Join 3,553 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


After much stalling, he sent the writer a link to the Wikipedia page for “chicken.”
March 16, 2012 5:59 PM   Subscribe

I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter [SLNYT]
posted by furtive (22 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
And...

I mean I read this article but other than 'Rachel Ray doesn't write her own cookbooks?!' there's not that much else to say. Unless someone knows who the shy rising culinary star was who then jilted the author. I'm curious about that.
posted by bquarters at 6:27 PM on March 16, 2012


Well it's part of a larger picture, in which image collects all the economic rents and substance gets fucked over, because the marketplace doesn't care. I exaggerate but that's what I think is interesting here.
posted by grobstein at 7:06 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


the tricky steps and specialized skills that a chef will teach the ghostwriter as they work together are the same ones the writer will have to teach to a home cook in the text of the book. The best ghosts are the ones who anticipate the reader’s questions.

“It actually helps to be an idiot,” Ms. Turshen said. “A hungry one.”


I have a strong stomach, a BA in English, the ability to spell "goulash," the total willingness to do undignified things for money, and a cooking routine that consists largely of microwaving Lean Cuisines. Chefs of the world, I am at your disposal!

(I am also tall so I can peer over your shoulder as you stir pots)
posted by nicebookrack at 7:24 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, if the authors of A Man, A Can, A Microwave are ever interested in doing a sequel: GUYS, we share so many interests!
posted by nicebookrack at 7:29 PM on March 16, 2012


Just wait until the NYT catches wind of all those "celebrity-designed" clothing lines, jewelry, and perfumes.
posted by briank at 7:30 PM on March 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


What this small industry needs to implement is an analog to the closing credits to a movie.
posted by polymodus at 8:13 PM on March 16, 2012


ALL books need the printed equivalent of movie credits. People have this vision of books wafting directly from the author brain to the printer to bookshelves, with nary a copy editor or book designer in view.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:02 PM on March 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


It is a very similar game in EFL/ESL coursebook writing. A "big name" writes one book, and then the momentum is built for his/her brand to spin off a whole series of textbooks, teachers' aids, supplemental materials... And Joe Schmo is writing "exercises 2a, 2b, and 3c" for each of the reading texts. The pay is shit. Climbing up the pole to write your own book is a game that I decided didn't sound like fun to play.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:35 PM on March 16, 2012


I ghostwrote a book once (not a cookbook). It was kind of fun, in that the "author" was an asshole, so every time I sat down to write, I tried to channel my inner asshole. Without totally alienating the reader, I needed to include little hints of snobbery, bitterness and patronising superiority throughout the text. It helps sometimes nowadays when I am writing my own stuff and feel paralysed by imposter syndrome: I can try and call up that persona again and write some self-confident bullshit that can be revised into my own voice later.

I also once got a gig writing ESL coursebook exercises and supplemental materials: the sort of thing Meatbomb alludes to. It never occurred to me to be annoyed about not getting credit it, since I was a starving undergrad barely able to pay my rent, and suddenly this random dude was handing me $1000 at a time for putting together cloze tests and multichoice quizzes, and for writing short stories to be used in reading comprehension exercises. Also: free laptop!
posted by lollusc at 3:08 AM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I sometimes wonder if the celeb chef cookbook (and their cousins, the celeb singer / comic biogs) are the only thing keeping the publishing industry going over here in the UK... Yards of them appear and disappear out of Smiths and Waterstones and Amazon in November/December every year. I can only assume they are given as, last minute, 'Oh I X likes Jamie/Gordon/Hairy Bikers etc / cooking in general, this will do' presents judging by how many of them reappear in the charity shops come the New Year. Last time I was in Oxfam they had a whole shelf of them! And the fact they are ghost written does not surprise me in the least.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:08 AM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


nicebookrack: "ALL books need the printed equivalent of movie credits. People have this vision of books wafting directly from the author brain to the printer to bookshelves, with nary a copy editor or book designer in view."

Isn't this called the "preface" and the "afterword"? At least for some authors.
posted by Splunge at 5:18 AM on March 17, 2012


I'm actually friends with Rachael Ray, and she totally writes all her own cookbooks. The Times got that completely wrong, and despite the offer of physical proof, refused to do a correction. Pretty shitty, I thought.
posted by Balok at 8:01 AM on March 17, 2012


Balok: Post the physical proof on the internets! Give the Times public rebuttal! Dark muttering on Metafilter is not as effective as I wish.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:18 AM on March 17, 2012


What kind of physical evidence proves that someone wrote a book?
posted by box at 9:28 AM on March 17, 2012


Notes?
posted by MuffinMan at 9:47 AM on March 17, 2012


I'm actually friends with Rachael Ray, and she totally writes all her own cookbooks. The Times got that completely wrong, and despite the offer of physical proof, refused to do a correction. Pretty shitty, I thought.

Isn't the Times pretty meticulous about corrections?

When you say she wrote the book, is it possible you mean that, although the book was ghost-written, her involvement was greater than is broadly suggested in the Times?
posted by grobstein at 11:10 AM on March 17, 2012


I was thinking notes and drafts and stuff, but it also seems like those could be faked.
posted by box at 11:34 AM on March 17, 2012


Surely Balok is being sarcastic.
posted by nonmerci at 1:40 PM on March 17, 2012


I ghostwrote a book once (not a cookbook). It was kind of fun, in that the "author" was an asshole, so every time I sat down to write, I tried to channel my inner asshole. Without totally alienating the reader, I needed to include little hints of snobbery, bitterness and patronising superiority throughout the text. It helps sometimes nowadays when I am writing my own stuff and feel paralysed by imposter syndrome: I can try and call up that persona again and write some self-confident bullshit that can be revised into my own voice later.

Tucker?
posted by Blue Meanie at 3:24 PM on March 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gig proposal: Ghostwrite Tucker Max's cookbook!
posted by nicebookrack at 4:12 PM on March 17, 2012


I sometimes wonder if the celeb chef cookbook (and their cousins, the celeb singer / comic biogs) are the only thing keeping the publishing industry going over here in the UK

I briefly thought that the internet would do for the cook book market even faster than the book book market, but on further consideration, I think I was mistaken. People I know who buy cookbooks only use about one or two recipes per volume. So the rest is about collecting Stuff (that is to say, books for their own sake, to look good on the shelves), or about looking at the pretty pictures like any other coffee table book. Only with less guilt because, you know, it's gonna be useful to actually cook. Which is cool, right?

So, yeah, you could be right. But God, I hope not.

On balance, though, not sure who has the worser job, the cook or the writer. Interesting post, in any event, thanks.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:03 PM on March 17, 2012


Gwyneth Paltrow also says that the NYTimes needs to fact-check, she wrote every word of her cookbook herself.
posted by kate blank at 1:20 PM on March 18, 2012


« Older "Sure, he's noble and regal and dangerous and dead...  |  A fourth-grader's first ski ju... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments