Friday, June 10, 2011

Celebrity Best-Sellers: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

I read this article from NYTimes.com a few days ago, "Celebrity Books and Ghostwriters: In Their Own Words? Maybe" (full article is linked and worth a read) by Julie Bosman. Although nothing in it completely surprised me, my emotions churned--none of them good.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
Photo by bradgillette

The piece left me a little bitter, irritated, and maybe even a tad angry. I realize life isn't fair (that fact has been pounded in my head from birth) and I wouldn't say I'm all that envious of these celebrities with hit shows, huge endorsements, clothing lines, and who now have taken the publishing world by storm.

What bothers me is that these celebrities are taking credit for skills they do not possess.

The article shares that Nicole Polizzi, "Snookie," from MTV's hit Jersey Shore claims she's only read two books in her entire life. I continued on and found the following:
When Ms. Polizzi appeared on “Today” in January, Matt Lauer asked, “Did you really write this book?”


“I did,” Ms. Polizzi said. “Because if you read it, you’ll know the first page that I wrote it. Cause, like, it’s all my language.” (When pressed further, she admitted that there was a co-writer.)
It seems many of these celebrities claim to have written their own books, but when pressed, admit to a collaborator, aka, a ghostwriter.

Further on in the article:

Ms. Richie promoted her second novel, “Priceless,” in an interview last year with USA Today, describing her writing routine: write early in the morning, before the rest of her family wakes up. “I write all my own stories,” she said.


But Ms. Richie’s publisher, Judith Curr of Atria Books, indicated otherwise, saying that a ghostwriter did most of the writing of Ms. Richie’s book. (Ms. Richie did not respond to a request for comment.)
At least Snooki eventually owned up to having a co-writer, although I wonder how "co" the co-writer could be if Snooki's only read two books. Nicole Richie wouldn't even give her ghostwriter a sliver of credit! These celebrities enjoy perks most average people will never see--I guess they want to eat their cake and claim they baked it too.

So why does this incense me so? After a round of self-analysis involving Coke and brownie bites, I figured out my problem.

It's the lying.

Lying about "writing in the morning" and passing off a book as their own belittles the years of work most writers put in to become publishable. Taking full credit for a book when one only contributed "all of the ideas" is wrong.

Ideas are easy. Executing them into a readable book is hard.

Am I a writer snob? Yes. Yes I am.

If you claim to be the sole writer of a book and state you put the time in every morning to write, then watch said book climb to #1 on best-seller lists--well, you'd better be telling the truth, and you'd better be writing and revising every last page. If not, then admit it. Give the real writer credit, if not in name at least with a reference to your co-writer.

How do you feel about celebrities taking full credit when someone else wrote the bulk of the book?

I'm guest blogging over at Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America today! Stop by for "How Much Sizzle in the Summer Romance?"

Have a fabulous Friday!!

31 comments:

  1. I think it's very normal. Ghost writers have been around for ages. And we'd be surprised at the number of books that are ghost written. It's not a glorious life but they are getting paid.

    And I think the whole point is to make it look written by the person. I know most people have never even heard the time ghost writer but, oh well. Most people don't understand how hard it is to write.

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  2. I'm appalled and a snob just like you! Arrgghh! If there was such a thing as "writer wrestling" we real writers would take 'em all down. Well...perhaps not Snookie. She just keeps on going, and going and going.

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  3. I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn how many books are actually written by ghost writers - even some best selling authors have ghost writers.

    What irks me the most is the integrity of people. To flat out lie about it? Why? Stay silent if you must, but why lie?

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  4. It happens all the time,most people know that celebrities books are ghostwritten. Not all, but...
    Still, I think it's pretty stupid and wrong to lie about it.
    Not that I'm interested in that kind of book anyway.

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  5. I'm with you, Jill. It's all about the "lying." Always. If I catch someone in a lie, any kind of lie at all, something rises up in me. "Folks," I want to say. "It's really not hard. Just tell the truth!"

