Will Wilbur Smith's use of co-authors set a trend?

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Will Wilbur Smith's use of co-authors set a trend?

Postby Matbow » Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:46 pm

From The Guardian UK:

The announcement that the bestselling author Wilbur Smith has signed a six-book deal with HarperCollins for a reported £15m will delight his fans. But the accompanying announcement that the books will be written with the help of “carefully selected co-authors” has dampened the original fanfare.

I can see why the news would cause some consternation. In this day and age, the idea of someone getting paid a lot of money to do relatively little is rarely palatable, and taking credit for work that you haven’t fully produced yourself is frowned on. The idea that somewhere, some underpaid bright spark is feverishly producing works of genius yet getting little recognition for them, and far less money, makes us uncomfortable.

But it happens all the time in other industries: music, television and art all make use of such collaborations, so why not books? You only have to think back to Peggy Olson and her boss Don Draper’s altercation in Mad Men over who got the credit for an ad campaign to realise how it works. “I give you money, you give me ideas”, barks a ferocious Draper.

Probably the most famous novels claimed to have been co-authored were those of the French writer Alexandre Dumas. But what began as a fruitful, lucrative relationship between him and his co-author Auguste Maquet turned acrimonious; Maquet took Dumas to court three times for financial compensation and recognition. Alain Decaux, a French historian and writer downplays Maquet’s role: "Just like the Renaissance painters, someone had to prepare your frescoes – and it is right that Auguste Maquet be named – but in the end, the quill is yours."

Many would argue that when the outlook for most writers is bleak, the chance to write fiction that they can actually live off, and that gets propelled into the bestseller list, is not something to be looked down on.

James Patterson is perhaps the most famous modern-day author who regularly uses co-authors. It’s the reason why he can publish an incredible amount of new titles per year (14 between 2011-2012) and why he has become the highest-earning author of the past year.

One of Patterson’s co-authors, Michael Ledwidge, spoke to the New York Times in 2010 and revealed that not only had Patterson hired him to write the first Michael Bennett novel, which went straight to No 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, he also helped him get his own work published. Ledwidge was able to leave his day job as a cable-splicer and become a full-time author.

There’s also a question of age. Wilbur Smith turns 80 next year, and as he said in a statement announcing the deal, "For the past few years my fans have made it very clear that they would like to read my novels ... faster than I can write them." Smith has said that he would rather work less as he gets older, and why should he not? If demand for his novels remains high, why shouldn’t a team of co-authors write the stories people want to read?

And it’s exactly the fact that authors such as James Patterson and Wilbur Smith write "brand novels" and are themselves brands, that allows them to use co-authors in a way more literary authors could not. Their books are commercial enterprises; as long as the plot is gripping and the characters believable, authenticity doesn’t matter.
“Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.”

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Re: Will Wilbur Smith's use of co-authors set a trend?

Postby johnrogers » Thu Jan 10, 2013 5:20 pm

For 15 million pounds at 80 years of age to write 6 books, I would sign that contract faster than a fat kid going for the last potato chip in the bag.Funny you mention James Patterson,I just finished Merry Christmas Alex Cross just because I have read every book in the series.I always feel gyped out of my money when I read James Patterson,as much as I enjoy the stories they are short and predictable but enjoyable for me anyway, but a good percentage of the book is dedicated to selling and touting his upcoming novels.Patterson has the correct $$$$ formulas down pat to get out of dodge with a couple of million for each book or more,who knows how much.The novels I have read by him that were co/ghost authored felt different when read by me,in fact I try to avoid cowritten books when I can,don't want the chemistry to change from an author I am familiar and comfortable with.
Regardless I look forward to anything from Wilbur Smith even it is cowritten with someone else.I think the hopes of all Wilbur Smith die hards is to get there hands on one more masterpiece from Smith before he passes on or his writing days are over.As well I think this wish will not be granted if Wilbur is committed to write 6 more for the publisher to fulfill the contract.I think the publishers who are buying Wilbur out at 15 million pounds are making a good investment for there future as well,Wilbur Smiths writings will last for many decades in to the future long after Wilbur is gone.
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Re: Will Wilbur Smith's use of co-authors set a trend?

Postby jeffw » Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:46 am

How ya doin' John!!! What have you been up to? :D
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