Getting Your Work Published Without a Byline
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It’s unlikely that you’ll find a good ghostwriting job on LinkedIn’s job-posting site or any other digital job site for that matter. So, exactly how does an aspiring writer go about entering the business and getting the attention of a reputable publisher?
It might take some legwork but there are things you can do to get noticed and get published. As long as you realize and accept that ghostwriters rarely get a byline or even credit for their work, being a ghostwriter can be an interesting and pretty lucrative career.
The Advantages of Ghostwriting Jobs
Yes, there are obstacles to landing these jobs and the gigs are certainly not without their shortcomings. You might wonder if they’re really worth it. What’s in this for you?
Regular pay, for one thing. If you land with a publisher that wants to use your services on an ongoing basis, you could have a fairly consistent stream of work. Compare this to having to pitch every piece you write then keep your fingers crossed that someone will buy it. after you’ve already put in all the work. That’s wasted time if you can’t find a buyer.
Ghostwriting can help you get your foot in the door if you’re new to the publishing industry and just starting out. It provides what anyone entering any new field needs: experience.
And if the reading public hates what you’ve produced? Not a problem. Ghostwriting offers anonymity. The publisher or named “writer” of the piece will take the rap, not you.
Think Before You Act
Think long and hard about whether this is the right career path for you. Without a byline, you’ll end up with nothing to show for your efforts after you’ve completed the project—other than a paycheck, of course.
While this is certainly OK, make sure you’re willing to work without having the validation of a clip to add to your portfolio. Rest assured that if you try to claim the work as your own, showing it off as an example of what you can do, your target will wonder why your name doesn’t appear anywhere on the work. Why should he believe that it’s really yours?
Do Your Research
Your second task is to educate yourself. There’s no substitution for methodically doing your homework.
Make sure you have a thorough understanding of what each job is asking of you. Ideally, each will provide an outline before you accept the ghostwriting job so you’ll know if it’s something you want to be involved with. or not. You’ll also want to explore the publisher’s flexibility. Is it open to suggestions for improving on the outline or is it carved in stone?
Go Where the Jobs Are
It’s important to know where the opportunities are. Generally, books in a series and books “penned” by famous people hold the most opportunity, but business websites are also a good source, particularly those of professional firms. They want copy and they want it to appear like someone within the firm wrote it. Snag enough of them and this can be a good ongoing source of income.
Although job postings online might be few and far between, you might find a few posted on freelance writing job boards. These postings are a better bet than general interest job sites like indeed.com.
Be proactive and target publishers on your own. Don’t be afraid to reach out with a letter of introduction or even try cold calling. You can find publishers through their associations like the American Book Packagers Association or the American Association of Publishers.
The Finishing Touch
Like most freelance writing jobs, getting ghostwriting jobs is a matter of digging through the various postings, sending out killer introductory pitch letters, and cold calling the companies you want to work for. Assemble an attractive freelance writing package complete with a detailed resume, your best clips—preferably with your byline—and at least three professional references.
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Ghostwriting books, blogs, newsletters, and articles for other people can help a writer add to their bottom line, even if they can’t claim credit to the written words. The ghostwriting may include working on their own creative projects or it can be a writing profession unto itself.
The Association of Ghostwriters
According to writer Marcia Layton Turner, founder and executive director of the Association of Ghostwriters, time-starved entrepreneurs, speakers, consultants, doctors, and corporate executives who want to blog, or develop a white paper, or write a book to raise their profile are relying more and more on behind-the-scenes writers, creating more opportunities in the marketplace for those who’d like to ghostwrite.
But aspiring ghostwriters should also understand that being paid to write under someone else’s name is very different than authoring your own book or even writing a magazine article or blog post from an idea you came up with. Ghostwriting is all about helping others convey their message in their own voice.
If you’re a seasoned scribe who is considering expanding your repertoire to include ghosting, or you’re new to freelancing and you’re interested in becoming a ghostwriter, here’s what Turner says you should know about being a ghostwriter.
Ghostwriting Is Not an Entry-Level Writing Position
You need to have a strong track record as a successful writer managing multiple (and often large) projects before you can succeed at managing someone else’s project, all while writing in their voice. You should be prepared to show clients a sample of your work, ideally including ghosted projects.
Ghostwriting Is Not About You
Being a good writer or author isn’t good enough—you also need to capture your client’s voice and tell the story as he or she would. Sure, you can write, but can you match a client’s vocabulary, pace, and style of speech as you craft a document as if you were him or her? Here’s the real test: Can you do that even if you think your style/creative vision/prose is better? While you can advise your clients, ultimately, they are paying you to write what and how they want you to. You have to be comfortable doing that.
You Need Knowledge of Book Publishing
Massive changes in the book publishing world have raised the bar for getting book deals with major publishing houses; at the same time, market forces (like online distribution through Amazon.com and other online book retailers, and the democratization of marketing via social media) have increased the credibility and audience potential of self-published books, making DIY an option for more authors.
With so many variables, in addition to advising clients on how to structure their writing project, if you can also help them weigh the pros and cons of their various publishing options, including the self-publishing arena, you will be in even higher demand.
Think of Yourself as the Owner of a Ghostwriting Firm
You may get a genuine thrill from writing and structuring a book, but you need to act like an entrepreneur, not a hobbyist. Invest in marketing tools, spend time networking, build an online presence, and present yourself as the business owner you are.
Strong Project Management Skills Can Help You Stand Out
Meeting deadlines, organizing reams of notes and research so you can find it immediately, and juggling multiple projects will help you exceed client expectations and earn more money.
Price Yourself According to Your Level of Experience
While novice ghostwriters should price themselves lower than their more experienced editorial services colleagues. Then, once you get a few solid credentials, increase your fees so you’re more competitive with ghostwriting veterans. This will help keep you from being overwhelmed with lower-paying work.
Networking Is Key
Named book authors occasionally get to have readings or do a signing or have friends and their high school English teachers email them when they see their name in a review. Ghostwriters, not so much. So it’s important that you have a support system. Hang out with other ghostwriters, at least virtually, though in person is ideal.
Freelance website FreelanceSuccess.com is a good start, as is the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), where experienced writers congregate, or the Association of Ghostwriters (AOG), which is specifically for the anonymous-minded help keep you in the know about developments in the marketplace, as well as keep you in good “ghost-ly” company. Ghostwriters Unite! is a conference that brings together ghostwriters to discuss shared experiences and the many facets of the industry.
Take the opportunity to ask questions, pick up tips for landing and managing new projects, and make friends with people who know exactly what a ghostwriter’s day is like before you take on the potentially profitable cloak of the invisible author.
Marcia Layton Turner has authored, co-authored, or ghosted nearly 30 non-fiction books… as well as articles like this one. She currently earns the bulk of her income from ghostwriting books for entrepreneurs and senior executives. She is also the founder and executive director of the Association of Ghostwriters.
How to Make a Song Book
If you are interested in writing music, but you don’t want to perform it or sell it, you might be better off being a music ghostwriter. This will allow you to sell your music without actually having to perform it or go the trouble of selling it under your name.
Write a few songs so that you can have some in your portfolio. If you want to concentrate on one genre, you can do that, but if you want to be more successful at being a music ghostwriter, you might want to make some songs in more than one genre.
Either perform these songs for yourself, or hire someone to make a recording of them.
Put together a portfolio of songs that you have written. Make sure that you include snippets of these songs as well as the actual sheet music for the songs.
Now that you have a portfolio, you need to shop around for clients. A good music ghostwriter will have several different performers, acts or bands that they are writing songs for. The best way to get clients is to contact local musicians who sound like they might enjoy your songs. In the past, going to local shows was the best way to do this, but currently you can use social networking sites to do this as well.
Contact members of bands or music acts and let them know that you are interested in ghostwriting songs for them. Show them your portfolio and ask if they would like you to write songs for them.
Each time you ghostwrite a song, be sure that you have a contract. It can be up to you or to the band whether you will be paid a one-time fee for the song, or whether you will get a share of the profits from the song. Either way, you must be sure that a contract is legally binding and is signed by all parties before you give them the song.
A ghostwriter can have no claim to the music once it has been sold.
Never allow a band to use your music without a contract.
The ghostwriter of V.C. Andrews’s titles for 32 years shares some secrets
There is so much more ghostwriting being done since I began writing V.C. Andrews over 32 years ago. Recently PW reviewed The Silhouette Girl, and the review ended with “Andrews fans should be satisfied.” What greater compliment could a ghostwriter receive? He or she is keeping the style, treatment, characters, and plot concepts authentic enough for the fan base to support the title.
But what is ghostwriting? What is required? When my agent, Anita Diamant, who represented Andrews, proposed I try to keep the books alive, I studied every published Andrews novel to capture her essence, syntax, vocabulary, and unique approach to character. I picked up on how she used dialogue, setting, and surprise.
When I first began the assignment, I was writing far more graphic novels under my own name, the highlight being The Devil’s Advocate, which became a major motion picture. At one point, I actually wrote on two different computers to embed the differences in writing for Andrews and my other writing work and in a sense became multipersonality.
Writing from the POV of a young girl wasn’t alien to me. My first published novel, Sisters, released by Stein and Day, was from the point of view of a young woman. I love using the line from Shakespeare in Love when asked how I can do that: “It’s a mystery.” In a sense it is, but there really isn’t a big mystery to successful ghostwriting.
You literally need to absorb everything the writer wrote and become a good mimic. You have to be able to subordinate your instinct to change it, and when you arrive at a story line, you have to question whether it is something the writer would have thought of or found intriguing. You also have to imagine, based on what you know, what would intrigue the writer if he or she had gone on. For that you might very well have to get into the writer’s life, learn as much as you can about what forces developed his or her talent and respect them.
After a while, if you’re successful, you won’t feel you’re mimicking. You’ll feel it’s you, especially if, like me, you’ve done it for over 32 years. And then the pride will sink in and the ambition will double. You now have an obligation to keep the writer alive. You will try harder to get film adaptations. And that is just what I did.
I wrote a script to adapt Rain, and it was produced with Faye Dunaway, Robert Loggia, and Brooklyn Sudano (Donna Summers’s daughter) in the featured roles. I pounded the pavement with producer Dan Angel in Hollywood, and we generated what became 10 straight Andrews films at the Lifetime Network, with potential for more in the works. And I’ve revived Flowers in the Attic with more novel sequels, the current one being Beneath the Attic, branching out among the secondary characters and family history—the family being the notorious Foxworths. Because I was a director of dramatics and had published plays, I considered Flowers in the Attic for the stage, and now a stage play is in development.
There are a few personal factors that have made this possible and successful. I taught film studies for more than 20 years and had a deep understanding of film adaptations of novels. Getting The Devil’s Advocate and eight additional titles adapted familiarized me with the Hollywood machine. Pitching an Andrews story was more complicated because it was ghostwritten, but now that there are more than 146 million copies of books in the series in circulation (print copies plus e-book sales) and at least one title has been published in just about every country that has a publisher, including China, I had more opportunity and motivation to find film opportunities.
It’s very exciting when it works, and to make it work, you have to have had the cooperation and support of your publisher. The Andrews novels have outlasted a few publishers, but everyone who assumed the mantle joined in the effort until we are where we are today, still successfully publishing 40 years after Flowers in the Attic was released and took and the world market by storm.
Ghostwriting is definitely an art form; it has its own rules and methods. After a while, you’ll look at your work and yourself and think, I’m a ghost who gives life to history.
Today’s guest post is from author and ghostwriter Stacy Ennis (@StacyEnnis).
When I see a new book by a celebrity or politician, my first thought is always the same: I wonder what professional writer behind the scenes helped make it happen.
That’s because I am one of those writers. I’ve written hundreds of articles and several books—almost all for other people. Sometimes I’m credited on a piece and sometimes I’m not; clients choose what works best for them. When you see a book “written by John Adams with Grace Allan,” for example, chances are Grace wrote most of the book but John was a close collaborator.
