What You Must Include In Your Ghostwriting Contract
Before starting a huge book ghostwriting project with a client, you'll need to get some
points in writing. Call it a contract, or call it an agreement if you prefer; either way, the
project is too big to move forward without agreeing on several important points beforehand.
Basic manuscript details. How long will the final manuscript be? How many pages? Approximate
word count? How many chapters? This information needs to be supplied by your client. If they're
not sure, you can help them come up with an estimate.
For example, they may know they want 50,000 words - maybe an agent suggested this to
them, or they read it somewhere - but they're not sure how many pages or chapters. Using the
standard guide of 250 words per double-spaced page, a total word count of 50,000 translates
to 200 manuscript pages.
Give yourself some wiggle room by stating a range instead of a set number: 180 to 220 pages
(the 200-page estimate plus or minus ten percent). For a book this length, ten chapters is a good
approximation, at least to start with. You can always modify this point as the book takes shape.
The ghostwriter specifies the font size and type as well as the line spacing. Unless
your client has a compelling reason to deviate from the norm, insist on what's standard: Times
New Roman 12-point font and double spacing.
Other details you'll want to include are a working title (which most likely will change),
subject of the book, fiction or nonfiction, and genre - memoir, self-help, how-to, historical
fiction, romance, whatever it may be.
Payment and schedule. Negotiate a fee that's fair to you and your client. A standard
mid-range rate is $50 per double-spaced page. Some ghostwriters charge more, others less, but
the bottom line is you have to charge a rate you can live with. If you charge $5 per page and
each page takes you two hours to research, write, edit, revise and proofread, you're not going
to make a decent living at $2.50 per hour (assuming a 40-hour work week, that's a mere $5,000
per year). So come up with a rate that pays you a wage you can live with.
How often will you be paid? Ghostwriters typically collect a small percentage at the
start of the project and then are paid as they go. For example, you may come up with the agreement
that for every 25 pages you write and deliver, you'll send an invoice. The outstanding invoice
needs to be paid before you write and send more pages.
In addition, you'll need an approximate schedule. How long do you think it'll take you
to complete this book - three months? Six months? A year? Look at the complexity of the material
you're writing. Check the rest of your workload. How many hours a week can you devote to this
project? How many total hours will this manuscript require to complete?
Take all of these factors into account when determining how much time you'll need. Add a little
extra time to your estimate just in case. And make sure your client knows this is just an estimate,
not an exact end date. It's what both of you are shooting for. But if your client doesn't deliver
information or payments in a timely manner, this end date can get pushed out.
Who is responsible for what? In a ghostwriting collaboration, both sides have certain
responsibilities. Spell out what you will need from your client to complete the manuscript.
Depending on what she wants to include in the book, you'll need to get notes or drafts from
her. You may need to interview her once a week or every couple of weeks. You may need her help
to secure interviews with others. Whatever you'll need, make sure to specify it.
Likewise, your client will expect certain things out of you. He may want you to sign
a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). Read this carefully and have your client clarify anything
you don't understand before signing. Even when the book is done and published, you may not
be allowed to talk about your role. Figure these things out beforehand.
You won't need a thirty-page contract filled with legalese, but you will need a basic,
solid agreement before you run with the project. Getting these details ironed out at the start
will avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.
Graciela Sholander is a ghostwriter and freelance writer,
Ghostwriting Plus, who has ghosted
23 books and written more than 300 articles under her byline. She is the co-author of
Dream It Do It: Inspiring Stories of Dreams Come True, now available as an eBook on amazon.com.