Celebrity turned author, how much writing do they actually do?
March 21, 2017 6:35 PM   Subscribe

I love reading books about makeup, fashion, celebrity lifestyle etc. I have a number of books in my collection written by celebrities or people that are not from writing backgrounds (a costume designer for example). I am really curious to know how much actual writing they do and how the relationship with the 'written with...' person works. Examples after the jump.

Here are some of the books I am wondering about:

Your Beauty Mark Dita Von Teese with Rose Apodaca
Style A-Zoe Rachel Zoe with Rose Apodaca
The Power of Makeup Trish McEvoy with Kathleen Boyes

Do the celebs write anything?

The reason I am curious is that in Dita's book it says things like, 'Rose likes using XX product' making it sounds like Dita's voice. In Trish's book, she thanks Kathleen for bringing her words to life (or something like that). So I am really interested to know if the other writer is sitting down with the celeb, talking to them and then writing it in their voice. It's just not a total ghost-writer situation. Can anyone shed some light on the process?
posted by Youremyworld to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Semi-related is this great article about cookbook ghost- or co-writers and what they do. I bet it's similar.
posted by lunasol at 6:43 PM on March 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm in book publishing. Depending on the celeb and their level of experience writing, celeb participation can be everything from writing rough drafts for the professional writer to polish (rare), to sitting down as a team with the publisher, editor, celeb's staff and writer and going over key concepts the writer will write with celeb approval of the manuscript (common and most likely for these makeup books), to being interviewed by the writer so the writer can put the conversations into readable prose, to almost zero participation on the part of the celebrity aside from final approval by the celeb's staff.

Writing is hard and most people do not have a knack for producing publishable, salable writing, even if they are subject matter experts or engaging personalities.
posted by kapers at 7:31 PM on March 21, 2017 [10 favorites]

Sorry to jump in again after such a lengthy comment, but as to your question of voice: these writers are pros and would be hired specifically because they can capture the particular voice and brand of the celeb, whether they're working from discussions and interviews, or creating the material from scratch.
posted by kapers at 7:35 PM on March 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yeah, endorsing kapers, I know a lot of writers and many of them work as ghostwriters for celebs, and the most common scenario is the "as-told-to" approach: the writer interviews the celeb at length, usually over extended periods like weekends or weeks at their house, supplemented with time on the phone, and then transcribes, edits, and rearranges the celeb's thoughts for a decent narrative flow.

The only celebrities I know of who have done any writing are those to whom 'being a writer' carries some sort of personal value - so even if they do turn in rough, really really rough, drafts of their own ruminations, there are ghostwriters and editors who take that material and dramatically reshape it, but the process still maintains the vestige of the celeb being able to say they wrote it, "with" the others.

Another interesting thing is that it's not only celebrities who write this way. Often, people who are unknown, but just have a good story, get a book deal based on their topic and personality, and have significant portions of their work written for them, or rewritten, by ghostwriters and developer/editors.
posted by Miko at 8:12 PM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Endorsing kapers here, too, I'm a transcriber who works with ghostwriters and they are very good at writing in the writer's voice; typically they will do 12-24 or more hours of interviews with the celeb and then I will transcribe those (I'm also good at capturing the author's voice, hence my stable of ghostwriters has grown this past year) and they will turn them into the book.

The ghostwriter often stays anonymous (see below), the transcriber always does (but we know heheh).

Interestingly, a by-product of this is that I will buy a celeb book if it says "with" on the front cover or title page; if it doesn't, I'll look for an early thank you in the acknowledgements and that's also fine. No acknowledgement and I often don't buy!
posted by LyzzyBee at 12:45 AM on March 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

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