Ghostwriting is a fantastic option for people who have valuable ideas to share but lack the time, energy, or skill to put them into written form. Working with a ghost can have benefits beyond the final content, too. Many ghostwriting clients find that the interview process helps them develop clarity about their methods, business, and brand. Explaining their ideas to someone else forces them to articulate and clarify—something these busy professionals often don’t take the time to slow down and do. Often, powerful written content (like an article or a book) feels like a bonus.
It’s Absolutely Authentic
Here’s the thing: ghostwriting is far from inauthentic. The process of ghostwriting a book typically involves deep engagement by the named author. While, yes, someone else sits down and “does the work” of putting words on the page, the process requires a high level of intellectual involvement from both parties.
When I ghostwrite a book, I strive to embody my client’s voice. I pore over hundreds of pages of interview transcripts, looking for patterns. I piece together ideas. I build on my client’s genius. Although I write the initial words, we are very much co-creators. This is reflected in the fact that most ghostwriting clients leave the process feeling like they wrote the book—only they typically save more than 300 hours of time in the actual writing process.
How It Works
While every ghostwriting project requires a unique approach, here’s what the process typically involves for a book:
- Initial meeting (phone or video conference): The client and ghostwriter meet and see if they have the right chemistry for working together. During this conversation, the ghostwriter often asks several questions to get an overview of the project.
- Proposal: The ghostwriter sends a project proposal. This should be customized to the specific book, rather than a generic “plug and play” template. Once the proposal is signed, the project is a go.
- Book outline: The ghostwriter conducts one to three recorded interviews by phone or video conferencing, which are then transcribed. From those interviews, the ghostwriter puts together a two- to ten-page (or so) book outline, which the client then revises. Typically, they’ll work through a few drafts together until it’s just right.
- Interviews (in person): Over three to five days, the ghostwriter interviews the client, again recording for transcription. This will sometimes result in more than 400 single-spaced pages of transcripts!
- Expanded book outline: After the interviews, the ghostwriter creates an expanded book outline, anywhere from fifteen to fifty pages in length, depending on the complexity of the book. Again, there is some back and forth before arriving at the final working outline.
- Book draft: The ghostwriter then gets to do what she does best—retreat into a writing cave, only to emerge when the book draft is complete and ready to share with the client. This drafting process can take anywhere from three months to a year.
- Author revision: Here’s where the client gets to be as involved or uninvolved as he wants. I encourage clients to “make it their own” by rewording, adding stories, and clarifying ideas. Some clients make thousands of edits and others make two (really, I’ve had that happen).
- Editing and publishing: After the final draft is complete, the manuscript goes through editing and publishing. That’s a whole post in itself, so I’ll stop there.
Assuming everything goes smoothly, the typical turnaround from idea to final draft is around ten to twelve months, but it can go slower or faster based on project needs. I did one short book project in three months, and it was published a month later. Of course, that’s not ideal, but it can be done.
It’s an Investment
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that ghostwriting isn’t cheap. The return, though, is usually many times the investment. While most clients often won’t make their money back in book sales, publishing a (great) book will often yield bigger clients, better speaking engagements, and even entirely new business opportunities. I can say this from personal experience, both from publishing my own book and watching the success of dozens of clients over the years.
So, what does it actually cost? According to Writer’s Market, hiring a ghostwriter for a book that includes the writer’s name—the “with” or “as told to” on the cover—ranges from $22,800 to $80,000. If no credit is given, that range jumps to $36,200 to $100,000. These amounts can slide higher or lower depending on the book’s length and complexity. Hourly rates for shorter content like magazine articles or blog posts are right around $100 per hour. Keep in mind that ghostwriters for hourly projects bill for interviews, e-mails, and phone calls in addition to writing time.
Most professionals break the cost of large projects into three or four payments; you should never be asked to pay the full fee up front. And always be sure to get a complete project bid or explicit hourly fees before starting a project. It’s just good business.
Hiring versus DIY-ing
Should you hire a writer or do it yourself? Here are some questions to help you decide:
- How long have I been saying I’m going to write a book? If the answer is a year or longer, you might want to consider hiring a writer. Most of my clients have been putting off their book for more than a decade, thinking they’ll find time “next year.”
