Author L.J. Smith Fired As Writer of HER Vampire Diaries Novels.
Authors need to be very careful with whom and what they sign. I know people are eager to get signed with a publishing company or commissioned with some other fabulous entity but you have to be absolutely certain of what it is that you are signing. If one is unclear on any terms included in the contract, then seek a lawyer or someone else to help you understand. If there are any parts that you are not sure about or you feel does not suit you…be sure to negotiate their removal as well as anything that you would like included as well. This should never ever happen. An author should always own the rights to their work or in the event that they decide to sell it to someone, at least have the knowledge that it can’t be pawned off on to some ghost writer to do with as they please even if it means screwing it up.
Below is an email that LJ Smith wrote to a fan:
But right now I have to tell you something that makes me so sad and devastated—as bad, in fact, as I have ever felt except for when my mother died. It’s confidential, but it’s been so long now that I just can’t keep up a charade with good-hearted readers like you.
To put it briefly, I’ve been fired from writing the Vampire Diaries. And I’ve been fighting and fighting this since last fall, but there is absolutely no recourse. Midnight is the last L. J. Smith book in the Vampire Diaries series.
It probably sounds completely impossible to say that I am fired from writing my own books. But the truth is that they’re not mine, even though I write every word. When I was called by an agent and asked to write the vampire trilogy, that agent wasn’t from a publisher, but from what is now Alloy Entertainment, Ltd. And they are a book packager. A book packager sells books, already made with covers and all, to publishers, like HarperCollins—my publisher for The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle. And both these series were written “for hire” which means that the book packager owns the books the author produces. Although I didn’t even understand what “for hire” meant back in 1990, when I agreed to write books for them, I found out eventually, to my horror and dismay. It means that even though I have written the entire series, I don’t own anything about The Vampire Diaries. And from now on, the books will be written by an anonymous ghostwriter, just as Stefan’s Diaries are. It will say “Created by L. J. Smith” on the cover, but I am not allowed even to change a word in the ghostwriter’s book.
You might wonder why the book packager and Harper would do this to me. I am not sure either, but usually a book packager gets very submissive, non-assertive writers to write for them—not to mention that most of them, writers or ghostwriters, have had a lot of publishers turn their books down. Book packagers are used to do a lot of editing on their author’s books—because the books need intense editing.
But I’m not submissive, and I always fight editing. In Midnight, I had to fight to keep many Bonnie scenes in the book. I’m not at all sure they liked the things I was doing with Bonnie and Damon—they kept trying to cut such scenes. And of course they didn’t like Elena’s behavior at all. They want strictly Stelena books.
So last fall when I gave them the book Phantom, they didn’t bother to give me edits. Instead, I was given a letter addressed to the ghostwriter by name, telling her to completely rewrite my book. They wouldn’t even listen when I pleaded and promised to do Phantom as they required. The simply took the series and gave it to the ghostwriter . . . to write not only The Hunters trilogy, but whatever comes after that.
They have always tried to minimize my participation in The Vampire Diaries. On the very first original books in 1990 my name was almost invisible on the cover. And now they have my manuscript of Phantom, and the book the ghostwriter writes from it may even sound like I wrote it in places, because they have the right to use my work as they see fit. But the book after that … that will be pure ghostwriter. I would guess that they think you readers won’t see or care about the difference in writing styles and skills.
I have said this to another Bamon fan, and I’ll say it now. I had so many plans for Bonnie in The Hunters trilogy.
First of all, in Phantom, I had her showing a lot more emotion, grieving right along side Elena because—well, because Damon does something almost unbelievable for Bonnie in Midnight and he doesn’t get out unscathed.
I won’t spoil it if you don’t know. But they wanted Bonnie to have just put it all behind her—and with Bonnie’s character, I don’t think so! She is always completely openhearted with her emotions; even though she has matured so much in Midnight, she’s still Bonnie, who says exactly what she thinks, even if she hasn’t had a dose of Black Magic wine.
I wanted to write Moonsong, and give Bonnie an admirer who is just as sweet and even more naïve than she is—a pure white wolf with radiant blue eyes, who happens to be a werewolf with moonlight colored hair and the same blue eyes when he’s human. I wanted to show Damon’s surprising reaction to Xander the good werewolf (not at all happy about it—so much that he “accidentally” almost kills the poor innocent wolf) .
I also wanted to show how Damon rescues Bonnie from a vicious wolf-pack attack, and then let her fly away with him. And I wanted to show how Bonnie, who knows a little medicine from her sister Mary, helps Damon deliver Caroline’s twin babies when she goes into labor deep in the woods. But that’s one scene that I would have had to fight tooth and nail for, because even the glow that Damon and Bonnie share at seeing new life come into the world wouldn’t be enough for them to call it decent. They would undoubtedly have tried to make me cut it. But I still want to write it, so badly.
I even had the last book in that trilogy plotted out, where Stefan’s worst nightmare comes true and he takes so much blood from Elena that has to be taken to the hospital for a massive transfusion. He then decides to Influence Elena so hat she will forget his existence, and he does so, to Damon and Bonnie and Meredith’s consternation. I wanted to show how this affected each one of the characters, and how Bonnie once again begins to write in her diary, since Elena’s diary is also forgotten, along with Stefan. I like to write things from Bonnie’s point of view, as I did in Dark Reunion. But none of these things will happen, beause I won’t be around to write it. And I just can’t keep up the pretense any long with wonderful fans like you. I can’t pretend that Bonnie and Damon’s relationship will continue to grow as Damon learns to respect her as well as to love her. She has become “his girl” but I can’t follow up on that. I had to tell the ghostwriter that he would address Bonnie as “little redbird” when he speaks to her.
Sorry for the long rant, but the charade is over for me. I don’t know how Phantom will turn out, with a blend of my manuscript and the complete rewriting of it by the ghostwriter. But I dread it, and even more do I dread what the next books will be like. I’ve worked so hard to make Vampire Diaries a good series, only to have the unthinkable happen to me. And I have no one but myself to blame for not being submissive enough.
L. J. Smith
However all is not lost, J.L.. is now publishing her novels as fan fiction on Amazon’s Kindle Worlds.
Thoughts? We’d Love to hear them!