I’ve been thinking about the issue of ghost writing for about a year ever since Zoe Sugg’s debut novel, Girl Online, was published last November. I’d not really done anything with these thoughts though until a couple of days ago when I posted my mini-review of Girl Online and another blogger asked if it was ghost-written.
Although there was, and to some extent still continues to be, a lot of discussion about how much of Girl Online Zoe Sugg actually wrote, I made the conscious decision not to mention that aspect of the book in my review. Taking the book at face-value – which is all we can do without real facts – I decided only to credit Zoe as she is the listed author. The issue of ghost writing is of course different for every book but I think talking about ghost writers in way that negatively portrays the credited author begs the question – why are people reading this book?
With Girl Online it’s undeniable that readers picked it off the shelves for 1 of 2 reasons. Firstly (and certainly the main reason) is that it’s written by Zoella, a blogger and YouTuber with millions of teenage fans. The other reason, although probably only accounting for a small percentage of book sales, is that it’s an easy-to-read fiction aimed at 10-14 year olds. Given that almost all of the book sales will have been directly as a result of ‘Zoella’ hysteria, to me it’s apparent that it doesn’t actually matter who wrote the book because no-one was buying it based on the writing.
Both Penguin and Zoe Sugg have confirmed that the story, characters, and themes were Zoe’s original concepts and that the help given was in the construction of the writing. I’m sure that I can speak for most 10 – 14 year olds when I say that as a young teen I wasn’t interested in grammatical features – I just wanted a really good story, even better if the writer was someone that I admired.
So then if the story is Zoe’s and people are only buying it because it’s a Zoella product, why should we credit a ghost writer? An interesting comment that was left on my Girl Online book review was ‘I always think that a writer, whether ghost or actual, should always have some credit when a review is given’ which is something I personally disagree with.
I think that a ghost writer should be just that, read but never seen. I know that a lot of people disagree with the way that ghost writers are expected to keep anonymous but actually, that’s their job. Ghost writers are paid a fee to write a book for which they will not be credited and they know that that’s the deal.
With Girl Online in particular the massive sales achieved (78,000 copies in the first week) had nothing to do with the quality of the writing – it was all down to Zoe’s huge teenage following. It just seemed so silly to me that people were suggesting that Zoe was taking credit for alleged Girl Online ghost-writer Siobhan Curham’s success because without the Zoella stamp on the front cover no-one would have bought it. Everything that makes Girl Online Girl Online is down to Zoe Sugg, and so I think that she absolutely deserves the credit for the immense success of this book.
There is so much more to say on this topic so do let me know what you think down below!