Ghostwriting and Why Zoella Is NOT An Author

"Never judge a book by it's cover" holds a lot more weight than we thought.

Have you heard?! YouTube star Zoella wrote a book, except - she didn't. A few months ago, she began circulating the news that she would soon be releasing a fiction novel based on her life. Well, it's out, and so is the scandalous fact that she, in fact, didn't write the book. Her novel, Girl Online, was received excellently by her throngs of build-in YouTube fans, and broke the record for highest ever first week sales for a debut author, outselling the phenomenal and talent writer J.K. Rowling. I italicized 'writer' because despite Zoella's insistence that she's always wanted to be a writer and that the story and characters were her own, she is most definitely not a writer.

Ghostwriting has been around forever. A ghostwriter is simply a writer retained to write a novel, report, article or any other kind of writing on the behalf of another person, without being listed as the author on the front cover. I remember hearing about ghostwriting in the music industry, specifically ghostwriters composing all of P.Diddy's rhymes, when I was younger. At that point, I didn't really think too much of it. I was writing back then, but nothing more than creating characters, main plot points and maybe penning a chapter or two. Now, that I've struggled through the process of writing something, most recently the fifty thousand words for NaNoWriMo 2014, I'm appalled at the business of ghostwriting (not collaborating, which to me is entirely different) for two major reasons.

You're Being Dishonest

This first point of contention isn't so much an issue with ghostwriting in theory as it is with the industry in practice. As was the case with Zoella's (Zoe Sugg) Girl Online and probably so many other novels we don't know about, there is no mention anywhere on the book that it was ghostwritten. In this vlog, she makes the big announcement that Penguin publishing house contacted her regarding the writing style of her personal blog and suggested that she write a book. But as she continues to talk about the premise of the novel, it seems as though she's not acquainted well enough with the storyline to relay it to her viewers properly. She makes no mention of actually writing the book or using a ghostwriter in this video or any subsequent videos, aside from claiming that her "dream has been to write a book." So says most people, sister. Zoe mentions working really closely with an editor and an "editorial consultant" but doesn't clarify that "working really closely" and "helping [her] out" is actually code for "I didn't write this." Adding insult to injury, rumor has it that Siobhan Curham, Zoe's ghostwriter, only received about $11,000 for her part in Girl Online. My little writing heart is screaming in disbelief.

You're Not A Writer

I struggle with writing. Being a writer doesn't mean that you don't struggle with it, just that you push past it. In defense of her novel, Zoe insists that the characters and the plot were entirely her own. I'm sure this is representative of the thinking of many celebrity (or semi-celebrity) 'authors'. But as someone who is deep in the thick of piecing together a coherent novel from scraps of plot and characterization, the writing of the book takes place in, surprise!, the actual writing of the book. Initial character development and major storyline is just the beginning (the characters and major plot of my current work were create over a year ago!). Once the writing process begins, characters show you what they're really made of, some plot points get switched up and others ex'd out altogether. Midway through, you look back at what you have and you barely recognize the manuscript as even remotely related to what you had in the beginning. To claim that throwing characters and plot points out there is in any way equivocal to writing a novel is to claim that choosing paint colors and hauling a brick or two out to a plot of land means you've built a house. No. Just no.  

What do you think about ghostwriting? Do you care if the listed author was not the actual author?

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While I'm talking about books and before you run out to do your last minute shopping, consider picking up our December book of the month while you're out there!

My True Love Gave To Me by Stephanie Perkins et. al. 

I read Rainbow Rowell's story, Midnights, yesterday and was completely and expectantly blown-away. Anything Rainbow writes is an insta-love for me. I loved it so much I reread it before turning to any of the other stories :) If you're joining us this month (Kay and I will be linking up on January 6th!), I hope your enjoying the novel just as much. And if you haven't joined us yet, what are you waiting for?!