Publishing Shock Horror

lucreSo hands up who was shocked, amazed and disgusted that Zoe Sugg’s best-selling Girl Online was ghost-written? Really?

First of all, Zoe is 24.  Book writing is a long haul job and  very few 24 year olds have the necessary staying power. Perhaps there was a time, when the world moved slowly, working days were long and Sunday sermons lasted an hour, but today, when people have the attention span of a puppy? Naah.

Secondly, what do you imagine gets publishing executives out of bed in the morning? The thought that today might be the day they discover the next Tolstoy? Try again.

A book is now a commodity. A writer needs to become a brand and most of us don’t have the foggiest idea how to achieve that. It takes a team. The finished item may carry someone’s name but that’s just an eye-catching adornment. It might help you to think of Girl Online as the literary equivalent of a jar of Loyd Grossman curry sauce. Do you think Loyd fills the jars?

Publishing used to be reckoned a gentleman’s profession. Now the accountants run the show. Everything happens for a reason. Prime shelf position is paid for.  The favour of a good blurb from a household name is called in. Gravy trains are leapt on before somebody else grabs the last seat.

Ghost writing? A perfectly honourable profession, particularly in the world of celebrity biographies. There have been desperate times when I’d have had a go myself, but  one editor friend counselled against it. She told me I leave my fingerprints all over anything I write. A ghost writer is required to park their ego and deliver copy cleansed of their own style.

And what about writers who employ a team of research elves? What about publishers who ‘commission’ posthumous novels, like the new Poirot mystery? Where do all these fit on the spectrum of veracity and transparency? Darned if I know. Somebody said to me, ‘Nothing is what it seems.’

Perhaps it never was.


  1. Suza Francina on December 15, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    I’ve just finished reading The Future Homemakers of America —the insightful ending led me to Amazon to learn more about the author and your books. . . And now I’ve stumbled onto your blog. Thank you for speaking your mind on the publishing world and everything else! Happy to meet you here.

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