Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fraud or Not, You Decide

As I was perusing the fun and informative blog The Passive Voice I came across an article that stopped my scrolling finger.

James Patterson: the best seller who doesn't write his own books.

As a writer and a reader I found that too intriguing to pass up.  You can read the full article here, but the skinny is Mr. Patterson doesn't really write a line by line book.  He comes up with a 60 - 80 page detailed synopsis then subs the actual writing out to other writers.

I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this.  I'm still processing it.  My wife is not happy and says she will not be buying any more Patterson books, and will probably be getting rid of the ones on our shelf.  I understand where she's coming from.  There is a feeling of betrayal when you are spend your hard earned money on something and get something else in return.  Then again, if you liked the book who care who wrote it?

A few months back everyone was all in a huff about certain writers buying positive reviews for their novels.  I wasn't all that offended, but a lot of people were.  When you compare the two, which do you think is worse?

Is it more of a sin to pay to have people inflate the quality of your work or to let someone else write the book and slap your name on the cover?

I'm inclined to believe the latter is the greater transgression.

Mr. Patterson defends this method by calling it a collaboration and citing other artists and writers such as Gilbert and Sullivan, Woodward and Bernstein, Stephen King and Peter Straub.  My problem with this rationale is that when you buy their work both names appear together.  There is no deception.

Maybe what makes this slap sting all the more is the fact that Mr. Patterson is swimming in the cash.  I'm wondering just how many of the 275 million copies of his books he would have sold had it been known that though the idea came from James Patterson, the actual book was written by author So-n-So.

Maybe I'm wrong about all of this.  I need a few days to let my righteous indignation calm down.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Jennifer Jensen said...

Hmm, I'm not sure. On one hand, it's no different than any other ghostwriting. Most of the celebs, plus a lot of others with a compelling personal story to tell, have someone else write the book but put their own name on it. Only a few actually show it as a partnership.

I think somehow it hits us differently when it's fiction, and especially when it's an established writer who started out with his own writing and then wanted to get more books out than he had time to do. I guess if it's his story (and with a detailed synopsis, it is) and the ghost writers can do it in his style to the point that we don't know the difference, then I'd go with the substance of the book over who actually wrote it. But I just noticed that he's doing some middle grade stuff as well, and if he's farming out his foray into a new genre, that bothers me more.

Interesting question, though - thanks!