- Does the investment make sense for me? For high-level entrepreneurs, thought leaders, celebrities, or anyone else with more money than time, ghostwriting is an obvious choice. For others, the investment is more of a stretch. If publishing a book will catapult your business or brand to the next level, consider hiring a ghostwriter.
- Do I like writing? Does the idea of writing a book intrigue me? Some people really want to write the book themselves. If that’s you, consider instead hiring a book coach to guide you through the process. A book coach helps put together an outline and create a writing plan, as well as gives feedback on your writing and keeps you on track. Once your book is done, look for a skilled editor to bring your writing to its best.
- How much time do I have—really? Although working with a ghostwriter for your book will save you hundreds of hours of work, it’s still a large time investment. If you’re routinely struggling to keep your head above water, don’t add a book to your pile. Instead, find something (or several somethings) to eliminate first. You can also consider starting small with two blog posts a month or one magazine article per quarter.
For more from Stacy Ennis (@Stacy Ennis), visit her at StacyEnnis.com.
If you’re interested in being a ghostwriter rather than hiring one, be sure to check out Roz Morris’s new online course, Become a Ghostwriter.
Learn how to write books for others, win projects and make money
This online self-study course is appropriate for professional, experienced writers. Be sure to read Roz’s post on becoming a ghostwriter to gain a better understanding of what a ghostwriter does and the required qualifications.
Many of the books that you see on the bestseller charts and the bookshop shelves are concealing a big secret. They weren’t written by the person whose name is on the cover. They were the work of ghost-writers—professional authors for hire. These authors will never be seen or acknowledged, but they are earning good money and are an essential part of the publishing ecosystem.
Why would you write a book you can never take the credit for?
- You get saleable book ideas
- You’re paid up front, and if a publisher is involved the advances are usually good
- You have no marketing responsibilities—unless you want them
- You work in a team—the client and maybe a literary agent or publisher
- Research is much quicker, so you can produce books more swiftly
- You can broaden your writing horizons and repertoire—slip into another person’s world, voice and style
- You can make valuable contacts in the publishing industry for projects of your own
In this course you’ll learn:
- how the ghost-writing world works
- how writers get started
- how your professional and personal contacts might be a fruitful source of ghost-writing commissions
- how to pitch successfully to a ghost-writing client, literary agent or publisher
- what to ask for in a fair publishing arrangement and what price to charge
- how to collaborate and do justice to the client
- how to keep control of a project so that it finishes on time
- how to avoid projects that are too risky.
You won’t have to:
- wonder how much work to do on spec
- hesitate about discussing money or other terms
- work with time-wasters
- get derailed by common collaborating pitfalls
- find yourself shackled to a book that puts excessive demands on you or is never finished.
Is this course for you?
It’s not for beginners! This course isn’t writing advice, although it will cover points that are specific to this discipline. To ghost-write you must be thoroughly established in your craft and preferably able to build a portfolio to demonstrate this. You should be one of the following:
- a writer of fiction or nonfiction who has published books to professional standard (indie or traditionally)
- a professional in another branch of writing—copywriting, journalism, translation, scripts, drama
- a book editor who wishes to cross over into writing
You should also be:
- business minded
- able to meet deadlines
- eager for new writing challenges
Do any of these sound like you? Ghost-writing could be a worthwhile career move. And if you’re a fiction writer, there are just as many opportunities as there are for writers of memoir or instruction manuals. (Many people are surprised to hear that.)
About the Instructor
Roz Morris is an author, editor, writing coach and ghost-writer. She’s sold more than 4 million copies of books written as other people. You’ll definitely have seen them in the charts and in bookstores. You might have some of them on your shelves. Nobody knows they were nurtured on her hard drive, but they’ve helped her fund her own writing, introduced her to useful and remarkable people—and built up to a satisfying stack of widely-read work.
Morris teaches writing masterclasses for The Guardian newspaper in London and is a prolific blogger on writing craft, writing productivity and the publishing world (Nail Your Novel). A lot of authors seek her advice about ghost-writing work, which is why she created this course. She’s taking the mask off as much as she dares—to help you make ghost-writing a viable career.
