For the ghosts
edited: Thursday, October 20, 2005
By Todd Cheney
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2005
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Only Casper should be allowed to ghostwrite.
One of the most deceitful practices in the publishing industry today is that of ghostwriting. There's really nothing more greedy than lying to the public by saying one person wrote a certain book or article when it was in fact, mostly the work of another. In professional trade magazines this is especially harmful because it appears to attest to the fact that one does not need credentials in order to know what one is talking about. Check some related stories about medical journal ghostwriting to see what I mean.
But just because the offense to decency is particularly aggregious in medical journals, that makes it no less offensive as it pertains to other fiction and non-fiction books. Readers and society at large like to believe that publishers and large companies are not going to lie to them to get their money. Hence the truth in advertising laws were created. If you could consider the name on the front of a book, or the byline of an article, as a form of advertising, then ghostwriting should already be illegal under these laws.
It's unfortunate that morality, what you might call laws of the spirit, and the laws of the government do not match up on all points. Many people think that just because it isn't prohibited in government laws means that it is OK. This is not the case. There are many shady things you can do legally and ghostwriting is one of them. (You could also lump owning and operating a casino into this category, but that's for another day.)
Not only does ghostwriting deceive the buyers and readers of books, it also prevents new talent from emerging in the writing field. For any new talent to come out from obscurity, such a person would have to get credit for the work he or she does. Persons who are already public figures and come out with books--whether those books are ghostwritten or not--are directly preventing the publication of another book . . . possibly one by a new author that might be more worthwhile on the whole than what was written by the known celebrity. Considering that publishers have limited amounts of time, talent, money and labor, it stands to reason that they are going to do the most lucrative thing possible. But like so many other cases, the most lucrative thing possible is also the most dishonest. It's funny how the world forces you to choose between honesty and wealth. Shouldn't the two go hand in hand?
Ghostwriting gives the false impression that the person given credit for the authorship has the time and talent to write what's between the covers. This lets the reading public believe that anyone can do it--which is a lie. You must have natural talent to be a good writer. It's not different from any other entertainment pursuit such as acting, singing or telling jokes. There's an inborn tendency somewhere for one person to be better at something than another. Ghostwriting is one way that corporations attempt to exploit this little fact of life for profit. I'm sure some of you would agree with the following statements: "Most celebrity books are ghostwritten." "This book is so horrible that it had to have been ghostwritten," "Only a ghostwriter would write something like this," "Ghostwriters do what they do because they are greedy," "What ghostwriters do is dishonorable, because it misrepresents."
If you agree with any of the above, then congratulations, you and I are on the same page. Ghostwriting belongs to the ghosts--because in order to get me to do it, you'd have to kill me first.