May 14th, 2009


Sarah Palin and the Ghost

Tonight on Hardball -- one of the few talking-head news commentary shows I can sit through...usually -- Chris Matthews tore Alaska Governor and former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin a new one for using a ghostwriter for her just-announced memoir. With thanks to the Huffington Post, here's some of what Matthews said:

What is Sarah Palin up to? She's got this book deal; she's obviously not going to write it, they've already announced she's going to collaborate on it. What an embarrassment...Why do they do it like this? "She can't write; we got a collaborator for her."...[Palin should stick to giving speeches] instead of pretending to write a book.

Now, I'm no Sarah Palin fan. Her anti-intellectual, ideology-over-facts attitude during the campaign rubbed me the wrong way. But Matthews happens to be way out of line here.

As someone who is currently keeping a roof over my head during the worst economic climate of my lifetime by ghostwriting, I can tell you a lot of authors use ghosts. And not just celebrities and politicians either. All manner of writers do. For example, James Patterson was using ghosts for years before the publisher started putting their names on the covers beneath his. I think R.L. Stine only wrote the first couple of Goosebumps books before handing the reins over to ghostwriters. Hell, some of your favorite authors of both fiction and nonfiction might use ghosts and you'd never even know it. That's why they're called ghosts. They're often invisible.

So, oddly enough, the fact that HarperCollins is announcing up front that Palin will be collaborating with a professional writer on her memoir is actually doing that writer an honor. For writers -- especially us ghostwriters -- the second name on the cover of Sarah Palin's memoir is a good thing, not a bad one. It's an acknowledgement of all the hard work that went into the project. It might also mean the collaborator gets a bigger piece of the pie, and that's not a bad thing either. For this, I tip my hat to HarperCollins, who would have had nothing to lose by keeping the collaborator a secret, and yet chose not to anyway.

And now I await the inevitable revelation that Chris Matthews used ghostwriters for his two books!