As a food writer who was once solicited to be a famous foodie’s ghost writer I felt that it was time for me to weigh in on all of the hoopla surrounding the New York Times article I was a Cookbook Ghost Writer.
I turned the “opportunity” down because quite frankly my ego was way too big to be a phantom writer, even back then.
I had no desire to give away my words to someone else and get no credit for them.
So I wasn’t shocked to hear that there were famous cookbook authors who had hired intrepid writers. Because let’s face it – with all the cajillion things these TV personalities/ cookbook authors are involved in, when on earth would they have the time to hole up in their kitchens to create a raft of new recipes anyway?
I write all of my own recipes and it takes at least two years to produce a cookbook. Maybe I’m slow, but it seems to me that unless these prolific authors are doing crack or have an extraordinary amount of extra time on their hands, they have to farm out some of the recipe development and maybe even the writing. Let’s face it, not everyone is a brilliant recipe developer and a brilliant writer. And even though we all have editors who may clean up what in fact you wrote, I don’t think that’s what we are talking about here.
We are talking about people who write words that sound like a famous person and then get no credit for that endeavour. And – I don’t really care. Politicians have been doing this for years – they’re called speech writers.
What I care about is giving credit where credit is due.
If these cookbook authors had help, they should be up front and say – “Hey, so and so wrote this with me. And so and so created some of the recipes.” I realize that some of these ghost writers get thanked in the official Acknowledgments section of the book, but why not put the ghost writer/collaborator on the cover. Ah, there’s the rub! I think name on cover might require a percentage of the royalties, which would really make this all about money.
I don’t know the answer to this one – but I am assuming that a ghost writer would be paid a fee and then a “Hiddy ho and off you go!”
Maybe I am being naïve, but it seems to me that the right thing to do is put the names on the cover that wrote the book, and then give the ghost writer/collaborator a percentage, deemed on how much they contributed, of the royalties, and then this colossal mess would never have made the big stink that it made. Just give credit where credit is due.
The picture is just a tiny section of my very messy cookbook bookshelves. Confession, I have over 800 cookbooks!