In Defence of Ghostwriting


Jess McElhattan

Like so many others, finding out that Zac Efron used a ghost singer in the first High School Musical was a profound shock that prompted a slight sense of betrayal. I had assumed that the actor’s talents were genuine, so finding out that it wasn’t Zac Efron’s voice, I felt I’d been deceived for all these years. The same feelings occur when you pick up a novel by your favourite celebrity, only to find out that a ghostwriter wrote it. If you admire a celebrity (especially when younger), you want to believe the talent they take credit for is genuine. Discovering someone employs a ghostwriter/singer shatters the illusion they have tried to manufacture. So it’s natural be disappointed if that version of a celebrity to doesn’t exist.

Everyone from Katie Price to Hillary Clinton has employed one, to the point where it’s surprising that a celebrity has written the book they release. For something so common, however, ghostwriting still has a sense of taboo attached to it. Perhaps it’s because the reader feels the ghostwriter has been cheated out of the recognition their work deserves, and instead has gone to their employer. However, without ghostwriters these hugely famous names probably wouldn’t have time to plan and write an entire novel. This poses the question; if the ghostwriter is willing to assign their work over to someone else, and they are acknowledged somewhere in the book, is there really any harm in it?

It’s worth considering that perhaps ghostwriting isn’t such a bad thing after all. If the ghostwriter themselves had published the same work under their own name, would it have had the same success? Probably not. In Paul Farhi’s Who wrote that political memoir? No, who actually wrote it?, Mark Sullivan (owner of ‘Manhattan Literary’, a ghostwriting firm) states ‘some very capable people want books written but don’t have the time or the expertise to do it’. Celebrity- written novels have remained consistently popular over the last few decades, proving simply that famous faces sell books. Ghostwriting could therefore be viewed as an economic tool, generating money with books that would not exist without ghostwriters’ aid, which in turn will benefit the publishing industry.

Also, it isn’t for the standard of the text that people pick up celebrity-written books; the famous name is what draws people in. Therefore, these novels may attract people who wouldn’t usually read to pick up a book. A teenager is unlikely to pick up ‘canonical’ texts to read for pleasure, however they are far more likely to choose Zoella’s latest novel, simply because they like her. Even if some look down upon Zoella not actually writing it, they are still reading, which I would argue is always a good thing.

The attitudes towards ghostwriters need reconsidering. Ghostwriting is not someone’s work being unjustly stolen from them. Rather, it is a business, and one which attracts people of all ages to read. I think many, including myself, have judged it too harshly until now.


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