Writers, Fakers, Authors, Ghostwriters…cue Mark Twain rolling over in his grave

I had a chat with an author this week – Diccon Bewes, author of various books (http://www.dicconbewes.com/). As we munched on rather lousy fish and a rather juicy burger, I asked Diccon his opinion about the debate over “writer” vs. “author.” I didn’t need to ask his opinion about “faker” vs. “author” because I’ve read his well-researched, carefully-crafted words.

He’s not judgmental about all the terms (like most are), but one of the questions really stuck with me. Are you a “writer” if you write emails?

I’m a writer. The book I wrote is a great book and I wrote every word, but I’m not an author. Diccon is an author. Diccon’s books are not riddled with blind-eyed grammar mistakes. As I freely admit, I wrote my book in three weeks (and revised many times after). Diccon painstakingly researches, interviews, crafts. I have an album of original songs that accompanies my book, which I co-wrote with my buddy, Jackson. I’m an opera singer. Diccon might have sung “Toreador” in the shower, but I doubt he’d claim he’s an opera singer. I think we’re both okay with being who we are.

Look, there are major differences (an English major, come to think of it) involved in many of these “titles.” There are also, for me, fundamental dangers and failures in using them in a flexible way. You are not an author if someone wrote your words for you. You are not a writer if someone wrote your words for you. You are a storyteller, even if it’s your own story, and that is fantastic. And enough.

I blame ghostwriters for some of this. They are doing wonderful, creative, expressive things…and enabling a falsehood to be promulgated. Ghostwriters have penned truly exceptional works that have been primarily attributed to people with name recognition/money. I do some translation work for a website that features ads asking writers to write entire books for 400USD. They must relinquish all claim and legal right to the work after the obligatory “here’s 2 months of paid electricity bills” given as a fee for surrendering their intellectual property. The “owner” of this slaps his or her fat cat name on the book and no one knows that someone else wrote the book.

Goethe wrote an entire book about a theory of colors. I’m fairly certain if I googled “books written by Honey Poo Poo” something would pop up. Ghostwriter/editor/person that does everything for me, please google Honey’s Christian name. Geez, welcome to 2014.

I know it’s hard to make a decent income from writing. Guess what? It’s really hard to make a decent income after you’ve sold your integrity.

For all of the writers who actually put pen to paper for a full 400+ pages, my hat is off to each of you. I’ve done it twice now and it wasn’t exactly easy.

For all of the ghostwriters who consciously allow people to slap a celebrity name on expressions, turns of phrases, research, beautiful dialogue, etc.? Honor your education, your talent, the gift you have with words…and be brave.

For those of you who think writing an email makes you a writer? Well, okay. I did hear the University of Fantasy Land Bachelor degrees are lovely. Covered in glitter, isn’t that write?

For the authors who challenge my brain to see, hear, smell, think, explore, examine…I have only gratitude.

1 comment

  1. I put a much higher price on what I ghostwrite. Consequently, I lose business to those who will sell out for $400. Still, I don’t think I have charged enough in the past. Some people are great to work with while others take on the attitude of ownership of your brain, talent, body and soul.
    My advice is to choose your ghostwriting jobs carefully. Do you believe in the project? Does it add anything to your skills as a writer? Can you learn anything that will enhance your life? Can you walk away, knowing that your name will not appear on the cover? Can you risk losing the job in order to keep your integrity?
    I have co-authored a couple of books, my name appearing in little print. These were stories I was and remain passionate about. These, I don’t regret.

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