The book ghostwriting contract is a key part of your relationship with your ghostwriter.
I’m a ghostwriter, not an attorney, so I can’t offer any legal advice. I can, however, mention some of the items seen in book ghostwriting contracts so you can discuss them with your attorney. They include:
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What is to be written?
This is a description of the book to be ghostwritten. It could be as brief as a line or two within the contract, or as long as several pages in an attachment. Among other things, the description should include the projected length of the book, usually in terms of the number of words.
Who does what?
This is a summary of how the client and ghostwriter will work together; that is, who will do what. For example:
Will the ghostwriter do all the writing herself? If so, will she do so from scratch? From an existing manuscript? From interview transcripts or previously published articles? Or will the client and ghostwriter sit together to create the manuscript?
Will the client review chapters as they are written, or wait until a first draft of the entire work has been completed? How much time will be allotted for the client to complete the reviews?
How does the client formally acknowledge approval of the drafts and, later, that the work has been completed?
Are there additional requirements?
If there are any other duties for either party, these should also be described. They might include being available for working sessions or interviews, handling research, and coordinating with a graphic artist, proofreader, or literary agent.
What is the schedule?
This spells out the dates for beginning and completing the work, with perhaps other dates included for certain benchmarks, e.g., dates for completion of each chapter (if you’re working chapter-by-chapter), or dates for submission of the first and second drafts of the manuscript.
What is the fee?
This is a statement of the full amount the ghostwriter will be paid, the way the payments will be divided (installments), and when each installment must be paid. If the ghostwriter is given a “piece” of the book, there should be a description of the division of royalties and how they will be paid.
Who owns the copyright?
This is a clear statement of who owns the rights to the work, and when these rights become fully vested.
Who gets authorship credit?
This states who will be given credit for authoring the book. Since the work is ghostwritten, the client is generally the sole author. Sometimes, however, the ghostwriter is given a “with” or “as told to” credit, or a nice mention in the acknowledgments. However it is handled, it should be spelled out clearly in the contract.
Is confidentiality required?
This is a description of what the ghostwriter can say about his role in creating the work. For example, can he list the book on his resume and website and discuss it with agents and potential customers? If so, what can be said about his contribution to the work? This clause also covers whether or not the ghostwriter is required to keep some or all of the information acquired during the course of writing the book confidential.
Will there be indemnities?
To indemnify means to protect another against possible loss, damage, or liability. Since the ghostwriter is using material provided by the client, who is reviewing and signing off on the manuscript, the ghost should be indemnified against claims for libel, slander, and other issues.
What are the warranties?
This spells out any promises the parties are making. For the ghostwriter, there may be a warranty that all material she contributes will be original, and for the client, that any case histories provided are accurate and non-libelous.
Who pays expenses?
This details how any expenses, such as those for copying, dictation, and travel, if any, will be handled.
How will the relationship be terminated?
This section lays out when and how either party can back out of the contract. If, for example, the ghostwriter backs out, must she finish the chapter currently in progress or reach some other benchmark? If the client backs out, does he owe money for the work in progress? And if the project falls apart, may the ghostwriter use material she’s already written for another project?
What “legalese” should be included in the agreement?
This provides information about handling legal notice, disputes (where and how they will be handled), severability, changes to the contract, and the possibility of the demise of one party before the project is complete, among other things.
Your contract is a legally binding agreement
These are not all of the items that appear in book ghostwriting contracts, and their order varies from agreement to agreement.
It’s important that you review any contract with your attorney, and pay close attention to what you are signing!
If you intend to publish your book, be sure to scrutinize the publishing contract carefully, and review it with your attorney. For more, see “A Look at Self-Publishing Contracts” and “Beware the Competing Works Clause in Book Publishing Contracts.”
IF YOU’D LIKE HELP WRITING YOUR BOOK …
Contact us! We’re Barry Fox and Nadine Taylor, professional ghostwriters and authors with a long list of satisfied clients and editors at major publishing houses.
You can learn about our work and credentials on our Home Page.
For more information, call us at 818-917-5362 or use the contact form below to send us a message. We’d love to talk to you about your exciting idea for a book!
Please Note: Although we’re based in Los Angeles, California, we travel around the U.S. and abroad to meet with our authors. We do not ghostwrite screenplays, books for children, poetry, or school papers.