Sunday, 24 June 2012

Enough already from those dead authors

I discovered something interesting this week.

I did a bit of a review of the traffic here at Dag-Lit Central and made a fascinating discovery. By a mile, the posts that get the most traffic are the ones where I whinge and complain and am generally grumpy. In contrast, the ones where I'm cheerful and happy don't seem to do anywhere near as well.

So with that in mind, as much as I like being cheery and optimistic, I've decided I'm going to go back to grumpy mode and have a good old rant.

The subject of my rant is going to be dead authors.

Dead authors, I've totally had enough of you. Don't get me wrong, I reckon you were fantastic when you were alive.  You wrote some of my all time favourite books and for that I'll always cherish your memory. I just have one thing to say to you. Enough is enough. It's time to stop writing new stuff.

You'd thing this wouldn't be an issue. You would think that the state of being dead would be enough to put a pretty sizable dint in somebody's writing career. But apparently that's no longer the case. Being stuck in a coffin and buried six-feet under no longer seems to be the hindrance that it was.

Take Enid Blyton for instance. Now a lot of people seem to have it in for her, but I'll always have pleasant memories of reading her books as a kid, and my children love them now. The thing is, there are now far more Enid Blyton books out there than there used to be, and some of them have suspiciously recent publication dates. You have to look pretty closely at the front cover to realise that it's not actually Enid Blyton that is written there, it is Enid Blyton's, with the apostrophe and s much smaller than the rest of the text. And, of course, there's no other author listed on the cover. You have to look inside the book to see a "special thanks to..." in order to discover who actually wrote the book.

Now I don't know about you but I reckon that's a really sneaky trick the publishers are trying to put over us. Most book buyers wouldn't look that closely, they'd just think, "Gosh there are another 25 stories in the Magic Faraway Tree series and 314 more Wishing Chair ones." They wouldn't expect that they were actually being swindled.

And how the hell are us new writers, you know the ones who are actually trying to come up with something new and original, meant to compete? It's hard enough trying to make yourself seen as it is. But if the competition is a never ending stream of copy-cat work purporting to be from long-dead household names. Well it really gets my gander up.

That's all for this week. Next week I may be a bit cheerier. But I doubt it. 


  1. Okay, I admit, I had to giggle a little bit here. You're right, of course, and I've noticed the same thing periodically... especially in brick 'n' mortar book stores. It is amazing, isn't it? The long dead do seem to keep putting out the hits. But until the general populous begins to take note of what's really going on, I guess all we can do is keep writing and reaching for that star.

    Regarding the grumpiness... I love a good rant, and I also seem to get more attention on my blog when it involves a rant or two. No worries, though. Just keeping it real! Great post!

    1. Thanks Anita,

      I guess I'll know I've made it if 50 years after I die, more books purportedly by me keep appearing.

  2. The one that always got me was Virginia Andrews who died in 1986 and yet Andrew Neiderman keeps churning out novels in her name and there’s no apostrophe s; I’ve seen the books on the shelves: “The NEW Virginia Andrews”. Who are they kidding? Ian Fleming is dead but Bond lives on and we’re all fine with that and yet neither John Gardner nor Raymond Benson felt they needed to hide behind Fleming’s name. I grew up on Enid Blyton and, yes, she is dated but I still made sure my own daughter had all three of her retellings of the Brer Rabbit stories because they were my absolute favourites. I’m quite happy to see her still in print even if there was a huge gulf between her public and private personas. I can understand why publisher’s would trade on her name—they all do it—but it’s just up to us to be savvy. Who’s to say the ghostwriter isn’t a better writer than she was anyway?

    1. Hi Jim,

      You've just given me a great idea - I need to find a ghostwriter who's a better writer than I am.


  3. I'm with you on this. I bought the first Madeline book by Ludwig Bemelmans for my granddaughter. We both love it, but I refuse to buy any Madeline stories that are not his originals. Almost immoral for someone to be riding on his talent and fame.

    1. Hi Darlene,

      I think maybe there needs to be a new genre for this. What should we call it - dead-lit?

  4. Ghostwriting goes on a lot. In can be impossible to know who is doing the writing sometimes, especially when you add in pen names. Stephen King has a pen name h writes under those years he's being especially prolific. And then in some genres, it's not uncommon for the publisher to own the name, and when the author moves on, the publisher gets someone else to write under that name. Typically whoever owns the copyright engages the ghostwriter for a flat fee - it's legal, although someone above suggested it's immoral.

    And let's not get started on auto-biographies, which are hardly ever written by the person whose life-story is being told!

    1. Hi Ciara,

      I've heard of a number of big name authors who basically just outline a story then hand it over to a team of writers.

      There are also a lot of kid's series where a bunch of authors write the stories but they're credited under a single name, e.g. the famous Daisy Meadows.

      As to autobiographies - the only person who's going to write mine is me - and it will be as fictional as everything else I write.

  5. Tag, you're it: