Sunday, April 15, 2007

News: Your Favorite Author May be Just a Brand Name

Kerry Lengel, writing for the The Arizone Republic, starts by asked a trick question: Who wrote Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell?

You're right, it isn't Tom Clancy, even though his name gets the biggest type on the cover of the book. All three Splinter Cell novels clear state that they were written by David Michaels.

But even then, as Lengel notes, the mystery of who wrote the books deepens. David Michaels is a pseudonym for professional ghostwriter Raymond Benson who acknowledges writing the first two books in the series. As to who wrote the third ... well, that remains unknown.

We have entered a new era in the branding of bestselling authors, Lengel writes. The poster boy for this 21st-century phenomenon is James Patterson, who had eight of the 100 most popular books of 2006, according to USA Today, and is scheduled to release six novels this year - that's one every two months. The majority of his books are written by "co-authors" who take a detailed outline and flesh it out, then turn it back to Patterson for edits.

There are many variations on the theme, from secret ghostwriters and credited co-authors to posthumous publication and next-generation torchbearers. For example, Robert Ludlum is still writing books despite the fact he died six years ago. His publisher doesn't make it obvious that he's still not writing them.

Lengel also points out there are other ways to brand an author. Having "theme" titles, for example. It's a technique that has worked for Janet Evanovich (One for the Money, Two for the Dough), another author who has made her name a bona-fide brand, although in this case without hiring lesser-known writers for the assembly line.

The fundamental question is, does it matter to you if your favorite author may not be who you think it is? For millions of readers, the answer is clearly no.

Read the entire article on the branding of popular authors on AZCentral.com here.

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