May

13

2013

And, With, or Ghost?

by Steve Laube

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Sometimes it is helpful to review publishing terms to make sure we are all talking about the same thing.

The cover of a book invariably will state the author’s name. Every once in a while there are two or more names listed (i.e. Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee). The use of “and” or “with” is the code word that tells the reader what type of professional relationship is between these names on the cover when it comes to how the book was written. Each is a “collaboration” but are not identical.

AND

If the names are connected by an “And” they are co-authors. Each with top-billing. They have worked hard to create a book something that reflects both of their perspectives on the topic.

Lean Bodies Fat WalletsThe cover to the right is a book from two of our clients coming out in December by Ellie Kay and Danna Demetre called Lean Body Fat Wallet: Discover the Powerful Connection to Help You Lose Weight, Dump Debt, and Save Money. They worked together to approach two rather different topics (wellness and finances) and put them under one umbrella of a book on general health and wealth. If you look carefully you will note that it lists Ellie AND Danna.

WITH

Books that use a “with” connecting the names on the cover mean that the first name is the principle person. It may be their story, or their idea, or any number variations of that. The second name is the writer. They are hired either by the principle person or by the publisher to put the book together.

Until We All Come HomeThe cover to the right is a book by Kim de Blecourt “WITH” Ginger Kolbaba called Until We All Come Home. It is Kim’s amazing story but Ginger put the words on the page. There are a number of highly skilled “with” writers, also known as collaborators who have a special talent for writing other people’s stories. Lyn Vincent is probably one of the most well known in our industry for collaborating on bestsellers like Heaven is for Real and Same Kind of Different as Me.

Note however that the principle is the person whose story is being told. But cover credit is given to the writer who has able actually make the story readable.

GHOST

There is third type of collaboration that is hidden from the reading public. This is where the writer receives no cover credit for their work in writing the book. There are a lot of well known books that are written my someone who is not credited on the cover. I wish I could rattle off a bunch of titles or author names to “shock” you with the practice. But that would be unfair and in some cases we have non-disclosure agreements to prevent that information from getting out. I know of some organizations that have a writer on staff who does the writing of the books for that organization, but the writer does not receive a “with” credit on the cover.

Rather than distract from the intent of today’s post, let’s just say that the issue of ghostwriting can be a little controversial. A few claim that it is a form of lying to public or at least being deceptive. Others find it perfectly acceptable [see another great article linked here]. And still others draw the line at novels saying that ghosting non-fiction is okay but fiction is not.

Let’s just say that it is a fairly common practice for people who have tremendous ability as speakers and leaders but have neither the time nor expertise to have someone else write their books. So they, in essence, use a contractor to build the book. To carry that metaphor a little further, we might know the name of the building “Trump Towers” but we don’t know the name of the contractor who actually built it. In most cases the book idea itself came from the visible person’s speaking or their vision, but another person is the one who put flesh on the idea.

WARNING

Be very careful before you get involved in any of the above three relationships. Make sure you have the nature of your relationship spelled out in a contract. We will not let our clients go very far with a project unless they have some sort of contractual agreement between them in a collaboration. I once saw a friendship dissolved between two writers when the publisher switched the names on the front cover of the book. The person who was now listed second claimed they had written most of the book and should get primary listing and accused the other writer of engineering the swap of names. Read the blog post about the lawsuit between the original people around the novel The Shack. A cautionary tale about the need to have things crystal clear in writing from the beginning.

14 Responses to “And, With, or Ghost?”

  1. Pam May 13, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    Thanks for making the differences very clear. As a newbie to publishing I am finding that such subtle differences are actually quite important.

  2. Jeanne Takenaka May 13, 2013 at 6:20 am #

    I didn’t realize there were differences between “And” and “With.” I wasn’t aware of them earlier. I can definitely see the need for a contractual agreement when two people are working together in any publishing capacity.

  3. Lee Carver May 13, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    I shared with a friend at DFW Ready Writers meeting Saturday that I’m working on an autobiography of our mission years in the Amazon and finding it surprisingly different from anything else I’ve ever tried. Thought I knew the characters and plot very well ;-) and it would be easy–ish. She remarked that there is a very successful writer in this area who writes the stories of others, and I could be contracted to write for the rest of my life if I got into that field. Not at all sure I would want to, but the idea is out there.

