HarperCollins denies Wilbur Smith reports

HarperCollins has denied its new deal with Wilbur Smith will see the thriller writer's next books being ghostwritten, following a report in the Sunday Times which suggested the novelist will "hardly be required to put pen to paper".

The publisher denied the new Smith novels will be ghostwritten, after HarperCollins signed a six-book deal with the author, who will be 80 next year. The Sunday Times said the deal was worth £15m. HarperCollins said some of the titles will be written with co-authors, and that the mechanics of the process are yet to be decided.

The article reports that Smith "will concentrate on plot lines and characterisation and leave most of the writing to co-authors". It also said that Smith his agent Kevin Conroy Scott at Tibor Jones, and Smith's wife Mokhiniso Rakhimova suggested three authors for Smith's future books, and had also come up with a plan for him to write "30 to 40 treatments of novels for others to write".

The article also reports that Pan Macmillan, which had previously published Smith for more than 40 years, had been unhappy with the idea of employing co-authors.

Today, the Daily Mail and Daily Express have also reported on the story.

In a statement announcing the acquisition last week, HarperCollins said the deal would see Smith being paired for "some" of the books with "carefully selected co-authors". Smith said he was "willing to make a change to my working methods" in order to produce novels at the speed his fans were demanding them.

A HarperCollins spokesperson said that no further details about co-authors had been decided at this stage, with conversations set to happen in the new year.

HarperFiction PR director Liz Dawson said: "HC is very excited to be publishing the legendary Wilbur Smith and look forward to working on his first book, a sequel to River God, which is scheduled for 2014. There are no further details as yet of any future co-authors (we have only just signed the deal) and Wilbur is currently hard at work on his next book."