Another Name For Author?

Books GeekMom
james patterson ghostwriters, james patterson not sole author,

One best-selling author maps out plot and scene, then hires “collaborators” to do the actual writing. He reviews their work every 30 or 40 pages. Does this make him the book’s author?

It does when we’re talking about James Patterson. He spoke about his “writing process” in a Wall Street Journal interview titled “James Patterson Explains Why His Books Sell Like Crazy.” I don’t know about other readers, but when I buy a book by Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, George R.R. Martin, Suzanne Collins, or any other writer I believe that the person whose name is on the cover actually writes the scenes and dialogue that make up the story. I may be deluded.

At least in Patterson’s case, outsourcing chunks of the creative process is a wildly successful method for churning out detective novels as well as young adult books. He has 13 books coming out this year and earns 80 million annually. I know some of the great masters in art used assistants. I also know that collaboration is essential to many of today’s creative industries, from music to video game design. But after reading this laudatory interview I’m wondering if Patterson is an author or a brand name. What’s your take on this?


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9 thoughts on “Another Name For Author?

  1. Analogy wise, you’d never call a director of a movie one of the actors (unless of course he’s actually acting in the movie). In the same sense, I have a hard time equating writer with someone who doesn’t actually write for the book. He sounds more like a manager – coordinating the actual writers. If it works for him, so be it, but it seems to me the word author connotes the person who did the writing, slugged through the creative process of getting the right words on the page.

  2. I always joked about author factories when certain authors could pump out all kinds of books in a year.

    Maybe that actually hits a little close to home.

  3. I’ve read a lot of his books. The earlier works seem more like *his* work. Despite what must be really painstaking work to maintain his “voice” throughout the newer collaborative novels, they seem much more … contrived? packaged? commercialized? than the earlier books. I did get his autograph at the National Book Festival a few years ago and he seemed very nice, was willing to do more than one book when many authors had strict rules about that.

  4. THANK YOU for this Laura. I really have had such a problem with J.P. for a while now because of this. It reminds me of the studios of famous artists who get so caught up in profit and production that they sell “originals” made by a member of their staff rather then by their own hand. While it may be a common enough solution to supply and demand, and I’m sure many people are fine with it, as a creative person it just makes me ill.

  5. I think it’s cheating. I wouldn’t call him an author; he’s editing someone else’s work. That makes him an editor. The fact that he’s raking in millions based on this is appalling.

  6. So, do the “collaborators” get any credit? It’s one thing to read a book that is credited to Author 1 and Author 2, but another to read a book that’s written by someone not credited.
    Either way, I don’t think I have ever ready any of his books.

  7. I think your suggestion of “brand” nails what it is. People will just buy James Pattersons whether or not James Patterson wrote it, because they’re comfortable with that.

    But I think of writers– the ones who WRITE– who complain all the time about people who say to them “I have a great idea for a book! Why don’t I give you my idea and you write it and we split the profits 50/50!” I’m not sure how James Patterson gets away with this when an ordinary person just gets laughed at. But I guess it’s no different than celebrity “authors” who have ghostwriters, too. It’s the name selling it, not writing it. So “brand” is probably the best term.

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