Ghostwriting: Do Readers Care?

It may not surprise you to learn that many celebrities do not write their own books. After all, they usually have neither the skill nor the time to do so. It may be more upsetting, however, to learn that books by more laudable figures are also penned by ghostwriters. According to literary agent Madeline Morel, “On the non-fiction best-seller list, 12 out of the 15 books listed probably have been ghostwritten.”

A look at last week’s New York Times nonfiction best-seller list seems to uphold Morel’s assertion. Of the fifteen current top titles, three say they are written “with” someone else. Several others, like Dylan Ratigan’s Greedy Bastards, also seem likely candidates. The question is, does it matter to you whether or not the story you are reading is penned by its central figure? Is it all right if a person has a good story to tell but relies on someone else to do the actual writing? Perhaps the best solution is to do as several authors now do by confessing that they did not go it alone.

Professional ghost writers defend their craft. They are not merely reporters or dictation machines, many will insist. Rather, they bring their skills to help someone express him- or herself in a way that will sound both interesting and polished. Professional ghostwriter David Reisen adds, “I don’t think that writing with somebody is necessarily milquetoast. I really want the human being to come through.” (You can hear more about ghostwriters and writing on PRI’s Studio 360 here.)

What do you think? Do you care at all if a book is ghostwritten? We would like to hear your thoughts.