Fair’s Fair: Contract details designed for book deal equality

At Wambtac, we know that a thrilling milestone in any author’s life is creating a manuscript that’s ready for submission to literary agents or publishing house acquisition editors. Generating that readiness is, of course, any reliable ghostwriter’s goal too.

In this next of Wambtac’s advisory series, we offer perspectives on enhancing each side’s contractual savvy to obtain honorable responsibilities and benefits that lead to a win-win working relationship. As one of our Certified Ghostwriters, you’ve learned savvy contractual behaviors, but everyone needs solid business reminders.

“The author using a quality ghostwriter gains a professional guidance [that generates] a quality product [with] better marketability,” says Wambtac leader Claudia Suzanne. In return usually for a flat fee and total anonymity, she adds, that author “retains all rights, bylines and profits.”

Let’s start at the beginning

To begin the collaboration, the parties need to lay out the most immediate details: 

  • The book’s subject, along with a working title
  • Who has what responsibilities? — Ghostwriters are responsible for interviewing the author to obtain the info they need, creating an outline, writing the chapters, and any added options the author chooses. Depending on the contract, either the ghostwriter or author assumes responsibility for having the finished manuscript professionally edited and proofread. Authors are responsible for giving interviews, relaying honest information, and timely consideration of and response to any written content from their ghostwriter. 

After the manuscript is written, edited, and proofread, the author is responsible for marketing their book by assuming the marketing tasks or hiring another resource, such as an agent or PR firm.

  • Timeline — On average, both parties should figure an average of six to eight months for a traditional book of about 85-150,000 words. Shorter eBooks (no more than 5,000 words) can take six to eight weeks, including design. 
  • Cost of project — This is not simply defined but should be transparently stated in the contract. Wambtac’s Certified Ghostwriters are book-industry insiders with the knowledge and experience to make a book a marketable literary property. Book projects are negotiated individually but generally start at $35,000-45,000.

Authors with smaller budgets can get an Analysis & Recommendations report, coaching, mentoring, or editing to help them through the writing process. Some Certified Ghostwriters may lower their fee if they are listed as the ghostwriter, co-author or collaborator. Depending on contract specifics, these ghosts can receive royalties that anonymous ghosts never do.

  • Payments — Each contract is unique, but Wambtac Ghostwriters have a transparent payment where the agreed-upon monthly fee is automatically charged to the client’s (author’s) credit card or other payment methods both sides accept, be it PayPal or newer options. 
  • Rights — Authors own all rights and responsibilities to the work. Even if the book goes to film or enjoys international distribution, a Certified Ghostwriter has no claim to future profits.
  • Confidentiality —This is key to ghostwriter contracts. To create a book that’s truly inspiring, helpful, or taps other emotions, a ghost’s aim is to acquire deeply personal or knowledgeable insights. Some authors won’t mind telling family and trusted colleagues about their high-quality experience with their ghostwriter; some will even brag about getting professional help. But many ghostwriters are sent contracts that demand an utter seal of silence. Wambtac Certified Ghostwriters’ first step upon meeting with any potential client is to give them a signed non-disclosure agreement.

Even greater legalese

The following clauses are the ones that some kind of legal expert needs to include or (even when they’re lifted off the ‘net) should review to ensure they meet personal needs:

  • Indemnification— A contractual obligation by one party (indemnitor) to pay or compensate for the losses, damages, or liabilities incurred by another party to the contract (indemnitee) or by a third party.
  • Governance—Both parties ensure they will fulfill their obligations with transparency and by obeying all the contract’s rules. This clause declares which rules and laws will govern the agreement if legal issues arise.
  • Arbitration—Actual courtrooms (even before COVID) had very booked calendars. The arbitration process is designed to be faster and cleaner for both parties. Qualified arbitrators hear both sides, moderate conversations and negotiations, and determine the outcome of this private resolution. 1
  • Termination—Ending the contract has to follow a clause that stipulates why, when, and how the contract can be ended without any legal backlash.
  • Force Majeure—Literally, a “major force,” this clause defines circumstances beyond one or both parties’ control that forces the unforeseen, but understandable, end of the contract. This pandemic has obviously halted or at least rearranged timetables, payments, and other aspects of a contract. Wars, storms, deaths, illness—anything that either side could not avoid, means the project ends with no legal responsibilities to either party.

Fair and equitable contracts offer protection to both parties, create transparency, and allow the greatest ease with which to accomplish the book-writing project.

Since you are already a certified ghostwriter, don’t forget to contact Wambtac’s leaders and your colleagues on our certifiedghostwriters.com site anytime you’d like insights on contracts—and other—questions. 

 1 “What is Arbitration?” World Intellectual Property Organization website: https://www.wipo.int/amc/en/arbitration/what-is-arb.html