We consider ourselves a conversant copy team here at Punch, so it’s natural that we view ghostwriting as an intriguing industry. A cursory Google search will display the following if you ask it to define a ghostwriter and a copywriter;
Ghostwriter, noun. A person whose job it is to write material for someone else who is the named author. Copywriter, noun. A person who writes the text of advertisements or publicity material.
So far, not so different. Although, a recent Marie Claire interview featuring several prominent US ghostwriters shows how these lines are becoming increasingly blurred.
Ghostwriters have long been used by celebrities to write novels, autobiographies or magazine columns, however as the article points out, the very definition of celebrity has changed. No longer confined to Hollywood’s red carpet, we’ve seen a huge rise in YouTube sensations, bloggers transitioning to digital influencers, and even regular people becoming ‘Twitter famous.’
While it’s safe to assume that many ghostwriters actively build a close relationship with their subjects, one writer told Marie Claire of her first job – a 300-page memoir based on the life of a teen Instagram star. Despite ostensibly writing about this girl’s life, they didn’t meet at any point; “It was a fictional memoir of the girl her fans knew her to be… Her caricature on Instagram is who I wrote about.”
Depending on how attached you are to the concept of authenticity, it perhaps isn’t a big deal that well known personalities and bloggers use ghostwriters. However, when considering the backlash faced by 24-year-old YouTube star Zoella when it was revealed she used a ghostwriter for her first novel, we could be wrong.
It’s arguably more concerning that an autobiography can be crafted without ever having met said person in real life (pardon me, IRL), but so advanced and detailed is their online presence you can still craft a story of their – seemingly perfect – life. The writer then went on to describe how she had to make up major plot points – “break-ups, arguments, whole family members…were completely fabricated”.
It’s further ironic that these stars’ USPs are largely based around honesty and the personal relationships they cultivate with fans, followers and subscribers – after all, where would these stars be without them?
While social media users are becoming more comfortable with newsfeeds acting as a ‘highlights reel’ as opposed to real life, there appears to be an appetite for the embellished as these personalities continue to stand out in an increasingly cramped digital space.