Tuesday, January 8, 2013


A couple weeks ago (when I was drowning in the holiday frenzy), I tripped across this BBC article about the "new" phenomenon of co-authorship.  This can be done in several ways - collaboration, writing teams who combine to form one pen name, or a contracted writer doing the grunt work for an established "brand" author.

None of those sound appealing to me.  I'm not a collaborator.  Does not play well with others.  Or as Einstein put it:   "I am a horse for a single harness, not cut out for tandem or teamwork... for well I know that in order to attain any definite goal, it is imperative that one person do the thinking and the commanding."

Writing teams have been working together to create worlds in television for decades, but the idea of someone being hired to write as James Patterson or Robert Ludlum (a sadly deceased genius whose name keeps popping up on new books every year) feels different to me.  It feels somehow shady.  Like they're trying to trick the reader into a book under false pretenses, perhaps.

Or perhaps that mild aversion has something to do with the stories I've heard about how in the early days of romance publishing, romance authors did not always "own" their pen names, and their publishers could then put out whatever books they wanted and say that you had written them.  But this time the deceit is on the part of the authors themselves.  And is it deceit at all if they are telling the ghost writing authors what to write?  Ghost writing is downright common in biographies and memoirs, so why does it feel so different when it is fiction? 

I have good friends who are contract writers and they are delighted by the work, but it sounds so stressful and stifling to me.  The idea of being hired to write someone else's book.  Because I feel like when it comes right down to it, ownership of the words is sometimes all we have.  They may not be brilliant.  They may not be read by eleven bajillion readers who are slavering for the next Wilbur Smith, but they're mine.  I'm not sure I could write someone else's book.

What about you?  What do you think of co-authorship?

1 comment:

Kali Robaina said...

I'm a very selfish person who doesn't really work well as a team member so this is definitely not for me. I want to see MY name on my work.
But, Nancy Drew books were some of my favorites growing up and I always enjoy a good Moira Rogers book so I clearly like the results of co-writing and ghost writing...