The Contract with Your Ghostwriter


Have a good contract with your ghostwriter It is a thrilling moment when you find the perfect ghostwriter for your book project. Your dream is about to become a reality—you can already visualize your book on the shelves of your local bookstore. I understand how exciting this moment is, but don’t forget that there is also a business aspect to writing a book. It is vital to have a contract with your ghostwriter covering certain important elements.

Protect your rights

When you first sign with a professional ghostwriter, she will probably possess a contract that she’s used for years. It’s important to take the time to read over her contract word for word even if you trust her. Please make sure your rights are protected.

Retain your copyrights

As an author, you should always retain all the copyrights for your book, along with the rights for any possible future formats that might come about. For instance, let’s say Warner Brothers wishes to option your life story for a movie. Make sure the ghostwriter can’t come after you for a percentage of that deal.

Demand confidentiality

Confidentiality is a cornerstone of the ghostwriter’s trade. The contract with your ghostwriter needs to spell that out specifically. The information in your book is yours and all the words the ghostwriter creates for you belong to you. She should never divulge her part in the work to your readers. You are the author; she is the ghost.

Safeguard against plagiarism

Although it may seem odd, you should have a clause in your contract protecting you from any acts of plagiarism on the part of your ghostwriter. This is really only a problem with low-budget and inexperienced writers. These ghostwriters can sometimes resort to stealing someone else’s work when the deadline is looming, and they become overwhelmed. As the author, you need to protect yourself from the financial liability that can result from this crime.

Spell out all relevant details

When you interviewed your ghostwriter, you probably went over a lot of little details and came to an arrangement. These specific agreements now need to be put in writing and included in your contract. That way there can be no misunderstanding as you move forward with your book project.

Payment schedule and deadlines

A contract with your ghostwriter should include a schedule of deadlines.There are numerous ways to structure a payment schedule. I prefer the milestone approach to a monthly draw, as my clients will know what to expect with each increment of money they spend.

As an example, in my contract I have four milestones for each book project:

  • A detailed outline
  • The first half of the first draft
  • The second half of the first draft
  • A completed manuscript

Although these milestones might differ from writer to writer, most ghostwriters will ask you to pay before each segment. If you decide to pay your ghostwriter monthly, make sure you receive something tangible as the project progresses.

Expected length

Although it can be hard to precisely predict a book’s length, you do need to estimate a ballpark figure to determine the price. For instance, if a client wishes to write a 150-page book, I’d estimate that to cost $37,500. If it goes a little over, I wouldn’t charge extra. However, if the client later decides to increase the length to 200 pages, we’d amend the contract.


The contract with your ghostwriter should protect both you and the writer. If you have any concerns about the terms, be sure to clear them up before you sign. Once you have the paperwork done, you can focus on creating and enjoy the ghostwriting process.

If you’d like to learn more about how to hire a ghostwriter, check out my book: Your Guide to Hiring a Ghostwriter.

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