    Hey, thanks for the Jason Aldean recommend! I just downloaded the song you mentioned and a few others.

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  6. Yeah - the lying bothers me too. Why not just own up to it? It's the hiding the truth that's weird to me.

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  7. I get you on this.

    I hope this comes across how I mean it to, but I guess I just don't pay all that much attention to Snookie and Ritchie, etc. I know the world sees them as celebrities and their books sold well, but I'm not buying.

    I'm not doing this with as much gentile as I'd intended, but I guess I never had all that much invested in their integrity to begin with.

    ~ Wendy

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  8. Good morning!

    Laura: You're right--I know you're right and I've known about ghostwriters for years. The quotes in the article brought home how many people have no problem with falsely claiming credit. Just own up to it, people!

    Em: Ha! Ha! Writer wrestling--awesome!

    Heather: Yep. It's false representation. Not cool.

    Elle: You're right. I think what through me over the edge was the "I write in the mornings." Well, writing a book and jotting notes in a journal or scribbling a recipe down aren't the same thing!

    Patti: Right on--tell the truth! And isn't that Jason Aldeen song great? It's been playing on our radio stations all month. Love it!

    Katie: Me too! And would it really hurt their sales if they gave a shout out to their collaborator in the acknowledgements? I highly doubt it.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  9. Wendy: I understand. You wouldn't walk into a book store and zoom over to the MTV celebrity author aisle. I get it!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  10. If I was doing the ghostwriting for these people, I'd insist that my name never, ever be mentioned in conjunction with their work. So who knows, maybe the lying is really to protect the poor ghostwriter who has to take whatever job possible to get by, but is thoroughly ashamed of the tripe that gets churned out!

    (All said tongue-in-cheek, of course. Well, not the tripe part. In truth, I do think their lying is disgusting. But then, what else do we expect from Hollywood?)

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  11. I don't mind the ghost writing--it gives good writers a paycheck. However, I do mind when it's not common knowledge. I just always assumed that it was. My off-hand comment blew the lid off of this with a non-writer the other day, and that non-writer was pissed off that they had been "taken in". And lied to.

    I want to have an analysis session with you. Mmmm brownie bites and Coke.

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  12. The whole subject of celebrity is interesting... if I like the person or have some kind of affinity for their cause then I am apt to show some grace, whether ghostwritten or not. But what gets me is someone like Madonna writing a children's book... so does it sit beside her "coffee table" book at her English Manor? (For her children to read?)

    Hmmm, is someone bitter?? ;)

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  13. I agree with you about the lying thing! It's perfectly fine if anyone wants to use a ghostwriter, but own up to it. Say it was your general idea, but the ghostwriter experienced the actual blood, sweat, and tears. But I suppose celebrities don't understand the writing life and that's why they don't appreciate their ghostwriters. They probably never even formally meet; the ghostwriter probably meets the celebrity's agent or assistant and that's it!

    On the other hand, ghostwriters know they won't receive any credit. That's where the "ghost" comes in! But a co-writer should receive credit, and it's in very poor taste if a celebrity doesn't acknowledge his or her co-writer beyond a simple thanks on the first page.

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  14. Eloise: Ha! Thanks for making me laugh!!

    Heather: Yeah, that's what bugs me. I think readers expect the name on the front cover to be the author. Not "inspired by the ideas of," but the actual author.

    Cheryl: Right! If the subject matter interested me, I would read a book by a celebrity (and I wouldn't be turned off by a co-author!). It is strange to see the wide range of books from certain celebrities. :)

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  15. Laura: You bring up a good point. Is there a difference between a co-writer and a ghostwriter? And what is the accepted protocol for using and acknowledging them?

    Readers have shown they are tired of being duped--whether by fake memoirs or false writing claims. I know I am!

    Thanks, everyone, for stopping by and chiming in!

