Friday, April 13, 2007

Ethics in Ghostwriting

In another post, found at Laura Spencer’s blog, the discussion on ethics in freelance continues… For those of you not aware, there have been a number of blogs posted lately debating the ethics of ghostwriting.

I did drop a rough response at Lillie Ammann’s Blog on the subject, but thought a fuller post detailing my answers to some really profound questions posed by Ms. Spencer would be a great springboard for discussion. For those of you interested, both Laura Spencer and Lillie Ammann included thoughtful insights into the topic as well as a host of excellent links to follow for other writer’s opinions. Here are my answers:

1. Would you completely write a book, play, or other creative work and allow someone else to have the credit?

Most definitely not!!! But that’s not to say that I consider it unethical, I’m not judging anyone else’s mode of writing – for me, fiction is out as far as ghost writing is concerned.

2. Would you write a blog and allow someone else to claim it as their own?

Yes. Not all business owners can write well or capture an audience, but blogs are a fantastic way to keep constantly updated information on your website and to build a community feel for your business. I don’t see anything wrong with hiring a ghost blogger to update company blogs on a regular basis.

3. Would you use a pen name or pseudonym?

Yes – actually, my byline for fiction is my maiden name, which for me is more my own than my married name and I prefer to keep it that way… I use my legal name for non fiction, freelance, and this blog as a matter of fact – as well as editing.
I don’t see anything wrong with a pen name, and am not quite sure how it made it into the topic of writing ethics – many authors have multiple facets of interest and they may not want their primary writing to cross over to their side or hobby work… say a children’s author with a pension for erotica – you can see how the pseudonym might come in handy there.

4. Would you write a nonfiction piece and allow someone (or something as in the case of a company) to have the credit?

Yes, and I have done this type of ghost writing. There are certain instances where this may border on ethic dilemma, but that’s up to the writer to study and decide.

5. Would you write someone’s term paper for them?

NO! NO! NO! Anyone who writes a student’s work, thesis, anything along these lines, is as much of a cheating lowlife as the student who hired them… This is a huge pet peeve with me – but let me just clarify, in case some ‘writer’ who’s done this stumbles upon my blog – You are not a writer if you take this kind of work – you are a dishonest moron enabling a new generation to miss out on their education and infiltrate the world with mediocrity.

I’ve actually covered the ethics of cheating college students and the idiots who enable them in multiple posts at my old blog, Merryone Those posts will probably be moved here eventually, as I clean out the old blog of the extraneous and move the better nuggets here.

I would like to take the time to invite any writer, freelancer, or reader to respond to the above questions, or simply post their own take on ethics in writing on their respective blogs. Drop a link here so that I can find you – or drop a comment to more fully discuss.


Laura said...

Good input Merry! I'm glad that you decided to take part.

Merry Jelinek said...

Thanks for stopping by, Laura - I'm enjoying your posts and take on the subject.

Dana Prince said...

I fully agree with everything you said, Merry and I sit at the exact same stance as you on all those scenarios.
I, also, use my maiden name for writing because that's the name I always pictured on the book covers and it helps me to retain a bit of privacy, should I ever make it big (lol).
If I wrote anything tied to my former professional career I'd probably use my married name or both to link the work to me.

I signed up as a writer and was accepted with a position for a term paper mill before starting as a freelance writer and lurked on their job board for a month or so and never took anything. It just didn't 'feel' right.

I especially agree on #1. I can't imagine giving away fiction.

Great post!

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Dana,

Some of those paper mills are pretty well disguised. Besides them, so many students go through craigslist or freelance boards and list the homework as a real job. The Craigslist Curmudgeon caught one of those a while back, but the only reason he caught it was that the 'client' used his college email address - it looked like a legit article assignment for a specific medical condition... someday we'll be calling that cheater, "Doctor".


Thanks for stopping in. If you have the time to post your own on ethics in blogging - any area, not just the questions answered here, I'd love to stop by and read.

Take care.

Merry Jelinek said...

ooops, correction - I meant ethics in writing in the above comment.


hifidel said...

Hey Merry,

I've put mine up over at my poetically challenged blog.


Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Shelly,

Thanks for stopping to visit - which of your blogs should I blogroll here? I wasn't sure which ones you were using for paid posts and which ones would benefit from a writing audience.

By the way, I'm planning on kicking off the Mists of Avalon discussion this coming Tuesday... I would have announced at WU for everyone, but I can't get on the site today.

Lillie Ammann said...

This is a great discussion! Thanks for continuing the conversation, Merry and all who have commented.

WordVixen said...

Good discussion. I pretty much agree with you, but I put my own responses here.

Mihaela Lica said...

This is one of the best entries so far. Clear, concise and what I love about it... are you a mind reader?

Merry Jelinek said...

Thanks for stopping to visit and joining in Lillie, wordvixen, and Mihaela! And nice to meet you, Mihaela - I enjoyed your input in the discussion at Lillie's (or was that Laura's?)

If you all haven't made it there yet, check out Shelly's blog at poetically challenged (linked above) and wordvixen's - both really well done and both with their own particular vantage point.

Yvonne Russell said...

Hi Merry
This really is an interesting discussion, isn't it?

I wrote a post in response to Laura's questions on my blog too.

All the best, and thanks for being part of the conversation. I'll go and search out the other links you suggest.

Grow Your Writing Business

Yvonne Russell said...

Sorry Merry, I see now you requested a link to the actual post on the topic. Here's mine.

Grow Your Writing Business

Merry Jelinek said...

Hi Yvonne,

Your article on the subject is excellent! Now I have to go back and try to figure out how to comment...

Anyone who hasn't stopped over, though, I highly recommend the read at Yvonne's site linked above.

BloggingWriter said...

I agree with you on most points, though the one about fiction hasn't yet been tested for me. Here's my response