Many of us think of ghostwriting in the context of non-fiction books. Typically ghostwriters are hired to write a book that is credited to someone else. Maybe the book is to help boost a business or build a brand. Maybe someone has a personal story to tell, like a public figure, but who doesn’t have the time or fears they lack the writing chops.
But ghostwriters aren’t just for books. Many businesses and people use ghostwriters for blog posts, articles, email newsletters, and speeches. Most ghostwriters will have draft contracts, especially if they are in the business of ghostwriting and have written for other people.
Here are seven things to address with ghostwriting contracts.
- Intellectual Property Rights: The contract should specify who owns the intellectual property rights (like the copyright) in the work product. Typically, the “author” of the book owns the intellectual property rights, not the ghostwriter.
- Confidentiality: The ghostwriter should maintain confidentiality about the book, at least until publication, but some authors want confidentiality for a specified amount of time post-publication. Decide what information needs to remain strictly confidential and what information can be used to fulfill the intent of the contract.
- Warranties and Indemnities: This type of contract provision warrants that a ghostwriter’s work is original and has not violated any laws or ethics in creating the work (e.g., plagiarism, content theft from someone else’s copyright-protected material, defamation, invasion of privacy). Indemnities are promises of reimbursement should those warranties be false. If you need more information on warranties and indemnities, see my earlier Sidebar Saturdays post.
- Services Offered by the Ghostwriter: This includes things like how many rounds of edits, proofreading, editorial control of the material (e.g., how will creative decisions be made during the project, who can authorize revisions, who has final approval over the material when submitted to a publisher).
- Deliverables, Deadlines, and Termination: Make sure you are clear on what is being delivered and in what format and condition. Final manuscript? Final article? How long? Word count? Timelines are helpful. Describe the project adequately. The term of the agreement can be as short or as long as the parties like. Set deadlines for delivery of the work and in what format. As for termination, make sure the contract explains what conditions are necessary for termination if the relationship isn’t working out. One thing that often triggers termination is when one party does not perform as expected under the contract provisions. Set forth the mechanism and notice for terminating the contract. Is it in writing? How many days in advance notice must be given?
- Project Costs and Fees: Two things that raise havoc in any relationship–income and expenses. Decide how expenses will be authorized and paid. Set budgets and list specific expenses if known. Does the ghostwriter receive royalties from the book sales, or is she paid a lump fee?
- Attribution: Who gets the credit? Only the author? Or both author and ghostwriter? Agree ahead of time, instead of arguing over it later. You know egos. So, figure it out in advance.
If you need examples of ghostwriting contracts or more information, you might start here:
Just remember, you’ll need to make sure the contract fits your circumstances. Forms are starting points and never adequately cover every situation uniformly. So, adjust things depending on your current situation. You also may want to seek review by an intellectual property or publishing law attorney to ensure the agreement meets your legal needs.
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