What You Need in a Ghostwriting Contract
It’s always a good idea to have a good, clear ghostwriting contract. That way you and the writer know what to expect and there can’t be misunderstandings down the line.
If you’re a professional writer, I highly recommend you hire a lawyer to create a good basic template that you can adjust depending on the parameters of a particular project. It’s well worth the cost to make sure your contract says what you think it says!
While some projects are so small they don’t really require a contract, it’s still a good idea to put everything you agree on in writing in some fashion. An email can sometime suffice.
As you put together your contract template, here are a few basic components to consider:
The first paragraph of my contract includes my name and the name of the client, as well as the effective date of the contract. Later, I include the four major milestones, along with their deadlines.
The four milestones I use in my ghostwriting contract are:
• The completion of the outline.
• The first half of the first draft.
• The completion of the first draft.
• The final manuscript.
Because I use four milestones, I like to break up the payments into four parts. My policy is to be paid ahead of the writing, but you can come to any sort of agreement that works for you.
Set the total price for the service then include the payments for each segment in your contract. For instance, if your total price is $30,000, the compensation for each segment would be $7,500, if you use my four milestone approach.
Most ghostwriters charge on a per word basis, so the contract should specify how many words the author should expect to receive. Most clients think in terms of pages, but that can change depending on the font style and size chosen. I like to include the agreed-upon word count along with a rough page estimate for clarity.
It’s a good rule of thumb to consider that there are 250 words per page, so a 200 page manuscript should run about 50,000 words.
A Description of the Project
If possible, you might include the genre or a rough description of the book in the contract, along with the title. This description doesn’t need to be long.
It’s important to mention the specifics of the service expected. For instance, as a ghostwriter, I can’t promise that the book will be published. I also don’t create the cover design or work on layout. I also don’t provide illustrations or photographs.
My job is to create a well-written manuscript that is as error free as I can get it. I work with a few proofreaders and editors to produce an as near-perfect product as possible. I think it’s important to have a number of eyes review the final document before turning it over to the client.
It’s important to address copyright issues in your ghostwriting contract, making it clear that the client will own all the rights to the final work. They are the author. It’s their book and they can publish it in any form they desire. As a ghostwriter, I own no claim or rights to the work.
It’s to be expected that the client will have revisions for the ghostwriter as pieces are submitted. However, if the number of revision requests isn’t specified, the process can be endless.
Personally, I allow the client one set of revisions per milestone, but will of course make minor revisions along the way. Since we always work off of a detailed outline, there shouldn’t be any drastic changes during the revision process.
Sometimes a client requires confidentiality because of the nature of the project. Perhaps the ideas are unique and cutting edge or the author simply doesn’t want anyone to know he or she had help writing their book. If this is the case for your project, include a confidentiality clause within the contract.
Things That Could Go Wrong
Most likely everything will go smoothly throughout the process, but it’s always good to put in a clause covering what happens if one party wants to terminate the agreement prematurely.
In addition, consider limiting the damages and agreeing to arbitration to resolve all disputes.
A ghostwriting contract is something you’ll need for any large project. It shouldn’t be taken lightly as it could save you from unnecessary headaches in the future. If you have any questions or concerns, please consult a lawyer. It’s worth the investment!
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