Yesterday, Jeannie shared in this writing blog that she’d been asked to ghostwrite a memoir and asked some advice about what to charge and what she might negotiate. Ghostwriting is a great way to write books and get paid right away. But it’s also easy to get burned when ghostwriting a book. Here are 10 things you need to know.
Almost all my points revolve around good communication and setting clear expectations from the get-go. Discuss everything you can think of ahead of time and you are much more likely to have a mutually satisfying experience.
1. Discuss whether your name will be on the book as an author. Will it say “with” or “and?” Sometimes you can negotiate a higher fee if your name is not on it. Be sure to ask if they will still provide a reference for you. If they are not comfortable crediting you as ghostwriter, would they call you “editor,” “book coach” or “consultant?” Would they provide a testimonial for marketing purposes if they are happy with your work?
2. Set a time line. If either of you is not able to keep to the schedule, make it clear by setting a new time line.
3. Get paid a significant amount up front (such as one third). Then get paid in additional increments so that you are less likely to find yourself in the situation that a client has run out of money and is unable to pay you for a significant amount of work.
4. Clarify any late fees up front and what is considered a “late payment.”
5. Clarify how much research you will do and how much data or information the client will provide.
6. Make sure your contract or agreement spells out how many revisions you will do.
7. Specify who will be the sole provider of revision requests. Ideally, you want to incorporate feedback from one person only. If several people offer changes and edits at the same time, you could find yourself doing much more work, and having an inferior product while you try to satisfy everyone.
8. Include a “kill fee.” Should the client decide to terminate the project, there should be a kill fee in the agreement for that.
9. Interview the person, even if you know them. Make sure you understand their goals, vision and expectation. What do they expect you to do and what will they do? Listen to your gut instincts–is this someone who will be easy to work with? If you get a funny feeling in your gut, pay attention. If it feels great, trust yourself, but still get references or try to talk with other people they’ve worked with in the past.
10. It’s a good idea to hire an entertainment lawyer to write or review the contract or agreement–but make sure you get glowing references from people who actually had the attorney draw up or review a ghostwriting contract.
Of course, none of the above should be considered legal advice–just practical experience from someone in the field. Consult an entertainment lawyer for your specific situation.
Have any questions about ghostwriting or other writing projects? Ask away and I will do my best to answer.