Our students love Roz’s courses, her teaching methodology and her energy. Attendees are always challenged by the content and inspired by her delivery.
Matt Buttell and Emma Cummins, The Guardian Masterclasses
I decided to seek private coaching as I took my first steps in ghostwriting. Although I’m not new to writing or publishing, ghostwriting was all new to me, and Roz’s breadth of knowledge and astute coaching style left me feeling empowered and informed. I regularly recommend her to writers, regardless of how long they’ve been in the game.
Libby O’Loghlin, Co-founder and Editor, The Woolf Literary Quarterly
Roz has the ability to get to the heart of what I was trying to convey . as if she was inside my head and knew what I was attempting to put across. A rare gift.
Ghostwriters are writers for hire who are paid but receive none of the credit for the work produced.
There are generally two parties involve in this professional relationship:
- The “author,” who hires the freelance writer to produce content for an agreed upon fee, takes the credit for all the original work produced.
- The “ghost,” the freelance writer who is generally paid in advance of completing the job, gets the money as a “work for hire” job and assumes none of the credit for their ghostwriting work.
Reasons to Hire a Ghostwriter
Ghostwriting is a common practice, though it isn’t often publicized. When someone wants to create new copy for a website, a ghostwriter may be hired to rewrite existing copy. There are many similar jobs such as writing ad or business copy, or supplying new or rewritten material for personal or professional use. The ghost is hired primarily as a professional freelance writer, in order to produce high-quality writing copy that reads professionally.
A paid professional freelance writer is often the only source to turn to get sparkling, well-written website copy or other quality content. A ghost is hired to bring this about, either as an on staff writer or as a freelance writer who is paid specifically for the job at hand.
Ghostwriters are also hired to write books for people. In such cases, the author of the book is the person who hires the ghostwriter, unless the book author wants to share some of the credit with the ghost. In this case, the ghost may be listed as a coauthor or as the “editor” of the book; generally, this is listed somewhere in the acknowledgments page.
Sometimes the well-known “As Told To” line with the name of the ghostwriter is included on the cover of a ghostwritten book. This is often the case when well-known ghostwriters are used by the books’ actual authors.
Can You Make Money Ghostwriting?
Ghosts often work for very large amounts of money, although with recent competition from other countries like India and China, and with bidding service agencies looking for the highest bidder on ghostwriting projects, this is not always the case. But in many cases, a ghostwriter will charge a fee of $10,000 to $25,000 to produce exceptional quality, sterling book writing over three to six months.
A ghostwriter is hired for his or her quality of work, and not necessarily for his or her “name” as a book writer. But there are many kinds of deals that a ghost can “cut” with the book author in order to produce a fair deal for both parties when the contract is signed between the ghostwriter and the book author.
For example, the ghostwriter can take a lower fee in the case of a book that’s expected to sell widely and well, such as $10,000 paid in advance to write the book, a sum which can be paid all or partly out of a book advance. Then the ghost may take 10-20% of the book’s gross profits over time as it is sold, perhaps with a ceiling cap the ghost is allowed to make from the book’s gross profits. This method is only used when the book is nearly guaranteed to be published and to sell at high profits.
Alternatively, the ghost can take a lower fee if credit is shared with the book author. Again, this is only suggested when the book is guaranteed to sell well or for some reason the ghost especially wants his or her name on the book as one of the book’s authors, for reasons of prestige or other needs.
At any rate, it is up to the book author and writer to determine whether or not:
- the ghost should take their payment in advance for a “work for hire” job, or
- the ghost should share credit with the book author, or
- the ghost should take a percentage of the book’s gross profits over time as payment for their work.
How to Become a Ghostwriter
However you slice it, the ghostwriting business can be quite lucrative. In order to become a well-paid ghost, you should have plenty of experience as a freelance writer. This could be demonstrated by having books published under your own name or years of experience writing website and other types of copy for businesses.
Even when the economy suffers, there is always room in the writing profession for another freelance writer. Once you know how to handle its ins and outs, and how to deal with clients professionally, ghostwriting can be very lucrative.
