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Thursday, 28 May 2015

WRITERS ON WRITING #66: Laurie Graham


So hands up who was shocked, amazed and disgusted that Zoe Suggs's best-selling Girl Online was ghost-written?  Really?

First of all, Zoe is 24.  Book writing is a long haul job and very few 24 year olds have the necessary staying power.  Perhaps there was a time, when the world moved slowly, working days were long and Sunday sermons lasted an hour, but today, when people have the attention span of a puppy?  Naah.

Secondly, what do you imagine gets publishing executives out of bed in the morning?  The thought that today might be the day they discover the next Tolstoy?  Try again.

A book is now a commodity.  A writer needs to become a brand and most of us don't have the foggiest idea how to achieve that.  It takes a team.  The finished item may carry someone's name but that's just an eye-catching adornment.  It might help you to think of Girl Online as the literary equivalent of a jar of Loyd Grossman curry sauce.  Do you think Loyd fills the jars?

Publishing used to be reckoned a gentleman's profession. Now the accountants run the show.  Everything happens for a reason.  Prime shelf position is paid for.  The favour of a good blurb from a household name is called in.  Gravy trains are leapt on before somebody else grabs the last seat.

Ghost writing?  A perfectly honourable profession, particularly in the world of celebrity biographies.  There have been desperate times when I'd have had a go myself, but one editor friend counselled against it.  She told me I leave my fingerprints all over anything I write.  A ghost writer is required to park their ego and deliver copy cleansed of their own style.

And what about writers who employ a team of research elves?  What about publishers who 'commission' posthumous novels, like the new Poirot mystery?  Where do all these fit on the spectrum of veracity and transparency?  Darned if I know.  Somebody said to me, 'Nothing is what it seems.'

Perhaps it never was.

Publishing Shock Horror (blog entry)  [11 December 2014]



Click HERE to visit the blog of British novelist LAURIE GRAHAM.

You might also enjoy:
LAURIE GRAHAM The Ten O'Clock Horses (1996)
BARBARA PYM Excellent Women (1952)
WRITERS ON WRITING #15: Margaret Drabble

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