Every ghostwriting project requires a formal ghostwriting contract. It’s the best way you (the ghostwriter) can make sure you get paid for your work, and also the best way an author (your client) can feel at ease that their work will get delivered at the agreed time. Odds are, every ghostwriting project you will work on will differ from the last: different clients, topics, word count and deliverables. Therefore, as a ghostwriter who wants to have a successful business, you’ll have to adjust your approach and fees based on the parameters of the project. However, one thing that should remain constant in your work process is your contract.
A ghostwriting contract must include clauses that cover four main areas: how much you’re going to be paid and what you are expected to deliver, what rights you’re giving up, when you’ll be paid, and how disputes will be resolved.
Here are some critical elements every ghostwriting contract should have:
- Scope of the work: This is important when you are ghostwriting a book. Here, the contract should state how many words the final manuscript will be and what the deadline is for producing it. It should also state what kind of book or project it is, what the deliverables are (what the payment covers), who the target audience is, and what the client intends to do with the book.
- Mutual responsibilities: The ghostwriter will write the project, and the client will pay for it. It’s obvious, but you need to state it.
- Payment terms and schedule: When will you get paid? Will it be a standard amount, or will it vary? Is it hourly or per milestone? I prefer to get paid per milestone because it reduces the financial burden on the client and also helps to keep me on my toes that if I don’t complete one milestone, I won’t get paid for the next. You should also include in your contract how much you charge per word or per page.
- Copyright issues: Who owns the copyright to the book? Is there a work-for-hire clause? Does this include videos, illustrations, or other media? What rights are reserved by each party? State all these things.
- Deadlines: When does the book need to be completed? What will happen if there is an extension?
- Revisions: How many revisions are included in your fee to ensure that it meets the client’s standards and expectations? What happens if another person wants to revise the work beyond that number (or beyond what you’re willing or able to do?)
- Changes in scope: What happens if the client decides they want more work done than originally contracted for? Will they pay extra? Who decides whether these changes are necessary and how much will they cost?
- A non-disclosure agreement (NDA): Protects the client’s identity and some or all of their project (book or blog post) from being shared with anyone else, whether for marketing or other reasons.
As a ghostwriter. I write website content, blog posts and books for clients who send me either an incomplete draft or a set of notes and ideas that I use as the basis for their project. They own the copyright, and my name does not appear anywhere on the project. These clients are paying me handsomely for my services, and I don’t mind not getting any credit. However, if I don’t have a contract, I can still end up with nothing to show for all my hard work.
Therefore, every ghostwriter should have a written contract that the client will sign before starting any work. Getting a ghostwriting writing contract is as easy as searching on Google and picking a sample template. You should also ask a lawyer to look at your contract just to be sure there are no loopholes and that you can actually take legal action with it if things don’t go as expected.
Finally, it’s important to have a solid contract in place before you start any work with a client. The contract will help you because it will lock in your rights, guarantee payment and determine proper credit or royalties for your work (if you choose this option). The client will also benefit because the contract will spell out what they can expect from you, which can help them budget their time and funds.