[Image: a grey background with a ghost (white sheet with eye holes cut out and stick arms) writing on some pieces of floating paper. The text over the spirit reads, “Ghost writer.” There are curlicues in the corners.]
If someone ever accuses you of plagiarism, all you have to do is that that the original author was your ghostwriter. Because that’s what ghostwriting is; it’s plagiarism that both parties agree to and that somehow makes it okay. But it’s not. And here’s why in detail!
In 2008 I was struggling to find a job with my English degree. I heard about a company called eLance from my dentist. It’s a place for freelancers to get writing jobs and the like and earn money. I thought this would be perfect for me! I got on the site and set up my account and started applying for jobs.
And no one wanted to hire me.
I had no experience and therefore could get no work. Finally, after applying for more jobs than I care to remember and my score of landing employment at exactly 100% in the red, I got a job ghostwriting articles for a dating website. I wrote 10 articles on various topics for this site and only after I was finished did I realize exactly what ghostwriting meant. I was not allowed to put my name on any of the articles. I was not allowed to put this on my resume. The man who hired me got to put his name on my writing even though it was my work and not his and his inability to craft an email was a pretty clear indication that he would never have the command of the English language that I did.
It occurred to me as I saw the $50 payment in my PayPal account that this was all bullshit. I was getting no credit for work that I did. He gets all the credit and all that he did was have $50. Those were my words, that was my writing, and I sold it for the cost of two pedicures.
Another point of contention with me and ghostwriting is when celebrities “write” their autobiographies or fictional books. Most often, they don’t write a single word. But it gives the public the impression that this person can not only act, dance, sing, look hot, etc. But they can also write. And that’s not always true. It’s fine if the celebrities’ name is on the book, it’s about them, so fair enough. My problem is when the name of the person that actually wrote the book is not on there and it’s left for people to think that they penned the entire work themselves.
When I was reading one of Katie Price’s many books, I realized that while she talked about the fictional books that she had “written” and was currently promoting, not once did she talk about brainstorming ideas, writing anything down, meeting with people to write anything down, editing, discussing the work or anything related to writing, whatsoever. According to her tomes, her books just magically appeared and all she had to do was squeeze herself into a ridiculous outfit in order to promote it. It seems pretty clear by this grievous omission of any actual work on these books that they were completely ghostwritten, from the ideas to the actual text, and all Katie Price did was stick her name on the cover.
In the end, I’m a fan of honesty and people getting credit for their own work. Ghostwriting is legal plagiarism and a shitty thing to have to do with your writing. Everyone deserves to be able to put what they’ve done on their resume and be open about who contributed what to the creation of a piece of writing. There’s nothing interesting or intriguing about stealing someone else’s words and passing them off as your own, even if your name can sell copy. Books should never be run by the celebrity crowd that has no love or dedication to literature and is only looking to expand their brand. Leave something sacred in this goddamn world. Leave us the real writers and their words.