Recently, an email group discussion took place among a large number of multi-published novelists about ghostwritten books in the Christian market. This matter is so disturbing. It is bad enough in the ABA (general market), but aren’t Christians supposed to hold to a higher standard? Isn’t truth important to us? To have one person write a book and have another (usually a celebrity) slap their name on it and show up at book signings to sign copies is flat out wrong. It’s a lie, deception.
When I was still in my ABA career, a certain male cover model supposedly wrote three or six historical romance novels. I happened to know the author who actually penned those books so I always knew he didn’t write them. But when I was at romance fan events, it was the model who smiled and signed the books and thanked readers when they said they loved those books.
This actually happens more often than perhaps the general reading public suspects. I’ve never liked feeling like I was duped, which is how I have felt a few times when I’ve learned a book that I read was not written by the famous person who’s name was on the cover. And as much as I disliked that feeling when it’s happened in the general market, it breaks my heart to know it also happens in the Christian market.
So, as a result of this lengthy exchange of emails among writers, over 65 authors attached their names to a letter sent to CBA publishers. It reads as follows [and if you’ve already read the letter on another blog, please scroll to the end for a final comment and link]:
Dear publishing management team:
We are Christian novelists who have become concerned and dismayed about the practice of ghostwritten novels. We know the practice continues in the Christian publishing industry (because some of us have been offered these jobs), and we believe the situation is deceptive, a form of false advertising, and ultimately demeaning to the work God has called us to do.
Erickson’s Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology defines honesty as “truthfulness, openness, and fairness in all of one’s representations and business dealings.” Scripture tells us: “False weights and unequal measures—the Lord detests double standards of every kind” (Prov. 20:10). Ghostwritten novels deceive the book buying public, and scandals arise when this occurs even in the secular marketplace. Why should this sort of dishonesty be condoned in the Christian publishing industry?
What are we talking about? A ghostwritten novel lists one person as the author when someone else has actually written the book. We are not talking about dual author teams where one person supplies ideas and research and another does the writing. We’ve seen many of these duos in recent years, and we have no complaint when the writer’s name is listed with a partner’s. We trust that they have come to an equitable arrangement to share the work, the reward, and the responsibility.
Our concern is with the purely ghostwritten novel. A novel is an art form that arises after years of work and studying the craft. We are committed to excellence in our fiction, and we write to glorify God. For a publisher to propose that a novel be cranked out, stamped with a celebrity’s name, and sold to an unsuspecting public demeans our work and dishonors our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Truth and tells the Truth.
We know that some publishers have decided to no longer publish ghost-written novels. If you have a policy against ghostwriting, it would be helpful if you would inform us of this. We do not wish to be accusatory and assume that you engage in this practice just because some others do. Regardless of your position on this matter, we would welcome any input, clarification or correction you have to offer us. Thanks so much for your consideration.
Randy Alcorn — who is both a friend and someone I would hope to emulate in matters of faith, honesty, and integrity — wrote a piece about the Scandal of Evangelical Dishonesty. It’s not dated, and I don’t recall how long it’s been since I first read it. But I encourage you to take a moment and read this essay. It is well worth your time.
In the grip of His grace,