Like a branded fragrance or clothing line, the novel — once quaintly considered an artistic endeavor sprung from a single creative voice — has become another piece of merchandise stamped with the name of celebrities, who often pass off the book as their work alone despite the nearly universal involvement of ghostwriters. And the publishing industry has been happy to oblige.
Ghostwriting is a win-win for the publishing industry and for the celebrity. The publisher gets to make a mint by leveraging the celebrity's name, but still publish a book that is at least mildly readable. Meanwhile the celebrity doesn't need to do nearly as much work, and can pass off better-written prose as his or her own.
I don't see this practice stopping anytime soon, although ghostwriting as a concept is obviously not a recent development (it has been with us since time immemorial). What does concern me is the fact that Stephen Tobolowsky's book will be published relatively soon, and I fear it will get unfairly perceived as either a) a ghostwritten book, b) another "celebrity memoir" book, or c) both of the above. I believe that Stephen's stories, which are 100% his own words, transcend these categories and I hope the book is marketed that way.
(For samples of Stephen's stories in written form, click here and here)