Some Thoughts on Packaged Books

I’ve always believed books were created the same way. One person wracks their brain for a fresh idea they believe is unique in its own right. Then they sit down to a pad of paper, a typewriter, a laptop…and they wage a war to produce a story worth telling. It’s an unbelievably difficult feat, and a rewarding one.

I believed there was only one way. But now I realize my mistake. It started when I was gushing over the I AM NUMBER FOUR series at my Halloween party. A couple of my writer friends were quick to point out that the series wasn’t written by two guys under the pen name, Pittacus Lore, as I was led to believe. But rather each book was written by a different person, many times for pennies on the dollar, and with a pre-approved outline in hand. To be honest, after my friends set me straight, I felt betrayed.

I let go of that anger quick enough, but it led me to look closer at titles and to ask myself whether each book was truly written by one person with one central idea, or if it was a joint effort. I noticed how many James Patterson books bore his name alongside another, and after some Googling, I found that Patterson produces ideas and brings on different writers to pen the actual book. He then reads, edits, and approves them.

There are also literary companies popping up like Paper Lantern Lit, who provide writers an idea and plot the actual book, then guide writers through writing said book. After digging deeper, I found that my own publishers often come up with ideas they believe are needed to fill holes in the market, and search for writers who can pen these books. And it’s not just my publishers, this is taking place everywhere.

When I realized the extent to which this is happening, I was no longer upset, but more struck by it all. I found myself plucking books off the shelves at Barnes & Noble and wondering how many stemmed from one person, or from a team. I’ll admit I’m more apt to buy a book where I’m certain one person came up with the idea and plot and was the sole writer. But that’s because when I read, I’m studying how I can write better as a team of one.

In the end, I decided that for me, neither was right or wrong, better or worse. But I wonder how you guys feel. Are you inclined to pass on a story if you find out it was a “team effort” book, or are you only interested in reading the best stories available regardless of how they come together?

Let me know!