  4. Janet Ann Collins May 13, 2013 at 7:03 am #

    In my opinion ghost writing is dishonest. If someone buys a book believing it was written by a famous person and it really wasn’t, they’ve been cheated. Using “with” eliminates that problem.

  5. Lee Carver May 13, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    I should add that, according to my friend, a lot of these biographical writing jobs are from people who want to record the stories of their grandmothers, family history, and the like. Not an actor pretending to write his own rise to fame.

  6. Jaime Wright May 13, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    This makes SO much more sense now! Thx

  7. Ellie Kay May 13, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Hey Steve, thanks for the shout out on our coauthored book, Lean Body, Fat Wallet. Both Danna and I have solo titles in place, but it was really fun to write a coauthored project. The thing I like the most about it is I ONLY HAVE TO WRITE HALF A BOOK! :-)

  8. Marci Seither May 13, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    What is the difference between a ghosted work and writing under a pen name? The real author doesn’t receive the credit and is unknown to the reader. Speech writers are hired to literally put words in other people’s mouths, they don’t receive the credit, I think writing for hire is similar in a lot of ways.

    I just sold my 8th piece to Guideposts, only half of them have my name on it. People ask me if it bothers me that I don’t get the credit. My response is “It was a great story that many people might not have read if I hadn’t written it.”

    Publishers are realizing that a story in the storyteller’s POV and voice makes a better connection to readers than “as told to” stories. However, it boils down to personal conviction for the writer on whether or not it crosses a moral line of honesty. I love the quote “It is better to write for yourself and have no public than write for the public and have no self.”

    Thanks Steve for a great post on something that many people wonder about and the potential of harm for those who are not versed on the pros and cons.

    • Janet Ann Collins May 13, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

      Marci, using a pen name doesn’t seem dishonest to me because most readers don’t care who wrote a book unless they want more by the same author. But if the book does claim to have been written by a famous person that’s usually the main reason why readers buy it, so if it was ghostwritten they’ve been deceived.

      • Marci Seither May 14, 2013 at 12:40 am #

        When something is ghosted there is a lot of interviewing with the person. When I write a ghosted piece it really does sound like the listed author wrote it because it really is their story and often the words they have used when I interviewed them. What people are really buying is that person’s story from their POV. I am not against a “with” anytime someone helps with the writing. I like to know who wrote it because I think it ADDS credibility, but it is the publishers call and unfortunately it is often driven by reader preference.

        Janet, I totally understand and respect your view because I think many Christian writers have to find a balance. I have had to turn down stories I didn’t feel I could write due to integrity of subject. They were puff pieces and I didn’t want my name on them. Evaluating where you stand and being in communication with those you are working with is the best win/win because when it is all said and done, we will be accountable for the word we spoke and the words we wrote.

      • Janet Ann Collins May 14, 2013 at 5:56 am #

        Marci, I know you are a person with integrity and didn’t mean to imply that the Christian authors who do ghostwriting are not honest. I was speaking from the imagined point of view of the readers. Since I’m not impressed by fame I would never buy a book for that reason myself. However I think we should refrain from all appearance of evil to that audience and still think they would feel cheated.

  9. C.L. Dyck May 13, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    I sent this link to my writing partner with a promise to disavow him if my name doesn’t come *second,* since we wrote together in his primary genre rather than mine. :)

    Honestly, it’s a really good deal to have a professional, knowledgeable partner. I’m very thankful for that.

    I don’t think ghostwriting is deceptive. I think it’s what happens when the person’s name is no longer just their name, it’s a brand–a company name, essentially. When the brand/company does well enough, extra employees are hired or contracted to manage the business’s needs. Being in a position to hire a ghostwriter is a sign that business is good, and I can only wish those people all the best in their ventures. They’re maintaining management of their ideas and communications. What they’re outsourcing is execution.

  10. Peter DeHaan May 14, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

    I don’t recall if they used “and” or “with,” but I seen books where the second name is not on the cover, only on the inside.

  11. Janet Ann Collins May 15, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    Here’s a relevant link:
    http://cecmurpheyswritertowriter.blogspot.com

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