Very few ghostwriters – none who are experienced – will offer ghostwriting services without a contract or service agreement. Your contract is in place to protect both ghostwriter and client, and most ghostwriting contracts are non-negotiable.
When hiring a ghostwriter, make sure that you ask to see the contract before making any type of agreement. If you are inexperienced with contracts, it might be a good idea to have your attorney look it over. Thousands of small claims and civil court lawsuits are filed every year because of disputes over contracts, and you don’t want to find yourself in a compromising situation.
Most ghostwriting contracts are fairly simple: two or three pages of typical contract jargon. You’ll find the obligatory herewith’s and heretofor’s, as well as a couple of hereinafter’s sprinkled on top for good measure. The most important thing about ghostwriting contracts, however, are the specific terms.
The Ghostwriting Contract: Payment
The ghostwriting contract should spell out exactly how and when the ghostwriter will be paid. For example, the contract might require ½ of the total costs up front and ½ upon completion, or perhaps ¼ up front, ½ in the middle and ¼ upon completion. However it works out, make sure that those terms are specified and that you can meet them.
The contract should also specify what types of payment that the ghostwriter accepts. For example, I accept only checks, money orders or credit cards through PayPal. Some ghostwriters accept only money orders.
The Ghostwriting Contract: Deliverables
Deliverables are items which the ghostwriter agrees to provide the client. The most obvious deliverable is the manuscript, but might also include specifications for drafts, 3rd party edits or promotional materials.
The Ghostwriting Contract: Confidentiality
Because ghostwriters are strictly behind-the-scenes workers, there should be a clause in your contract that addresses confidentiality. This can also be referred to as a “non-disclosure” clause, in which the ghostwriter agrees to keep your business relationship a secret. That way, only you know that you’ve hired a ghostwriter.
The Ghostwriting Contract: Due Date
The contract should specify the date at which the ghostwriter agrees to have the manuscript finished. Although ghostwriters can rarely know exactly when they will finish, they should have a guarantee for finishing by a certain date. If they finish sooner, even better.
The Ghostwriting Contract: Termination
The contract should also list instances and consequences for early termination on both sides. For example, what happens if the ghostwriter is unable to finish the project? Or if the client decides he wants to hire someone else. It is entirely acceptable to instigate a cancellation fee if the client cancels the project early. For example, my contract states that if my clients cancel their contract, I must be paid for all services rendered thus far as well as a $150.00 cancellation fee. I waive that fee if circumstances dictate so, but having it in the contract leaves it to my discretion.