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  16. In a slightly different vein, it bothered me when calligraphy students would hang up their shingle after taking a 6 week class. How could they pass themselves off as professionals when they barely knew how to construct the letters? You know what? I stopped fretting about it. They weren't taking work out of the mouths of calligraphers. It probably gave them pleasure to do the work for friends and family. It wouldn't stop me from honing my skills and doing the best work I could.

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  17. Hi Jill,
    Credit should go where the credit is due...to the actual writer. You're right, a shout out wouldn't hurt their sales. Although, how people like "Snookie" get sales at all is beyond me. :)

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  18. I don't have anything against anyone who ghostwrites for a living, but I don't care for ghostwriting as a practice in general. If you can't write a book then you don't deserve credit for doing do. Normally I don't read celebrity books since many of them tend to be more about making money than actual content (in my opinion at least).

    If you have a ghostwriter at least give them credit as a co-writer. I can fully understand when a celebrity, politician, etc. wishes to publish a memoir and needs help, but at least give credit to your co-writer. Is that really too much to ask?

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  19. CJ: Oh, I know what you're saying. We aren't experts after taking one class! But I'm with you--those calligraphers aren't hurting anyone. Now if they hired someone else to do the calligraphy and claimed it was their own... :)

    Lacie: Hear, hear! :)

    Aron: Yep. My thoughts exactly. The one exception is Steve Martin. I read his Shopgirl when it first came out and I loved it. If I find out he had a ghostwriter, I'll cry! And I have Tina Fey's Bossypants on order!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  20. I agree with you that the person should acknowledge that they have a ghostwriter. I think it is all fine as long as that is done.

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  21. I wonder why the never considered admitting that they don't care to take the time to labor on paper, and decided to hire someone instead.

    Now, that's the truth:)

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  22. I think the biggest thing that bothers me, Jill, is that there seems to be no accountability today for MINOR infractions of the truth...How can we possibly expect major mistruths to be any different?

    And I realize ghostwriters do get paid, but if said "author" is asked point-blank whether or not he or she had assistance in writing the book, I would appreciate an honest answer. A lie is a lie is a lie.

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  23. Nancy: Yep. Ghostwriters are a fact of life. :)

    Tamika: I know. It just seems like an easy way for them to make a quick buck. But I can't fault them for taking the ghostwriter route--just failing to admit it when asked point-blank!

    Cynthia: You said exactly what I want to say! Little lies, big lies--they're all part of a trust problem.

    Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  24. I'm with you all the way on this one.

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  25. Jill, I totally agree with you. We know how hard the ghost writers worked, and it's only fair that they receive credit.

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  26. It's always the lying that bothers me too...

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  27. This really gets my goat! It cheapens the hard work that REAL writers put into their work. Many of these celebrities casually claim to be writers, but put little--if any effort into getting a 'bestseller' out there. Shame on them for not giving credit where it is due.

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  28. Loree: Right on!

    Julie: Yep. I understand not putting a co-author label on the book, but acknowledgement should be made in the book and to the press.

    TheBookGirl: Gets me angry every time!!

    C.E.: Well said! I'm with you!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  29. Can't stand it. And also for the fact that people buy it not because it's a good book or because it's well written or has a compelling story, but because the celebrity wrote it.

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  30. I loved this post! I'm so glad that someone finally said it; that you said it! I find it extremely annoying when celebrities brag about their books making the NYT best seller lists...when 1/2 the time they didn't even write the darn thing!

    The publishing house is really to blame - but then again, they're genius - aren't they? Slapping a celeb's name on the book and boosting sales?

    That said, I have no issue with the ghost writers themselves. Am I contradicting myself? :)

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  31. Oh, yeah, Tiffany, I'm all AGAINST bragging about something we didn't do!! If I tell a seamstress I have a vision for a red dress with short, puffy sleeves and she sews it for me, I technically did not make the dress. Did I have input on it? Yes. But I can't claim to have "made it myself." Why aren't they getting this??

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