Ghostwriting queen Madeleine Morel gives an insider's peek into the industry.
A memoirist really knows how to capture someone’s voice, how to create a narrative, how to ask the right questions, that sort of stuff.
I’ve always managed to anticipate the next trend, to be just ahead of the curve. The same thing happened with ghostwriting. I realized that more and more books on the bestseller list were written by what we call platform authors—personalities who can bring a pre-existing audience to a book but who aren’t writers themselves, and who need somebody to write their books for them.
And since publishing has become more and more dominated by the major corporations, it’s all about the bottom line; publishers are less interested in works of literary merit and more interested in books that are going to sell a huge amount of copies. Consequently, there’s an awful lot of crap that comes out nowadays. Publishing is getting like Hollywood and television. So when I started noticing how many books were being ghostwritten, I decided that one day I was going to stop selling books altogether. I would say farewell to the authors I was representing, and I would just hang out a shingle saying that all I was going to do was represent ghostwriters. I was going to provide a service to other agents and editors in the field.
So what I have now is a talent agency. I have hundreds of different writers to whom I have access, but I would say that at any given time I have 100 to 150 writers who I’m in touch with on a semi-regular basis. So when anybody’s looking for a writer, I always give them four to six different writers to choose from, all of whom have been published multiple times by the major houses and many of whom have put books on the bestseller list. They all specialize in particular areas: sport, politics, popular culture, health and fitness and diet. Whatever you see on the bestseller list is what I do.
Ghostwriting takes a certain type of individual. You have to have basically no ego. You have to be able to put up with people who have extreme egos, or are extremely lazy, or basically regard you as being a glorified secretary, an amanuensis. Other authors are terrific, they pitch in, they help you as much as possible, but you’re also dealing with somebody who doesn’t really understand what publishing is about, so they’re a little insecure in that regard. So it’s very much up to the writer to help guide the process and focus the book. Authors may have one idea that’s completely wrong, and they have to be gently steered towards another idea. A lot of them are very paranoid; they don’t want to give away anything. And, you know, there’s no book if they don’t want to give anything away.
For the full interview with Madeleine Morel, click here.