The subject of ghostwriting seems to be in the air right now. The recent New York Times profile of James Patterson pulled back the curtains on something that was a fairly open secret within the industry: Of the 620 books (give or take) that Mr. Patterson publishes every year, most are collaborations in the loosest term of the word. As Andrew Crofts points out in his rather passionate defense of the practice, if it’s not the oldest profession, ghostwriting has certainly been around since writing utensils began to be used to make literature instead of just grocery lists.
Two new films, Roman Polanski’s The Ghost and L’Autre Dumas, starring the great Gerard Depardieu, deal with the notion of authorship and literary collaborations and I’m intrigued by what they have to say. For agents, a good ghostwriter is a huge asset to one’s client list. Generally excellent writers themselves, they are able to put their egos aside and use their skills as literary entrepreneurs. They are usually able to multitask, are very organized and meet deadlines without the sturm und drang that can drive editors (and sometimes agents) to the nearest bar. And their services can command very nice money.
So, why do we still feel a little disappointed when we find out that a favorite author had more than just transcribing help? Do you?