Ghostwriting and Algorithms

If you keep up with the publishing world or even just occasionally peek at twitter you will have seen #copypastecris trending. An author by the name of Cristiane Serruya has recently been accused of plagiarism and readers everywhere are using that hashtag to tweet about the various novels Serruya allegedly stole from. While I do not recall reading anything by Serruya, I did recognize a few of the authors on the list. You can see some of the novels here.

Upon discovery, the best-selling author has since blamed the ghostwriter(s) she hired and pulled all books in which she used that company’s assistance. Rumour has it that one of Serruya’s novels had been up for the Romance Writers of America RITA award, but is now withdrawn because of the pending investigation.

When I hear the term ghostwriter my first thought is of a TV show from my childhood where a ghost helped teenagers solve crimes. In this case, the term means a person writing on behalf of another author. Some people think there should not be ghostwriters at all and others think they should only work in non-fiction —such as assisting celebrities write their memoirs.

In the great ghostwriter debate there has been mention of Nancy Drew novels where a variety of writers were hired to pen the books under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene. Those books started way back in the 1930s and, particularly in the publishing world, eighty-some years is a long time. So why use something from my grandparents’ era when there are more recent examples of ghostwriting in fiction from when I was growing up? Ghostwriters are also responsible for at least two other beloved young adult series: Sweet Valley and The Baby-Sitters Club.

I was a fan without ever realizing each series had not been written by a single individual but many. As a child I never noticed the very telling “Created by Francine Pascal” or been aware of Ann M Martin thanking her ghostwriters in the acknowledgements, I just liked being able to read about teenage girls who had more interesting lives than I did. I never even noticed how quickly each book was published (though I did notice some discrepancy in the details), but admittedly this was still before the internet.

There may be even more recent examples of ghostwritten series besides the BSC and SV that I am unaware of. To paraphrase an article I recently read “using ghostwriters is an on-the-rise strategy to build book empires” and it all has to do with online algorithms. People are using ghostwriters to ‘beat the system’ because frequent content means better rankings and that equates to sales.

My point is there is nothing inherently wrong with ghostwriters. As long as they are willing, skilled, honest, and clearly acknowledged as part of the process there is no harm be it fiction or nonfiction. On the other hand, I do not think such books should be able to win author awards unless it is granted to both the creator and the ghostwriter. This comes back to the clear acknowledgement thing and that both people deserve praise. As for the algorithms, we should just get rid of those because they are clearly not working in a way that benefits authors. I don’t like the algorithms on social media and I’m not even trying to make writing my profession.

Whether Cristiane Serruya copy-and-pasted bits of other books together to claim as her own or if she was duped by unscrupulous con artists is not for me to say. For all I know some eejit decided to post a bunch of novels online for free but there was a malfunction that created a frankenbook everyone is now using to find proof of plagiarism. I’ll let lawyers and even Nancy Drew figure out what happened.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts on #copypastecris? Do you know more recent examples of ghostwriting? How do you feel about the algorithms used on Amazon, Facebook, and Instragram? Leave a comment!

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Author: JaimeKristal

JaimeKristal is a freelance editor and writer. She started her book review blog "Tales of a Booklover" for the enjoyment of sharing her love of reading.

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