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Monday, December 27, 2010

Before you Disappear: Eight Contract Issues for Ghostwriters

When you write an article for a magazine, newspaper, or website, you sign a contract. When a traditional publisher buys your book, you sign a contract. When you hire a POD company to get your book into print, you sign a contract.

You already know there are plenty of reasons to ghostwrite/coauthor for a client. If you're working for a packager, publisher, or agent, they'll have you sign their contract. If your client is an Everyday Joe or Pro with a Platform, though, chances are you'll write your own.

While every collaboration agreement is different, make sure that yours addresses the eight following elements:

Pay. Of course I put this one first. How much will you be paid, and when? I suggest you get a retainer upfront. If you client loses interest early on, you want to be paid for the work you've already done.
Credit. Whose book is this? Are you ghostwriting? If you'll get cover credit, specify how you and your coauthor's name will appear on the cover.
Scope of work. What are you writing, and how long will it be? Will it be a 30,000-word book or a 75,000-word book, for example?
Division of work. Will you be researching and writing chapters, which your coauthor will then review, or will each of you be writing? Will your coauthor provide facts, research, anecdotes, or other material for you to use, or are you responsible for coming up with that?
Deadline. When is the book due? And will you give your client a certain turn-around time (say, one week) to review your drafts and get it back to you?
Indemnification. You don't want to be sued over libelous material your coauthor provided, so the contract should indemnify you for that.
Copyright. Will the copyright be held jointly, or in only one of your names? (You can be a ghostwriter and still share copyright, but most clients will want to be the sole owner of copyright.)
Termination. What happens if one of you dies before the book is complete, or decides you no longer want to pursue the book? This should be spelled out.

If you want to know more about ghostwriting contracts or breaking into this field, check out my latest book, Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writer’s Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books, or buy the Kindle version.

Coming later this week, straight talk about money, and a preview of a special January blog series.