Today is the publication date of The Summer Before, the Baby-Sitters Club prequel, and my interview with author Ann M. Martin is now available on BookPage.com.
One topic that Martin and I talked about that did not make it into the feature was the issue of book collaborators (a.k.a. ghostwriters). It seems obvious that an author can’t possibly pen 12 books a year, but the process of collaborating on a book has always been mysterious to me, until I spoke with Martin.
Here’s how it worked with the BSC:
Martin wrote the first 20 Baby-Sitters Club books in succession. When the books became popular, they started coming out more frequently: once every other month, and then quickly after that, once a month. Then the “Little Sister” series started and they were also coming out once a month. “Clearly there was no way I was going to be able to write all the books,” says Martin:
I started writing—first I think I wouldn’t write one every year. So I was writing 11 a year, and then every other month, and fewer and fewer books. But I was very happy with all of the other writers. One reason I think that it worked so well was because Scholastic kept the number of other writers small. It’s not like there were 40 other people working on the series. It was a pretty small number of people. I don’t think it was more than 10. Each one of the writers had to read all of the books in the series up until the point when he or she was going to begin writing. I outlined each of the books, and then gave the outline to the writer, and the writer wrote from the outline. And I also edited the manuscript. So I felt that I had a hand in every one, but because there were so few other writers and because they were so closely tied to the series as a whole I think that the voice remained consistent. And that was very important.
James Patterson, another incredibly prolific author, works with co-authors, too. That process is explained in a recent New York Times profile: Patterson writes a book’s outline (sometimes up to 50 pages) and the co-author drafts the pages for him to edit. Interestingly, Patterson pays his co-authors out of pocket. You can listen to Sara Evans, country music superstar and author of The Sweet By and By, talk about her experience with a co-author at this link.
What’s your opinion on collaborators? Do you ever sense an inconsistent voice when authors are working together on a book? Do you think ghostwriters get enough credit? Share your thoughts in the comments.