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Ghostwriter Contracts & Fees

ghostwriter contractsWhen 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.

Writing a book is a complex skill and ghostwriting is even more advanced, as the ghostwriter must meet the goals and expectations of another person, even assuming their voice and tone. Expect to pay a premium for an experienced ghostwriter, like the ones to which Lisa Tener provides referrals. Books of 120 pages typically run from $15,000 to $35,000 (though can be more expensive for a particular skill set and expertise) and books of 250-pages start around $25,000 to $65,000 and up into the six figure realm. If your budget is below $12,000 for ghostwriting a short book or $20,000 for ghostwriting a full-length book, please do not ask us for a referral to a ghostwriter. We can recommend an editor for that budget range. For a very modest budget, you may want to check elance.com.

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If you are ready to get your book project off the ground with the help of a skilled ghostwriter, contact Lisa Tener. We look forward to helping you find the perfect match.

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