Posted by: Katie | September 28, 2009

The Author-Reader Compact

I got to thinking about this because I came across a post where the poster stated that a relatively well-known author who I happen to know uses ghostwriters. When I challenged this post, politely and offering the “out” of poorly intended sarcasm, the poster replied again that said author hires ghostwriters and it is obvious because there are continuity errors in the series and the author’s voice changes over the course of the series. The poster said no offense was intended by the original post. I wasn’t offended by it and I replied back that no offense was taken. I left it at that as it was obvious to me the effort of trying to convince this person the author emphatically does not use ghostwriters would be a waste of our time. As I said in my final reply, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion 🙂

This got me to thinking, however. I trust this author to be honest with me as a reader. This series has been in existence for almost 15 years now. I accept there will be continuity errors in a series of any media which runs that long. I expect the writer to grow in that period of time, and part of the growth may include a change in the author’s voice. Now, I don’t think the voice of this series has changed to where I would say “Well, Ghostwriter #1 wrote these books, and #2 wrote those and #3 wrote these over here” as the original poster implied was the case in her response to mine. I prefer to know, however, when a ghostwriter is being employed. I don’t need to know who the ghostwriter is, but if an author is challenged on the point, I need them to be honest about it. This is why I appreciate James Patterson. He does not hide that he has co-writers on some of his books, and even better, he puts their names on the front of the books along with his. I personally don’t read him, but I have the trust that when his name alone is on a book, he is the only one behind it. If an author were to come out after years of saying “nope, no ghostwriters” that they had indeed hired ghostwriters, I would feel as if the author-reader compact had been broken because if the author couldn’t be honest about the expression of art, how could I trust in the result?

Going back to the original poster, for a moment. Despite her belief that the author hired ghostwriters and denied the “fact”, the poster continued to read the series. She gained enjoyment from it. It appears to me that, for the poster, the author-reader compact is based strictly on the enjoyment, or not, of the end product.  I guess, this circles back to the idea of “trust networks”. Everyone has their own definition of what’s involved in a compact between them and an author. At what point does an author break the compact with you?


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