The industry drama continues, of course, but part of the overall scandal has to do with “what constitutes an author.” For me, that has a very straightforward answer. But before I get to that, let me tell you guys a quick story…
Once upon a time, Fabio “wrote” a book. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he’s that long-haired swoon-generating model who once graced hundreds of romance covers. The powers that be decided he had name recognition and wanted to capitalize on that, so they hired a ghostwriter, who was not named on the book (as far as I can remember). Pretty much the entire industry knew these books were ghostwritten, and most readers who followed the Italian model knew he could barely throw three English words together. They understood it was a gimmick and that the book was ghostwritten. Some people bought it and didn’t care; some wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. In the end, I believe Fabio had two romance novels with his name on it. (You might still be able to find these in used bookstores.)
So is Fabio a writer/author? HELL NO. Was it illegal? Nope. Do I think the ghostwriter (who shall rename nameless at this point, at least by me) was “wrong” to accept the assignment? No. She was making a living and they offered her a job and she took it. Do I believe the publishers were wrong to handle this the way they did? Absolutely. Because I believe it disrespects the reader. However, they are also not authors; they are publishers and our bottom-lines are far different. Theirs = Money. Mine = Love of My Craft.
There are a lot of decisions I make as an author that I make for love of my craft. I wake up every day, sit at my computer for eight-plus hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year, give or take a few sick days, and vacations. Given this, I feel pretty strongly that someone who hires ghostwriters and does not give a byline to their co-author is at the very least not being fair or transparent to someone who made “their” work possible. That said, I don’t live in anyone else’s shoes (or head) and only they can determine what they can live with. Ultimately, I had/have ZERO interest in reading “Fabio’s” books, even though I highly respected the true “author.” On principle, I didn’t buy these books or read them. Things like humor and voice are simply not interchangeable, they are subtle and precious and can actually be edited out by a heavy-handed editor. Ultimately, as a reader, I follow authors, whose voices I love.
In the end, I believe ghostwriters can be authors (but not necessarily), while people who hire ghostwriters to write 70 to 100 percent (pulled this figure out of my hat; don’t ask me where to draw the line, because