There are many famous books or book series out there with an author’s name on the cover that differs from who really wrote the book.
How would you feel if you discovered Rowling didn’t really write Harry Potter, but instead, some ghostwriter was hired to write the book, paid a flat sum, and then Rowling was used as a frontman? After all, she has a near rags to riches story, is a mother of children and that’s the target audience for the book, so perhaps she was a good choice to use for the image of Harry Potter.
Would it change how you feel about that book series?
Well, never fear, since it seems Rowling is indeed the author of the Harry Potter series. However, what is not common knowledge is that many of the popular and well-known book series were indeed written by ghostwriters.
Nancy Drew Mysteries
On the front cover of the long-running Nancy Drew books, you’ll see the name: Carolyn Keene. However, dig a little deeper, and you’ll learn that there is no Carolyn Keene. The first Nancy Drew mystery books were written by hired ghostwriters, who earned a small pittance for writing the stories (approximately two month’s salary, with no royalties).
Today, Nancy Drew is published by Simon & Schuster, with the rights to the characters, films, merchandising and other parts of the entire Nancy Drew franchise belonging to different licensed groups.
V.C. Andrews, Flowers in the Attic
Four little kids who were locked in the attic, to hide the fact they were born, from a grandfather who was supposedly ill and would not will any of his estate to his daughter, their mother, if she were found to have children—Flowers in the Attic was a sad and yet perhaps slightly hopeful story about love, endurance, hope in spite of adversity, and most importantly, the lengths one will go to for the love of money–greed. Andrews wrote other stories, but the Flowers series of books are arguably her most noted works.
Yet, in 1986, V.C. Andrews died, but her books and new book series kept on. For quite some time, the family kept the identity of the ghostwriter a secret, but assured readers that the family and Andrews herself, had worked closely with the writer to ensure the books were in line with what Andrews would have written had she lived. It was later revealed that Andrew Neiderman was the ghostwriter for Andrews, even though he had written and published a dozen or so books under his own name and was an accomplished author in his own right.
To this day, if you read newsgroups or online forums, you’ll find many still are not aware that V.C. Andrews died and that her later books were not written by her at all.
Stephen King Ghostwriters?
A common rumor has cropped up amongst those who love to read that the illustrious horror writer, Stephen King, that he no longer writers his own novels. The rumors as to why and how the ghostwriters are used are as varied as the tales King himself writes. So is it true? Does Stephen King use a ghostwriter? Does Stephen King write his own novels?
Though there are evidence and proof that King has collaborated with other writers, wherein the other writer has always been given credit, there is no proof that King uses ghostwriters to write his novels. As with any good author, it is likely he has editors or even a team of people who help make his novels the best they can be, but rumors aside, it appears the stories are all King’s.
As it has oft been said, “Ghosts use King as their writer, but King doesn’t use ghostwriters.”
Ghostwriters are Common
Ghostwriters are more common than most people would like to think. Nonfiction specialists in certain fields might have a lot of experience, education and knowledge to impart, but are unable to write well enough to compose a book. These experts will write their experiences and outlines, but a professional writer will come behind them and turn their notes and outlines into something readable and presentable to the public.
After all, a scientist shouldn’t be expected to know where to place a comma anymore than editor would know how to mix chemicals and not blow up a lab in the process. Everyone has their specialty, their niche, but that doesn’t mean others aren’t interested in the things they have to share. Writing isn’t an easy profession, unlike what some might believe, and hiring someone who has the skill and experience to write for the proper audience can do wonders for sharing the knowledge someone has, who can’t write it well themselves. So a ghostwriter is used to make the writing professional and compelling, while the person with the experience, education and information gets the credit.
Other Famous Ghostwriters
Ghostwriting is less common in fiction than in nonfiction, but it does exist, such as in the Nancy Drew series of books. While more than one writer can be used in a series and receive credit for the writing, it’s easier to have one author for cataloging and branding and also for consistency for the readers.
Other famous ghostwriting incidences include: HP Lovecraft ghostwrote for Harry Houdini, and several other famous people; William Shatner had great ideas but poor writing skills, so someone ghostwrote his science fiction novels; and perhaps most interesting of all, Star Wars, credited to George Lucas (who did write the script and the concept for the story), when it was novelized, was actually written by Alan Dean Foster!
So the next time you pick up a book by your favorite author, you might just find the writer isn’t who you thought it was!
What’s your take as a writer or a reader? As a reader, do you feel cheated to learn your ‘favorite author’ wasn’t really the author? As a writer, could you ever let someone else write for you and you take the credit? What about the other way around: Could you ever write for someone else and let them get all the glory?
Love and stuff,