Whether you are a ghostwriter or an author looking to hire a one, you need to understand the basics of a ghostwriter contract and fees for services. Professional writers work as ghostwriters in order to write or create books, articles, reports, stories and more for other people. A ghostwriter may be hired to turn an outline into a book or a story idea into a short story. They are paid for their time and efforts, but are uncredited for the writing. However, it is common for writers to be acknowledged in some other way.
Negotiating a Ghostwriter Contract and Fees
When negotiating a ghostwriter contract and fees, the first step is to identify the type and length of the work to be written. Services that provide ghostwriters will charge a significantly higher fee than an individual ghostwriter. Freelancers who make a living as ghostwriters must be careful to not sell themselves short, nor price their work too high.
A ghostwriter may spend anywhere from several months to a year working on researching and writing a novel or nonfiction work. A standard contract should take into account time spent researching as well as actual time spent writing. Most ghostwriters are paid for the actual work and will receive no residuals or royalties.
Standard Book Length
Standard book length is 75,000 to 100,000 words. This averages to about 200 to 300 pages. The average ghostwriter will charge $18 to $25 per ghostwritten page unless a lower fee is negotiated. Writers should be aware that self publishing houses will often charge their clients significantly more than they will pay you. One such example, the Empty Canoe Publishing House, paid ghostwriters $3 to $5 per page while charging their clients $15 to $25 per page. In some cases, the writers never received their full remuneration and clients who paid for the ghostwriting service never received their manuscripts.
All contracts negotiated for a ghostwriting service should contain an out clause for the client and the writer. The out clause should stipulate that a writer's fees will be paid up to all the work currently completed if the client decides to stop the ghostwriting for any reason. This protects the writer from completing three-quarters of a manuscript, only to be told the author has changed their mind.
The out clause for the writer should include ceasing and holding all work completed if they have not been paid per the stipulated contract. For example, if a contract states that a 10 chapter book will be paid per chapter submitted, the writer may withhold further submission and maintain their own rights to what is written if they are not receiving payments on schedule.
A ghostwriter only has a right to what is stipulated in the contract. For example, when contracted to ghostwrite a novel, there will often be stipulations that all of the 'ideas' are the 'owned' by the client. This may include, but is not limited to, the outline, the characters and the settings. It is important to go over this portion of the fine print, because a work that is ghostwritten based solely on the premise of another's outline, characters and story outcome may not be publishable by the ghostwriter in any other forum, even if they are not paid due to intellectual property laws.
While celebrity ghostwriters may get some credit for their work with an appellation of 'with' or 'as told to,' most ghostwriters are unacknowledged contributors to the work. In those cases, the client or publisher will require a non-disclosure agreement. In the non-disclosure, the writer must agree to never take credit for their work or reveal the fact he or she participated in the project. These non-disclosure agreements are binding and may result in potential lawsuits, loss of credibility and income.
Becoming a Ghostwriter
A ghostwriter is one of the least appreciated areas of work for writers. Consider for a moment some of the greatest speeches in history. The authors of those speeches are forgotten; it is the speech and the person who delivers it who is remembered. Authoring a work of fiction, whether based on another writer's outline or not, is still a labor of love for a ghostwriter. The completion of a job well done and the remuneration are often the only satisfaction the ghostwriter receives. Therefore, it's necessary to protect yourself and your work with a strong ghostwriter contract and fees that are sufficient compensation for your services.