About the Author
Karen Cole from Rainbow Writing, Inc. is a copy editor, ghostwriter, and book author. Rainbow Writing’s services also include inexpensive professional freelance and contracted book authors, ghostwriters, copy editors, proofreaders, manuscript rewriters, coauthors, graphics and CAD artists, publishing helpers, and a website development services corporation.
When you hire a ghostwriter for a business book, a novel or a memoir, you are purchasing a work-for-hire. As the buyer, you have certain rights that you will want to protect with a written ghostwriter agreement, including copyright, which ensures you (or your company) reap the financial benefits of your book.
You will want to have your ghostwriter contract reviewed by a lawyer who has experience with such contracts, particularly if:
- You are concerned about maintaining strict confidentiality: While acknowledgement of ghostwriting assistance may have little impact on a memoir to be shared with family and friends, it can undermine the business model for other types of books.
- Your project is going to involve a significant amount of money: Any contract that involves a large sum of money should be reviewed by a lawyer who can identify potential risks and missing elements.
- You anticipate your book will attract a great deal of publicity and earned income: Again, where a lot of money is involved, things can more easily go wrong.
Ghostwriter for hire: Ghostwriter contracts
While it’s impossible to anticipate every challenge that could arise in a ghostwriter work-for-hire situation, a legal contract creates clear expectations for both the product and the working relationship. A standard ghostwriting contract will include, but necessarily not be limited to:
- The name of the parties entering into the written ghostwriter agreement
- The purpose of the ghostwriter agreement: Be as specific as possible. Describe the book, the working title, the approximate number of pages, and any other products that will be produced in addition to the book.
- Plagiarism: You want to protect yourself from charges of plagiarism by explicitly stating that this is a contract for original work. [Note: when you provide material for the writer, be sure to indicate when material is not originally yours. Share all your sources with the writer, so that they can give appropriate credit to the original source.]
- Procedures: Describe how you will work together, including communication methods and meeting times. You may want to include a timeline for work.
- Product: Describe all the work to be done and who will be doing it. If you will be doing some of the work and the writer will do some of the work, be sure to break out the exact duties of each party.
- Deadlines and deliverables expected of the ghostwriter and whether and when you will have access to the work.
- Revisions: Determine how revisions will be made and when additional revisions will trigger an additional fee.
- A schedule of payment , including any down payment and payments attached to given deliverables. Note that royalties are typically NOT paid to the ghostwriter but this will need to be included in the contract.
- Copyright: State who has ownership of copyright.
- Ghostwriter Credits: Will the ghostwriters’ name appear on the book – or not? How will it appear?
- Confidentiality: Not only might you want ghostwriter confidentiality about writing the book, you may also want to ensure he or she does not share confidential information gathered during the writing of the book. If that is the case, be sure that this requirement appears in the contract.
- Termination agreement: When will this contract end? What if one of the parties needs to end it early?
Ghostwriter fees: What you can expect to pay
Fees vary widely based on experience and market. Your ghostwriting contract should specify how fees will be figured – for example, an hourly fee, a per word fee, a per page fee, or a per project fee. You may find that you mix and match fee structures for different parts of your project. For example:
- Writing a book proposal may be charged at an hourly rate ($40 to $250/hr.) or as a flat-fee per project ($7,000 to $18,000 or more, depending on the division of labor and the particular expertise of the writer).
- Research for a book is charged at an hourly ($15 to $150) or daily rate ($450 to $600). Some researchers with specific skills may charge more.
- Rewriting charges are hourly ($25 to $200) or at a per-project rate.
- Writing a children’s book for hire may be charged at an hourly rate ($50 to $125) or a per word charge of $1 to $10 per word.
- Ghostwriting fees for a book could be charged hourly ($30 to $200), per word ($1 to $3) or per project ($5,000 to $100,000 and even more, depending on the writer’s accomplishments and genre). More experienced ghostwriters tend to charge per project, with additional hourly fees if the project scope expands. Books for which the ghostwriter receives no credit are usually charged at a higher rate.