What do ghostwriting, work-for-hire, contract writer have in common? They are all different names for the same process—someone wants a book written and they don’t want to spend the time writing it themselves, so they hire someone—the Writer—to do the work.
My first work-for-hire was through a contact at a writer’s conference. While he wasn’t interested in the devotional book I was proposing, he liked the samples I provided. He was a book packager, and he needed a Writer for a project for a publisher. My second work-for-hire was through the same book packager, who, because of our previous experience, wanted me to write a book in a series for another publisher.
In both cases, the book packager had specifications from the publisher, including the length of each devotional or chapter, Bible versions, layout requirements for each devotional or chapter, and so on. The total contract was broken down into due dates and payments for timely submissions, as well as turnaround times on editing feedback.
My three ghostwriting projects were from various sources and referrals. In one case, the Author had an idea and I came up with the book title, table of contents for each chapter, and wrote each chapter from scratch. In the other two cases, the Authors had a rough draft of the book and an idea of the story they wanted to tell, and I took their draft, edited and organized it, added images they provided, and added creative non-fiction story telling techniques to make the book more readable. In one case, I designed a cover as well.
For me, I have to care about the project before I am willing to invest up to six months in the book. And I also must be willing to work with the person, to set boundaries for what I will and won’t do, and commit to being the lead in the project.
Here are some suggestions:
- Always make a contract. Spell out what you will do, what you expect of the Author, schedules, cancellation options, and how you will communicate.
- Build in a little wiggle room for life.
- Leave time in your schedule for your own writing.
- Be honest and upfront regarding what you will write and what you won’t.
- Be willing to broach the subject of more money if the Author tries to add in services not included in the original contract.
- If you get into the project then realize it isn’t for you, be willing to quit.
- Offer a payment plan. If the Author wants to pay up front, I usually offer a 10% discount on the total.
- Get payment before the work is done. If the Author cancels the project, they don’t owe you any money and you aren’t left scrambling to get money from a disgruntled Author.
If you would like to see my sample ghostwriting contract, click here then click on the link to the sample contract.
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Donna lives in Denver with her husband Patrick, who is her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She has published four cozy mysteries and a devotional for accountants under her pen name, and a collection of short stories, a book on writing tips, and several devotionals under her own name. She is currently under contract with Barbour Books in a novella collection on the Pony Express. Donna is a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, and judges in a number of writing contests. She will be teaching an online course for American Christian Fiction Writers in March 2017, “Don’t let your subplots sink your story”. Donna loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and online at: www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com and www.HiStoryThruTheAges.com. Her books are available at Amazon.com in digital and print.
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