Indie writers are fighting ghosts.

Ghostwriters are keeping big brand names running when otherwise the novels would stop because the author has died.

As indie writers, the odds have always been against us.

We know our next book, or our last book, is one among millions.

It’s a battle to become known.

It’s tough to be recognized.

It’s harder than ever before.

Why?

 

Readers have always looked for good books, and good writers are frantically searching for ways to connect with good readers. But now, indie writers are fighting ghosts.

New York publishers realize they have one great advantage in the book publishing and book selling marketplace. They have authors with big names, authors of best sellers, authors that have already been branded, authors who have the uncanny ability to sell books dead or alive.

Look out. Here come the ghosts.

Rather than search for talented new authors, New York, as a whole, has chosen to take the easy way, the shortcut, and cast its lot with big names – well-known names – and their trusty ghostwriters.

Robert Ludlum died in 2001. But since then, the marketplace has welcomed The Sigma Protocol, The Janson Directive, The Tristan Betrayal, The Ambler Warning, and The Bancroft Strategy. All showcase Robert Ludlum’s name in big bold letters at the top of the dust jacket or eBook cover. And that’s all readers want. They are buying Robert Ludlum’s name. They ignore the names at the bottom: Gayle Lynds, Philip Shelby, Patrick Larkin, and James Cobb. Erik Van Lustbader has even signed on to continue Ludlum’s series of “Jason Bourne” books.

In like manner, the great Robert Parker checked out in 2010, but don’t worry about the loss of those wonderful Spenser and Jesse Stone mysteries. The author’s estate wasted little time in hiring Michael Brandman, then Ace Atkins, to keep those novels rolling out under Robert Parker’s name.

And James Patterson makes absolutely no bones about hiring ghostwriters to churn out his novels. Patterson doesn’t worry about style anyway. He always said that he was a storyteller but certainly not a craftsman. That’s why his publisher is bringing out as many as nine new James Patterson branded novels a year, why he is earning a sparse $80 million a year, and why one in every seventeen books sold these days carries the James Patterson name.

His formula is simple enough to understand. Patterson says he researches a subject, creates an extensive outline, then hands it all off to a co-writer. He may fine tune the final manuscript or give the ghostwriter a few notes and let him fine tune it himself. As he points out, this is really a model that’s been used for years by TV shows, which are always written by a team of writers.

As Stephen Leary wrote: “It’s a fraud. It’s a lack of respect for the author’s fans. And it has something of the underworld about it. But it’s the book publishing business today. Ghostwriters are keeping big brand names running when otherwise they would stop. Publishers and estates refuse to fess up and give credit where credit is definitely due. Cash is king.”

As far as authors, publishers, and estates are concerned, it’s all about the name: the name on the dust jacket and the name on the check.

The book world has always been a competitive business.

Now good writers are being forced to compete with the ghosts.

I’m fighting ghosts with my Ambrose Lincoln series. The author is still alive and mine is the only name on the cover. You can find Conspiracy of Lies HERE on Amazon.

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  • Jackie Taylor Zortman

    That’s shocking to me about James Patterson. I had no idea he was doing that and he’s one of my favorite authors. That takes the edge off it a bit for me now. As far as Robert B. Parker’s writers keeping Jesse Stone going, I am delighted. He’s one of my favorite characters and it keeps Tom Selleck playing him on the TV screen. I think he’s absolutely perfect for the part. A city homicide detective becoming a small town chief of police hooked me right away with the first book. Just like home to me, except my resident cop doesn’t have and never has had a drinking problem.

  • Not a lot of originality – my apologies to the ghostwriters – coming out of these franchises.

    But then, aren’t most readers (and publishers) said to want ‘the same, only different’?

    Maybe that’s safer. When I go to the grocery store, I don’t want to have to think about every single purchase. When I watch TV, Netflix is offering me things which I might like, based on the previous shows I’ve watched.

    So the new writer has two choices: more of the same (and compete with the franchises), or go ahead and be different – and cross your fingers very hard that there might be a few more rebels out there. And wonder how the heck you’re going to reach them.

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