure to deliver big is gone. She loves what she's doing, is successful as well at this and can pick and choose what she takes on. I have no idea what she writes, she never says and I don't ask. I just know she's still writing, which she loves to do, and is happy. And that's what matters. At least to her.

Aphra Pell said...

I definitely wouldn't mention it on twitter - not only for all of Janet's reasons, but because I've seen ghostwriters get attacked on there before for perceived "betrayal" of the writing community (which doesn't make much sense, but... twitter).

I'd focus social media on building the platform for your own writing.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

What an interesting education this thread is because I was with EM. Why ghostwrite? So thank you OP for asking and everyone else for questions and explanations!

Lennon Faris said...

Also, once you post on the internet, it's out there forever. Even if you delete it!

I can understand ghostwriting for a paycheck. What I CANNOT comprehend is agreeing to have someone ghostwrite for me. What if it does great? Are all those fans really my fans? Am I hoodwinking the people who (think they) admire my stories? And if not, why all the secrecy? Maybe there's still something I don't get yet...


Alina Sergachov said...

I remember that Janet wrote a post on ghost writing novels on July 20, 2017. According to that post, people usually have writing careers before they have ghost careers. Their agents get them the ghost jobs (or their personal connections with estates, but I'm not quite sure what that means). It surprised me that agents encourage ghost writing... isn't it like cheating? It just feels wrong. Maybe it's naïve, but as a reader, I want to know who really wrote the book.

Kate Larkindale said...

I've done some ghostwriting. I worked with a woman who wanted to write an autobiography but wasn't a writer. We spent a lot of time together talking so I got a handle on her voice, she recorded herself telling her stories and I interviewed her a few times to get details she missed out.

We've become good friends, but the project ended up being put on ice. Which is a shame because she has had a fascinating life and I'm sure her life story would be gobbled up by readers. Hopefully one day we'll be able to pick that project back up again.

Craig F said...

There are many faces and facets to ghostwriting. Our old friend, Susan Pogorzelski, did it for a while. Many memoirs are ghostwritten. Some of them are run through Literary Agents or publishers, some are freewheeling.

Many top shelf writers have a staff that includes ghostwriters, some discuss it and some sue ghostwriters who dream about saying anything.

Some others end up making ghostwriters into co-writers and helping them build their careers before finding another to take their place.

All in all, I think ghostwriting would be a better option for English Majors than working the night shift in a 7-11.

KDJames said...

It's tricky getting around an NDA when you're suddenly in a situation where you want someone to know you have experience and yet can't share any details. I agree about not mentioning it on SM, as people love to ferret out a "secret" and won't stop until they're satisfied. On a positive note, I suspect the experience/mastery you've gained will show in the quality of your writing. So you do have that going for you, OP.

I remember that ghost writing discussion back in July 2017 and I remember vehemently disagreeing with Susan about the extent to which ghosts were used in the romance genre. HA. HAHAHA. Boy was I wrong. I've since learned it's way more prevalent than I thought, waaaaay more, and I apologize to Susan (if she's even reading this) for doubting her. It's not something I'd do, on either side, but it's not uncommon. Live and learn.

I also learned (when I went back to read that old post/comments) that with this new google-exclusive log-in over here, prior comments where someone logged in with a WordPress ID (as I used to) are now simply listed as "anonymous." Which is unnerving, to realize my comments are no longer "mine." In all my years commenting on various blogs, that's something I've NEVER done. If I say it, I own it. But it's also sort of appropriate/ironic to learn that I've effectively been turned into a ghost, on a day when we're discussing ghost writing.

BrendaLynn said...

Barbara Rogan has a nifty plot twist involving a fictional biographer in ‘A Dangerous Fiction’.

Spoiler: It’s also an expose’ of the alcohol consumption involved in publishing.

AJ Blythe said...

Elise, I went to a conference workshop with an Aussie author who is co-published with James Patterson. Absolutely fascinating. He's more hands-on with the stories than I imagined, although obviously the story is written by the co-author. His is a little different though, as the author is identified on the cover of the book, so not a ghostwriter in the technical sense. The number of books he puts out this way, the dollars he makes and what he tries to put back into encouraging people to read is remarkable.

Panda in Chief said...

The problem (among the previously mentioned ones) with putting it in your Twitter bio, (even if you don't get attacked for it) sooner or later, one of your Twidder buddies is going to ask you in the DMs "aw, c' can tell ME! I promise I won't breathe a word!!!" and they'll eventually break you down and you'll tell them and they won't be able to resist spilling the beans to someone else who promises to take it to their grave, and there goes your job and maybe a lawsuit besides.

Am I paranoid? how can you tell?

Why would you do this? Show me the money!

John Davis Frain said...

Is it redundant to be a ghost writer for horror?

Asking for a friend.

Jamie McCullum said...

What I don't get is that if you ghost wrote a novel, and the "author" queries it, and finds an agent, don't agencies
make you sign statements that the work is your own? The author signs "yes, " isn't that fraud and what happens if
the book does well and there's a call for a sequel? Won't the jig be up then, especially if the first ghostwriter can't be found?