June 14, 2010
Ghostwriting Gets Cool

Seems ghostwriting is all the rage lately. Besides being thrust into the spotlight with the success of Roman Polanski's new movie, The Ghost Writer (which Joey wrote about), there's also now a new professional association, Association of Ghostwriters (which Joey will write about) and increased chatter in the media about the craft.

As with any profession that receives increased exposure, we have our folk heros of ghostwriting. You know the types, the wildly successful people who make ridiculous sums of money and make everything you do as a professional feel inadequate-and frankly, amateurish.

One such writer is Michael D'Orso, who was featured in an article posted at themillions.com entitled, "The Happy Ghost."

The article opens with a true recognition of the metamorphasis the craft of ghostwriting is making:

Ghostwriting used to be book publishing's dirty little secret. A vaguely disreputable art, it was practiced quietly on the back streets of the business's shadier precincts. The term itself speaks to a desire for privacy and anonymity - ghosts were invisible and, for the most part, happy to stay that way. No more. Today a growing cadre of writers are discovering that checking their ego at the door and telling someone else's story can make them very successful, very rich and, in at least one case, as close to happy as most writers will ever get.

and goes on to profile D'Orso's wildly successful career and to make some interesting philosophical musings about why ghostwriting is not only emerging into the spotlight but also gaining mainstream acceptance, going from a "dirty little secret" to a what The New York Times describes as "a mark of prestige like being seen about town with a trophy wife."

Small wonder, then, that ghostwriting has officially left the ghetto. In the years since Iacocca appeared - and perhaps going back to Alex Haley's legendary ghostwriting job on The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 1965 - the engines that drive the arts, entertainment, celebrity and technology have been working together, sometimes by accident and sometimes by design, to remove any lingering taint from the act of collaboration. As the generation weaned on computer technology takes center stage, the embrace of pastiche in all art forms is challenging the very notion of a unique artistic voice. When everything belongs to everybody, originality itself becomes a questionable proposition. After a German teenager named Helene Hegemann won rave reviews for Axolotl Roadkill, her novel about druggy Berlin club kids, a blogger pointed out that she'd lifted entire pages, almost verbatim, from another writer. Unfazed, Hegemann countered that her methods were part of the sampling culture the novel set out to capture and celebrate. The judges of a prestigious German literary prize agreed. "There's no such thing as originality anyway," Hegemann said, "just authenticity."

I found this article fascinating, and I encourage you to read the whole thing.

That being said, it's also tempting to get discouraged when we read profiles of people who seem so much more successful than us. Don't. D'Orso's success is admirable but definitely an anomaly. I do well, but certainly not as good as D'Orso. And I'm even represented by the very same agent quoted in the article, Madeleine Morel of 2M Communications, Ltd.

You can do well too-and most likely you already are. Let's count our blessings.

Maybe we'll never reach the level of a D'Orso, but we can certainly pay the bills and have some extra cash to sock away-all while doing what we love the most, writing. And not many people can claim that.

And to top it all off, we're cool now.

Talk with you all next week!