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Bestselling Authors 'Delegate' the Writing

5 August 2002

A recent article in the Washington Post told the intriguing story of bestselling authors employing other writers to do the actual writing. Tom Clancy is one of the most prominent of these and under his guidance a number of fiction writers 'flesh out' thrillers from story outlines he has produced. These books become part of Tom Clancy's Op-Center series or his young adult series, Tom Clancy's Net Force. This use of 'personal writers' is not new, although with the increasing focus on brand names, it may have reached new heights. Robert Ludlum, who died in 2001, has left behind a number of outlines which will be written up by other writers. It has long been a standing joke in publishing that V C Andrews, who died in 1986, has produced a string of bestsellers from beyond the grave, with Andrew Neiderman doing the actual writing under her name in a way that seems to have kept her fans extremely happy.

What has changed is the extent to which this 'brand extension' is going on, with publishers apparently believing that there is an insatiable demand for books by their top authors. They are only too ready to oblige, as this means a new book from a brand name which can be marketed and sold to the fans far more frequently than the bestselling writer alone could manage. It's all part of the focus on big names. The downside for writers is that publishers' investment is going on these books, rather than on developing new authors for the future.