Writing a novel is becoming de rigueur for celebrities with a knack for marketing themselves, like releasing a perfume or an exercise DVD. But do their perfectly-manicured fingertips every hold pen to paper? Please.

According to The New York Times, it's unlikely. Though stars will usually claim in interviews that they penned their latest roman à clef themselves, this is actually exceedingly rare. This isn't all that surprising, considering that we routinely see celebrities who have trouble stringing together coherent sentences produce 300-page works of fiction. Nicole Richie, Hilary Duff, Lauren Conrad, and Snooki have all produced novels with the aid of ghostwriters. Soon the Kardashian sisters will join them. We're presuming they aren't concocting this literary masterpiece themselves, as the image of three reality stars trying to hash out a plot while gathered around a laptop is the modern-day equivalent of 1,000 monkeys typing for 1,000 years.

The ladies didn't exactly say they were "writing" a novel in this recent statement (which they definitely didn't compose): "As wild as our real lives may seem on TV, just wait to read what we've dreamed up to deliver between the covers of our first novel." It seems "dreaming up" is a star's main contribution to their novel these days. The Times says they often come up with a basic storylines and characters, but leave the writing to a professional. Hilary Duff got testy when asked why she didn't consider crediting her co-writer on the cover, saying, "It is my story. It is my book. I wrote it and she helped guide me through the process." Nicole Richie remained quiet after the paper accused her of exaggerating about her artistic process:

Ms. Richie promoted her second novel, "Priceless," in an interview last year with USA Today, describing her writing routine: write early in the morning, before the rest of her family wakes up. "I write all my own stories," she said.

But Ms. Richie's publisher, Judith Curr of Atria Books, indicated otherwise, saying that a ghostwriter did most of the writing of Ms. Richie's book. (Ms. Richie did not respond to a request for comment.)

The publishing industry hasn't shown much concern about passing off non-writers to bestselling authors, probably because the books usually sell extremely well. Aspiring novelists are probably already weeping by now, but there's another perk for stars-turned-authors: TV and movie deals. Turning your story into a film project is a great way to extend your brand. And lets be honest: Twain, Austen, and Fitzgerald only cranked out a few novels because they were hoping sell their own fragrances.

In Their Own Words? Maybe [NYT]