Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog)
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Who gets credit on ghosted celebrity memoirs, and why?

December 8, 2009

Tags: collaboration

Some celebrities have no problem sharing authors' credits on a celebrity memoir, and some want solo billing. "It's not that celebrities are necessarily vain," says Elisa Petrini, an agent at Inkwell Management, and a collaborator on several such memoirs. "It's just that they see these books as an extension of their brand. Having another name on the cover is like having a co-star."

"Cover billing," writes Joanne Kaufman in the Wall Street Journal Opinion story Fascinating Story, but Who Wrote It?, "is a function of the publisher's wishes, the 'name' author's wishes, the collaborator's wishes, prior experience, fee, prominence (big names in the field include 'Iacocca' co-writer William Novak, and David Ritz, the go-to guy for musicians with a tale to tell) and level of involvement in the project. Is this helper writing every word, simply doing research and fact-checking, or perhaps organizing a pre-existing manuscript into tidy form?"

This is as good a story as I've seen anywhere about the whys and why nots of celebrities sharing author credits with their collaborators (the ones given credit) or their "ghosts" (those thanked, at best, in the acknowledgments). Sometimes the collaborators don't want their name on the book, for various reasons, and sometimes they're willing to accept extra money instead of shared glory.